Monday, December 21, 2009

A Holiday Mis-Mash

Happy holidays to all you Bengal fans! Here's a little pre-Christmas mis-mash of stuff that caught my eye....First, some disappointing news: Bengal freshman Ashlee Rigter (left) is heading home to New Zealand to have knee surgery for an injury she suffered last summer and she won't be back to Pocatello the second semester. There is some question as to whether she will return to ISU at all. That would be a shame, because in the few glimpses we've been able to get of the 6-3 post player, she looks like she could be a real impact player in time. Homesickness, cultural and educational differences and her injury all may be conspiring to the point that Ashlee may choose not to return to Pocatello after her surgery. We certainly hope that with time she'll reconsider and rejoin the Bengal program next fall...Point guard Andrea Blodgett is still awaiting the posting of her first semester grades, so won't be available to the Bengals as they take on Southern Utah in Reed Gym tonight. Hopefully, she'll be cleared to take the floor for the Great Falls contest on Dec. 29...Freshman shooting guard Morgan Wohltman, who has been diagnosed with mono, has gone home to Arizona to finish her recuperation. The Bengals expect her back and, hopefully healthy enough to play, the day after Christmas.

Of Playoffs and Bowl Games

'Tis the season for both, and after I read this fascinating article about how some bowl teams take it in the financial shorts, I wondered how the FCS Playoffs compare. So I sent some questions to the Big Sky's Jon Kasper, who was kind enough to respond while on his way to Chattanooga for the FCS Championship game between Montana and Villanova. Here is Jon's answer to my question about how the FCS playoffs are funded:

"Playoffs are financed by the NCAA and through the ticket sales of the playoffs. NCAA pays for the travel of all playoff teams (hotel, food, charter plane/bus). (The NCAA) also pays for the team party. It's 130 players, coaches, adminis(trators) for the first semifinals and 145 for the championship."

Sounds like FCS playoff teams are better off financially than some of the schools that go to the lower-tiered bowls and are forced to buy large amounts of tickets they can't sell. I also asked Jon if there is any revenue shared among conference schools from the playoffs. "Really it is not an economic impact for the league," he replied. "The money goes back into the NCAA general fund. Montana, because of its ability to meet the minimums and draw 20-plus (thousand fans), it provides them some money."

Jon also provided me a link to a blog that shows that participating in the playoffs can provide more than a financial impact. According to the blog during the Montana-Appalachian State game that was televised on ESPN on Dec. 12, site traffic on the University of Montana's web site was up 232 percent during the telecast. New visitors to the "admissions" portion of the web site was up 131 percent, and google searches for "university of montana" increased 238 percent. Talk about a great marketing opportunity for Griz Nation...

Speaking of Montana and the playoffs, the Griz fell short again in their quest for a national title, losing 23-21 to the Wildcats in the Tennessee rain Friday night. There is no question the biggest factor in the game was Villanova's ability to shut down Montana star Marc Mariani in the second half. After compiling 178 receiving yards in the first half, Mariani went touchless in the second. Was it Villanova's decision to double-team Mariani, or bad decision-making from the UM coaching staff, who didn't even try a bubble screen or an end-around in an attempt to get the ball in their best player's hands? You decide.

While the Cats were neutralizing Mariani, Villanova all-purpose star Matt Szczur continued to shine in the second half, rolling up a total of 270 all-purpose yards in the game. 'Nova ran Szczur out of the Wildcat formation, as well as throwing him the football and Montana's defense had no answers for him, or powerful Wildcat quarterback Chris Whitney (6-2, 230) on the option.

Kudos for the "The U"

I've thoroughly enjoyed the bits and pieces of ESPN's documentary series, "30 on 30," that I've seen so far, but none more than Billy Corben's "The U." The film takes an indepth look at how the University of Miami's football dynasty in the 1980s and early 1990s changed college football forever. For any of you who hate the "anti-celebration" rules now in force in the college game, you can thank the Hurricanes for their existence.

No team had more talent, more swagger or more influence on college football during that time period than Miami. The influence was even felt in Pocatello, when Bengal coach Brian McNeeley developed a "Miami connection," started bringing in players from South Florida (star running back Alfredo Anderson being the most notable), and even changed the ISU helmet design to mimic Miami's "U" logo. (Some Bengal fans might also draw a link to all the trouble those ISU teams got into in those days.)

The last scheduled showing of "The U" is 11 a.m. MT on ESPN on Sunday, Dec. 27. Set your DVR, it's well worth a couple hours of your time.

--Brad B.

And thanks for being a Bengal fan -- it ain't always easy, but it's always fun. See you all at Reed Gym for the women's game tonight at 7 p.m.

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