Tigers Survive Orange Upset Bid

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Baton Rouge, La. — “Welcome to Death Valley” looms large in gold letters in the center of the Tiger Stadium stands. Nearly 100,000 fans planted themselves in their seats Saturday night and almost got to witness the Syracuse Orange get out alive with a stunning upset against the 25th ranked Tigers. Almost.

But the Tigers came away with a 35-26 win over the Orange using a handful of big plays and a 20-yard touchdown run in the closing two minutes that sealed the deal.

“I’m not upset,” Syracuse head coach Dino Babers said. “I’m disappointed that those young men didn’t get an opportunity to win a game like that in a venue like this that would affect them for the rest of their lives.”

“I give Syracuse credit, they battled the whole time,” said LSU head coach Ed Orgeron, whose team got hammered a week earlier at Mississippi State. “It’s a good win for our team. I know it wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t exciting, but I’m glad that we won.”

 First quarter: quick LSU start

The first play of the game was almost a pick six after Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey’s pass was intercepted by Darrel Williams. Dungey yanked Williams down by the face mask at the 1-yard line and LSU took a 7-0 lead on its first play from scrimmage as Derrius Guice ran the ball in for a touchdown with just nine seconds gone. It was the fastest score in an LSU game since Oct. 12, 1985.

“It was a bad read on my part,” Dungey said. “I shouldn’t have taken the match up. I mean, testing those corners on a running back, that’s not smart.”

Where’s the offense?

Neither team was an offensive threat to start the game. LSU combined for ten yards on five carries, while Syracuse led the first 15 minutes with 79 total yards.

While the Orange won the offense in the first, its only score came on a 42-yard field goal by Cole Murphy at 7:58. It was his longest attempt of the season so far.

 

Second quarter: Opportunity came knocking

Syracuse had plenty of chances to make something happen in this game. But this one might haunt the Orange for a while.

Dungey saw wide receiver Sean Riley wide open in the end zone for a potential 55-yard touchdown pass, but the ball went off the sophomore’s hands and SU missed the chance to take the lead with just under nine minutes to go in the first half.

LSU quarterback Danny Etling found openings in the Orange pass defense and drove the Tigers 71 yards late in the second quarter, completing four passes in five attempts. He connected with Stephen Sullivan for a 43-yard touchdown and the Tigers took a 14-3 lead heading into the half.

Third quarter: We’ve got a game, folks!

The Tigers got the ball to start the second half and they came out strong. LSU’s first play of the second half was an 87-yard touchdown bomb from Etling to wide receiver Drake Davis, who beat his defender.

But the Orange responded quickly. Syracuse marched right back with a 30-yard touchdown pass from wide receiver Devin C. Butler to wide receiver Ervin Phillips on a flea flicker to make it 21-10.

Myles Brennan replaced Etling under center for LSU and the true freshman led his team down to Syracuse’s 20-yard line. Williams finished the job with a 20-yard rush into the end zone and LSU took an 18-point lead. Williams recorded 77 of the 91 yards on the six-play drive.

On the next series, a 58-yard Sterling Hofrichter punt pinned LSU at its own one-yard line and when SU Linebacker Parris Bennett tackled Williams in the end zone for a safety the Orange cut the deficit to 28-12.

Syracuse got the ball back and drove 72 yards in ten plays, finishing with a 14-yard touchdown run by Dungey, who kept around right end and smashed his way through tacklers past the pylon. .

For the game, Dungey completed 32 of 53 passes for 265 yards and a TD. He ran the ball 13 times for 24 yards and caught a pass for 13 yards

Babers opted to go for the extra point rather than two.

“Points are so hard to come by and you would think that one point, oh you gotta get that one,” Babers explained after the game. ”No you don’t. You need to be patient.”

The Orange trailed 28-19 heading into the final 15 minutes.

Fourth quarter: close, but

Juwan Dowels intercepted Etling’s pass and the Orange took over at their own 20-yard line. Syracuse went on an 80-yard drive in 13 plays, resulting in a 22-yard touchdown pass to Steve Ishmael with 5:40 left to play.

Trailing by two, Babers called for an onside kick.

The Tigers recovered at their own 44. With less than two minutes in the game, D.J. Clark ran the ball in to give LSU a 35-26 edge and the upset bid was over.

“I kept telling the guys, you know, ‘we’re winning this, we’re winning this’. I mean, we all had confidence,” Dungey said. “I really felt like we left a lot on the table, out on the field.”

Not a moral victory

Plenty of people wrote the Orange off before kick-off. But Syracuse hung around and gave the Tigers a game.

Babers is not a moral victory kind of guy, but said he’s still proud of the way his team performed.

“We shouldn’t be satisfied,” Babers said. “We could have won that football game and we didn’t. They need to understand that that hurts and we need to find a way to go out and win the next one.”

“I think that we’re a good team. Now, we’ve got to line up and play again. We got to play another team that had a fantastic win (North Carolina State, which beat Florida State in Tallahassee.) We’re coming off of a loss.

“We got to be healthy. I don’t know how healthy we are. It’s going to be a long road, but I think I got a bunch of guys that will line up every single Saturday and fight, even if the Saturday’s on a Friday” (as it will be when Clemson comes to the Dome on Oct. 13).

