Posts Tagged ‘college football’

Crimson White, Daily Texan blitz coverage

December 5, 2009

The Crimson White produced a terrific publication previewing today's SEC title game.

So what are college newspapers saying about three big games set for kickoff today?

Florida vs. Alabama

The Independent Alligator offers a story that is filled mostly with overview and background. The ‘Gator also includes several columns along with a podcast where football writers preview the SEC Championship game. Decent content. But nothing spectacular for a game promoted as ‘the game of the millennium’ on the podcast. Columnist Mike McCall says he’s pulling for several teams (Texas Christian, Boise State and Cincinnati) to win so there will be added pressure on college football officials to create a playoff system. Good luck convincing those greedy, self-serving league officials to change the system, Mike, but keep trying.

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Football team ‘night out,’ a pre-game ritual that costs colleges

October 27, 2009

College football coaches can sure be selfish, at times. And misguided.

The recent Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics reveals that spending at many college sports programs is out of control. A group that represents athletic directors will present some cost-cutting measures to the NCAA in the next few weeks.

Among the cost-cutting measures – Asking schools to eliminate housing teams off-campus before home games, a practice where teams check into a local hotel. Some football coaches are opposed to this cost-cutting measure, believing the hotel minimizes distractions for players who, presumably, can’t stay out of trouble.

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Life and death in a small Fla. town

September 13, 2009
The Michigan Daily's Andy Reid traveled to Pahokee, Fla., to learn more about the challenges several Wolverine players faced while growing up. Photo/Max Collins Design/Lan Truong

The Michigan Daily's Andy Reid traveled to Pahokee, Fla., to learn more about the challenges several Wolverine players faced while growing up. Photo/Max Collins Design/Lan Truong

Football saves lives in the impoverished town of Pahokee, Fla., which is much farther away from ritzy Palm Beach than a map would show. A town in the midst of sugar cane fields and marshes, Pahokee is also a place that takes lives at an early age. Gangs recruit kids, called ‘jitterbugs,’ to transfer weapons and money around town. As one kids says: “There’s nothing to do here. It’s easy to get into smoking weed, robbing, they even started killing around here.” Yet, it’s also a town that dominates state football, winning five championships over the past six years.

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College newspapers cover Blount ‘meltdown’ well on deadline

September 4, 2009
Oregon's LeGarrette Blount punches Boise State's Byron Hout after Thursday's nationally broadcast football game. College and professional media jumped on this story immediatley.

Oregon's LeGarrette Blount punches Boise State's Byron Hout after Thursday's nationally broadcast football game. College and professional media jumped on this story immediately.

Apologies do not minimize the penalty Oregon running back LaGarrette Blount should receive after punching an opposing player and then trying to attack fans in the stands after the Ducks lost to Boise State 19-8 on Thursday night. Blount had to be restrained and hauled into the locker room by teammates.

Boise State’s The Arbiter did an excellent job covering both the game and the incident online. Oregon’s The Daily Emerald also did a solid job for a late-night game far from campus. Their stories are among those posted below.

Meanwhile, Portland Oregon columnist John Canzano writes that Blount should be kicked off the team.

“The Ducks running back should be arrested and charged with assault today for slugging Hout, who wasn’t even looking. Also, Blount should be served up by first-year head coach Chip Kelly as a reminder of everything the program should never become.

It was cheap. It was embarrassing. It was disgusting.”

Here are some more stories on the game (and Blount): (more…)

College papers blog recruiting

February 4, 2009

How’s your school doing on the recruiting front this fine National Signing Day (otherwise called Christmas by football coaches and Rivals.com)? Several colleges are blogging news through the day. Few news items attract more readers than recruiting. A few years ago, a sports editor for the Atlanta Journal & Constitution said a single sentence on someone signing with, say, Georgia Tech, could generate more than 10,000 hits within an hour. So post the news as you get it. Then, compile these items into a nice overall package for tomorrow’s print editions. No print tomorrow? Then, file your roundup story online.

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BCS is an illogical end to a season

November 30, 2008

Once again, college football’s top level, Division I, will have a pseudo champion, one determined as much off the field as on it. So why should anybody care? They shouldn’t. Athletic directors, college presidents, NCAA officials and any sports writers who support the current system should be ashamed.

cartoon by NICK ANDERSON/Houston Chronicle

cartoon by NICK ANDERSON/Houston Chronicle

A playoff would offer a true football champion, something that is done at NCAA Division I-AA, II, III (and at IV, V and VI, if they had them). Playoffs determine titlists in baseball, basketball, field hockey, ice hockey, and lacrosse, among others.

