Thinking out loud: Changes coming to Providence athletics

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Thinking out loud…while wondering if I can buy the meds those smiley TV housewives are clearly on…while they clean the house or do laundry…

• Our buddy Kevin McNamara dropped the bomb Thursday night, after the Friars had completed their comeback from the Covid trail with a win over Georgetown.  Athletic Director Bob Driscoll is stepping down at PC after 21 years, at the end of the current school year.

• Seems like it was only a matter of time – the pandemic has stressed many, and tired the rest of us, including Bob.  But what he’s accomplished at Providence College through his fundraising skills and his ability to bring people together has resulted in pushing lil’ ol’ PC into the big time.

• Joe Mullaney was the architect and used basketball to put PC on the map in the early ‘60’s.  Dave Gavitt saw what was possible and grew the program from its fledgling days into the Big East.  Lou Lamoriello and John Marinatto were captains through some choppy waters, never forgetting the intentions of their predecessors.

• Bob Driscoll helped to prove the impossible was possible after all, at a small, private school.  Compete with state schools?  Sure.  But grow big enough to eventually pull away from those football behemoths and stand on your own two feet – along with other like-minded programs?

• Done.  And they’re thriving today, with the smallest undergraduate enrollment in NCAA Division I, among power conferences.  In Dave Gavitt’s original creation, the Big East.

• But Driscoll himself would tell you he doesn’t accomplish even part of what he has, without the assistance and approval of former college president, the Reverend Brian Shanley.

• Who is now at St. John’s.  An athletic rival, too.  Such is the way life spins its crazy tale.

• Speaking of the Covid comeback, the Friars’ return to the playing floor after a 12-day layoff to battle Covid was as successful as could be expected.  83-75 over Georgetown?  Survive and advance, forget the style points.

• The win was the 209th career win at Providence for Ed Cooley, tying Gavitt for second all-time behind Joe Mullaney.

• The Hoyas are the worst 2-point shooting team in the league, but the best 3-point shooting team in the Big East.  And it showed.  But defense was expected to lack somewhat, with only two practices held over the nearly two-week break.

• At 5-1 in the league, Providence is in first place.  It’s the latest point within a season they’ve been in this position since 2003-04.  Butler is next, traveling into the Dunk for Sunday.  The Friars now will borrow from the late, great Al Davis…

• …just win, baby.

• It hasn’t gone unnoticed.  URI is shifting its season into another gear, getting back on track with BOTH men’s and women’s hoop teams.  The men have won three in a row after beating LaSalle this week and won six of the last seven around cancellations following the PC game.

• The men are 12-4, 3-1 in the A-10.  The women have done even better – with seven straight wins, and they are 14-3 on the year overall.

• The Ryan Center is a definite home court strength – combined, the men and women are a sterling 16-0 this season.  The men get GW on Saturday, the ladies Davidson on Sunday.

• The Atlantic 10’s idea to allow redshirting players on rosters a waiver to bolster team rosters during Covid pauses is a good idea.

• Or, was a good idea.  The proposal allowing potential redshirts to play up to four games, without losing a season of eligibility so teams wouldn’t have to struggle to fill eligibility requirements, has so far resulted in the sound of crickets coming from the NCAA.

• Brown slipped to 9-11 on the season, just 1-4 in the Ivy after a loss at Yale this week despite 30 points from Tamenang Choh. It was their 3rd straight defeat after winning impressively at Harvard…which means it will take some doing to get the Bears back in the hunt for one of the four Ivy postseason spots.

• After back-to-back home wins for the Bulldogs, Bryant’s Peter Kiss was named co-player of the week in the NEC.  Helluva week he had, too.  31 points, nine rebounds, six assists and three steals in a win over Saint Francis.  Kiss leads the NEC in scoring in conference games, and overall, for the year thus far.

• 6-3 Providence senior Mary Baskerville became the 35th Friar to hit 1000 points for a career last week, and her PC teammates are 8-8 overall, 3-4 in the Big East.

• ICYWW:  Through December, collegiate NIL licensing occurring for student-athletes among conferences throughout the country…appears to be going well.  For some.

• Opendorse reports Big 10 athletes are at the top of the list in deals signed and money being earned, but Big East athletes are in the #2 position overall, ahead of the AAC, SEC, Big 12, ACC and Pac 12.

• The power of college basketball, perhaps.  Football players are still at the top of most of the marketing interest, but hoop and volleyball athletes aren’t far behind.

• Not for nuthin’, but the ACC actually voted against expanding the College Football Playoff to eight or 12 teams.  Why?  The league would certainly qualify a team for the tournament if it expanded…which they didn’t do this year for the first time in eight years.