Now if his team turned a corner after putting up a fight? He said that’s still questionable.

“We’re going to have to see. We just lost a game. I don’t think you turn corners when you lose.”

Next up

Syracuse (2-2, 0-0) opens up ACC play when it visits N.C. State (3-1, 1-0 ACC) on Saturday with kickoff set at 12:20.

LSU (3-1) takes on Troy (3-1) in a 7:00 p.m. game in Baton Rouge.

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Remembering “Papa”

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Story by Brooke Meenachan
Photos by India Timpton and Corey Crisan

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Two young men stood in Syracuse University’s Ensley Athletic Center Wednesday afternoon talking about their grandfather. And a crowd of reporters hung on every word.

Their grandfather was former Syracuse University football head coach, Dick MacPherson, who died Tuesday at the age of 86.6E2DF460-1757-4479-962C-0F884F211C1D.JPG

Most knew ‘Coach Mac’ as the prominent coach who turned the Orange around in his ten seasons as head man and who won Central New York hearts with his charisma, involvement, enthusiasm and colorful comments.

Macky and Cameron MacPherson, knew him as so much more.

More than a coach

Growing up, Macky and Cameron said Coach MacPherson was always around. But around their house, he was better known as ‘Papa’. And even as Papa, he was more like a father figure.

“I think having him as a grandfather and as a father figure, which is a thing not a lot of people know, helped raise me, really helped shaped my view on the world,” said Macky, whose given name is Richard.

Macky and Cameron’s father wasn’t in the picture very much growing up, so Papa helped fill that hole.

“You can’t really overstate that,” Cameron said. “The role he played to my family, to my brother and my sister and our cousin. His four grandchildren. My mom worked hard and he was always there whenever we needed anything.”

Whether that meant needing a ride to practice or leading the cheering section at a ninth-grade basketball game, Cameron says Papa always made it a point to be there.

For most boys at a young age, their dad was the man in their life. For for Macky and Cameron, that man was their grandfather.

“He was my role model,” Macky said. “He was like my dad. He was the person I looked up to every day. He was the person I wanted to make proud every day. I didn’t do everything right, but I tried to for him. I think he always appreciated that. I know he invested a lot of time into his grandchildren. He invested so much time into all of us that we just wanted to give all of that back to him.”

 

It’s the little things

Niether Macky nor Cameron could pinpoint one memory of their Papa that stood out the most. Instead, both said it was the little things that added up.

“You sit there and you’ve got a waterfall of stories to pick from,” said Macky, now a graduate assistant with SU football. “To say that you are going to have just one memory of him that’s going to stand out, it’d be impossible for me to do that right now.”

“We’ve got so many things from when I was a little kid to playing catch down in Florida with him or him throwing us into the pool or teaching me how to golf up to just the past year, two years ago when I left the NFL when I got cut by the Bills.

“The first thing he did was told me he was proud of me. It’s just one of those things where you can’t sum up in one memory everything he was for me, my family and his community.”

Cameron echoed his older brother, but talked about a voicemail from his grandfather he just came across from his quarterback playing days at Georgetown, before he transferred to Syracuse and finished his college football career as a tight end.

“He said we played our heart out, he was proud of me, that I was making him proud. That meant a lot. Just little things like that. He would always call. He’d always end the phone call with a triumphant resonation of his phone number as if we didn’t have caller ID,” Cameron said with a chuckle.

“Those are the things that I remember. He would do the little things just to show, to demonstrate how interested he was in you and how much he loved you. That love he didn’t save just for his family. It was wide. It was for a lot of people.”

 

Community support

Macky and Cameron say the outpouring love and support from the University and the community has been outstanding.

Cameron says the amount of generosity has been so great his family has more food than they know what to do with and more flowers than they have vases.

“The lengths the University is going to make sure the services are beautiful and everyone who loved him can be there. I don’t know if you can anticipate something like that,” he said.

Macky saw the impact his grandfather had on the community.

“It’s been such a nice thing to see that so many people thought so highly of him. I think if everyone can try to achieve that type of connection with people throughout their life, I think our world would be just a little bit better,” he said.

 

Leaving his legacy

Dick MacPherson will go down as a legendary coach at Syracuse University. After arriving in 1981, he led the Orange to an undefeated regular season six years later, finishing with a tie with Auburn in the Sugar Bowl. He finished with a 66-46-4 record, just shy of .600.

He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2009.

The MacPherson family “bleeds SU colors.”

“My brother went here, my sister goes here, my mom went to law school here, my aunt graduated from here. Our family is Syracuse. It’s in our blood. When you cut us open, it’s going to be Orange and Blue. That’s who we are,” Macky said.

Off the sidelines, Coach MacPherson was one-of-a-kind. Anyone you ask most likely have a story of how great of a person Coach Mac really was. The community describes him as a kind, caring man.

His grandsons couldn’t agree more.