Yet, NCAA Division I football would rather be lumped together with figure skating, synchronized swimming, and competitive cheerleading, sports that rely on judges to determine winners. (Oklahoma, Oklahoma, that’s our team, if they can’t go to the BCS then nobody can! Woo.)

Let’s face it: The BCS is not working.

The latest evidence? At least two Big 12 teams are going to get sacked because they happened to have lost later in the season. Texas lost to Texas Tech about a month ago, while Texas Tech lost to Oklahoma a few weeks ago. That Oklahoma lost to Texas is okay, though, since that defeat came early in the season. These three teams are tied atop the Big 12’s South division, but only one team will go to the conference championship. That will be determined when the new BCS standings come out later today. (more…)

Daily Kansan captures key to loss

September 16, 2008
Daily Kansan photographer Jon Goering captures the decisive play in the Jayhawks' 37-34 loss to South Florida last Friday night in Tampa, Fla.

Daily Kansan photographer Jon Goering captures the decisive play in the Jayhawks' 37-34 loss to South Florida last Friday night in Tampa, Fla.

The Daily Kansan’s B.J. Rains breaks down the Jayhawks’ 37-34 loss to South Florida by focusing on a decisive play toward the end of the game, a play where a mere 12 inches may have changed the game’s outcome. A key play is usually a great way to introduce a game story or a folo-up piece. Rains does a solid job teasing readers with conflict in the lead, but he also puts the play into perspective and describes the interception in the final minute. (Notice also that photographer Jon Goering captured the key play.)

TAMPA, Fla. — If faced with the same decision again, Todd Reesing would do only one thing different — throw the ball about a yard farther.

Trying to get the Jayhawks into field goal range with 41 seconds left and the score deadlocked at 34-34 with the then No. 19 South Florida, Reesing dropped back to pass and saw wide receiver Raymond Brown streak down the middle of the field. Reesing took a chance and let it fly, but the ball fell a yard short of Brown and right into the hands of a leaping Nate Allen of USF.

“We got what we wanted,” Reesing said, who passed for 373 yards and three touchdowns. “I kind of fell off my back foot a little bit and just didn’t quite get it there. If I had to do it again, I’d probably make the same decision. I just didn’t make the play.”

Allen stayed on his feet and returned the ball 38 yards to the Kansas 26-yard line. After a one yard run, freshman Maikon Bonani hit his third field goal of the game — a 43-yarder as time expired — to give South Florida a 37-34 win.

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Michigan Daily's Maize Gauge is a fun extra that complements game coverage.

The Michigan Daily covers sports better than most by offering solid coverage, great packages, and reporting in new media. I really like the little extras, like the newspaper’s Maize Gauge, not only because it is visual, but because it breaks down some stats that might get lost. On the other hand, I am not a fan of game predictions that are, really, mostly about ego. Readers, for the most part, do not care who we pick unless we make the process entertaining for the reader, even if the pick is clearly a poor one. Don’t fret about your weekly record; instead, gloat about the readers you’ll attract. Of course, the line is finely drawn between funny and perplexing. Nobody is better at having fun with predictions than the Orlando Sentinel’s Jerry Greene, who proves that it’s not who you pick, but how you pick’em.

Game of the Week 2
ATLANTA (1-0) AT TAMPA BAY (0-1)
Wonder what Bucs Coach Jon Gruden plans on doing after he’s through coaching football (you know, like maybe next year?) Perhaps boss of a reclamation project such as rebuilding the Republican Party? This guy loves to tinker. That’s why he’s dumped quarterback Jeff Garcia and gone back to Brian Griese, a guy he’d dumped before. If you’re a kid at home playing with your Legos, this can be fun. Not so good, however, while coaching in the NFL.
LINE: Bucs by 7.
JERRY SAYS: Falcons by 3.

Leads Don’t force a connection, or comparison, when one does not exist. That’s what happened in the following lead. The fact Southern Cal faced Ohio State in women’s volleyball has no bearing on the same match-up on the football field. Better to use the straight lead offered in the second graph below. (Also, feel free to delete adjectives like ‘screaming’ before fans.)

On a weekend with a theme to “Beat the Buckeyes,” the Women of Troy set the bar high for their male counterparts on the gridiron.

