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ESPN ranks the top college football coaches of the modern era

Who are the best coaches in college football? It’s a question that can fire up any number of fanbases who feel like their coach is a major part of the answer.

Add in the word “history,” and it creates an even bigger debate. It’s a debate ESPN attempted to solve this week when the network released its list of the 150 greatest coaches of all time. The list, which was the result of voting from a “blue-ribbon panel of 150 media members, administrators and former players and coaches,” honored coaches from more than a century, with a few present day coaches overlapping with coaches like Knute Rockne, who started his career in 1918.

We took things a step further, narrowing ESPN’s list to the best coaches who spent at least one year at the helm of a program this millennium (2000-on). That also largely overlaps with the recruiting database era, when how fans felt about a coach could be determined largely by how they fared off the field based on recruiting rankings, and comes in just after the start of the BCS and catches right around when spread offenses began blowing up college football.

So how did ESPN rank the best modern day coaches?

21. Mack Brown
One of the greatest recruiters of all time, Brown drew a fence around “the great state of Texas” in helping the Longhorns win at least 10 games every year from 1999 through 2009. That included national title game appearances after the 2005 and 2009 seasons, with the Longhorns capturing the former under Vince Young. Brown helped guide North Carolina to prominence from 1988-97 and just finished the first regular season of his second term with the Tar Heels, improving North Carolina to 6-6 and a bowl game. Brown also had stints at Appalachian State and Tulane before landing the North Carolina job the first time. Brown is 250-128-1 over his coaching career, and was No. 59 overall on ESPN’s rankings.

20. Chris Petersen
The soon-to-be retired Washington coach came in at No. 58 after helping to build the Boise State program, first as offensive coordinator, then as head coach from 2006-13, then winning big at Washington. Boise State won two BCS games while he was there, while his Washington squads won two conference titles and reached the College Football Playoff.

19. Jerry Moore
They say the third time’s the charm, and after going 11-11 at North Texas and getting fired at Texas Tech, Moore found a home at Appalachian State, where he went 215-87, won three FCS national championships and oh yeah, knocked off Michigan in Ann Arbor in one of college football’s great all-time upsets. That alone is worth the No. 57 spot.

18. Bill Snyder
This could be too low for Snyder, who engineered probably the greatest turnaround in FBS history. Kansas State was laughably bad when Snyder took over, and yet he won there twice, turning the Wildcats into a powerhouse in the mid-to-late 1990s and early 2000s, then coming back after Ron Prince failed in Manhattan, turning the program around again and leading Kansas State to a BCS bowl in his second go-round. No. 55 of all time seems way off.

17. Lloyd Carr
Few programs boast the winning history that Michigan does, and yet when Carr piloted Michigan to a share of the 1997 national title, it marked the Wolverines’ first title in 49 years, and Michigan hasn’t won one since. That would probably be enough to land at No. 50, except that he also won more than 75 percent of his games and five Big Ten titles from 1995-2007.

16. Urban Meyer
No. 46 overall seems way too low for Meyer, who went a combined 39-8 at Bowling Green and Utah before landing the jobs that everyone links to him, Florida and Ohio State. He guided each of those programs to national championships, winning two at Florida and another at Ohio State, and ESPN noted that his 187 wins in 17 seasons leading FBS programs are more than any other coach over that length of time.

15. Frank Beamer
A coach so effective that his style of play earned the nickname of “Beamer Ball” (particularly for Virginia Tech’s dominance on special teams), Beamer came in at No. 45 on ESPN’s list. He was a strong coach at Murray State, but truly helped turn Virginia Tech into a special football program, winning seven conference titles, boasting 13 seasons of 10 wins or more and reaching the national championship game after the 1999 season.

14. Frosty Westering
The average college football fan might not be overly familiar with ESPN’s No. 39 coach, but it’s not for lack of accomplishment. Westering started his career at Parsons and Lea, but he’s best known for building a terrific program and winning four national championships at Pacific Lutheran from 1972-2003, three NAIA Division II championships and an NCAA Division III title in 1999.

13. Pete Carroll
Few coaches seemed to have more fun at their jobs. At No. 37 overall on ESPN’s list, Carroll stockpiled talent to USC from 2001-09 in absurd amounts, leading to a share of the 2003 national championship, the 2004 title outright and even the tag of “greatest team ever” before USC’s loss to Texas in one of the greatest college football teams ever played. ESPN noted that USC was ranked No. 1 in the AP Poll for 33 straight weeks, and won 97 games, though 14 were later vacated.

12. Jim Tressel
Most college football fans are familiar with Tressel’s Ohio State teams, which won 94 games from 2001-10 and the national championship following the 2002 season. But before Tressel set about owning Michigan — he went 9-1 against the Wolverines — he earned the Ohio State job by coaching some dominant squads at Youngstown State, where he won 135 games and four Division I-AA (now FCS) national championships. He came in at No. 35 overall.

11. John Robinson
The No. 33 overall coach on this list, Robinson just made the cut because of his ill-fated time at UNLV from 1999-2004, when he went 28-42. But he coached some excellent USC teams, including one that had two Heisman Trophy winners in the backfield in Charles White running behind a sophomore fullback in Marcus Allen. His USC teams — he coached the Trojans from 1976-82 and from 1993-97 — won 104 games and a piece of the 1978 national championship.

