The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
Lamar University is about to have some big shoes to fill in its athletic program, and the guy being replaced has never scored a touchdown, sank a winning basket or hit a home run in a Cardinal uniform. Sports information director Rush Wood is retiring next Friday, and putting a punctuation mark on a distinguished career that has seen him do two stints as Lamar’s SID and work in the sports departments of all three area newspapers, as well as the now defunct Houston Post. It’s difficult to say whether Rush will be missed more by Lamar coaches and athletes, or by those in the area’s print and broadcast media who appreciated and benefited from working with a consummate professional. I’ll have a lot more to say about Rush at a later date, but I wanted to be out front in wishing him a blessed retirement filled with lots of birdies and cold beer . . . If you see a guy hanging out at Port Neches-Groves’ spring football practices that looks a lot like Riley Dodge, it will be Riley Dodge. Todd Dodge’s son, who is finishing up degree work at McNeese State and has already been hired by Austin Westlake football coach Darren Allman, recently gave a talk about his football experiences to PN-G players during their off-season program, and will be making several visits when spring drills begin April 28. So why would Dodge be spending time at PN-G’s spring drills? Because Indians head coach Brandon Faircloth and Westlake’s Allman were on the same staff at Odessa Permian and run basically the same offense. For Riley, who threw for a mind-boggling 8,420 yards and 101 touchdowns in leading Southlake Carroll to a 31-1 record, being an observer at PN-G will give him a jump start on digesting Allman’s offense.
Lamar basketball coach Pat Knight is sticking to his December contention that Kentucky was the best of the big three non conference foes — Ohio State and Louisville were the others — that the Cardinals faced, and will win the NCAA championship. “I told John Calipari before our game that I thought this was his best team. They are so long and so athletic, and I have to give him credit for the way he gets after them. There is no question he’s in control.” Knight also said that he had no idea that Ohio University, after squeaking by the Cardinals 85-78 on Nov. 15 in Athens, Ohio, was talented enough to make waves in the NCAA. “We thought they were pretty good and would win the MAC, but didn’t see this happening,” Knight said of the Bobcats run to the Sweet 16 . . . It would probably be best if nobody told Bob Knight that his son is picking Kentucky. The outspoken former Indiana coach does not like Calipari and created a stir last weekend on ESPN when he refused to mention Kentucky’s name in his role of tourney analyst. When he discussed the Wildcats’ games, he referred to them as “that team from the SEC.” Naturally, the snub caused an uproar in Wildcat nation. “That’s my dad,” chuckled Pat. “He really doesn’t like Kentucky. Joe. B Hall (former Kentucky coach) had me on his radio show when we played in Lexington and was joking with me about it. He was laughing about how dad won’t accept his invitation to come down and go hunting or fishing.” . . . Amazingly, after Pat Knight predicted that no amount of coaxing or cajoling would change his dad’s on-air approach to Kentucky, the elder Knight mentioned them by name several times Wednesday on ESPN’s Mike and Mike Show. No word on what prompted the change of heart.
Basketball’s gift of the century may be University of Texas coach Rick Barnes being in line for what the Austin American-Statesman said was a $125,000 bonus for the 20-14 Longhorns getting into the NCAA tournament field. If Barnes wanted to do the right thing, he’d split the bonus money among all the mid-major coaches who got left out of the tournament so the NCAA could pander to undeserving teams from BCS conferences like Texas . . . Speaking of tournament bonuses, none of the coaches in the Sweet 16 got anything close to what Barnes’ contract calls for, just for getting into the field. Michigan State’s Tom Izzo and Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan got $50,000, Ohio State’s Thad Matta received $40,000, Florida’s Billy Donovan pocketed $37,500, North Carolina’s Roy Williams received $27,828 and Indiana’s Tom Crean was paid $25,000. NCAA bonuses for others, like Calipari, Louisville’s Rick Pitino and Kansas’ Bill Self, don’t kick in until reaching the Sweet 16 or Final Four. That Barnes would earn so much for doing so little supports a contention by Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Randy Galloway that Texas gets the “least for the most” when it comes to rewarding coaches . . . Lamar’s Knight, by the way, didn’t get a direct bonus for the Cardinals getting into the NCAA. He does have a contract clause paying $6,000 for every game the Cardinals win in the NCAA. But he did make $12,500 for winning the SLC post-season tournament, got an $8,000 pop for LU winning 20 games and a $4,000 reward for finishing with the SLC’s third best regular-season record. His total bonuses came to $24,500, or within $500 of his bonus cap in year one.
No team in the NFL has been hit as hard with player losses tied to the salary cap as the Houston Texans. With the departure of LBs Mario Williams and DeMeco Ryans, CB Jason Allen, OT Eric Winston, OG Mike Briesel, TE Joel Dreessen, FB Lawrence Vickers and QB Matt Leinart, the Texans have been ravaged. That’s eight players gone, including five starters and two key reserves. No way the Texans are even close to as good today as they were when the 2011 season ended. There’s going to be tremendous pressure on GM Rick Smith and the scouting department to deliver big in the draft . . . If you happen to be both a Texans fan and a Jamaal Charles fan, there was at least a silver lining in Houston’s loss of Eric Winston. Winston, who is an above average right tackle, wound up signing with the Kansas City Chiefs and shoring up what was a weak spot on their offensive line. The Chiefs, with their other free agent additions, were actually looking pretty good in the AFC West until Denver won the Peyton Manning sweepstakes. Now, if Manning gets back to anywhere near 100 percent, Denver’s the obvious favorite . . . So how much of a boost does Manning actually give to the Broncos? The wise guys who evaluate such things for a living — Las Vegas oddsmakers like RJ Bell of Pregame.com — dropped Denver’s odds of winning the Super Bowl from 70-to-1 in December to 10-to-1 the day after he went into business with John Elway. Only three teams — the Packers (6-1), Patriots (7-1) and 49ers (7-1) have lower odds. New Orleans was in that group at 8-1 until NFL commissioner Roger Goodell lowered the boom. Now the Saints are 10-1.
Little sympathy here for New Orleans head coach Sean Payton, defensive coordinator Greg Williams, who had relocated to St. Louis, or GM Mickey Loomis. They pretty much got what they deserved from Goodell, not only for either operating for ignoring a scheme to injure other players, but for lying about it after being confronted. Similar stuff may have gone on in other places, but the Saints got caught, and it happened at a time when the NFL is under siege about not having done enough in the area of player safety. It’s stunning that Payton, an offensive-minded coach who relies heavily on a healthy Drew Brees, would tolerate such nonsense. Now he’s going to have plenty of time to reflect . . . Mike Deane, who got shoved out the door as Lamar’s basketball coach in 2003, after his sideline antics became too much for the powers that be to tolerate, remains in good graces in his home state of New York. The 60-year-old Deane, whose career highlight was going 166-77 over an eight-year period as head coach at Siena, was inducted into the New York State Basketball Hall of Fame last Sunday. Deane, who had a terrific sense of humor and was extremely sharp from a tactical standpoint, was 52-62 in four seasons in Beaumont. His shining moment was when his first Cardinal team, after going 8-10 in the SLC, won the conference tournament. It was pretty much downhill from there . . . Believe it or not, somebody in Las Vegas plopped down $120 last week on No. 15 seed Norfolk State to beat No. 2 Missouri straight up. The payoff was $5,520.
Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.