• Their reasons: 1) impacting students with additional games; 2) further disrupting college athletics due to NIL and the transfer portal; 3) the football calendar is too long.  Clemson had to play 15 games four times over the past six seasons.

• Translation = what’s in it for the rest of us?

• The NCAA this week voted to ratify a change in its’ constitution, the first such change in 26 years.  Divisions II and III will remain mostly autonomous.  It’s Division I where the contention will come from – over money.  What else?

• Hey, Penny Hardaway? The only “stupid f***ing question” out there is the one that doesn’t get asked.  Unless you’re asking Bill Belichick about his New Years’ resolutions.

• Ex-UConn coach Kevin Ollie this week won his arbitration case against the school for his ‘just cause’ firing as basketball coach four years ago.  He’s owed more than $11 million in damages.  In the next 10 days, too.  Pay up, buttercup.

• Sound legal strategy for the school and a financially struggling athletic department, no?  The one-time all-Big East guard led the team to the 2014 natty and did leave behind NCAA violations in the wake of his dismissal.

• But the school was found to have violated the collective bargaining agreement of his contract when they fired him.  And the athletic department is presently buried in debt.

• In case you were wondering – Ollie is currently a coach and director of player development for Overtime Elite – an organization acting as a professional ‘minor league’ for players who don’t enroll in college.

• And speaking of ex-UConn coaches, former football coach Skip Holtz has a new gig – head coach and general manager of the USFL’s Birmingham Stallions.  Holtz had been at Louisiana Tech, South Florida and East Carolina after leaving UConn in the late ‘90’s.

• My buddy “Big E” sez being an adult these days, for him, is just wandering around wondering what he’s forgetting.  Wait, wut?

• It’s simple, if you’re looking for answers as to how, or why, the wheels came flying off the Patriots’ postseason bus.  They.  Weren’t.  That.  Good.  To.  Begin.  With.

• We get jaded over past dynastic success around here.  We get blinded by the light.

• That 7-0 winning streak was in the middle of a 3-8 stink sandwich.  Injury, fatigue, interest (or a lack of) all played a factor after the bye week – but I have a hard time believing there wasn’t something else amiss in that locker room.

• Truth?  Justice?  The Patriot Way?

• Has BB lost his fastball with the players?  Is there a coaching disconnect?  Of all the items that need addressing before training camp rolls around at the end of July…the organization needs to be further defined.  Like, just who is running the defensive show?

• That, and they have an obvious need for speed.  The linebacking corps looks like aging Clydesdales trying to pull a sleigh through two feet of snow.  Are Josh Uche (5 snaps against Buffalo) and Chase Winovich (inactive) still on this team?

• If Dave Ziegler is allowed to leave for the GM spot in Vegas, or anywhere else, it sez here that might be the biggest loss of all in this offseason for the Patriots.

• Pay J.C. Jackson.  The franchise tag will do.  Wash, rinse, repeat.

• I don’t know about you – but if the Bills didn’t expend too much energy (and hatred) against the Patriots, I like their chances in the next round of the postseason, and beyond.

• This one got to me a little.  TB12 is older than each of the opposition head coaches remaining in the NFC playoffs.  The only one older than he is – is his own.

• In this week’s “no matter how bad you have it, someone else has it worse” department, I give you – the Dallas Cowboys.  Penalty after mistake after brain fart…and a stupid play call at the end left them zero time on the clock to beat the 49ers last week.  At home.

• Willing to cut Dak Prescott a little slack, but his saying ‘good for them’ in response to Cowboy fans throwing trash and bottles from the stands, ostensibly at officials?  He just slid down the respect ladder with me…even if he did later apologize.

• The Cowboys haven’t reached the NFC title round in 27 years.  Yeah, how ‘bout them Cowboys?  An entire generation of losing for the erstwhile “America’s Team.”

• Show of hands here – who else is rooting against the Packers and Aaron Rodgers?  That’s what I thought.

• Wildcard weekend had some duds, sure.  Buffalo was one of those.  But overall, viewership was up 24% from last year with the “Super Wild Card Weekend.”  The Dallas-San Francisco game rated as CBS’ second-best wild card game – ever.

• Did you know – the NFL had 12 women hold coaching positions on the sidelines this season?  And in the front office, a record 38% of the roles were filled by women, too.

• Get ready for another spring football battle.  With the recent iteration of the USFL starting up this spring, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson sez his XFL is gearing up to begin training camp in 2023.

• It does strike as odd that as football mad as we seem to be, we can’t find the right way to play it, coach it, market it or watch it in the springtime.  Perhaps, because we’re all experts…and we just can’t accept an allegedly inferior product?

