Friday, January 21, 2011

The Opportunity Of A Lifetime

I can remember where I was when I heard about it.

The Bowling Green men's basketball team was hosting Manhattan earlier this year and, as always, I was sitting in front of a laptop keeping stats. At one of the media timeouts, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and our Athletics Director Greg Christopher was standing there. Once in awhile, Greg will come over at a timeout to look at a boxscore. I figured that's why he tapped me on the shoulder. As he hunched over to whisper to me, I realized that wasn't his objective.

"Jason, I just want to give you a heads-up on an e-mail you may get tomorrow about a $10 million donation for the men's basketball program."

I'm guessing the sound of my jaw hitting the floor wasn't audible to anyone else, but it was one of those moments that make you speechless. I didn't know what to say or what to ask. Pretty soon the horn sounded for the end of the media timeout, Greg scurried off to watch the rest of the game, and I went back to work statting the rest of the game.

That was the last I heard about the donation until the next day when, surely enough, I received the infamous e-mail. It explained a lot more such as who the donor was, what it would be used for, etc. And from there, we went to work getting ready for this past Wednesday's announcement.

Along the way, I got the opportunity to oversee most of the media relations efforts of the announcement, working hand-in-hand with University spokesman Dave Kielmeyer and getting a lot of help from a small handful of people from around campus. But the thing that will stand out the most to me will be the 45 minutes I got to spend with Bill Frack before last Sunday's game with Miami.

When I heard about the donation, one of the first ideas that popped into my mind was putting together a video of Bill's memories and talk about his reasons for making the donation. You can view that video here: Bill Frack Video.

I had really only talked with Bill one time prior to Sunday's game with Miami. As an introvert, I'm not the type of person to just walk up to strangers and start conversation. It's just not something that's comfortable for me. So, Bill and I had crossed paths in the past but the only time I had casually talked to him was earlier in the year on a road trip when we sat next to each other in one of the hotel lobbies waiting for the team. We exchanged pleasantries then, but nothing really deep or intense. I knew he had given $2 million for the Stroh Center and will have the court named after him, but I knew little else. I wasn't even at BGSU when that donation was announced.

So, as I sat and talked with Bill for 45 minutes for the video, it was apparent how passionate he was about BG basketball and how many great memories he has. He can remember games and events from 50 years ago like they were yesterday. And his appreciation to the players and coaches over the past 60+ years is evident. He didn't make this donation because he wants to be applauded. In my opinion, he made this donation for two reasons -- because he appreciates the friendship and kindness of those who have worked in the program, and because he wants to see BGSU men's basketball reach a level comparable to what Butler and Gonzaga are at now.

I want to thank Bill for those 45 minutes. I think our University Marketing folks, led by Pete Fairbairn, did an amazing job condensing that interview down and still showing the passion Bill has for BGSU basketball. That conversation was mezmerizing to me. Since the 2008-09 season, I've seen in person every single BGSU men's basketball game both home and road. But prior to that, I had no history with the Falcons. Bill was able to convey to me what BG basketball meant to him when he was a kid back in the 1940's and 50's and what it should mean to kids whose fathers bring them to games in the Stroh Center in the future, as his dad did with him.

So, to Bill, I say "Thank you!" for spending time with me and thank you for the gift you've given to future generations of fans who will come to the Stroh Center to watch BGSU basketball!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Going for 2-0

In two days, I watched two men's basketball games with a grand total of five overtime sessions. After sitting through the Falcons' double overtime win at Buffalo Saturday night, sitting on a bus through the night and getting back to Bowling Green around 4:30 in the morning, I made sure I got up in time to watch Ohio and Miami play three overtimes in a thriller. Looking around the league this year, it sure looks like MAC fans could be in for a special season.

Is the talent level around the MAC what it was back in the "glory days"? Probably not right now. But the difference in the talent level of teams across the MAC is razor thin. Nobody can take a day off and nobody can just walk into an arena and pick up a win. It's going to be a crazy regular season and it will probably be an even crazier three days in Cleveland at the MAC Tournament.

And there is a LOT of young talent in this league right now. Bowling Green has a number of freshmen and sophomores contributing and playing key roles. We just saw a kid at Buffalo who was very impressive in freshman Javon McCrea. Central Michigan's got Trey Zeigler. Akron's got Zeke Marshall. Ohio's got D.J. Cooper.

Right now is a great time to start following BGSU basketball closely if you aren't. There's a lot of young talent on this team, they move into a new arena next year, and the MAC seems to be a conference that is going to have a lot of individual talent in the next few years.

I'm excited to see how the Falcons play tomorrow night. Going into the M.A.C. Center and getting a win is never easy but Bowling Green did it a year ago and actually has four wins in that arena in the last eight years (I would venture a guess that only Kent State has won more games in the M.A.C. Center during that stretch). The win at Buffalo was big. Four straight wins now. Two road wins in a row. And all of that despite making just one three-pointer in the last two games and going 11-of-24 at the free-throw line last game. If this team improves in those two areas the way it has in other areas over the past month, things will get really interesting.

Follow the Falcons Tuesday night at 7 p.m. on Live stats and live audio are both available there. It will be great to see if this team can get off to a 2-0 start in MAC play, something nobody would have imagined a few weeks ago.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Next Game Is The Biggest

I sit (well, actually I usually stand) in a lot of Coach Orr's press conferences and I often hear him say, "The next game is the biggest game of the year." I can tell everyone for a fact that it's not just lip service. This program always treats the next game like the only game on the schedule. They don't ever get very high or low about games gone past and they certainly don't look ahead to games down the road. It's pretty amazing to me how focused they always are on the next game.