“The thing about him is, he meant a lot to the people he met along the way all throughout the community,” Macky said. “It didn’t matter who they were, whether it was a bank teller or a starting quarterback and he left a mark. That’s one of the things I’m most grateful for is the way this town is remembering him is that all of those stories, all of those million little impacts are coming to light. It’s contributing to a very full, very honest picture of a great man,”

Macky and Cameron know their grandfather’s legacy as a coach will live on in the hearts of the Syracuse community, but more so in the hearts of them and their family.

“He was a great coach. He’s in the College Football Hall of Fame because of that. But, he would be in the grandfather hall of fame, too, because he was a great person,” Macky said.

 

Calling hours for Coach MacPherson will be held Thursday at 5 p.m. at Hendricks Chapel. The funeral will also be held at Hendricks Chapel on Friday at 2 p.m.

Jay Crawford ‘taking his talents’ to Cleveland…eventually

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Story by Brooke Meenachan
Photo from ESPNMediaZone.com

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Just like LeBron James, Jay Crawford is ‘Coming Home’. Maybe not right now, but the former SportsCenter anchor says he will be calling Cleveland home again soon.

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Crawford grew up in Sandusky, Ohio, just over 60 miles west of Downtown Cleveland. He also grew up with a passion and appreciation for Cleveland sports. P

laying baseball as a boy and eventually into college at Bowling Green, he said he always dreamt of making it to the big leagues. But, multiple knee injuries hindered his chances of going pro, so he opted for the next best thing: a sports broadcaster.

“I kind of figured that if I couldn’t play baseball I wanted to be around sports in some capacity,” Crawford said.

Once he knew his chances of playing professionally were over, Crawford said he really started to narrow in on his future. He knew what he wanted to do and where he wanted to do it.

Cleveland.

Crawford has been making his way through the broadcast industry for almost 30 years. He’s worked in Kentucky, West Virginia, Florida, Connecticut, New York and Ohio. While he spent five years in the Buckeye state, it was in Columbus.

Never home.

Crawford had been working at ESPN for the past 14 years. He started on Cold Pizza, now known as First Take, before changing directions and becoming the SportsCenter anchor from 12 to 3 p.m. Four years later, ESPN reassigned him to the SportsCenter on the Road division.

“I would be at the NBA Finals, I would be at the Major League All-Star Game, the World Series, the Super Bowl, College Football Championship, the Master’s. All of the big events,” he said. “When I was 25, I might have loved that, but I just didn’t like living out of a suitcase.”

He was among those laid off by ESPN in April. Like most of his coworkers, he knew the dismissals were coming.

“I knew that I had all this time on my contract and they knew I didn’t like traveling, so I just told my agent that I wanted to be bought out. I didn’t want to continue traveling for three more years. I couldn’t see myself doing that. He went to them and told them I was interested in a buyout and that’s exactly what they did,” Crawford said.

Some took it hard. Others, like Crawford, are doing just fine.

“I’ve traveled a ton and just relax more than anything. I’ve done a two hour daily network show for the last 15 years and that can be exhausting, so I’m just enjoying my free time and I’m very thankful that ESPN has to pay for the next two and a half years,” Crawford said.

Crawford’s contract includes a non-complete clause, meaning he can’t work for a competitor of ESPN’s if he wants to continue getting paid. If he decided to go back to work, ESPN wouldn’t have to pay him any longer.

“I’m not in a hurry. I’ll probably sit tight and enjoy two and a half years. I’m listening to offers right now, but I told everyone ahead of time going into it that I’m in no hurry to jump back in it,” Crawford said.

When he is ready, Crawford says he hopes to work in Cleveland covering the teams that are closer to his heart.

The Indians, Cavaliers and Browns.

Some might think: “Who would want to go from working some of the industry’s biggest events on the biggest platform to covering teams who usually lose year in and year out?”

“What I’ve realized is that I have seen a lot of things, countless Super Bowls, World Series, NBA Championships,” Crawford said. “They literally don’t mean anything to me anymore. The first time I covered a Super Bowl, I was like a kid on Christmas morning.”

After a long tenure in sports media, the only time Crawford feels any emotion is when Cleveland is involved.

“After doing it for as long as I’ve done it, I realized the only thing that moves my meter now are big games involving my teams,” he said.

Those are the experiences, he says, that mean the most to him.

At 52-years old, Crawford finally got to witness those big games involving his teams. He was in ‘The Land’ when the Cavaliers ‘broke the curse’, winning the NBA title in Game 7 over Golden State.

“It was really surreal because after you go through year after year of losing and never sniffing a championship and getting the sense that you’re never going to,” he said. “It felt like a proverbial champagne cork popped out of a 50 year-old brew and the celebration was just spilling into the streets of Cleveland for hours. It was something to see. I tell everybody, ‘if you were there, you’ll never forget it’.”

He’ll also never forget the moment a few months later right next store at Progressive Field.

“I was at all seven of the Indians games. In fact, I was in a field suite for Game 7 with Bernie Kosar. Not the memory that I want, but a memory that I’ll never let go of either,” he said. “Just the fact that we got that far and when Rajai Davis hit that home run and the soothing pandemonium inside our suite, it’s all stuff that I’m very blessed to have experienced and that I’ll never forget.”