The No. 7 USC women’s volleyball team breezed past unranked Ohio State (25-16, 25-13, 27-25) in a sweep Friday night at the Galen Center in front of more than 4,000 screaming fans.

Similarly, I am not sure the connection between Chinese superstitions and Michigan’s success on the volleyball court. Delete forced connections; instead, focus on the games themselves.

According to Chinese culture, three is a lucky number.

It’s been good fortune for the Michigan volleyball team this year as well.

The Wolverines grabbed their third tournament of the year this weekend, winning 3-0 at the Pepsi Challenge in Ann Arbor.

Virginia Tech's Angie Tincher

Angela Tincher

Campus roundup The Daily Trojan offers a solid gamer on USC’s surprisingly easy win over Ohio State. … The Collegiate Times offers an update on the USA National Softball Player of the Year, Angela Tincher, whose number was retired Saturday in Blacksburg, Va. … Allie Perez shows she understands soccer in her gamer for the Cornell Daily Sun. Allie analyzes the game well without opining and also includes quotes that explain other key subtleties of the game. Soccer, without easily mapped out play by play, can be a challenge to cover, but Perez does it well. Also, check out another fine soccer game story by the Missouri’s Maneater. … The Michigan Daily does a pretty good job assessing the volleyball team’s roster and chances to return to the Sweet 16. But stories like this are much stronger when more reporting is included. Ask opposing coaches for their assessments, something that will better inform your writing (and that will also enlighten readers.)

Typically, don't focus on national stories or figures (like Jamie Moyer, above) unless you do additional reporting or find a local angle.

Typically, don't focus on national stories or figures (like Jamie Moyer, above) unless you do additional reporting or find a local angle.

Columns Missouri’s football team is 3-0, the women’s tennis played well in a five-team tourney, and the women’s soccer team has won three in a row. So why write a column about Jamie Moyer, major-league baseball’s perplexingly good (and ancient) pitcher? Yes, the 45-year-old Phillies hurler is 14-7, and 7-1 in his last 13 starts, but leave the commentary to those who regularly cover MLB and the Phillies. Instead, think local in all columns. A college newspaper needs to fully cover its campus, offering news (and perspective) that readers cannot get elsewhere. Unless you can find a local angle (or can do additional reporting), leave national stories alone.

Profiles South Florida’s soccer goalie decided to play for a U.S. under-17 team a few years ago, which precludes Diego Restrepo from playing for his native Colombia. This is a nice feature on the player’s tough choice during a week when many Bulls fans (and alum like myself) are rejoicing in a football victory over Kansas.

Language Games are ‘tied,’ not knotted. And ‘trailed’ is preferred over ‘down,’ as in ‘Ohio State trailed Southern Cal 7-0.’

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Covering blowouts is a challenge

September 13, 2008
Missouri QB Chase Daniel became the school's all-time passing leader Saturday.

Missouri QB Chase Daniel became the school's all-time leading passer by throwing for 405 yards Saturday.

Covering blowouts can be a challenge, but Missouri Maneater’s Nick Forrester did a terrific job in covering the Tigers’ 69-17 football victory over Nevada. Typically, you want to focus on plays toward the end of the game, but when covering routs like this, citing an early play, as Forrester did, can work pretty effectively.

Senior quarterback Chase Daniel said that the Missouri offense was worried about the Nevada defense before this game. It didn’t show, as the Tigers racked up 651 yards of total offense in a 69-17 victory against the Wolf Pack.

On just the fourth play of the game, sophomore tailback Derrick Washington ran 59 yards for a touchdown, and Missouri never looked back.

Stats are usually not worth mentioning in the lead — unless a team rolls up 651 yards (or a quarterback throws for 405 yards on 23 of 28 passing for four touchdowns, as Chase Daniel did.) Unfortunately, these key stats were not cited in the story, but this is an early posting published a few hours after the game had concluded. Daniel’s overall performance was put in historical perspective, though. Daniel is now Missouri’s all-time passing leader with 9,153 yards. He also tracked down Nevada coach Chris Ault for a comment on Daniel’s performance. Good job for an early gamer.

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There’s always time for another call

September 10, 2008

The Daily Kansan’s B.J. Rains writes a wonderful lead to a football preview, putting the Jayhawks’ game this weekend into perspective. He also adds some intrigue in the lead.

Coach Mark Mangino may not want to say it, but several of his players will.

Friday night’s game at No. 19 South Florida has all of the makings of a game that could make or break their 2008 season.

Win, and silence the critics and build momentum for another successful season. Lose, and stir more whispers that last year’s success was the result of a weak schedule.