10. Dabo Swinney
Don’t be surprised if Swinney shoots up this list in future years; he’s only been Clemson’s head coach since 2008, and has turned the Tigers into arguably the preeminent power in college football, winning two of the last three national championships and reaching the College Football Playoff in each of the last five years. With a record of 129-30, he doesn’t figure to be outside the top 20 overall — he came in at No. 31 on ESPN’s list — for long.

9. Bob Stoops
Stoops, who came in two spots ahead of Swinney at No. 29, earned an early reputation as “Big Game Bob” for the way his teams showed up in massive contests, including the national championship game in just his second season in 2000. And while critics would later use that as an insult when he didn’t win another national title, he played in championship games after the 2003, 2004 and 2008 seasons and reached the 2016 College Football Playoff. His teams dominated the Big 12 from 1999-2016, winning 10 league championships over that period.

8. Larry Kehres
Few (no?) coaches at any level won the way that Larry Kehres did at Mount Union from 1986-2012, which is why Kehres came in at No. 28 overall on ESPN’s list. Kehres’ Mount Union teams captured an incredible 11 Division III titles in 27 years, with 23 conference championships, and ESPN noted that his 92.9 winning percentage is “the best among any ccoach at any NCAA level.”

7. Steve Spurrier
There wasn’t much old about Ol’ Ball Coach when he took over at Florida, fresh off guiding Duke to an ACC title, with Florida embracing his Fun ’n’ Gun offense like a Wild West gunfighter. That led to Florida’s first-ever national championship in 1996, and Spurrier won six SEC titles with the Gators. He also experienced tremendous success at South Carolina after returning to the college game, winning 86 games over 11 years. One thing about Spurrier—with him coming in at No. 27, one can be he’d be teasing No. 28, 29 and everyone who came in after him.

6. Tubby Raymond
Those who love X’s and O’s are likely to love the inclusion of one Harold “Tubby” Raymond at No. 25, with Raymond helping to perfect — it was actually created by the Delaware coach in front of him, David M. Nelson — the “Delaware Wing-T.” Raymond won 300 games with the offense from 1966-2001, winning three national titles, and one can see sprinklings of his offense — if not outright repackaging — in all kinds of spread and running game concepts to this day.

5. Lou Holtz (No. 23 overall)

Holtz is known as much for his quirks and his quotes as he is for his success as a coach, but sleeping on his accomplishments would be a major mistake. He won at NC State, then Arkansas, and after a brief tenure at Mississippi State, landed the head coaching job at struggling Notre Dame for the 1986 season. Two years later, Notre Dame won the national championship, and the Fighting Irish had a strong argument to have won the 1993 national title as well. Holtz rebooted the talent in South Bend, made Notre Dame relevant again, then left after the 1996 season. From 1999 to 2004 he laid the groundwork to rebuild South Carolina; a foundation Steve Spurrier used to take the program to new heights. For his career, over six different stops, Holtz went 249-132-7.

4. LaVell Edwards (No. 22)

A coach who probably made this list as much for his innovation as his winning, Edwards nonetheless has plenty of the latter, capturing 19 conference championships and winning the 1984 national title. Along the way, BYU became the must-watch school for anyone interested in modernizing their passing attack, as ESPN pointed out, Edwards coached five first-team All-America quarterbacks from 1972-2000. Edwards’ influence can be seen today in the proliferation of Air Raid offenses across the country; his passing game was one of the building blocks for the offense built and made popular by Hal Mumme, Mike Leach and company.

3. Bobby Bowden (No. 8)

One of just three coaches who have coached from 2000-on to reach the top 10 of ESPN’s list, Bowden had success at Howard (31-6) and West Virginia (42-26) before moving on to the school everyone associates him with, Florida State, in 1976. And he churned the Seminoles into a brand name in college football, finishing in the top five in the nation every year from 1987-2000. And when Miami started to fall off just a bit, Bowden was waiting with open arms, churning out some of the most talented teams college football has seen from the mid-to-late 1990s and winning national championships in 1993 and 1999, while playing for titles in 1996, 1998 and 2000. From 1976 to 2009, he won 304 games, and his Seminoles captured 12 of 14 ACC championships after joining the league in 1992.

2. Joe Paterno (No. 7)

Paterno’s tenure at Penn State was marked by his old-school approach. As ESPN wrote, “Paterno called his plan the Grand Experiment, believing that Penn State could be a national power without sacrificing academics.” Academics, no names on the back of the jerseys (much less alternate uniforms) and a whole bunch of wins. Paterno’s teams won two national championships in the 1980s, and his 1994 team is considered one of college football’s great teams not to win the title after an undefeated season. Paterno won 409 games in his Penn State tenure before he was fired in November 2011 after the Jerry Sandusky scandal hit Happy Valley, and he died just two months later.