Crawford says he may go into teaching during his two years off from working in media because it wouldn’t effect his contract with ESPN. He’s had offers to teach in Florida and at his alma mater, Bowling Green. While he doesn’t want to do it full-time, he says a few classes here and there could be fun.

“I like the idea of if I want to pack a bag and run to Europe for a week, I don’t have to worry about letting anybody down,” he said.

Once the two years are over, Crawford, like LeBron, will make become his own version of a free agent and make “The Decision” to finish his career in Northeast Ohio.

“I don’t know when, but at some point, I will definitely call Cleveland home again,” he said.

 

A transcription of my conversation with Jay Crawford is below. You can also listen to the audio version by clicking here

Interview: Q&A with former SportsCenter anchor Jay Crawford.

Q: So how is everything going? Are you doing anything right now or have any plans? A:  I’m not. I have over two years left on my contract. They have a non-compete clause which means I can’t go to work for a competitor. I could go back right away, but that would void my contract and they wouldn’t have to pay me for the next two and half years. I can do anything that’s not in media or I can void my contract and go to work for any of ESPN’s competitors right away, which I’m not anxious to do. I’m not in a hurry. I’ll probably sit tight and enjoy two and a half years. I’m listening to offers right now, but I told everyone ahead of time going into it that I’m in no hurry to jump back in it. I want to go home. That’s really what I want to do. I’ll likely just kind of sit and see if anything opens up with the Indians or Cavs or something that takes me home and cover the teams that I really care about. In the meantime, just really enjoy myself. I’ve traveled a ton and just relax more than anything just totally. I’ve done a two-hour daily network show for the last 15 years and that can be exhausting, so I’m just enjoying my free time and I’m very thankful that ESPN has to pay for the next two and a half years.

Q: How did you get into this position in the first place? What exactly led you to the broadcasting career?
A: Well, I played baseball as a youngster and into college and always wanted to play professionally. I had a series of knee injuries that derailed that plan. I kind of figured that if I couldn’t play baseball I wanted to be around sports in some capacity. Bowling Green had a really good communications department, so once the baseball career was derailed with injury, I really focused on communications degree, radio, television, film, broadcast journalism. I volunteered at the schools radio stations. Oddly enough, I did my internship right there in Syracuse at the NBC Station, Channel 3. So, I knew what I wanted to do, I just didn’t know what capacity I wanted to do it in. I just knew, hey, I love talking about sports. Most of my college work was radio. When I went to Channel 3, I got to do a lot of on air stuff, from a demo standpoint. I put together a pretty good demo tape. That’s what got me started in the road of television. I sent it out as I was getting ready to graduate. I sent it to any small market within a 500 radius of my home, which was Sandusky, Ohio. So, I sent my tape out and a really small market in Kentucky called and said we don’t have a sports opening, we have a news opening. So, I drove down there. It was a very small CBS affiliate, took the job as a news reporter. That was about 30 years ago. It will be 30 years in November.

Q: How did you transition into sports out of news?
A: So, oddly enough, my first actual work day, we had a change in general managers, which was kind of odd to me because the general manager that actually interviewed and hired me was getting promoted and was leaving. The incoming general manager met individually with all the employees, which took a few weeks. He wanted to get to know all of us. In that meeting, he wanted to know my background. He knew I was a baseball player. He said how did it end up that you’re doing news? I said I’m just doing news to get my foot in the door. I really want to do sports. He said do you have a sports tape and I said I do actually. He said let me look at it. He watched it and said you need to be doing sports here. You’re better than our sportscaster now. I quickly transitioned into sports. In fact, three weeks after my first day I was doing the 11 o’clock sports. So, my news experience was three weeks. It was a lucky break. You’ll find more often than not that everybody who gets into this business has a funny story here or there about a lucky break, something that turned their way. That’s always a big part of it. Skill is a huge part of it, but everyone’s success story includes a lucky bounce here or there.