Kansas receiver Dezmon Briscoe then explains the chip some Kansas players have on their proverbial shoulders, that the Jayhawks can’t win the ‘big game.’ “If we win, we will have people jumping on the band wagon. If we lose, then they are going to jump off and say how bad we were and how we didn’t play anybody.” Would like a comment from USF’s coaches, but, still, this is a good piece.

Sources I believe it was longtime Boston Globe sportswriter Will McDonough who said there’s always time to make another phone call. Of course, he was right, as he was with so many scoops and stories. If you have a few more minutes, make that extra call to another sports information director or coach or player to get more information. That call can yield a terrific insight, breaking news, or a great comment. Too frequently, though, journalists settle into comfortable (and lazy) habits, which might mean speaking with the same sources time and again, or hanging out only in the home-team’s locker room. Our job, however, is to report.

The Northern Star made that extra call for its football gamer. “You’ve got to give a lot of credit to Time Hiller,” Western Michigan head coach Bill Cubit told the Northern Illinois newspaper. “He took control out there.” Sportswriter Ben Gross took charge as well, writing an interesting game story that included comments from both teams. … LSU’s Reveille reports that the school’s game against North Texas will be played in Tiger Stadium, a week after Hurricane Gustav pounded the state. The story cites officials from North Texas and LSU confirming the game (unless, of course, Hurricane Ike slams the area.)

Juice Williams led a rushing attack that rolled up 399 yards on the ground against Division I-AA Eastern Illinois University (alma mater of Tony Romo and home to a mighty fine journalism department). The Daily Illini does a good job in its gamer, speaking with coaches on both sides. The Daily Eastern also covered both locker rooms, speaking with coaches and players on both teams after the game in newly renovated Memorial Stadium.

The Wisconsin Badger-Herald reveals that UW, surprisingly, turned into a passing team in its rout of Marshall last weekend. … Meanwhile, the Daily Wildcat relies on a coach, assistant coach and player in covering Arizona’s 41-16 victory over Toledo. … TCU’s Daily Skiff gets comments from its own head coach and some players after a 67-7 victory over Stephen A. Austin. (One guy against a whole team?). How did the Horned Frogs score so frequently. That’s often best learned from the opposing team.

Don’t use second-hand info for commentaries Not sure why an InsideVandy sportswriter is focusing on the Southern Cal-Ohio State game, especially since there is no original reporting. Please, report on your own campuses where you can attend practices and speak with sources. Instead, the paper could have previewed either Vandy’s football game against Rice or the women’s soccer game against Missouri. Readers can get news on USC-Ohio State elsewhere.

Leads Avoid lengthy introductory clauses in leads. If you must use an intro clause, void using ‘it,’ ‘they,’ or other equally vague pronouns as a sentence’s subject. Consider the sentence below:

As the transformation of college football continues to shift toward the spread offense, just as Arizona did prior to last season, it may seem like the running back could be the odd man out.

What does ‘it’ refer to? To the ‘transformation?’ To the ‘shift?’ The pronoun reference is unclear. This lead could be punched up by a shorter, direct sentence, such as: “Running backs are increasingly turning obsolete as college coaches shift to the spread offense.”

The Badger Herald also relies on an introductory clause in its footgamer lead.

After rushing for 404 yards and only throwing the ball 10 times against Akron, the University of Wisconsin offensive attack took on a different identity Saturday.

Why not invert the sentence, tagging the intro subordinate clause at the end of a more directly worded declarative statement, such as: Wisconson’s offense took on a new identity Saturday. The Badgers threw for more than 300 yards on 26 attempts against Marshall, a week after rushing for 404 yards and throwing only 10 times the week before.

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O’Collegian, Daily Trojan offer solid follow-up football stories

September 2, 2008
Oklahoma State's O'Collegian focuses on special teams play in its follow-up coverage.

Oklahoma State

Balls ricocheting into nets, special teams breaking tackles, and runners packing together to win a cross country event. College sportswriters focused on these, and other, angles during the first full week of sports on campuses across the country.

Here are some of the high (and low) lights.

Here’s a terrific lead by O’Collegian writer David Youngblood on Oklahoma State’s special teams play on Saturday.

Dez Bryant was surprised by what he saw.

As he returned the first punt of the game against Washington State, Bryant got a block from a teammate, made a cut and turned upfield.

Suddenly, there was no one left in front of him.

“I was excited when I saw open field,” Bryant said. “I couldn’t believe it, to be honest.”

