Monday, August 31, 2009

Former NAU Coaches Center Stage for NFL Drama

The list of coaches who have come through Flagstaff and Northern Arizona and gone on to success in the NFL is amazing. The fact that several of them have risen to head coaching positions in the NFL is even more impressive. Andy Reid, Mike Shanahan, Marty Mornhinweg and Bill Callahan have all roamed the sidelines of the Walkup Skydome prior to landing NFL head coaching jobs.

This past summer, ESPN was dominated by daily updates with the drama surrounding former quarterbacks Brett Favre, Michael Vick, as well as the quarterback situation with the Denver Broncos and the conflict between Jay Culter and new coach, Josh McDaniels. McDaniels was the replacement for Mike Shanahan, a NAU assistant in 1977 and Cutler supporter. This summer’s dramatics should be sold as a reality show called The Real Quarterbacks of the NFL and then ESPN could quit wasting valuable time on SportsCenter.

In all three situations, the common thread from a Lumberjack spin was that NAU Coaching Staff alumni were directly dealing with the media frenzy.

In case you have been in a cave, Brett Favre could not decide whether he wanted to retire AGAIN and his every move was documented as a reason why or why not he was going to sign with the Minnesota Vikings. When he finally did decide to come back, Brad Childress, a NAU assistant from 1986-89, picked him up at the airport with a helicopter documenting the trip. It felt like O.J. all over again. OK maybe not but it was funny.

Speaking of former NFL players in trouble, Michael Vick is one of the most vilified players in the history of sports for his off-the-field actions. Everyone has an opinion but the only one that mattered was the owner of the Eagles and former NAU assistant Andy Reid, who worked at NAU in 1986. Reid was behind his signing with the Philadelphia Eagles where he is the head coach. Reid answered all questions about protestors, dog fighting, jail time and, oh yeah, football stuff.

To add more Lumberjack connections to the Farve/Vick drama, Farve's offensive coordinator at Minnesota is Darrell Bevell, who played at NAU in 1989. Vick's offensive coordinator in Philadelphia is Marty Mornhinweg, the former Detroit Lions coach who also worked at NAU in 1988 and 1994.

These coaches live with the scrutiny of the NFL everyday. But the heat has been turned up this season with players they are coaching.

By Steven Shaff, NAU Media Relations

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Flagstaff to Italy and Back with USA Track & Field

NAU Associate Athletic Trainer Billy Cotts traveled with the USA Track and Field team this summer to Italy. Here is a recap of his experience from Italy.

I had the unique and honored opportunity to travel to Bressanone/Brixen, Italy as a member of USA Track & Field to provide medical coverage for the World Youth Championships. For me, this trip was and would be different than any of my previous trips with Team USA. This trip would be comprised of a Team Leader, a Head Manager, 4 coaches, 4 managers, 5 medical staff members, and 55 athletes between the ages of 16-17.

I was asked to be the Head Athletic Trainer three weeks prior to my departure to Ypsilanti, Michigan; the site of the Youth Trials. During that time I had to make changes to family plans, work arrangements had to be made, communication and organization with USATF was going on, and communication and organization with our medical staff had to occur, which at the last minute two members were unable to go and two new ones were added. Needless to say July 2nd arrived quicker than I was ready for and my personal packing was put-off till the last minute (my wife had to make an extra trip to the airport to bring me some items I forgot to pack).

The team stayed on the campus of Eastern Michigan from July 2nd till we departed Detroit on July 4th for Munich, Germany (8.5 hour flight from Chicago O’Hare). After landing in Munich and discovering that our provided IAAF bus could only accommodate 40 passengers (travel party of 70 plus luggage, equipment, and poles) we spent two hours waiting to see if the South African team would arrive before acquiring their bus to transport us the four hours to Bressanone/Brixen, Italy.

Our accommodations in Bressanone were in a Monastery school that was utilized for Kindergarten thru College. During the first three days that we were there, the team utilized practice facilities that were located five minutes to 45 minutes from the school. It was also during this time that we were able to do some local site seeing and get to know the staff and athletes better. Some of the things unique to this area are: its location at the base of the Italian Alps, their milk, cheese, and apple economy, the predominant language is German; all signs are written in German and Italian, and the culture.

