Realignmentaggedon: Should The NCAA Intervene?

If you've been following collegiate athletics like I have, you've undoubtedly seen the latest news flying around this week as colleges have been dumping long-standing conferences like, apparently, top military brass have been dumping husbands and wives.

Maryland abandons the ACC, a conference which they've called home for 50 years, to join the Big 10, for little other reason than cash money to bail out their near-bankrupt athletics department.  Rutgers abandons the Big East, a conference which they've called home for more than 20 years, to join the Big 10, for little other reason than cash money to fund their struggling athletics department.

From there, all hell has broken loose, as Louisville has leapt to the ACC to replace Maryland, while the Big East seems convinced that East Carolina and Tulane are acceptable replacements for the Cardinals and Scarlet Knights, and the forgotten conferences of FBS, Conference USA and the Sun Belt, reshuffle their deck chairs to refill their conference with new members as the Big East poached Tulane and East Carolina.

From the perspective of this reporter who clings to academics when it comes athletics, it's awfully depressing viewing to watch.
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5 Observations Through 5 Games

Happy belated Thanksgiving to all. Below are 5 quick observations from LU’s first 5 games.

We’ll give you 3 Ups and 2 Downs, to match the LU record.

3 UPs

1.) CJ – It is hard to believe that CJ has gotten better, again, but that is what he has done for the Brown & White. It seems that once again the hard work in the offseason has paid off, because through 5 games CJ has not only met expectations but he’s exceeded expectations, which is hard to do with all the media coverage and All-American teams that he was placed on prior to the season tipping off. The fact of the matter is you’d be hard pressed to find a better player anywhere in the country. To me, the thing that has been startling is his efficiency, he has been getting what he wants whenever he wants it, and he is shooting 50% from the field and 50% from the 3 point line. Add 5 rebounds and almost 3 assists per game, and it is going to take an army to stop this guy. Every game LU plays for the remainder of CJ’s career, the best player on the court each night is playing for Lehigh.

2.) Other Starters – CJ’s primary associates need to have big years, and they’re all off to a good start in Mackey, Holden, and Gabe. Mackey looks to have picked up where he left off when we saw him last causing trouble for opponents in March, with the 3 point shot(43%) operating at a high level and ability to get the the free throw line. File this under the “Die You Know” column, but Mackey has gotten to the charity stripe 8 more times then CJ through 5 games, pretty impressive. The only area of concern with Mackey has been the turnovers, as he is averaging over 3.5 turnovers per game which is too many, but that is a small sample size and will turn itself around. Holden is off to a nice senior season, as he has been rebounding effectively with almost 6 a game, and has been shooting the ball at a good clip. Gabe does what he does, shoots high percentages from the field and the line, and is a smooth operator down low in the post. Putting up 15 ppg and 6 rpg, to go along with a block per game, what a treat it is to watch such a skilled post man operate in Knutson.

3.)  Scoring – This team won’t have problems scoring the basketball this season, and is averaging 75 points per game through their first 5 games, which puts them right in-line with last year’s team average of 75.7. With CJ and the other big 3 starters mentioned above, putting up points shouldn’t be a problem. When BB comes back, it just provides another weapon in Coach Reed’s arsenal.

2 Downs

1 & 2.) Rebounding, Rebounding, Rebounding – What was the fear of many Lehigh faithful during the preseason has clearly been the major problem so far in the very early going, and it is a big enough concern that it will occupy both my “Downs” for the team through the first 5 games. The team has lost the rebounding battle in 4 of their first 5 games, and for the season is averaging 31.4 rebounds versus their opponents who have grabbed 39.2 boards per game, good for an almost negative 8 rebound differential. Now I know you have two BCS teams as opponents thus far, but if you take Baylor and Pitt out of the equation, the team is a minus 17 in the rebounding department in the 3 games versus other mid-major teams. That is a big red flag. Perhaps even more concerning is the fact that in all 5 games of the season the team has given up at least 11 offensive rebounds, and the team with only 11 was Baylor(a number that was so low because they had so many dunks/layups that night). An average of over 15 offensive rebounds per game by the opponents is difficult to overcome. The rebounding needs to pick-up for this team to get to where it wants to get to, as giving up a ton of second chance shots/points is a tough recipe to overcome night in and night out. The ineligibility of Jesse Chuku and the fact that the McCarthy open scholarship wasn’t used, means LU is playing down 2 schollies in the frontcourt, and that is certainly a factor when looking at the rebound differentials. In the preseason we talked about the team introducing more zone defense this year, and we’ve not seen a ton of zone so far this year, as LU has been running primarily M2M defense. Packing it in with a 2-3 zone might be something that can help the rebounding efforts, help minimize taller frontcourts offensive advantages in the post, while also potentially helping keep our bigs out of foul trouble.

LHN

Do We Belong?

By now you've heard Lehigh was not selected as an at-large team to the FCS playoffs, despite their 10-1 record.

While most years, most Lehigh fans, including myself, would pull ourselves together, accept our fate, and then pull together and root for Colgate to make a run to Frisco, this year it hasn't been the case.

There is still a lot of bitterness out there.  And I know why.

It is not just the function of one playoff snub.

It is the mounting evidence over the last couple of years that Lehigh, and by extension the rest of the Patriot League, is a part of FCS, but not really.
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Lehigh Puts Eleven On All-Patriot League Teams, Two on All-Academic Teams

(Photo Credit: Express-Times)

For their end-of-the-season awards, the Patriot League released their postseason all-Patriot League teams for both academics and athletics, and unsurprisingly, Lehigh athletes put plenty of athletes on both lists.