Q: Definitely. So, how did you get to the next platform at ESPN. How did you work your way up there?
A: Well, from Kentucky, I looked very, very young when I started, which was really holding me back. I would send my tape out to bigger markets, primarily Cleveland, Toledo, Columbus and the news directors would always say the same thing: call us in five years, you look like you’re in high school. So, it took me a little while. I was in Kentucky for three years. I got hired at a very small startup Fox affiliate in Martinsburg, West Virginia, which was about an hour from D.C. It was in the West Virginia panhandle right next to Virginia, Maryland where that hold corridor comes together on I-81. I was there for seven months. I had sent to tape to the Fox affiliate in Connecticut, in Hartford, prior to me getting the interview in Martinsburg. They decided at that time they weren’t going to fill it, it was a number three position. They decided after posting it, they weren’t going to fill it, so I never heard from them. But, about four months after I left Kentucky and moved to Martinsburg, the weekend person was leaving. He was going to Pittsburgh. So, they had an opening and they called the number I had on my resume and that number wasn’t a working number anymore because it was my home number in Kentucky. So then they called the station at I worked at and they said no he left a couple months ago, he’s in Martinsburg now. So, the news director called the station in Martinsburg and got ahold of me that way and said I know it’s four months later, but we really liked your tape and it was a for a number three job, but now we have a number two opening. So, I went and interviewed and they offered me the job. I was only in Martinsburg for seven months. I moved to Martinsburg to Hartford, Connecticut. I was there for 15 months when a station in Columbus that I had previously sent my work to had an opening. I had sent an updated tape to them from Connecticut and they had called me and I went in for an interview and I really wanted to be in Ohio. That was my dream all long. I didn’t want to be in Connecticut or Kentucky or anywhere else. Even though I was only in Connecticut for 15 months and my second job for seven months, I went home to WPNS, the CBS affiliate in Columbus. I was there for five years and then I went to Tampa, Florida for five years. Really the only reason I left, because I love Columbus and I love being home, it was a huge pay raise. Tampa, at the time was the 12th market. It paid much better than Columbus and I loved the 365 days of sunshine. I went to Tampa and was the sports director at the ABC station for five years. While I was there, ESPN called me a couple of times. Once for a sports anchor job for SportsCenter, which I never really wanted to do. I just thought it was too restrictive. Reading highlights are OK, but I wanted to do way more than that. I love interviews. I said I wasn’t interested. I stayed in Tampa. They called me when they started Around the Horn. I didn’t like the idea of that show. I thought it wouldn’t work. They offered me that job in 2001. Here we are 17 years later and that show is still going. But I wasn’t really interest and I didn’t want to live in D.C. either. So, I said no. Then they called me back a year later and offered me a job in New York City hosting their morning, which was called Cold Pizza. Just when they explained the concept of the show, I said this is much more what I’m looking for. It’s a two hour show with interviews, some highlights, a lot of guests, a lot of athletes, some debate. It was way more what I was looking for, so I took that. I was with Cold Pizza, when they moved the show, when it was in Manhattan, for five years. When they changed it to HD, the studio we were using in Manhattan was kind of spaced starved and they couldn’t convert that studio to HD. They just didn’t have enough space. So, they moved the show to Connecticut and changed the name to First Take. I was with Cold Pizza/First Take for nine years. Then they turned the show to all debate, two hours of screaming and yelling at each other.

Q: Yeah, I was about to ask you what it was like to work with Skip Bayless.
A: I mean about as you’d imagine. Wonderful guy off the air. The person you see on the air is a total character. It’s just a contrived TV character he’s come up with. He believes all of those things, but Skip isn’t combative or loud or an antagonist in real life. Not even close to that. He’s quiet, shy, and very cordial. What you see when you turn on the TV is a complete contrived character that he’s built through the years, but he definitely believes all of the things that he says. He’s not making any of it up believe it or not. As much as I enjoyed doing the show when it first went to debate, it devolved into four topics a day and doing like, Tim Tebow, four times in a two hour segment. It just became mindless dribble to me. I couldn’t do it. At the same time, SportsCenter had an opening for a host from noon to three. I liked the idea of keeping my hours early. They were recruiting me, telling me we’re kind of doing the show like you were doing when it was Cold Pizza, a lot of interviews, a lot of athletes, a lot of breakdown segments. It just fit what I wanted to do more. So, I went to that. I did that for four years. After that, they moved me to the on the road division. They decided they were going to do live SportsCenters from wherever the biggest sporting event was at that time. So, I would be at the NBA Finals, I would be at the Major League All-Star Game, the World Series, the Super Bowl, College Football Championship, the Master’s. All of the big events. When I was 25, I might have loved that, but I just didn’t like living out of a suitcase and had just signed a four year contract. I thought it was a little bit of a dirty pool. I told them, look you guys didn’t tell me anything about this, about this job reassignment, which I thought was a little disingenuous. I thought, look I gave you guys 13 really solid years here. I just committed four more years to my life and as soon as I do, you change my assignment to travel. So, they knew that I was very unhappy. But, I did that for about a year. When I heard that the layoffs were coming, I knew that I had all this time on my contract and they knew I didn’t like traveling, so I just told my agent that I wanted to be bought out. I didn’t want to continue traveling for three more years. I couldn’t see myself doing that. He went to them and told them I was interested in a buyout and that’s exactly what they did. So, that’s kind of my story start to finish. Along the way, there were a lot of tough decisions to make. I almost left ESPN a couple times. Once to go to the NFL Network, once to go to the MLB Network. In the end, they always stepped up and made an offer to me that was too good to say no to. As much as they thought the SportsCenter on the Road was a great assignment, I thought it was a terrible assignment for me. I just didn’t enjoy doing that much travel. I think we kind of came to the best decision for everybody, which is I’m free to do whatever I want with whomever I want once my contract expires. Then if I want to break my contract, I can. I can go work for NBC, I can go work for Fox Sports and go wherever I want now, but I would have to break my ESPN contract to do that. I’ve had some nice offers to do just that, but in the end, I have my accountant telling me, Jay, you can travel, you can use this as practice retirement for two and a half years and do whatever you want and still make a lot of money. When it’s done then you can go back to work. How often does anybody at 50 years-old get an opportunity to just sit around for a couple years and live on, essentially, a lotter ticket? He had a lot to do with kind of talking me into, you know, you’re right, the work will always be there. In the meantime, just because I’m intrigued by it, I may do some teaching. I’ve had a couple of really nice offers to teach. I’m going down to down to Florida August 1-3 and my alma mater, Bowling Green, has contacted me about doing some stuff there with them, too. I haven’t really made any decisions on that, but I can do that and not violate the contract. So, I may do that for two years. I don’t want to do it a lot. I don’t want to do it fulltime. I might do a class or two here or there. I like the idea of if I want to pack a bag and run to Europe for a week, I don’t have to worry about letting anybody down.