With that being said, I can't help but think about how big the Falcons' game against Buffalo is tomorrow and then how big Tuesday night's game at Kent State will be after that. For this team and where they are right now, these two games are absolutely huge.

Obviously, they are the first two MAC games of the year and that makes these games very important. But this team is playing with such confidence right now after the slow start that you can almost feel the momentum building like no other team I've ever really been around. Over the past five games, every performance has built upon the last.

It's not often that I'm right about something but I wrote in this blog leading into the Saint Louis game, "Aside from shooting the ball better, one of the big things I'm seeing is increased confidence, and especially in crunch time." I think that proved to be true again at Saint Louis as the Falcons outscored the Billikens by seven down the stretch after being behind 44-43 to get another close win and the team's first road victory of the year.

Right now Buffalo is playing about as well as any team in the MAC. They lead the conference in more statistical categories than any other team, including points for and points against, which is a lethal combination. Kent State is probably most people's favorite heading into MAC play. Getting off to a 2-0 start in league play is going to be a really, really tough task against these two teams and my fear is losing the momentum gained over the past few weeks if the performances aren't as good as they've been.

But with all that said, this team is confident. The players know what they have to do to be successful. They've used the 14-game non-conference schedule to figure out how to win games consistently. And now, it all starts Saturday. I'm looking forward to it!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Women's Basketball Housekeeping

Hello all. The women's basketball Falcons are in Athens, Ohio, preparing to begin the Mid-American Conference portion of the schedule. The team had a lovely trip from Bowling Green to Athens, by way of the Pontius household. Tracy's family treated the players, coaches and staff to a tremendous dinner -- dinner at the players' houses is always spectacular, and tonight was certainly no exception.

After dinner, several brave folks showed off their skills after a copy of Just Dance 2 was discovered. The action was as incredible as it is indescribable, and hopefully some video evidence will be made available, but that's (again, hopefully) another blog entry for another time.

While the team was en route from BGSU to Athens, a few things happened that you will not read in your game notes at Among them ...

* The NCAA released the women’s basketball RPI rankings for the first time in 2011 ... the Falcons were ranked 46th in the nation in those rankings, which were through games of Sunday (Jan. 2) ... BGSU has posted five wins against teams currently ranked in the top 100 of the RPI this year to date (Vanderbilt - 52; Creighton - 55; UALR - 64; Detroit - 65; Western Kentucky - 90).

* The latest USA Today ESPN Coaches Poll was released ... BG received 26 points, making the Falcons the third team listed in the ‘others receiving votes’ category ... 25th-ranked Oklahoma State had 41 points.

*’s latest Mid-Major Top 10 was revealed on Tuesday ... Graham Hays, who visited a BG practice last week, had the Falcons ranked third behind Xavier and Marist ... the web site also unveiled a Bracketology projection on Tuesday ... the Falcons were listed as one of the 64 schools projected to make the tournament, as a number-nine seed ... the mock bracket had BG facing Northwestern in a first-round game in Storrs, Conn. ... BGSU also was mentioned in Charlie Creme's related column.

* The latest Mid-Major rankings were announced on Tuesday ... the Falcons are again second, trailing only Green Bay ... BG received 741 points and two first-place votes ... Green Bay had 770 total points and 27 first-place votes ... Florida Gulf Coast, listed third, garnered the other two first-place votes.

* In another Mid-Major poll (LadySwish's Silent Majority Rankings), the Falcons were ranked third this week, behind only Xavier and Marist.

If you can't make it to Athens for Wednesday's game, you can follow it in many of the usual ways via Live video, live stats and live audio will be available, all free of charge (or so I'm told). Roll Along!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Rolling Along Into 2011

So my goal coming into the 2010-11 men's basketball season was to blog here about the team on a regular basis. That really didn't take place during the first half of the season, but now that we're into the New Year and conference play is about to get started, I'll try to do better. Of course, it's also tough to blog when you are following a team that's 1-8.

But the Falcons have gotten on a roll lately, winning three of four and looking so much better and more exciting. After shooting 35 percent from the field during the slow start, the team is over 50 percent in the last four games and putting the ball in the hoop obviously makes things much easier. It seems like almost every game now we've got a triple-double watch going for Scott Thomas (though he's yet to get one and I'm looking forward to nicknaming him "Trip-Doub" once he does) and the point guard play from Joe Jakubowski and Jordon Crawford has been great. Combined, those two have averaged 20.5 points per game in the last couple of contests, have shot extremely well, and have run a highly efficient offense.

On top of that, Coach Orr picked up his 150th career win in the victory over UTSA and his 50th at BGSU.

Aside from shooting the ball better, one of the big things I'm seeing is increased confidence, and especially in crunch time. The team is still 0-4 in games decided by four points or less but that's only because BGSU absolutely dominated the last seven minutes of a close contest with UTSA and won by more than four. With it tied at 50-50 late, the Falcons outscored the Roadrunners (as an aside, we've had a great string of nicknames for opponents this year with Roadrunners, Jaspers, Great Danes, and today Billikens) 20-9 the rest of the way.

So today will be a good test for the Falcons. Saint Louis plays in a really good conference, the Atlantic 10, and has a great coach in Rick Majerus. I know BG beat Saint Louis a year ago but that was in Anderson Arena. The Falcons are still looking for their first win away from The House That Roars in 2010-11 and I'm interested to see how BG performs if this game is close in the final minutes. It should be a fun one today!