Archive for March, 2016

Binghamton Gets Their Chance

March 28, 2016

For 36-years, Glens Falls hosted the NYSPHSAA championships; Binghamton is up next

by John Furgele

Thirty-six years is a long time.  Think about it how different things were then as compared to now.  In 1981, Ronald Reagan began his first term as POTUS, people still used typewriters and peanut allergies at schools were unheard of.  1981 was also the time when the Glens Falls Civic Center stepped up to the plate to host the New York State High School basketball championships.  Known then as the Super 16, there were four classes with four games in each class.  On one day, you would play for the NYSPHSAA title and if you won, you came back the next day to play for the Federation title.  Strange, but as Cindy Adams says, “only in New York kids, only in New York.”

Glens Falls was there when the tournament needed somebody and for 36 years, the city and the Civic Center did just that.  For high school hoopsters, the first practice in November ended with two words:  Glens Falls.

Recently, there have been many who think it is time for a change and that other cities should get the opportunity to host the NYSPHSAA championships.  On the other side, there are the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” people who believe that Glens Falls should be the permanent home of the state basketball championships.

In recent years, Binghamton has been the one persistent city that has wanted to take a turn at hosting.  They have a downtown arena that is similar to that of the Civic Center; big enough to accommodate, small enough to be intimate.  They tried, but each time, tradition—and Glens Falls—prevailed.  In the fall of 2015, they voted again as to who would host the tournament for the next three years (2017-2019) and when the smoke had cleared, Glens Falls had won.  However, Glens Falls changed their bid after being awarded the contract and cries of foul were proclaimed.  In the re-vote, Binghamton emerged as the winner.

This is where it gets murky.  Did Glens Falls really change their bid, and if so, how much?  Why did they change their bid?  Is the new executive director, Robert Zayas, out to get Glens Falls?  Was Binghamton’s bid better than that of Glens Falls?

There are some that think it is only fair to move the tournament around.  The other high school sports do the same, so why shouldn’t basketball?  In college, the Final Four moves around every year for both the men and the women.  The College Football Playoff moves each year , so why shouldn’t New York State High School basketball do the same?

Those who wanted it to stay in Glens Falls cite tradition.  It has been in Glens Falls for 36 years and darn it, it should stay there.  The local paper, The Post-Star, covers it like big-city papers cover the Super Bowl.  But, it is 2016, is it wrong for other cities to get a crack at it?

The High School hockey tournament moved from its longtime home of Utica to Buffalo in 2016, so why shouldn’t basketball move?  There are many who are bitter.  On the tournament’s final Sunday, there were “Boycott Binghamton,” shirts visible in the crowd.  There were veteran tournament goers who vowed to never set foot in Binghamton for the 2017 tournament.   I understand their sentiments.  It is tough to leave one venue, especially if that venue has done an outstanding job of hosting something as important as state championship basketball.  Count me among those who will miss hearing about the Road to Glens Falls over the next three years.  The Road to Binghamton doesn’t sound all that bad, but it will take some getting used to.

I hope that the people will give Binghamton a fair shake and fair shot.  Binghamton is a city that is struggling.  Struggling to keep its residents, struggling to provide good jobs for those citizens and struggling to find its way in this the 21st century.  The city has tried for years to get the state tournament and truth-be-told were never really given a chance because of tradition and the Glens Falls lobby.  It was in the game, but it never really had the chance to win the game.  Now, they have their chance and let’s give them the opportunity to prove their mettle.  Let’s not “Boycott Binghamton,” because no matter where the games are played, the action promises to be exciting just like it has been in Glens Falls since 1981.  Boycotting punishes both the fans and the players.  The more fans, the better the games feel.

Can Binghamton do as good of a job as Glens Falls?  That will be the question that will be asked one year from now.  There will be skeptics and there will be journalists who will go to Binghamton to look for flaws, warts and other wrongdoings, so they can write, “told you so,” in their local papers.  Will the Post-Star send a reporter to Binghamton to get a perspective on the new host?  And, if they do, will they be fair or will they have an agenda when they get there?