Bressanone was founded around 900 A.D. Until WWI, the city was party of Austria. After the war, the city was brought under Italian control. However, with a strong, proud Austrian heritage, the new citizens of Italy did not welcome their new country as much as it did them. To offset any future issues in the province, Italy allowed them autonomy to govern themselves as long as they supported Italy and their governmental offices. The result is a strong mix of Austrian/Germanic culture with Italian culture. I had several people tell me that the older generation is so set in their heritage that they will not accept the other. There are German schools and Italian schools, German neighborhoods and Italian neighborhoods; to me it sounded a little like the ‘60’s in the United States. With all that being said, all that we saw was a city that was very proud, hospitable, friendly, and excited to be hosting the Championships.

July 8th was the Opening Ceremonies. Just as we have all seen on television for the Olympics, there was a parade of nations (much smaller scale) for all of the participants. Later during the meet, I counted 105 flags represented around the track. The festivities were held in the downtown plaza, with the athletes being the center of attraction. Prior to these ceremonies, myself and our team physician, had to attend an IAAF medical meeting. At the conclusion of the meeting we were to meet up with the rest of the team. When we entered the plaza locating the team was a little hard but getting through the crowds, security, and barricades were a little harder.

Somehow we ended up with the best standing space in the plaza, next to the flag pole; which incidentally was utilized in the ceremony, where the big wigs entered the plaza, and became a focal point of the ceremonies. So, as the sun is beating on us, we zip up our USA jackets, make sure our shirts are tucked in, and try not to embarrass ourselves and our country in front of all these people and photographers (those of you who know me know that I have certain tendencies that may not make me the best person to be standing where we were). However, we did have the best standing seats in the plaza!

July 9th was the first day of competition. As I said earlier, there was five medical staff: a team physician, head athletic trainer, assistant athletic trainer, massage therapist, and a sports psychologist. For the duration of the meet, we would leave with the first group going to the track and stay till the end of the meet. We would start our day off with breakfast at the Monastery with some sort of combination of: fresh bread, Nutella, yogurt, corn or chocolate flake cereal, juice, hot or cold milk, green tea, and coffee (by day 5 of our stay, change would have been nice). After breakfast we would board the local city buses at 7:30am and head to the track. Our warm-up track was about a 5-8 minute walk from the stadium. The vast majority of our treatments and massages were done at the warm-up track; as this is where the kids seemed to congregate, where we had room, and where we were told to be. We would stay at the track till around 6:30 – 7:00 pm and then head back to the Monastery. We would do some more treatments and then be able to go to dinner around 8:30-9:00pm.

For those of you who have never been outside of the USA, the hardest item to come by and the most used by athletic trainers is ICE. We were fortunate to have “unlimited” yet limited access at the track. However, treatments at the Monastery requiring ice cost us about $10 for every 5lb bag, when we could find it. But, we made do with what we had and got creative with other types of treatments to keep the athletes going. The true benefit of an experienced, diverse staff!!

Lunch and dinner meals were housed at 1 of 4 locations. Teams were assigned a specific location for their meals and issued meal tickets. It was run like a cafeteria were everyone was in a single line and walked down saying what they would like. The food was excellent and they tried to diversify by serving a variety of the local and cultural foods. As a medical staff, we tried to go in shifts for lunch but often ate at street vendors. For dinner, they were usually closed by the time we got over there, but that just gave us an excuse to go downtown!

For me, July 11th is a special day, my birthday. That Saturday evening the medical staff, along with our local host, took me out for a local cuisine dinner in the plaza. Now I truly feel for any local host having to try and accommodate not only the visiting teams but they also have a supervisor that they need to please as well. We were very fortunate to have a young lady who could speak 5 languages, who had a college degree in education, had lived in the USA for 6 months, who was a local, and an all around great person. So, when I was trying to read the menu in Italian, she was not only able to translate but could relate it back to foods I could understand. As I was looking through the menu “book”, I was told that a traditional meal consists of 3-7 courses and can take up to 3 hours to complete. That can translate into a lot of food! When we were about an hour-n-half into our meal and conversation we notice a fire truck drive through the plaza and people to start to congregate in the south. Having forgotten that this was the night for the closing ceremonies, we were a little startled when the first fireworks went off. Now, we all have seen fireworks, been at shows and enjoy the spectacular array of colors and configurations. Our first thoughts were that we were finally getting our 4th of July show. But, our proximity to the display, our location between century old buildings, and by being in narrow streets intensified the show. We could actually fill the vibrations when the fireworks erupted over us. What a view! After a few minutes of visual amazement it began to dawn on us that 40-80 years ago these same vibrations were not from a beautiful display of fireworks but from cannons, bombs, guns as a war occurred in this same valley, town, and area. That night I was given a great gift for my birthday. A gift of humility, of heritage, of sacrifice for those who lived through any war as a man, woman, child, or soldier.