1. Nick Saban (No. 2)

Perhaps the greatest mix of elite recruiting and X’s and O’s ever to hit college football, Saban came in at No. 2 just behind the Alabama coach whose accomplishments he’s been chasing, Bear Bryant. Saban is perhaps known best for “The Process,” which has come to symbolize the day-to-day way his Crimson Tide have somehow avoided complacency and become a mainstay in the national title race. Speaking of titles, Saban has six of ‘em, one at LSU and five in his 13 years at Alabama, though the more impressive part might be just how often Alabama has competed at a national championship caliber level. Alabama reached the College Football Playoff every year of its existence until this year, and it took a catastrophic injury to the Tide’s Heisman Trophy caliber quarterback to keep ‘em out.

Georgia to wear home red jerseys in 2019 SEC Championship Game

The Georgia Bulldogs will wear their home red jerseys as the away team in the 2019 SEC Championship Game against the LSU Tigers, SicEmDawgs.com has confirmed.

Responding to an unrelated question on alcohol on his Twitter feed last week, SEC Communications Director Chuck Dunlap stated that the LSU Tigers have “elected to wear white” since they are the home team and they traditionally wear white jerseys at home.

We followed that comment up today by contacting Claude Felton, UGA’s Senior Associate Athletic Director and Sports Communications Director. Felton stated that yes, Georgia will wear their red home jerseys against LSU on Saturday.

Most college teams typically wear colored jerseys at home and white jerseys on the road. But not a few teams, including LSU. The reason why via LSU’s 2019 football media guide:

LSU is one of the few college football teams that traditionally wear white jerseys for home games. The tradition originated when LSU won its first national championship in 1958. Head coach Paul Dietzel had a habit of tinkering with the uniform every year. In 1958, he chose to wear white jerseys for LSU’s home games, and the Tigers subsequently won the national championship. A superstitious man, Dietzel didn’t change the uniform after that season. LSU continued to wear white jerseys for home games throughout the Charlie McClendon Era. When Jerry Stovall took over as head coach in 1980, he said the Tigers would occasionally wear purple jerseys so that home fans could see a different color. In 1982, the NCAA changed its jersey rule, requiring teams to wear dark colored jerseys for home games. The Tigers wore purple jerseys for all home games from 1983 to 1994. When Gerry DiNardo became head coach in 1995, he vowed to change the NCAA jersey rule. After petitioning the rules committee of the American Football Coaches Association, he personally met with each member of the NCAA Football Rules Committee. DiNardo’s efforts were successful and the Tigers were allowed to wear white jerseys again beginning in 1995. A stipulation of the new rule was that the visiting team would have to give the home team permission to wear the white jerseys. The first team to deny LSU’s request was DiNardo’s former team, Vanderbilt.

Instead of going back to purple jerseys, the Tigers took to the field in new gold jerseys. The SEC later adopted a league rule stipulating that the home team has sole discretion in determining its jersey color. Nick Saban became LSU’s head coach in 2000 and continued the white jersey tradition, but with a twist. Saban decided that LSU would wear purple jerseys for all non-SEC games, except the home opener. That tradition continues today.

Georgia and LSU are scheduled to square off at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga., on Saturday, Dec. 7. The game will be televised by CBS at 4:00pm ET.

SEC Championship Game Tickets are available from our partner StubHub and are currently running around $240 per ticket including fees.

LSU and Georgia met most recently during the regular-season in 2018 at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La. LSU defeated Georgia in that contest, 36-16, and they currently holds a 17-13-1 edge in the overall series.

The winner of the SEC Championship Game will advance to the College Football Playoff Semifinals. LSU is likely in the CFP regardless of Saturday’s outcome, while Georgia would be out if they suffer a second loss.

A Rooting Guide to the College Football Playoff

TCU fans don’t have a bowl game to look forward to this season, and that stinks.

But there are bright sides to not worrying about how the Horned Frogs will handle a mid-level P5 team in a far-off neutral site city. For one, this allows the smart gambler time to find his or her sure plays. When I ignore my family on Christmas Eve to watch BYU-Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl, I’ll be able to tell my mom exactly why I put so many units on the Rainbow Warriors covering the spread!

Not having a bowl team also allows TCU fans to hop aboard a bandwagon, and that’s what we’ll talk about today. LSU, Oklahoma, Clemson and Ohio State will play for a national championship this year. Now is the time to declare your allegiance and begin to mock fans of the other three teams as though you were sworn enemies.

Here’s a guide for free agent TCU fans looking to latch on to a Playoff team. As always, if you have a tenuous connection to one of the four — like, if your great-aunt went to Clemson, or you played high school soccer with a guy that went to LSU — now’s a good chance to maximize those for all they’re worth.
LSU Tigers

Why you should root for them: I could point you to any Ed Orgeron press conference for this. Coach O has become a living, growling, gumbo-guzzling meme, and I am all for it. Joe Burrow is a shoo-in for the Heisman and produces absolute witchcraft from the quarterback position at times. Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire is a furiously angry bowling ball. Grant Delpit and Derek Stingley Jr. wreak havoc on defense. Watching Cajuns be happy makes me happy, and should make you happy as well.