I’m all for tradition, and part of that is because of my age.  I remember using a typewriter, I remember running to the phone when it rang and I remember listening to music and dee-jays on AM radio, something that we all did back in 1981.  But, I think Binghamton—and other cities—deserve the opportunity to host the NYSPHSAA championships.  But, I would also like to suggest a caveat.

Glens Falls should be a permanent rotation member.  Every three years, Glens Falls gets the tournament back.  Let Binghamton host the 2017, 2018 and 2019 editions and then send it back to the Glens Falls Civic Center for 2019-2021.  For the next three years (2022-2024), let another city bid on the festivities.  By then, maybe Rochester, Buffalo, Utica or even Plattsburgh might want a crack at it.  The opposite could also happen.  It might be too much work for the Binghamtons and Oleans and maybe it goes back to Glens Falls, but that probably won’t be the case.  There are always those who thrive on organizing such a tournament, but Glens Falls should never be forgotten.  Let the city host every three years (if that is the agreed upon bid cycle), but let other cities get a shot, too.  To me, it’s a win-win for all.

Glens Falls and its organizers are hurt, which is more than understandable.  They did win the right to host the New York State Federation championships from 2017-2019, which crowns the overall boys—and girls—champions in Classes AA, A and B, so there will be March basketball at the Civic Center for the next three years.  It might not be the same, but it actually provides 18 total games as compared to 15 for the boys’ tournament.

Thirty-six years is indeed, a long time, and when somebody needed to step-up, Glens Falls was there.  It’s fair to move the state tournament around, but it would be nice for Glens Falls to be allowed to host every three years, if the current cycle remains.

We know that life isn’t fair.  We know that politics and money too often guide the decision making process in New York State and beyond.  But, let’s remember that this is high school basketball and there should be some purity in it.  Binghamton deserves a shot as do other cities and Glens Falls should never be forgotten.  There is a fair way to legislate this.

Even in New York.







As Idaho and New Mexico State Can Attest, College Football Never Sleeps

March 8, 2016

by Johnny Furgele

As March Madness approaches, the office copy machine will be busy running off brackets so employees can fill them out and see if they can earn some cash and the bragging rights that go with it.  Most don’t know Iowa from Iowa State, but that’s what makes it fun.  There are some teams to avoid.  I certainly didn’t come up with this idea, but it’s always best to avoid directional schools.  That means schools like Northern Iowa and East Carolina (if the make the field) can’t be picked.  I also avoid state schools that are named after cities such as Kent State, Cleveland State and Kennesaw State, even though, Memphis, formerly known as Memphis State made it to Final Fours in 1973 and 1985.

All this said, football is still the dominant college sport and continues to grab the attention.  Last week, the Ivy League made news when it announced that players will not tackle during regular season practices.  Some of the old guard scoffed, but many schools limit tackling and full-scale hitting at practices and Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens hasn’t let his players tackle in practice since 2010.  His 2015 team finished 9-1 and shared the league title with Pennsylvania and Harvard.  The quest to reduce head trauma continues and even though football remains the most popular sport to watch, safeguards must be taken to preserve its long-term survival.

The other news came out of the Sun Belt, when the conference announced that they were kicking out football-only members Idaho and New Mexico State out after the 2017 season.  The Sun Belt currently has 11 football members with Coastal Carolina coming in officially in 2017.  After NMSU and Idaho depart, the conference will have 10 football members and 12 schools overall (Texas-Arlington and Arkansas-Little Rock don’t play football).  The NCAA recently announced that only 10 schools are needed to have a conference championship game, so the Sun Belt—should they choose—no longer needed Idaho and New Mexico State.

Both the Vandals and the Aggies never really fit in with a conference that lives in the shadows of the Southeastern Conference.  Add to this the fact that neither school was very competitive made the decision to cut ties an easy one.  For 2016 and 2017, the schedules for Idaho and New Mexico State are set, but where the schools land in 2018 will be interesting to track.