Q: Speaking upon all the places you’ve worked, you’ve actually never worked at home in Cleveland, have you?
A: I have not and oddly enough, that’s always been my goal. When I started in this business, all I really wanted to do was work in Cleveland. And it’s funny because now that I have the opportunity, I’ve heard from all of the local affiliates in Cleveland. I’ve told them all the same thing. At some point I will definitely come home and work. I don’t know when, but at some point, I will definitely call Cleveland home again.

Q: That’s good to hear. I would love to see you there. Speaking of being home in Cleveland, I just had a personal question, what was your reaction when the Cavaliers won and the Indians were in the World Series. How was it as a fan as well as being on SportsCenter to take it professional, but still be excited at the same time?
A: It was really surreal because after you go through year after year of losing and never sniffing a championship and getting the sense that you’re never going to. Having the Cavs win in June and then the Indians one win away from doing it again in October and being at all of those games in the middle of Cleveland, in the middle of all the celebrations to experience that. And my bosses were kind of using that as a selling point to my job. They were like, look, I know you don’t like to travel, but look where you are. It couldn’t have worked out any better for you. And I’m said, yeah, but they’re not going to be here every year. So, it was an opportunity that I’ll never forget. It was just a once and a lifetime thing to be right there between Quicken Loans and Progressive Field when Kyrie hit that three. It felt like a proverbial champagne cork popped out of a 50 year-old brew and the celebration was just spilling into the streets of Cleveland for hours. It was something to see. I tell everybody, if you were there, you’ll never forget it. I was also pumped because my son was able to be there too. He is also a huge Cleveland sports fan.

Q: I remember you were on SportsCenter, you were actually talking to Lisa Kerney and you were in Cleveland doing your update on the game and they actually showed your celebration with your son and I thought that was very nice.
A: Yeah, it was very cool. He was finishing his education. He was getting his masters at Rutgers, but he still had one year of athletic eligibility. All of this was going on while he was getting ready to jump in the Olympic trials. He’s a long jumper. So, he just finished the NCAA Championships and he was training every day for the Olympic trials. Here he was just a week from jumping in the Olympic trials and he said, I’m flying home to be with dad for Game 7. It was an unbelievable experience. The whole thing was really, it was incredible. I’m very thankful that I was there for the Cavs championship and I was at all seven of the Indians games. In fact, I was in a field suite for Game 7 with Bernie Kosar. Not the memory that I want, but a memory that I’ll never let go of either. Just the fact that we got that far and when Rajai Davis hit that home run and the soothing pandemonium inside our suite. It’s all stuff that I’m very blessed to have experienced and that I’ll never forget.

Q: You’ve seen a lot of things and it’s pretty cool to be able to talk about that.
A: Right. What I’ve realized is that I have seen a lot of things, countless Super Bowls, World Series, NBA Championships. They literally don’t mean anything to me anymore. The first time I covered a Super Bowl, I was like a kid on Christmas morning. After doing it for as long as I’ve done it, I realized the only thing that moves my meter now are big games involving my teams, which is why, at some point, perhaps sooner or later, want to be in Cleveland. Those are the experiences that mean the most to me by far.

YSU’s receivers catching on in practice

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YOUNGSTOWN

The Youngstown State football team returned to practice Monday afternoon after a week off for Spring Break and head coach Bo Pelini was not too pleased with what he saw.

“I thought it was sloppy,” he said. “I didn’t think it was to our standards. Sometimes you’re going to deal with that coming off of spring break, but we have a long way to go and we have to keep making strides.”

But Pelini said he was satisfied with one group in particular.

“Wide receivers actually played really well,” he said. “I think we’re throwing and catching the ball pretty well. It shows we have some experience and guys have some good talent there. I think there’s good competition at that position.”

But YSU receivers coach Brian Crist thought spring break took its toll on his guys.

“It looked like they had a really good time in Mexico. It wasn’t great. It’s wasn’t good,” Crist said. “We put in a bunch of new stuff. They handled it pretty well, but we had too many drops, which is not what we’ve been doing. We shouldn’t drop any with the experience that we have.”

YSU’s returning experience could make cracking the rotation difficult.

“Every guy is getting evaluated personally and guys that are playing sloppy and aren’t able to execute are just showing me they aren’t able to play,” Pelini said.

That includes the receiver positions, where the Penguins are working out 16 players, including 10 with experience.

“Competition is always good, whether it’s against somebody else or against your own teammate,” Crist said. “That part of it is good for us and our group. The experience is great as long as you use it to your advantage,.”

Hubbard High School graduate Isiah Scott is one receiver trying to do more than just earn his spot.

