‘Spring’ in my step

Spring is in the air at Ohio University. March Madness has died down. The leaves are reappearing on the trees. The ‘plink’ of the aluminum bats can be heard from Bob Wren Stadium, as can the whistles from the coaches at spring football.

Some crazy things have happened already this spring. I wanted to write about Ohio University’s unlikely run through the MidAmerican Conference and NCAA tournament. The No. 9 seed, the Bobcats shocked the MAC by knocking off everyone in their way — including the No. 1 seed. Then they shocked the nation, and ended up on the cover of the USA Today, by absolutely whipping third-seeded Georgetown. When that happened, I thought of my friend Connie Okada, who once looked at me with deadly serious eyes and said, “I just don’t understand people who don’t like sports.”

I couldn’t agree more with her. I went up to Buffalo Wild Wings with my sister and niece. We sat with a few of the Ohio U. football coaches and their wives and children. While the Bobcats mounted a lead against the Hoyas, everyone glanced at each other with knowing grins that asked, “When will the bottom fall out?”

The Hoyas made a run, but OU had an answer every time. With a couple minutes to go in the game, there was almost an antsy-ness at the restaurant/bar. One student — who didn’t appear to be drunk — literally cried. And not just a tear, I mean, he cried!

After the game, my parents and I walked to their car and Court Street had erupted. Students and townspeople were out on the bricks, waving OU flags, simultaneously chanting the cheers. No debauchery, no couch-burning. Just good ol’ fashion pride and excitement bursting out of fans that hadn’t experienced an NCAA win in 25 years.

Two days later the Bobcats were crushed by Tennessee, but what a good time.

And don’t even get me started on the Huskies’ run to the Sweet 16. Watched those games, too. Connie, being a UW fan, had to have been scratching her head and really wondering how people could not like sports.

The Butler-Duke game? Absolutely wonderful. Did anyone else think Gordon’s  hail mary shot was going in? I nearly hit my knees. What a game!

And now baseball is back. (The Pirates are 2-1 and my fantasy team, “The 16-Year Itch,” is in first place… yes, it’s very early!)

I wish I could see the Huskies football team playing its spring ball, but Ohio U’s will have to do. Scrimmage tomorrow at 10:45 a.m.

… In case you’re wondering where I’m going with this, I’ll tell you…

In addition to it being one of the most exciting times of the year according to the sports schedule, it is also budget season at universities. At Ohio U, trouble is brewing for the athletic department. The department has run a staggering deficit for almost two decades — though much of the time it was made up for by President Bob Glidden’s shuffling of student fees and other funds. But as the money has dried up amid the struggling economy, only a big pool of red remains.

Half-truths and inaccuracies are flooding the campus as an angry faculty and misled student body get information about what money is going where, which budgets are being sliced, and by how much.

While the athletic department needs to trim a lot of fat and has other problems going on, I am going to attempt to clear up some of the misnomers out there and defend athletics a bit. There is a lot, though, that is indefensible and there things I can’t explain — if I could, I’d be consulting for conferences and making my own mint.

But in the next several days and weeks, I am going to try to lay some of it out here. A lot of what I write will come from constructive conversations from my “Governance of Intercollegiate Athletics” class — a class I’m taking in the nationally-reknowned sports administration department at OU.

So, keep your eyes peeled — I’ll tweet and post on Facebook so you know what’s coming. But, in the meantime, enjoy the spring — and its sports! Go Pirates! Go Huskies softball! Woo hoo!

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