• Sorry to see Novak Joke-a-vich lose his visa appeal and be deported from Australia before he can play in the Australian Open.  Then again, no I’m not.

• Rules are rules, and there are (and should be) repercussions for not following them.  Period.

• Next up, playing the French Open in May.  Where there will be another vaccine mandate in place, most likely.  Will the #1 player in the world ever play competitively again?  Not at this rate.

• Hey Edward in East Providence?  Talking about tennis AND women’s hoop?  It’s a special week.  Just sayin’.

• Congratulations to Rhode Island’s Sportscasters and Sportswriters of the Year, as announced this week by the National Sports Media Association.  We had a tie in RI – WLNE’s Ian Steele and WPRI’s Morey Hershgordon, and a tie between Pawtucket Times/Woonsocket Call reporter Brendan McGair and the ProJo’s Mark Daniels.

• In Connecticut, congrats to WTNH’s John Pierson and the Hartford Courant’s Dom Amore.  In Mass, Patriots’ radio voice Bob Socci was a deserving winner, along with the Globe’s Kevin Paul Dupont.  And ex-Globie Jackie MacMullan was selected as a Hall of Famer.

• We’re the lucky ones…we get to listen to, and read, their work.

• Personally, I don’t gamble.  But you can bet on this – New Yorkers will win when it comes to sports betting.

• The state expects to bring in $249 million in revenue this year, jumping to $357 million in fiscal 2023.  That’s because the state has one of the highest tax rates in any legal US sports betting jurisdiction – at 51% for 10 years.

• The state sez it will use the revenue for schools, youth sports programs and addressing problem gambling.  Seems only fitting.

• In Rhode Island, state tax revenue from sports betting has slowly improved over time, minus the early months of the pandemic, of course.  The total through the end of 2021, since it first launched, is more than $41 million…rebounding nicely from a Covid-related crunch.

• Massachusetts?  Completely dropped the ball on this.  But you can go to RI, Connecticut, New Hampshire and now – New York – to wager.  The Mass House gave the Senate a bill to consider, but the Senate refused to consider it.  Stupid is as stupid does.

• The Springfield Republican reported 90 small business owners have penned a letter to the state’s 40 senators in support of sports wagering.  Small wonder, with so much tax revenue already leaving their borders.

• We won’t have NHL players skating in next month’s Olympic games, but there will be pro hockey players taking part.  Aaron Ness, a Providence Bruin defenseman, will be skating for Team USA in Beijing.

• And in case you haven’t noticed, those P-Bruins are at the top of the Atlantic Division again – by percentage points.  Because teams will play an uneven number of games this season due to Covid, winning percentages (like in Big East basketball) will decide the title.

• And the P-Bruins have won the last two division titles, too.

• The good news – the Red Sox have four Top 100 prospects in their minor league system, according to MLB’s Pipeline.  Looks like the farm is growing and bearing fruit.

• The bad news – we may be in for a spring and summer drought, without a chance to harvest that fruit anytime soon.

• It will be a surprise if Roger Clemens and David Ortiz DON’T reach the Hall of Fame in this year’s balloting.  It will also be stupid.  Save me the PED or steroid rant.  Curt Schilling is deserving, too.  The Hall is not a judge of character. It is a judge of talent.

• MLB turned down the Rays’ proposal to split home games between Tampa and Montreal.  Nothing like saying “no” to a place that might want to watch your sport.

• Time Passages:  Rock star Meat Loaf passed away at age 74 this week.  Always appreciated the food more than the singer, but the man could perform.  His 1977 debut “Bat Out of Hell” album is still one of the top-sellers of all time.  Much of his music is the soundtrack for my collegiate days.

• And speaking of those…former ESPN college play-by-play voice Ron Franklin also passed away this week at age 79 from complications brought on by Covid.  Franklin was kind enough to be a mentor for me in this business at a young age.

• He had an impressive set of pipes.  Ron was the radio voice of the Houston Oilers and Sports Director at KPRC-TV in Houston when we first met while I attended college.  He was kind, thoughtful, made you feel important – and as hard-working and professional as they come.

• His presence – just made you feel as if you had stepped into the big time.  And he was.

Interested in having your questions on local Rhode Island sports (and yes, that includes the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics) answered in a somewhat timely fashion? It’s your chance to “think out loud,” so send your questions, comments and local stories to jrbroadcaster@gmail.com. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/Tweets right here!  Would appreciate the follow on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster…and join in on Facebook, www.facebook.com/john.rooke ...

Don’t forget to tune into Providence’s 103.7 FM, every Saturday from 7:00-9:00 am for Cordischi and Coit!  Call in at 401-737-1287 or text at 37937.