Why you shouldn’t root for them: This is a galaxy-brain reason, but TCU has been steadily trying to make headway recruiting in Louisiana (see: Garret Wallow, Ar’Darius Washington, Justin Rogers). LSU winning a national title might just seal up the state for the Tigers. Also, if you’re one of those weirdos that has an anti-SEC mentality, I guess that’s a reason as well.
Clemson Tigers

Why you should root for them: Trevor (writer’s note: this originally said Taylor. I am a big dumb idiot.) Lawrence is a surgical beach bum. Travis Etienne might sneakily be the best running back in the country. Dynasties are uncomfortably fun to root for, and the Tigers are on the verge of becoming one. If you enjoy lecturing people on the values of amateurism, this is the team for you.

Why you shouldn’t root for them: Dabo’s shtick is getting old quickly. Clemson didn’t play anybody all year. Howard’s Rock is an overrated tradition. South Carolina is the lesser of the two Carolinas.
Ohio State Buckeyes

Why you should root for them: Chase Young might be overhyped, but he’s not overrated — he’s a one-man demolition derby at defensive end. Justin Fields has somehow just thrown one interception this season and is maddeningly frustrating to watch. J.K. Dobbins will break at least one play that will leave your jaw on the ground.

Why you shouldn’t root for them: Well, they employed Urban Meyer as recently as 2018. The Big 10 is a boring slog full of angry men in hoodies and jerseys thrown on over hoodies. If you still hold a grudge from 2014, let it carry over to now.
Oklahoma Sooners

Why you should root for them: The Big 12 needs some respect, and Oklahoma winning would bring it. CeeDee Lamb is, for my money, the best receiver in the country. If you’re a Cowboys fan that wants Jerry Jones to hire Lincoln Riley, a national title would go a long way in convincing ol’ Jerry.

Why you shouldn’t root for them: You want the Big 12 to earn respect, you just don’t want Oklahoma to have any. You’re a Cowboys fan that doesn’t want Lincoln Riley. You think the transfer quarterback market is a massive farce and a disgrace to the game (at least, until TCU lands a great one).

Who I’m rooting for:

LSU. Geaux Tigahs.

Ohio State to wear throwback alternate jerseys with gray-striped sleeves for Fiesta Bowl

If you’re a traditionalist, you’re going to love this bit of news. It flew maybe a little bit under the radar when the Ohio State football Twitter feed congratulated the team for making the College Football Playoff with an invite to the Fiesta Bowl. But it didn’t take a few fans and media-types to pick up on a rather sneaky way to maybe break some news.

In a graphic shared on Twitter, Ohio State threw an Ohio State jersey into the corner. Oh, but it wasn’t just any Buckeye jersey. No, what we were teased with was an OSU jersey with some gray striped sleeves staring at us in the face.

You could have looked at it and thought nothing of it, but that’s not how these things normally go.

So what do these uniforms look like? They’ll be almost identical to the ones OSU wore during the inaugural College Football Playoff run in 2014, and the home version of what was worn the last time Ohio State took on Clemson.

Here’s a look at the 2016 away version.

And here’s more of what you’ll see with the home version. We saw these beauties against Oregon in the CFP National Championship game against Oregon in January of 2015.

What do you think? Do you like these? If so, you might be in luck, because there are also rumblings that these gray sleeves might just be a staple of the uniforms beginning next year.

Wayland Baptist’s Culver tallies 100 in Pioneers hoops win

He might be just 6-foot-5, but Wayland Baptist University’s J.J. Culver did a heck of a Wilt Chamberlain impression on Tuesday night.

Culver, the older brother of former Texas Tech and current Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jarrett Culver, scored 100 points to lead Wayland Baptist to a 124-60 victory over Southwestern Adventist University at Wayland Baptist’s Hutcherson Center.

Culver went 34 for 62 from the field, including 12 of 33 from 3-point range, and hit 20 of 27 free throws to reach the century mark.

A senior for the Crusaders, Culver entered the game averaging 28.1 points per game. Culver had nine rebounds and five steals to go along with his amazing scoring total.

Culver’s previous season high was 41 points against McMurry University on Nov. 1.
Rhule named Dodd Trophy finalist

Baylor coach Matt Rhule has been named one of five finalists for the Dodd Trophy, which honors the top college football coach who embodies leadership, integrity and scholarship on and off the field.

Rhule has guided the Bears to an 11-2 record and the school’s first Sugar Bowl berth since 1957. The other finalists are LSU’s Ed Orgeron, Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck and Utah’s Kyle Whittingham.

Rhule was also named the Region 4 coach of the year by the American Football Coaches Association.
MLB moves swoosh to prime jersey position

SAN DIEGO — Baseball is going swoosh.

Nike’s logo will be on the upper right chest of Major League Baseball jerseys next season, a far a more prominent position than the Majestic Athletic logo previously on sleeves.

A 10-year agreement announced last January replaced a deal announced in December 2016 for Under Armour to take over from Majestic. The online sportswear retailer Fanatics will manufacture and distribute licensed versions of the Nike uniforms and training wear to consumers.

Majestic had manufactured MLB batting practice jerseys since 1982 and had been the exclusive supplier of game uniforms since 2005. Before that, uniforms were manufactured by Majestic, Russell Athletic and Rawlings.
AP: Gregorius, Phillies agree to deal

SAN DIEGO — Shortstop Didi Gregorius is reuniting with manager Joe Girardi in Philadelphia, agreeing with the Phillies on a $14 million, one-year contract, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity Tuesday because the agreement between the player and club, first reported by the New York Post, had not been announced.