“There’s definitely a lot of competition, but at the same time, we’re trying to lead each other and make each other better,” said the junior.

Scott says the only way to do that is to be on the same page and play as a team and not for themselves.

Senior Alvin Bailey feels the same way.

“We have to be right on all cylinders. We can’t be sloppy in any area, especially if we want to get back to Frisco [Texas, for the FCS national championship],” he said.

While experience will most likely help the Penguins this year, it’s also already helping out the coaches.

“I can focus on coaching the little things because we already know what to do,” Crist said. “We can start to make them better players and more effective players by doing the little thing.”

The Penguins also return experience with Ricky Davis, but now he’s on the receiving end of the ball.

“It was his idea. So, we told him we’d give him a shot out there,” Crist said. “Maybe he can help us, give us a few things here and there.”

The coaching staff doesn’t know if Davis will stay at wide receiver, but Pelini is already liking what he’s seeing from the former quarterback.

“I think he’s done well,” Pelini said. “He’s picked it up pretty quick. He’s probably further along as a wideout than I would have envisioned him going into the spring. I think he has a chance to be a good player for us.”

Despite a good amount of players returning, Pelini knows last season’s FCS championship appearance has come and gone.

“We need to go back to square one,” he said. “What we did last year doesn’t mean anything. These guys have to understand that.

“It’s trying to develop a new team, a new chemistry. Different guys have to step up and it’s going to be a good challenge for us.”

Jackson-Milton’s season ends in deluge of turnovers

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PERRY TOWNSHIP

An abundance of turnovers prevented the Jackson-Milton High School girls basketball team’s first trip to Columbus.

The Bluejays turned the ball over 31 times in Saturday’s 63-20 loss to top-ranked Berlin Hiland in the Division IV regional final at Massillon Perry High School.

“We couldn’t do anything right,” Jackson-Milton coach Pat Keney said. “We were struggling, they turned the ball over, couldn’t execute on offense, but that’s the way it is.”

Jackson Milton was without senior point guard Kaitlyn Totanti, who was sidelined after being diagnosed with mononucleosis.

“She played Thursday night and struggled,” Keney said. “She went to the hospital after the game and we didn’t get the test results until today.”

While it was tough for the senior to watch from the bench, it was even tougher for her twin sister, Ashley, to play without her.

“I was tearing up before the game,” Ashley Totani said. “I’ve gone through all of these years with her and we share that passion for basketball with each other. It was hard without her.”

Totani scored four points for the Bluejays while Michaelina Terranova led with five.

Berlin Hiland had three players reach double figures.

“Berlin Hiland’s a great team,” Totani said. “Their defense is really up tight and in your face. It’s hard to beat a team that’s well-rounded.”

The number-one ranked team in the state led 36-9 at the half.

“I told them we had to go out and play hard and just don’t quit,” Keney said. “We had not quit on anything all year, so we went out there and tried to play better and harder.”

The Hawks out-scored the Bluejays 17-5 in the third quarter.

“All of the teams we faced up to this point, we dominated everybody on defense, but it just wasn’t our night,” Keney said.

The Hawks dominated on the defensive end, making the Bluejays passive on offense and hesitant to drive to the hole.

“They hadn’t been intimidated all year,” Keney said of his 25-4 team. “They took it to the hole all year.

“{The Hawks] played defense and such great help defense that every time we drove it was closed up. You could see it in our kids’ faces that they were frustrated,” Keney said.

Despite the tough loss, Keney appreciates how far his team has progressed to get to a regional final.

“We got a good learning experience in playing one of the better teams in the state,” Keney said. “We have to learn from it and hope to make it back here next year and maybe we can step it up a little more.”

Jackson-Milton loses three seniors, but returns a roster of young players, including a junior varsity team that went undefeated this season.

“I cannot ask for a better team,” Totani said. “They gave us so many good memories for the past four years. We worked really hard and it’s not the outcome we wished, but we got farther than we ever had.”

LaBrae’s strong season ends with only loss

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Warren

For the first time this season, the LaBrae High School boys basketball team felt what it was like to lose.

The Vikings’ only defeat came in Friday’s 58-56 loss to Garrettsville in the Division III district final at Warren Harding.

“It’s just an enormous amount of pressure and these guys did a great job,” LaBrae coach Chad Kiser said. “I told them it’s just darn near impossible to go 24 games and not lose one.”

LaBrae trailed 56-51 with less than two minutes remaining in a wild finish.

Tariq Drake picked up up a steal, made a layup and drew a foul. He hit the extra point to pull the Vikings within two with 1:34 on the clock.

The G-Men hit a foul shot to extend their lead 57-54. It was LaBrae’s ball with 22.6 seconds left.

Tyler Stephens had an open look from the corner, but his shot didn’t fall and the G-Men got the rebound. But a nice hustle play from Michael Eakins put the ball back in the Vikings’ hands.

It was short-lived as the ball bounced off Logan Kiser and into the hands of a Garrettsville player.

LaBrae was forced to foul, and Ryan Brown couldn’t convert at the line. In frustration, he fouled Drake with 17.2 seconds remaining.