At the conclusion of the World Youth Track and Field Championships, if my memory serves me correctly, Team USA won 16 medals; making this the highest medal count team. There were several world records set by Team USA. Trading of clothing apparel by all the athletes occurred, friendships were made or rekindled, and for many of the young athletes who competed, this would be their only international experience while others will go on to a Summer Olympics some day.

For me, this trip made my fourth with Team USA. It was the largest one I have been on, the most entertaining, the most educational, and will definitely be a memorable one. Being able to meet a variety of people, experience diverse cultures, and being able to share my experiences and knowledge as a person and as an Athletic Trainer is what I enjoy the most about being a member of Team USA and their medical staff.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

SEC Has Quick Reversal on Social Media Policy

By Steven Shaff, Assistant AD/Media Relations

If Northern Arizona senior running back Alex Henderson scores a touchdown at Ole Miss on Nov. 7, I plan on telling the world. The Rebels are a preseason Top 10 pick and sleeper for the National Championship. It will be big news for NAU fans across the country. But according the Southeastern Conference, they are trying to limit what is put out about games in their stadiums online on mediums like Facebook and Twitter. The policy has caused a stir to say the least.

According to the policy, “Ticketed fans can’t “produce or disseminate (or aid in producing or disseminating) any material or information about the Event, including, but not limited to, any account, description, picture, video, audio, reproduction or other information concerning the Event.”

The SEC has $3 billion reasons to protect their product. I understand that. But the initial interpretation has fans puzzled. One of the most popular uses of these mediums is the instant ability to post updates and pictures from sporting events.

SEC Commissioner Mike Slive is quoted in a release regarding the new policy. He says, “This revised policy reflects many of the concerns that we have heard. It is a balance between the media’s ability to cover our sporting events and the SEC’s ability to protect its digital rights and trademarks.”

The public outcry has forced the SEC to quickly back paddle regarding the policy.

SEC Associate Commissioner of Media Relations Charles Bloom was interviewed by The Buzz Manager Blog today and pushed a new message.

"I see social media as a way that our fans can be engaged and share the positive word of what goes on in our universities and our stadiums,” said Bloom. “We talk about the environment around our games and that it’s an experience, not just a football game and so I think if we have fans in our stands that tweet, and enter Facebook entries, and a take pictures and show everyone having a great time whether it’s tailgating or the scenery around stadium I think that’s a positive that we can use to get the word out about the atmosphere of our ball games."

The SEC is really trying to limit other people, primarily bloggers, from making money on them. They also want the only video and images from the events to come from their rights-paying customers like CBS and ESPN.

The fact that they thought they could limit fans from participating is almost silly. How would they ever monitor what the fans are doing in the stands? Could they prevent fans from bringing phones into the venues that attract crowds over 100,000 each Saturday? It would have been impossible.

So looks like Facebook and Twitter will continue to be allowed. Today they announced a revised policy. So get ready now by following NAU on Twitter and Facebook. The Ole Miss crowd might react with silence to a NAU touchdown, but there will be a tweet heard around the world if it happens.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Summer Vacation: Training for the Worlds Part 3

All-American David McNeill is running Monday, August 17 at the IAAF World Championships in Germany. He took some time off from his training to give Lumberjack fans an update on his summer and preparation for the Worlds. This is the third blog by McNeill before his return to Flagstaff for the 2009 cross country season.

Hello everyone again!

Where I left you last, I was ready to compete in a 5k at the Aviva London Grand Prix meet, at Crystal Palace in London. This would easily be the biggest and most prestigious meet I had been a part of up to that date. Around me, I had names like Usain Bolt, Yelena Isinbejava, Saif Saeed Shaheen, and Lopez Lomong. The meet was of a high calibre; I thought that it would provide ideal preparation for my race in Berlin. Unfortunately though, for a number of reasons, my entry onto the big stage of athletics was more of a rude awakening than anything else. As the saying goes for first-timers on the European circuit, “Welcome to Europe” was an apt approximation of my experience. I stepped onto the track, and knew right away that it was likely to be a tough day. I couldn’t feel any spring in my step, and an opening lap of 58 seconds was something I could never have expected. After that first lap, I was in last place, with second-to-last a good 30 meters in front of me. My immediate reaction to the fast early pace was to stay calm, and let the tail-enders come back to me. But with the fast early tempo, all that proceeded to happen was an increase in the gap. I panicked after about a mile, and tried to work my way up to someone else, but in the process, blew my bubble, and battled all the way home to the finish line in a fairly embarrassing time, by the standards I set for myself.