A WSU player would eventually chase down Bryant, but not before he had returned the punt 42 yards and set the tone for a dominating performance by Oklahoma State’s special teams.

OSU rode big returns and an improved defensive performance to a 39-13 victory Saturday against the Cougars in Seattle.

Youngblood focuses on a key play, describing it through the eyes of player who returned a punt 42 yards. Then, the writer ties this play to an overall theme. It is an excellent story. The writer also cites coach Mike Gundy and three players. Would have liked some comments from Washington State’s coaches and players, something that could have been culled from the game interviews or from follow-up phone calls but I know it can be difficult tracking down sources on Labor Day.

The Daily Trojans’ Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz does an equally fine job in a follow-up to Southern Cal’s 52-7 rout of Virginia. He describes a key play, puts it in perspective and speaks with several key players and coaches at USC.

Here are a few other football game stories to check out.

Daniel, Williams direct Arch Rivalry shootout.

Tar Heels take season opener, barely

Rodriguez and co. can’t come away with win in opener

I love a good cross country story, perhaps because too many young writers believe such beats are not as worthy as football or basketball. (And partly because I ran myself.) If anything, readers and sports editors are more impressed when these stories are covered just as thoroughly as football.

Here is another cross country (who should never, ever be called ‘harriers’) story to check out this week. The Daily Iowan focuses on the importance of pack running.

Some other things to consider when covering cross country:
Convert distances from metric to English standard. Sadly, most readers are not able to tell you that a 6K run is 3.75 miles. (You can slip in the fact that a 5K race is a 3.1-mile event somewhere later in the story.) Plus, try to convert times to pace per mile, writing that ‘someone averaged 5:08 per mile,’ something that is more accessible than writing that someone ran 18:45 for 6K. That’s a foreign language to most non-runners. In addition, find a feature angle when covering sports like cross country, swimming and wrestling, among others. Devout fans will read anything on these sports, but you need to attract the non-fans as well. So approach these stories with the eyes of a coach but with the perspective of an unknowing fan.

Don’t bury leads Get right to the key angle or play. Do not offer background or a general overview like “All good things take time.” The following lead delays the main angle, that Indiana scored twice at the 78th minute to knock off a ranked team.

The IU women’s soccer team (1-2-0) came into the Aggie Soccer Invitational unranked and winless. The other three teams in the tournament were all ranked in the top 14, but the Hoosiers were able to leave Texas with a split in the weekend’s games.

IU picked up its first win of the season Friday night, defeating No. 14 Tennessee 2-0, its first win versus a ranked opponent since it defeated then-No. 13 USC last year. On Sunday, the Hoosiers fell to the host Texas A&M, 3-1.

The game was deadlocked at a 1-1 tie until the Aggies scored twice in the 78th minute.

This story does a pretty good job of offering key facts about a game played 10-plus hours away, too far away to send writers. Instead, the newspaper staff planned well by apparently using the school’s press release and by calling players.

Here are a few other soccer gamers to check out.
■ The Daily Tar Heel poses some intriguing questions in a lead (although I would have liked more answers and details), the Maneater revealed how Missouri adjusted its attack to defeat Auburn, and the Daily Eastern News describes a shot that ricocheted into the goal to break a tie game.

Don’t just offer stats I’m noticing many volleyball stories are really recaps of stats, where writers focus on how many kills, blocks and digs players have. That’s pretty darned boring – especially if the writer attended the game. (Beat writers are required to attend games they cover, right?) Find stories, trends and angles that are cultivated by attending practices and regularly speaking with key people on the team. The Red and Black, for instance, focused more on Georgia’s coach earning a milestone victory.

Show, don’t tell Here’s a story that relies too heavily on telling: “After falling behind 5-0 in the first game, the Frogs got it together and cruised through the second and third games, tightening their passing and hitting along the way.” (Glad to hear the Frogs were hip and relaxed. But this story does not explain how the team worked together and tightened passes?) Writers need to offer reasons and examples for all assessments. If you do not feel as confident on a beat, ask coaches and players to explain the games to you before, or after, a practice. That way, you will learn the sport better and the players and fans will get a more informed report. This takes time, so be patient.

Avoid cliches like the plague Found a few of these in stories this morning – “opened the flood gates,” “started to click,” “the second half was all blue and orange,” “got on the board,” “imposed her will from the left side to the tune of 14 kills,” and “Johnson was once a wrecking ball for UCLA.”

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