Drake, who led the team with 19 points, missed the first of the one-and-one, forcing LaBrae to foul again. After Dalton Fall’s foul shot bounced off the rim, both teams dove for the loose ball. A jumpball was called and the possession arrow was in favor of the Vikings.

With 3.8 seconds remaining, Eakins drove to the hoop and picked up two points and LaBrae trailed 57-56.

The G-men knocked down one of two foul shots and the Vikings received one more chance with 3.6 seconds on the clock.

Kiser called a timeout to draw up options.

“We ran the last play with an option to shoot the three or pass to the side,” Kiser said. “They kind of backed off and I thought Logan [Kiser] got a nice job of pushing up and getting a decent look.”

Logan Kiser pulled up from the 3-point line just before the buzzer.

“I pictured it going in as it left his hand,” Chad Kiser said. “It looked good.”

The ball hit the backboard and bounced off the rim.

“Your heart stops there for a minute and then it kind of still stops, I guess, or breaks I would say because I feel for the kids,” Chad Kiser said.

Garrettsville advances to the regional tournament for the first time in school history.

“Anything worthwhile isn’t supposed to be easy and our guys dug in when it mattered most,” Garrettsville coach Andy Olesky said.

Playing the number-one team in the state, the G-men weren’t as nervous and you might expect.

“Our message was to relax, there’s no pressure on us,” Olesky said. “We got a team that’s on a 24-game win streak that’s expected to win and do some things.

“We had no pressure and I think they really bought into that message,” Olesky said.

The feeling of defeat is pretty new to the Vikings.

“There’s only one team that makes it to the very end,” Kiser said. “There’s going to be everyone else in our division that are going to feel what we feel tonight only at different times.

“I can only ask them to play as hard as they can play and they’ve done that all year long. I was extremely proud of our effort, but it hurts. But they’re resilient young men and they’ll bounce back.”

Veteran Garfield team pulls away from Ursuline late

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CUYAHOGA FALLS

It was a game of experience versus inexperience.

And the Ursuline girls basketball team’s lack of composure proved to be the difference in a 60-50 loss to Garrettsville Garfield in a Division III regional semifinal Wednesday night at Cuyahoga Falls High School.

“Half my team played on this floor two years ago,” said Garfield head coach Aaron Gilbert. “I think that helped our kids. It’s a big learning experience because it’s a big change in atmosphere.”

Garfield started five seniors, including Grayson Rose, who led the G-Men with 22 points. Lauren Jones added 14.

Ursuline’s starting five was made up of one senior and four sophomores.

“When you have a group of kids who have been here and kind of done that, absolutely, it’s easier,” said Irish head coach Vannessa Dickson.

“This is the first trip for my kids. It’s a lot to take in, but I think they were ready. We’ve been in pressure situations throughout the season. They’ve done well in those situations. The ball just didn’t roll our way and that’s how it goes sometimes.”

The Irish (13-11) led 30-28 at halftime, but the G-Men (23-4) started the third quarter on a 7-0 run and held Ursuline to just seven points in the period. By the end of the third, Garfield led, 44-37.

It also didn’t help that the Irish missed six of seven foul shots in the third quarter.

Ursuline began the fourth quarter with a bucket from Anyah Curd and two fouls shots from Dayshanette Harris to cut Garfield’s lead to 44-41.

The G-men responded with two back-to-back buckets to regain a 48-41 advantage with 6:16 remaining.

Simone Comer made a layup with 3:39 left to make it 53-48, but several Ursuline turnovers allowed Garfield to capitalize extend its lead to 58-48.

Comer — Ursuline’s lone senior — finished with 13 points. The Irish were just 6 of 16 at the foul line.

“I think we got out of sorts a little bit, but I give credit to [Garfield],” Dickson said. “They were absolutely prepared. They played a great game. We didn’t do the little things right. We got away from playing defense, from limiting them to one shot, to sharing the basketball.”

With two minutes remaining, Harris got called with a charge and fouled out.

The sophomore averaged nearly 30 points this season and the G-men knew they had to limit her efforts.

Gilbert said the magic number was 25, meaning he figured to be content with Harris getting that many points.

“She’s just a pure scorer,” he said. “You’re not going to stop her. She’s going to get her points.”

Harris finished with 27 points for Ursuline.

“She’s a great kid,” Dickson said. “She puts her heart and soul into this game every day. She’ll be back.”

Harris was emotional after the game.

“It’s what I’m here to do,” she said, fighting back tears. “We wanted this, but we couldn’t get it. I hope to get my team here next year.”

Dickson understands the feeling.

“I can’t be more proud,” she said. “Right now, I know there’s a lot of tears. It hurts from them. I’ve been there. I know there’s not a lot anyone can say to make them feel better, but I’m proud of them.”

Ursuline figures to return most of this team next season.

“These kids are going to remember how that feels,” Dickson said. “This group of sophomores have come a long way over the course of the year. In the beginning, we had to learn how to play together as a team. When you’re asking a bunch of sophomores to play at the varsity level against a bunch juniors and seniors, it’s tough.

“Hopefully, next year, when we come back we’ll be read.”