I dusted myself off pretty quickly though. My performance was so far below anything I had done in training and racing throughout the year, that all I could account the experience to was a simple case of having a ‘bad day’. Certainly, I was running on a stage that I probably wasn’t quite ready for yet. But that being said, it was a wonderful awakening and learning experience of what it takes to make in the big league. I was proud of the way I reacted after the race. In the past, I have spat the dummy and spent hours in very sour moods. On this occasion though, I refocused on the task ahead in Berlin, boarded a train back to Teddington, and made myself some poached eggs on toast with sautéed spinach. A late night cook-up – as always – helped clear my head!

I decided that, for my own confidence, I would try another race the following Friday, just to prove to myself that my 5k in London was no indication of the shape I was in. The race was a low key fun run around the park near where I was staying. It was a 7k race that had been graced by the likes of distance running stars like Craig Mottram and Sonia O’Sullivan. I ran very much by myself from the gun, and ran an even pace throughout to take a comfortable win, and a new course record (one up on Mottram! YAY!!!). It was confirmed – London was a slight hiccup, and I was in fact quite fit.

Not much more was to be done in the training stakes. After the fun run, I spent just another week and a half in Teddington before heading to Berlin. I hadn’t done nearly as much in England as I would have liked to have, but that was unfortunately not the nature of the trip. Instead of daily sightseeing, and memorable life experiences, I prepared for my first world championships. I made some wonderful new friends, showed off some of my prowess in the kitchen to my cooking partner in London, Lara (we shared the cooking a bit during my stay), and made a couple of trips into some of London’s more famous markets in Notting Hill and Camden. So, erase that last comment about memorable life experiences, because this was in fact definitely one of those!

It is now the night before my race in Berlin, and I have been here for 5 days. The weather has been beautiful, and the stadium is simply breathtaking. I do hope that the stadium won’t take too much of my breath away tomorrow night, as I will need all the oxygen I can get for my 25 lap journey. The last couple of weeks have provided a fairly familiar feeling of tiredness and being burnt out after a very long season. These feelings certainly scare me a little, and I would much rather be feeling fresher right now. But I know my body, and I remember last time I felt like this – before running the 10k that qualified me for these championships. That day, I had the race of my life, and I hope to have the same such race tomorrow. Tomorrow is not just about the experience. I have a goal in mind, and people I want to be running with. I hope I can share some special memories with you all after the race.

Lastly, before I go to bed, thank you to all my Facebook posters and emailers. Your support over the past weeks and months has been overwhelming. Whatever the outcome tomorrow, I will be running whole-heartedly for the special people that make this sport so enjoyable for me.

With love and best wishes,


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Summer Vacation: Training for the Worlds Part 2

All-American David McNeill is running Monday, August 17 at the IAAF World Championships in Germany. He took some time off from his training to give Lumberjack fans an update on his summer and preparation for the Worlds. This is the second of three blogs by McNeill before his return to Flagstaff for the 2009 cross country season.

Hello Friends, Family, and fellow Lumberjacks,

I’ll continue the account of my European trip where I finished up in Cork. Following an easy 12 miler on the morning after the race, I headed back to base camp in London. The next three weeks would provide a small, but uninterrupted block of training ahead of a 5k race in London. I had two new training partners now – Collis Birmingham, the recent Australian 10,000m record setter, and Adrian Blincoe, a New Zealander and former NCAA champion with Villanova.

To my fellow athletes, you will surely appreciate an account of my training over the 3 weeks from July 6 through to July 23 – the day before my race. To all other friends, family, and fellow Lumberjacks, bear with me on this blog, as I bore you to death with an account of splits, reps, times, and the ecstasy of completing 4x 2000m. Training definitely proceeded well during this time. I was always conscious of not over doing it, and avoiding trying to keep up with my older, and more accomplished training partners. To a large extent, a maintained control of this, and never finished a session needing to be peeled from the track. There is a time and place for pushing the pain button, and a month out from a world championship was not such a time to do that. Nevertheless, the splits I was running were very satisfying, and gave me a lot of confidence going into my 5k race in London. Here is my training diary. Enjoy.