Seven Lehigh athletes made the first team offense and defense: senior WR Ryan Spadola, senior OL Mike Vuono made it on offense, and senior DT Sajjad Chagani, senior DE Tom Bianchi, senior LB Billy Boyko, senior CB Gabe Johnson and senior FS Billy O'Brien cracked the first team.

Senior QB Mike Colvin, senior LB Sam Loughery, junior LB Nigel Muhammad and sophomore OL Ned Daryoush all made the Patriot League second team, while Spadola and senior RB Zach Barket made the more important list: the Patriot League All-Academic team.

More academic awards and athletic awards await, but congratulations on these awesome Lehigh athletes for what they've accomplished.
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Lehigh’s Tentative 2013 Schedule

With Lehigh's season being over, thoughts have started to come towards the Mountain Hawks' 2013 football schedule, as people start to wonder if the shots from across the nation about having a "soft schedule" might have any traction again next season.

The answer is that Lehigh will be playing ten of the eleven teams they played last season - with one crucial exception.  A road game at Liberty will be replaced with a home game against a team that arguably was the team that kept Lehigh out of the field, New Hampshire.


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Sunday’s Word: Unfair


Lehigh won ten Division I games this year, something that only three other schools managed this season. 

Only one, North Dakota State, was the autobid champions of their conference; the other two, Old Dominion and Montana State, not only made the FCS Playoff field of 20 with ease, they were seeded as one of the Top 5 teams in the country.

Lehigh won their final game of the year against their bitter rivals, Lafayette, in impressive fashion, winning 38-21, a three-score victory. 

In contrast, FCS playoff participants New Hampshire, Illinois State, and Wofford lost their games by three scores or more, to Towson, North Dakota State, and FBS South Carolina, respectively. ( The Wildcats, in fact, gave up 64 points for the second time this season, falling 64-35 to a team, Towson, that Lehigh beat in the first round of the playoffs last season.)

Lehigh went 10-1 on the season, and even led at halftime over the eventual Patriot League champions, Colgate, before falling in the second half.  The 35-24 game, won by the Raiders, was a big-time, championship, hard-fought game, that was eminently visible to anyone who actually watched it.

The FCS playoff committee, though, apparently thought the Mountain Hawks needed to be perfect in order to make it in the field.

And that's "unfair" - to the fans of the FCS playoffs.
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Lehigh 38, Lafayette 21, Final

(Photo Credit: Facebook/Will Rackley)

 Down 14-3 and 21-10, early on it looked like Lehigh's playoff hopes, already dimmed by the Mountain Hawks' loss to Colgate, might be done in completely at the hands of their bitter rivals, who were looking for their first win over Lehigh after being unsuccessful in their last four tries.

Then Lehigh put together their best half of football of the year.

Scoring 28 unanswered points, and shutting out the Leopards in the second half, the Mountain Hawks finished the regular season with a resounding 38-21 victory.

Ultimately, it wasn't enough to get to the postseason, even though it would have been for the first time since the playoffs expanded to 20 teams that a team with 10 Division I wins would not qualify for the FCS playoffs.

But that shouldn't obscure a fantastic effort by Lehigh's class of 2013 to stay undefeated against "That School in Easton" and their achievement of being only the 10th team in school history to break the 10 win barrier.
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Flashback: November 20th, 2010: Lehigh 20, Lafayette 13

(Photo Credit: Joe Gill/The Express-Times)

(Note: I wrote this two years ago after Lehigh beat Lafayette in an impressive defensive struggle in the Mountain Hawks' last trip to Fisher Field.  The "more" link takes you to the rest of the original article.)

Two years ago at Fisher Field, J.B. Clark clutched onto the Lehigh/Lafayette MVP trophy throughout the post-game press conference as if someone were going to snatch it away from him.

This year in Easton, bearded senior LB Al Pierce, a man of fewer words than J.B., didn't have the hardware with him after Lehigh's 20-13 victory over Lafayette in the 146th edition of "The Rivalry". He won the MVP trophy, though - the first defensive player to do so since 2000, when CB Matt Salvaterra did so - but when he spoke to the media after the game, the trophy was nowhere to be found.  When asked about the award, he said that it hadn't really "set in yet".


Somehow, that was fitting for a senior leader that is a lot more about letting his play do the talking on the field than in a press conference. (more)

Game Breakdown, The 148th, Lehigh at Lafayette, 11/17/2012

We break down the Lafayette game - and we give our fearless prediction, below the flip.

Checking Twitter and Facebook is not exactly an exact science when it comes to trying to gauge how fired up a team, or a fan base, is.

After a slow start to the trash talk for the 148th meeting between Lehigh and Lafayette, though, there's evidence that the Hate is making a late-week rally as the sheer inevitability of the Rivalry game tomorrow has built the tension.

Still, the biggest question for both Lehigh and Lafayette is: Which team will show up for four quarters?

If there's one consistent theme from both sides, it's that people have been waiting for both teams to play four quarters of well-executed football.  Will either be able to do so?

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Flashback: November 21st, 1987: Lehigh 17, Lafayette 10

Since becoming an undergrad at Lehigh back in the late 1980s, I first heard about the historic nature of the football team and "The Rivalry" through the stories that fellow students would share.

And from then until today, the overriding memory of the final time a football game would be played at Taylor Stadium was that it was one of the coldest days for the Game that anyone could remember.

"I remember it being one of the coldest games ever," Mark Redmann recollected, "with strong Northwesterly winds and the temperature hovering around 20.  By the end of the game, the stands were half empty because most of the fans just couldn't take the cold.

"Fortunately, several of my fraternity brothers snuck in flasks to help fend off the chill."
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