Gregorius spent the last five years with the New York Yankees, the first three playing for Girardi as Derek Jeter’s successor at shortstop.

Girardi replaced Gabe Kapler as the Phillies’ manager following a disappointing season in which Philadelphia faded to fourth place in the NL East division race. The team went 81-81 despite signing slugger Bryce Harper to a $330 million, 13-year contract.

Gregorius’ 2019 debut was delayed until June 7 after Tommy John surgery on Oct. 17, 2018, to repair an elbow ligament torn during Game 2 of the AL Division Series at Boston. The left-handed hitter batted .238 with 16 homers and 61 RBIs this year, leaving him with a .264 average, 110 homers and 417 RBIs in eight major league seasons.

How the Raptors dino became cool again

This season, for its 25th anniversary year, the Toronto Raptors have decided to take the opportunity to celebrate everything about the franchise’s history. Included in the team’s plans for a trip down memory lane are six ‘95-Rewind home games, where the Raptors will wear their original white-and-purple dinosaur jerseys and play on a replica home-court design from their inaugural season in 1995.

The team’s first ‘95-Rewind night was in late Oct. against the Orlando Magic. They will wear their throwback jerseys again when Kawhi Leonard returns to Toronto as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday, Dec. 11. It feels like a symbolic choice. Leonard delivered a championship as a Raptor, but he only stayed for a year. Seeing him on the dino-logo home court will be a reminder of the Raptors’ history and how they’ve been part of Canadian culture for over two decades—even before last year’s historic run.

Remember that a giant dinosaur dribbling a ball on a purple-and-red jersey was once considered tacky, even for 1990’s style standards. Over the years, fans have looked back more fondly on the uniforms that many ridiculed. The nostalgia reached a fever pitch last season, as the Raptors—the team who once played in a baseball stadium and were the laughingstock of the NBA for so many years—made a run to the NBA finals, eventually beating the Golden State Warriors to win a championship.

Owners of In Vintage We Trust, Josh Roter and Chantel Varela, have been collecting vintage items for several decades. Their shop is located in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood.

Roter collects all kinds of sportswear, including college basketball warm-up jackets from the 1980s, game-worn baseball jerseys, sideline jackets and other one-of-one items. As a lifelong fan, Roter has been collecting Raptors items for over two decades.

One of them is an inaugural season game-worn Raptors jersey, signed by the entire team including the franchise’s first-ever draft pick and 1995-96 Rookie of the Year Damon Stoudamire. In 2010, he was sourcing product in Mississauga, when he came across a sports-card store in a strip plaza. Sifting through snapback hats and vintage hockey jerseys, it was this Raptors jersey, with the player’s name having been stripped from the back, which caught his attention.

After doing a few searches on basketball reference sites, Roter was able to match the number of the jersey to a player named Thomas Hamilton, who had spent just a handful of days with the Raptors during their first pre-season before he was waived. Roter purchased the jersey right away. A few years ago, it was sold to another local collector.

Not every piece of Raptors memorabilia in the store has a one-of-a-kind backstory. Because Raptors items were not very coveted when the team was going through a downturn, they often sat in stores. Roter owns an authentic red and black Nike Vince Carter Raptors jersey from the 2004-05 season, which he remembers purchasing from the clearance rack at Toronto’s College Park shopping mall for $24.99 immediately after Carter was traded to the New Jersey Nets. Today, the jersey is selling for over $250.

The Raptors championship run and the team’s celebration of the 25th anniversary season has changed everything. During the playoff run, many customers came into the store to ask for apparel from the dino-logo era. At the same time, Roter and Varela were trying to find more items for their next Raptors-themed drop.

Roter and Varela had their eye on the Toronto Raptors Barbie doll, which was selling for over $700 on eBay. In the late 1990s, the NBA had a licensing deal with toy company Mattel to produce Barbies for each team. They were eventually able to purchase the Barbie at a reasonable price this fall, which is still available in store for $200.

It has become increasingly difficult to find vintage Raptors goods in the market. Last year, while at a trade show in Illinois, Roter was able to pick up three 1997-98 authentic Nike Raptors shooting shirts, which were worn by point guard Chauncey Billups and Alvin Williams, one of the most popular Raptors players during that era.

Most of the remaining vintage Raptors goods are just sitting in boxes in people’s basements and in attics across the city of Toronto, Roter says. He recently met a vintage dealer in the city, who he sources Toronto Blue Jays items from, and thought to ask if she had any Raptors gear. The dealer produced a box of every Raptors pin given to fans at the arena during the franchise’s early years. Roter bought the entire box and now sells the pins for around $20 each in store.

By just digging through the collections of local dealers, Roter’s also found other memorabilia that has sentimental value to him, and many other Raptors fans, including a row-1, seat-1 ticket from the inaugural game at the SkyDome in 1995, and a media pass from the franchise’s first playoff game in 2000 at Madison Square Garden.