Mon 6

AM: 7miles

Easy run

PM: 8.5 miles

10mins easy, 30mins at a bit below lactate threshold (LT) effort, 10mins easy


AM: Track – 9lapper, 4lapper, 4x800m

9 lapper: first four laps in 71s, next 3 laps in 68s, last 2 laps in 65s; lap jog; 4 lapper: 68,67,66,65; lap jog; 800m in 2:11, 2:14, 2:13, 2:12

Wed 8

AM: 9 miles

Easy run

PM: 4.5 miles

Easy run

Thurs 9

AM: 8 mile LT


PM: 4.5 miles

Easy run

Fri 10

AM: 7 miles

Easy run

Sat 11

AM: 6x 3min hills

About a 4min jog back down (shortcut back to start) recovery between each

Sun 12

AM: 15miles

Easy long run

Mon 13

AM: Track – 4lap, 3lap, 2lap, 4lap, 3lap, 2lap

4:34, 3:14, 2:04, 4:15, 3:13, 2:02. Lap jog between each rep; each rep tried to progress in pace with each lap. VERY TOUGH SESSION

PM: 4.5miles

Easy run

Tues 14

AM: 7 miles

Easy run

PM: 4.5 miles

Easy run

Wed 15

AM: 10 miles

Easy run

Thurs 16

AM: 8 mile LT

Same course as last week – 39:57

PM: 4 miles

Easy run

Fri 17

AM: 7 miles

Easy run

Sat 18

AM: 4x 2k on the track

5:29, 5:33, 5:30, 5:43. First 2 reps alternated laps between fast and slow; 3rd rep got faster each lap, last rep at a more comfortable, even pace.

PM: 4 miles

Easy run

Sun 19

AM: 13 miles

Easy long run

Mon 20

AM: 7miles

Easy run

PM: 4.5 miles

Easy run

Tues 21

AM: 2k, 800m, 5x200m

5:52, lap jog, 2:03, lap walk/jog, 30, 30, 29, 29, 27 (all 200m reps with 200m jog between)

PM: 4 miles

Easy run

Wed 22

AM: 8 mile

Easy run

PM: 4 mile

Easy run

Thurs 23

AM: 5 mile

Easy run

Fri 24

PM: Race 5k


I’ll start my next blog with an account of my 5k race in London. Until then, happy training, and safe travels back to Flagstaff ahead of the new semester!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Summer Vacation: Training for the Worlds Part 1

All-American David McNeill is running Monday, August 17 at the IAAF World Championships in Germany. He took some time off from his training to give Lumberjack fans an update on his summer and preparation for the Worlds. This is the first of three blogs by McNeill before his return to Flagstaff for the 2009 cross country season.

By David McNeill

Greetings friends, family, and fellow Lumberjacks,

Hopefully this blog will find you all well into some pre-season training as the fall of 2009 fast approaches. I, somewhat fortunately, find my spring semester of 2009 still slowly drawing to a close, as I was fortunate enough to be selected to represent Australia at the 2009 World Championships in Athletics, in Berlin, Germany.

Since the NCAA championships in the middle of June, I have extended my season and my training to run my final race on August 17. Along the way, I have been lucky enough to travel some of the UK, run in a couple of highly competitive European races, and get a glimpse of what life is like for athletes outside of the NCAA. Here is a short account of some of my experiences since my 5k race at Arkansas in June.

I stayed in Flagstaff after nationals till the end of June, to take advantage of a couple more weeks of altitude training, and return to some of the harder workouts I had put on hold in order to freshen up for the college season finale in Arkansas. With my team mates on a well deserved hiatus, training was all of a sudden very quiet…but not altogether solo, thanks to the company of my sister, who was visiting for two weeks, having Coach Heins on a few of my runs up the “lung burner” (my favorite run in Flagstaff), and some pacing by my teammate, Ahmed Osman for a workout of 8x1km on the track.

Next stop was San Francisco for four days to visit an old running friend, Julian Marsh, and to show my sister some more of the country. Thanks to the help of Julian, I had the benefit of some expert pacing for my final two workouts in the U.S., before boarding a plane to London.

In London, I have been fortunate enough to stay with some of the other Australian distance runners preparing for the World Championships. I arrived at the start of July, and was already on my way to Cork, Ireland two days later, for my first European race over 3k. 7 minutes and 58 seconds after the gun exploded for my first track race in Europe, I crossed the line in first place. The race was fairly uneventful. I went into the race with the only goal being to win the race. The pace was always comfortable, and after riding the Kenyan express to 2800m, I ran away unharmed over the final 200m to clinch the win, and a necessary boost to the confidence – that I was still fit and ready for another 6 weeks of work.