The intriguing part is that both schools hinted that they may drop their programs to the FCS (1-AA) level.  As a fan of FCS football, it is something I’d like to see.  When you think about it, where can New Mexico State and Idaho go?  The only league that makes sense is the Mountain West Conference which has 11 full-time members and 12 (Hawaii) for football.  That would give the league 14 football members, but again, both schools would have to likely move all teams to the MWC.  And, because neither school “does well,” in football, the MWC isn’t begging for them to join.

Idaho has a standing invitation to join the Big Sky Conference, a conference that all their other sports play in.  It’s the perfect choice for them, but it does require a shot to their pride.  If the university officials can get over that, there is reason to believe that the University of Idaho could flourish in the conference.  They would have a natural rivalry in Idaho State as well as playing the likes of Weber State and both Montana and Montana State.  There has never been a school that has moved down from FBS to FCS but that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be.

New Mexico State would also benefit from playing at the FCS level and the Big Sky Conference.  Would the Aggies join just for football or would they move all sports to the Big Sky?  Currently, the Aggies play in the Western Athletic Conference, which dropped sponsoring football several years ago.  The Big Sky does have two football-only schools in Cal-Poly and California-Davis, so there is precedence for adding New Mexico State for just football.

Many schools think they have to get to FBS to increase their football profile and the for the most part, that’s bunk.  Yes, there is less revenue at the FCS level, but there is less expense too.  In 2015, Idaho coach and New Mexico State coach Paul Petrino and Doug Martin made $413,000 and $376,000 respectively.  Those salaries are at the bottom of the FBS level, but at the FCS level, they could pay coaches less and that would trickle down to assistants as well.  The NCAA should really stop the upward migration and work to strengthen the FCS level, but schools like Coastal Carolina and Charlotte dream of playing at the top level and going in to a Michigan or Notre Dame and pulling off the attention-grabbing upset.

FCS schools also allow for 63 scholarships compared to 85 at the FBS level.  Reducing 22 scholarships will save Idaho and New Mexico State money over the long run.  The problem with universities is that the see what they think they can make at the FBS level without considering what can be saved at the FCS level.

While basketball seems relatively stable, there will be movement in football in the future.  Like or not, the Big 12 will eventually expand from 10 schools as will the Pac 12.  The grow or die model never goes away in business and college football is huge business.  The Power 5 schools, truth-be-told really don’t want anything to do with the Group of 5 schools and that too, will work itself out in the coming years.

The Furgele model is still the best out there and it’s a very simple one.  The Power 5 schools will break away and form the College Football Alliance or CFA.  The CFA will have 72 schools.  Each Power 5 conference will have 14 teams for a total of 70.  Notre Dame and BYU would bring that total to 72.  Cry as you might, but there is no reason for Notre Dame to join a football conference and the CFA knows this and would be okay with it.  BYU could stay independent, but deep down; the Cougars would like to get back into a conference, so we’ll see what happens.

The Pac 12 would need to add two; the Big 12, four, so six schools would get a chance to stay at the CFA level of Division 1 football.  The CFA would have an 8 team playoff which creates seven more games for television networks.

The remaining schools would form the NCAA level of football.  This includes the G5 schools and all the current FCS schools.  Indiana State and Kent State would now be at the same level and they would compete for their own championship.  The NCAA would feature a 32-team field with 31 games for the television networks.  The bowl games–all of them—would be gone and though this would upset the folks at the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl, things change and this is sign of the times.  The typewriter was a very useful product and so too, was the FAX machine and the coffee percolator.

Pasadena and New Orleans could still host playoff and championship games, but if college football wants to continue its surge, it has to do so by incorporating real playoffs like college basketball, hockey and baseball do.  It’s what America wants and going forward, will demand.

CFA schools could play NCAA schools in regular season, so the guarantee games could still take place when Idaho visits Alabama for both a beat-down and $1.2 million.

Fear not, Idaho and New Mexico State, your future is bright.  For now, play your final two seasons in the Sun Belt and then come to your new home in the FCS.  You will be happier, more competitive and more importantly, be primed when the next major move comes.