Though Roter has been collecting pieces of the franchise’s history since its inception, he admits he still wants to buy every single Raptor item he comes across. But restraint is necessary. In the vintage business, buying an item at a high cost means that you have to charge customers a premium. This is why Roter passed on the leather jacket worn by part-owner and vice president of the Raptors Isiah Thomas at the team’s introductory press conference. It was priced at $1,200 USD.

The Raptors-themed drop at In Vintage We Trust will include authentic jerseys, dino-logo t-shirts, Vince Carter tees, puffer jackets and whatever else Roter and Varela can find between now and then. Unlike yesteryears, these items won’t be sitting on shelves for too long.

“Now that the Raptors are good,” Roter says, “Everybody wants a piece of history.”

College football playoff talk: a no no in Tigertown as LSU preps for SEC championship

There’s only one championship on Ed Orgeron’s mind this week, and it isn’t the one, won on the final game of the season.

LSU plays Georgia Saturday in Atlanta for the SEC championship. It is LSU’s first trip to the league championship game since 2011. And, it is the only game the LSU head coach plans to talk about this week.

LSU is a 7.5 favorite over the Bulldogs.

LSU has played Georgia three times in the championship game in a stretch from 2003 to 2011. LSU won in 2003 and 2011. Georgia won in 2005.

LSU leads the SEC in scoring offense, total offense, passing offense, and redzone offense.

Orgeron said Monday that LSU is working diligently to retain passing game coordinator Joe Brady. Brady was named one of 15 semifinalists for the Frank Broyles award, one that goes to the top assistant coach in college football.

Game time is 3 pm New Orleans time Saturday.

LSU is the home team, and will wear its traditional white jerseys with gold pants.

Area football coaches support addition of football team at SCCC

The ball has been placed at the line of scrimmage for the start of the Sussex County Community College football program, now it’s up to the area’s players and coaches to help move it forward.

When the college’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved the addition of New Jersey’s first junior college football program last week, area high school coaches began to see new opportunities open up for their athletes to play at the next level.

“Everyone is on this football bandwagon about numbers being down and the county college is taking a step to go start a football program, which I think is great by them,” Wallkill Valley head football coach Bob Leach said. “I think it’s neat that an institution has football, especially at the college level, that’s awesome. I think it’s something that these local kids are going to have to really look at and think about. It’s definitely going to affect recruiting in the county.”

In the past few years, Leach and Rangers assistant coach Todd Poltersdorf, who has coached under Leach for the past six seasons between Sussex Tech and Wallkill Valley, began discussing how they felt SCCC pursuing the addition of a football team could be a good idea.

Poltersdorf, who has been Sussex County Community College’s director of admissions since 2006, joined forces with Cory Homer, SCCC’s associate dean of institutional effectiveness and marketing, enrollment management and distance learning, to research how the addition of such a program would affect enrollment growth.

Now, Poltersdorf will take the helm as the Skylanders first head coach in 2020.

“The first thing that comes to mind is his fire and passion for the game, his competitive attitude and edge,” Leach said. “A lot of people that don’t know him think he’s a lunatic, but he’s just passionate about it, he gets into it and he goes nuts. I think you have to be that way if you’re going to be a coach, and especially a head coach.

“He probably should have been a head coach in football a long time ago. This will be a good gig for him.”

All seven Sussex County coaches that offered comments on the new SCCC football program agreed that it was a positive move for football in the area.

“It is great to have another level of football so close to us in our area,” Vernon head coach Steve Down said. “I know we have sent a lot of players there and when they heard a football program was starting, they were immediately excited. Any time we can grow the game is a benefit, but right here in our backyard it brings an added excitement to our county.”

During the board meeting on Nov. 27, Poltersdorf cited getting support from Lenape Valley legendary head coach Don Smolyn leading up to the vote.

On Sunday, Smolyn reiterated his excitement for what SCCC’s new team will mean for the local community.

The Patriots head coach, who himself bounced from Seton Hall University to Union County College before earning a scholarship to play on the offensive line at Adams State College, said he wished an opportunity like playing at a junior college in New Jersey existed back when he was playing.

He said playing football for the Skylanders will gives area athletes a chance to mature physically and in their studies while not breaking the bank figuring out their plans at a four-year school.

“It gives some of these kids a chance,” Smolyn said. “An other thing too, I look at myself, it took me a couple of different colleges to figure it out and a lot of money. If I had something like that where I could have gone somewhere and developed and started to figure it out, that would have been a good option for me.

“I just look over the years, maybe you go there for two years and maybe you go to a Montclair or a College of New Jersey if they’re not the Division-I size kids.”

Newton head coach Matt Parzero has seen cases with his team where a player may need a year or two to develop and play at a higher level.

SCCC will now present a chance for some of his players to showcase their skills immediately.

“For football, it gives them an opportunity to compete right away,” Parzero said. “Some of our guys through the years have gone to some big schools and unfortunately sometimes they get lost. If they’re a freshman, they might not see the field until they’re juniors or seniors.

″(At SCCC), it’s all freshmen and sophomores, so they can compete, their rosters aren’t as big so they can get on the field right away. It will improve their exposure to bigger schools down the line.”