I will split my account over a couple of blogs, so for now, keep training fellow lumberjacks, and if interested, stay tuned for a couple more stories from the rest of my trip!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Five Years of Memories

By Karen Auerbach, NAU Media Relations
My time as a Lumberjack is coming to an end. As the Assistant Director of Athletic Media Relations under Steve Shaff for the past five years, I’ve had so many great times and amazing opportunities, and I will miss NAU and Flagstaff very much. My next adventure is taking me to Philadelphia where I will hold a similar title in the Temple University Athletic Department. Before I go, I wanted to recap some of the best memories I’ve had while working at NAU. I hate to rank any above any others, and there are certainly many exciting events that have happened in other sports that I didn’t work as closely with. But for the sake of this blog, here is a “Top 10” from my time at NAU.

#10 - Skydome Improvements in 2005 and 2008
While the Skydome has been impressive to me from the outside since I started working here, the inside has gotten some major improvements. In my first football season in 2004, the scoreboards were the type you'd find at a lot of high school fields. But we soon upgraded bigtime, to the current scoreboards and video boards that are now in place at both ends. My favorite was when Rob Morrison would put the animated Chicken Dance up there.

The turf that was in place for the first four football seasons I was here left something to be desired, so it was pretty exciting when we installed the RealGrass turf prior to the 2008 season. I give major props to the entire Dome staff for all their work in the constant putting down and taking up of the various turfs.

#9 - Alexis Buckley Swimming in the NCAA Championships
Although our swim and dive team is consistently strong in the WAC, and at least a few divers always advance to the NCAA Regional Championships, only once in my five years did a swim and dive student-athlete qualify and participate in the NCAA Championships. In March of 2006, which proved to be an extremely exciting time with the women's basketball team also earning an NCAA Tournament berth, Alexis swam in both the 500 freestyle and 1,650 freestyle in Athens, Ga. She did not advance to the finals in either event, but came so close in the 1,650 free after placing 19th.

#8 - Matt Leinart Using Ketchup as a Microphone in 2006
In a very rare opportunity, I somehow ended up at the final lunch of the Cardinals Training Camp in August of 2006. It turned out that at that lunch, all the rookies on the team were made to stand on their chairs and sing in front of everyone. There were a number of hilarious performances, but the most notable for me was Matt Leinart. The rumor was that he was, or had been, dating Paris Hilton at the time, so when he stood on his chair, grabbed a bottle of ketchup as his mic and started belting out a Paris Hilton song... I only wish I'd had a video camera.

#7 - NAU Athletics Embraces Social Media
Having been a Facebook user since before it was cool, I often tried to hide my use of it. A few years ago there were major concerns about privacy and the use of sites like that in general, and athletic departments all over the country were worried about what it could lead to. While concerns still exist, Facebook's use as a promotion tool for athletics has now been embraced, and I think it's great. Between Facebook, Twitter and blogging, NAU Athletics is really getting out there. I know I'll have no trouble keeping up on what's happening after I move back east.

#6 - Watching Kim Babcock Play Volleyball
Any fans of NAU volleyball since 2004 know who Kim Babcock is. You knew she was going to be great from the start, but injuries and illnesses kept her from her true potential until her senior year. But it was worth the wait to watch all 5 feet and 8 inches of her jump to an amazing height and slam the ball repeatedly over the net. Her 5.63 kills per game that year, 2007, ranked first among all players in NCAA Division I.

#5 - NAU TV Services Gets the Lumberjacks on National TV
The kind of television coverage that NAU sports have gotten over the last few years is unprecedented even at much larger universities. This is all thanks to the NAU TV Services Department, which has embraced athletics and made our football, basketball, volleyball and even some soccer games available to fans all over the country. With the university having its own Dish Network station, and FSN Arizona as well as Fox College Sports picking up a number of games, I've had friends from as far away as you can get telling me they saw one of our games on TV. It's pretty awesome.

#4 - Volleyball Wins Three Tournaments in 2008
With a brand new coach and a young team heading into the 2008 season, it was hard to know what to expect from the volleyball team. But under the guidance of Craig Choate and with the leadership of senior libero Brittany Stowers, the Lumberjacks went 8-1 to start the year and earned tournament titles at both of their home tournaments as well as one on the road. During the final match at Green Bay, Stowers tallied 52 digs to set NAU and Big Sky records and come close to the NCAA record. As an SID, nothing is more fun than writing about wins and positive records, and that team gave me plenty of both to write about!

#3 - Men's Basketball's Four Overtime Game vs. Portland State on January 4, 2009
After having been down in Phoenix on January 3rd, I had to battle torrential rain and then miles and miles of snow to make it in time for the men's basketball game against Portland State at 2:00 p.m. But I was so glad I made it in the end. The two teams battled through a thrilling four overtimes before the Vikings ultimately pulled out the victory. It was a heartbreaking loss for the Lumberjacks, but a game that will forever be in the history books.

#2 - Football at ASU in 2006
I rarely got to see an away football game due to conflicts with the volleyball schedule, but on August 31, 2006, I was able to attend NAU at ASU when the Sun Devils were ranked 24th in the nation. Only hoping that the Lumberjacks would keep the game close, you can imagine the excitement for NAU fans after the Lumberjacks scored first and were then tied with ASU 14-14 heading into the fourth quarter. The Sun Devils took over after that, but for three quarters it was one of the most exciting football games I've ever seen.

# 1- Women's Basketball Wins Big Sky Tourney in 2006
After unfortunately watching the men's basketball team lose in the Big Sky final to Montana in Flagstaff on the night of March 8, the whirlwind adventure began as Mitch Strohman and I drove to Phoenix at 4:00 a.m. the next morning to get to Sky Harbor and fly out to Pocatello, Idaho. We arrived a few hours before the women's quarterfinal game against Portland State which they won fairly easily. Next up was defending champs Montana, and the Lumberjacks won an exciting 73-66 decision to advance to the final. Weber State upset host Idaho State in the other semifinal, and NAU cruised to a 74-59 win against the Wildcats to win its first ever Big Sky Tournament title. The excitement after that game was one of the best feelings I've had as an SID. We had a viewing party in the Skydome for the NCAA Selection Show, and the next weekend went down to Tucson to play defending national champ Baylor in the first round. We lost that game, but the entire experience was something that I and I'm sure everyone involved will never forget.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Swimming Has New Speed Limit

By Dave Rollins, Assistant Swimming Coach Northern Arizona University/Head Coach Flagstaff Peaks Aquatic Club

The speed suits.

When I was first asked to write a blog about the latest and greatest in swim suit technology I had one thing run through my head, ad-nauseam. Who has not already talked about this issue? Who has not beaten it to death yet? Then I thought, alright, here is a chance to say my side of the issue, how it affected my swimmers and how FINA stepped in.

If you have been hiding under a rock the past few months, or did the right thing and just ignored all this suit talk, here is a little background. In 2000, Speedo (the World’s largest and most influential swimming manufacturer) came out with the “Fastskin” racing suit. Their tagline was it was faster then shark skin. Since the introduction of this suit there have been multiple imitations and improvements.

In 2008 we saw the Speedo LZR Racer. The “worlds fastest swim suit.” Today we have many suits that are even faster and Speedo was left in the dust. Many coaches and swimmers are complaining that the suits are unfair to the sport, the term “country club sport” often comes with swimming, and the $500 and up price tag is not helping. These new “Super Suits” are made up of material that water and air cannot pass through, as well as keep a swimmer more buoyant in the water. As we all know, the more buoyant you are, the faster you will swim. That is the main argument against the suits, they are just too fast.

Others are complaining that they cannot get their hands on the suits and are at an “unfair technological advantage.” Both are valid and interesting points.

The supporters for the suits are those who say that it is just a technological advancement for the sport. First it was the original Speedo that Johnny Weismuller wore before he became Tarzan. Then it was the introduction of goggles (which resulted in 29 world records at one swimming meet), shaving ones body hair to reduce drag and wearing racing caps. Now it has moved to what you are wearing. The suits help prevent fatigue, they make you more buoyant and are extremely water repellant. So where does it go from here?

Last week the Swimming World was on watch as the FINA (the international governing body for swimming) World Swimming Championships were held in Rome, Italy. FINA was holding meetings all week to figure out the suit issue and has come out with multiple dates and ideas of what to do. FINA decided that as of January 1, 2010, all of the latest and greatest (including the Beijing Olympics Speedo LZR) will be banned and not allowed in any FINA sponsored events. It is up to the national governing bodies to follow suit, no pun intended. USA Swimming will do whatever FINA does, as will most other nations.