The only junior colleges with full-fledged football programs in a 200-mile radius of Newton are ASA Brooklyn (N.Y.), Lackawanna College (Pa.) and Nassau Community College (N.Y.).

Elsewhere in the state, Caldwell University offers sprint football, which is a full-contact varsity sport with the same rules as regular football but all players must weigh 172 pounds or less.

The new Skylanders team will give all area players a chance to continue their football careers in their backyard.

“I just think it’s great for kids that aren’t really sure what they want to do yet to have a place to go, that have had some pretty good high school careers and still have an opportunity to extend that, at least if nothing more, for another two years,” Kittatinny head coach Joe Coltelli said. “After that, who knows? You hear so many stories about junior-college kids that end up in a program and end up being a pretty big part of that program over the years.

“I’m thrilled that it’s going to give some kids another purpose to be there other than going to school and extend their careers a little bit longer.”

Area coaches did mention some challenges that they believe will have to be cleared for the SCCC program to have success.

Parzero mentioned that he heard from some that they would be concerned about how travel would factor into the equation. Smolyn, meanwhile, knows that it will take a while to build a competitive program and everyone must be committed to that construction over the long haul.

But almost all area football coaches agree that the Skylanders program has the chance to be a touchdown for area athletes.

“I want to wish them luck,” Smolyn said. “The road is going to be tough but just persevere. It’s something that’s so badly needed in our area. I think there’s so many kids from out in this area that could play but they really have so few options. With the cost of colleges today, it’s a really viable option.”

Muhlenberg-SUNY Brockport: Daniel happy to be part of Mules postseason success

Mitch Daniel is an undersized possession receiver with speed who gets lost at the snap weaving among linemen and linebackers until he pops into the foreground — suddenly with the ball, racing upfield.

Former Muhlenberg College football coach Mike ”Duke” Donnelly knew he wanted a player like Daniel, who scored a school-record 27 touchdowns his senior year in the Colonial League. After being unable to speak to Daniel on the first school visit, Donnelly made a second recruiting trip to Notre Dame High School three years ago to pitch his program to the speedy running back more interested in going to college at Pitt than joining a college roster.

Suddenly sold on the Mules, Daniel enrolled. At the first practice he targeted the meeting for running backs.

“Where are you going?” Donnelly asked.

“I’m a running back,” Daniel answered.

“No, you’re not,” Donnelly clarified. ”You’re over there. You’re a receiver now.”

Now a junior on fourth-ranked Muhlenberg’s 11-0 team, Daniel sees the wisdom in Donnelly’s vision.

He’s caught 40 balls (second-most on the team) for 511 yards and four touchdowns this season.

He ignited the offense in Week One by hauling in a 25-yard pass and scored the team’s first touchdown this year against the College of New Jersey. He added a 30-yard score later that game.

Last week he caught four passes for 32 yards in the first half as the Mules blanked MIT 38-0 in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

Muhlenberg will need to make SUNY Brockport’s nationally-leading run defense move and tire with short passes Saturday in the noon showdown at Scotty Wood Stadium in Allentown. Brockport advanced out of the first round with a 33-28 victory at Western New England. The Golden Eagles (9-2) are playing in their third-straight NCAA tournament after winning the Empire Eight Conference.

Their defense limits opponents to 14.5 points per game, ranking 14th in Division III.

“Points are going to be at a premium this week,” Muhlenberg head coach Nate Milne said.
Getting the ball to Daniel and Centennial Conference scholar-athlete award winner Max Kirin, along with all-American tight end Ryan Curtiss, could help offset the Eagles’ pass rush.

While Muhlenberg has outscored opponents 42-11 on average, the margin for error shrinks in the Sweet 16.

Last week’s pre-game script called for short passes to open room for the running games. Expect that again this week.

 

“I think that’s always critical at the skill positions to have speed,” said Milne of Daniel. “It may not be the most important thing. You need guys with size at the receiver, some with speed, and some with wiggle. Mitch has a little bit of wiggle and a lotta bit of speed.”

Daniel’s grandfather Michael “Mitch” Elias came to the United States from Lebanon by himself to live with his uncle Joe Daniel. The Daniels took in Michael Elias to help get him treatment for polio; he assumed their surname.

“Some of my cousins are Daniel and some area Elias,” Mitch said. “I would say it’s like 30 percent Daniel and 70 percent Elias.”

Now one of the family names is being broadcast on the back of Muhlenberg’s No. 26 as members of Easton’s Lebanese community come out to support Mitch, the grandson who’s running with his opportunity.

 

They understand what it’s taken just for Mitch to get on the field.

Freshman year: broken ankle.

Sophomore year: bedridden at times with mononucleosis.

Junior year: Game 1—two touchdowns. A return to the Mitch of Old.

 

He needed that initial touchdown against TCNJ for several reasons.

“That kind of gave me the confidence to know I belong on the field with these guys,” Daniel said. “I faked the corner route, went back to the post route, and it was open.”

Last year, as Muhlenberg advanced to the national quarterfinals at Mount Union in Ohio, Daniel watched the game in Pennsylvania on his laptop. A win Saturday would put him and his teammates back in the quarterfinal round against the Salisbury-Union winner.

“We definitely want to get on the pass game early,” Daniel said. “They play a lot of man-to-man defense. As receivers we’re just going to have to beat that. It’s on us to get open and give the quarterback a target. If receivers can get open, that will greatly improve our chances for success.”

 

Daniel might lull the defense to sleep, then sprint into his rightful place.

“It feels great to be back,” he said. “I’ve been waiting two years to get back and show them what I can do.”

Alumni represent Latrobe on college courts across country

One town’s name keeps popping up on college basketball rosters all over the place, up and down the East Coast.

From New England to Florida — and many stops in between — “Latrobe” is a common hometown among lists that also include jersey numbers, classes, heights and positions.

Latrobe graduates, men and women, are playing at the Division I, II and III levels. And many are making a significant impact, a few as starters in their early years at the next level.

Latrobe basketball is about family. Siblings pass the torch to one another as they try to establish their own legacies, while bringing more pride to their last names.

Butler, Fenton, Graytok, Mueseler, Sobota … the list goes on. And it carries on.

“Any player from any town who goes on to play basketball at the collegiate level, with very few exceptions, has some common traits,” Latrobe boys basketball coach Brad Wetzel said. “They worked when nobody was watching, and they appreciated — not necessarily liked — being pushed by their coaches and others around them.

“This, combined with a desire to be the absolute best they could be, would be a trait that is common with those who go on to play four more years of college basketball. … They had something inside that made them unique.”

Austin Butler is a third-year starting guard at Holy Cross. Latrobe’s all-time leading scorer in the boys program is averaging 8.4 points and 5.6 rebounds this season in five games for the Crusaders.

The 6-foot-5 junior started all 33 games last season and put up 12.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.5 steals.

He said basketball is ingrained in Latrobe players at a young age, that aspiring youth get a glimmer in their eyes when they attend Wildcats games.

“I think basketball around the area is getting more buzz and hype over the past couple of years, and younger kids come to the games and see these talents night-in and night-out,” Butler said. “Right away, they want be in our shoes one day.”

Shippensburg junior guard Jake Biss was one of the WPIAL’s top point guards when he played at Latrobe. These days, he is a 16.3 point-per-game scorer in the PSAC.

He also is averaging 4.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists for the Raiders (6-1), who are coached by Latrobe grad Chris Fite.

“We all have a love for the game,” the 6-2 Biss said. “We all knew we wanted to play after high school, and we knew the amount of work we had to put in to get to that level. Countless hours in the gym and weight room getting as many reps as possible.

“Sean and I would run countless hills, and we would go to the sand volleyball courts at Legion Keener (Park) to do agility workouts in the summer. We knew what it took, and we all had that dog mentality, simple as that.”

Freshman Reed Fenton worked his way into the starting five at Lehigh after a stellar career at Latrobe. Fenton, a 6-4 guard, recently had 14 points and four assists in a win for the Mountain Hawks (3-4) over Misericordia.

Fenton said he can only speak to his personal experiences coming out of Latrobe.

“I know for me, it was just being surrounded by my older brother and my dad who pushed me to get better,” he said. “Also, growing up with the Biss family and working out with Jake all the time definitely helped me a lot. Same thing with the Butlers. We all just have worked out together and helped each other reach our goals.”

Wetzel said the flare-up of college talent began a decade ago.

“I think something happened when we finally got over the hump in 2009,” Wetzel said. “Many of the youth clinics and programs we were running had players — as well as our middle school players — there to witness the nets come down (to celebrate a section title). This town has supported us, and many boys grew up and came of age thinking, ‘Why not me? Why can’t I, too, cut down the nets?’ ”

Other Wildcat alums playing collegiately include:

• Bryce Butler, a freshman at West Liberty, has played in all six games and averages 8.2 points and 3.3 rebounds in 19.0 minutes per game.

• Madison Kollar, a junior forward at Saint Vincent, is averaging 14.3 points and 4.0 rebounds in 25.3 minutes a game for the Bearcats (3-1). She scored 22 against Baldwin-Wallace. Kollar missed the 2017-18 season with a foot injury.

• Laura Graytok, a sophomore guard at American in Washington, D.C., is seeing increased minutes in the second year of her college career.

• Senior Sean Graytok is a reserve guard for the Coast Guard Academy. He has started 23 games in his career while providing 5.1 points and 1.2 assists.

• Freshman Mackenzie Markle is a starting forward at Westmoreland County Community College, which resumed its program after having to cancel last season. Markle has been an effective frontcourt presence for the Wolfpack (2-4) with 15.2 points and 11.8 rebounds.

“We have been blessed with some young athletes who, at a young age, fell in love with the game of basketball,” Latrobe girls coach Mark Burkhardt said. “All of these players were willing to work extremely hard to reach their academic and basketball goals. Something that I believe that they all learned at Latrobe was to give their maximum effort every time they step in a classroom and on a basketball court.”

Austin Butler said Wetzel and his assistants have created a true culture.

“Coach Wetzel and the staff deserve a lot of that credit because the success is behind the scenes with all the work they put in for us past players and the work they put in for the present players now,” Butler said. “And Coach Wetzel never loses connections, and that’s something very special.”