The suits must esentially go back to the way it was before 2008. Even the 2000 models of suits have to be modified to fit the new rules. Men will no longer be able to wear full body suits. The suit can only cover the thigh. Women’s suits may cover the thighs and their torso, that is all. No zippers to keep suits up, they must have elastic shoulder straps.

This is a severe cutback of what has been allowed. Is it a good thing? Who knows, it will most certainly cut back on the price of the suits. Will a company be able to charge over $500 for a suit that only covers a man’s legs? I do not think so, especially when we all know you can get a pair of biker shorts for under $60.

The biggest benefit that will come from this suit cut back will be in public interest in the sport and collegiate funding. From what I see, allowing the suits to be less expensive means that more people can participate. This is a great thing. Also, when a college coach goes to their Athletic Director and tells them that they will be able to save them thousands of dollars because the cost of suits has gone down, the AD will most likely have a smile from ear to ear. A program that is actually saving an athletics department money? What? That’s ridiculous. But it is true. Here at NAU it might not be much, but saving a couple thousand dollars a year will be huge in return. Some schools spent tens of thousands of dollars on swim suits this past year. The savings for them will be even greater.

Some people will not be happy that the suits will not be allowed. Most of them will be working for the suit companies that spent hundreds of thousands on research and development to make the suits. Some say they will lose all of what they invested. The truth is, that money was gone anyway. They spent it on development. It’s what an economist would call a “sunk cost.” They will move on, and create a new product that people will buy.

In the end, I believe that the suits were awesome. It was not the suit that swam across the pool; it was the person in it. Granted, the suit did make it easier to swim across the pool. In the end it will be better for the sport not having them. At this year’s World Championships over 35 world records were set. The most ever at any single swimming meet, the most since the introduction of goggles (where one could finally SEE the wall). Will it be a long time before these records are broken? Who knows, it could only be 6 months. Only time will tell. In the end though, the sport will be much better off.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Where Were You When?

By Steven Shaff, Assistant AD/Media Relations

There are defining moments in history that stick in our minds. The assassination of John F. Kennedy, the Shuttle disaster and 9/11 are just a few everyone knows where they were when the event happened.

Thirty years ago today, New York Yankees catcher Thurman Munson died in plane crash on an off day of the regular season. He was one of my favorite players on the team and one of my early heroes in life. I have an autographed ball by the 1978 World Champion Yankee team that I cherish. I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was on the Jersey shore on vacation with my family at the age of nine. I saw the news on the television. It is the first time I remember crying over a death of someone.

Next week, NAU Athletics is hosting a season kickoff event on the NAU campus that features former Marshall coach Jack Lengyel as the keynote speaker. If you don’t know who Jack is you might know who played him in the movie about his life: Matthew McConaughey.

We Are Marshall chronicles the events following the 1970 crash of a plane carrying the Marshall football team, coaches and fans back from a game. Lengyel is hired to restart the program. He will provide an inspirational message in his talk about his experiences and his life in football. He will be joined by former NFL Pro Bowler Ron Wolfley, the Voice of the Arizona Cardinals, and NAU Head Football Coach Jerome Souers.

Tickets to the event include a summer buffet from Jotini’s on the Green. Prices start at $30 for admission and the buffet. The VIP package for $45 includes admission, the buffet, VIP seating with and a meet and greet opportunity with the featured speakers. The VIP Plus package for $100 includes a NAU football season ticket in addition to the VIP package. Fans that have already purchased a 2009 football season ticket will be able to purchase the VIP package for $30. For ticket information, call 928-523-3326.

Sports play a unique role in our lives. Justified or not, we live and die with our teams. With the recent ascent of the Arizona Cardinals onto our campus, we remember back to the Super Bowl last February and the joy and heartbreak the game brought to fans of the team. When Diamondbacks won the World Series in 2001, I will never forget the moment because I was there in left field watching the defining moment. The NAU Lumberjacks start reporting back to campus on Tuesday with the arrival of the soccer team for preseason drills.

What will be in store for the upcoming seasons for the Lumberjack student-athletes? Will there be Big Sky Championships? How will the football team fare in a key home game against national runner-up Montana? Can the soccer team repeat its NCAA Championship appearance from 2008? Tickets are on sale now for the kickoff banquet and the upcoming fall sports. I hope you join us for these events. Then you can say, ‘I was there when.’