Category Archives: Sports

Hampton University moving to the Big South Conference

Justin Whitner | Staff Writer

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Courtesy of the HU Office of University Relations

After more than two decades in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, Hampton University will make the switch to the Big South Conference.

Big South Conference Commissioner Kyle Kallander and Hampton University Athletic Director Eugene Marshall made the announcement Nov. 16 in the Student Center Theater.

Kallander said that the vote to put Hampton Football in the Big South was a “unanimous decision.” The Big South sponsors 16 of the 17 sports in which Hampton University participates. This means that all sports — excluding the lacrosse team, which is independent — will make the change to the Big South. Hampton has been in the MEAC since 1995.

Marshall said there is the possibility that the Pirates won’t begin to play football in the Big South until the 2019 season. This means rivalries against schools such as Howard University and Norfolk State would continue for the next season, as well as games against other Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Many questions have arisen since the announcement. What will happen for the seasons beginning in 2019? Will Hampton football play strictly HBCUs in nonconference games?

Playing in a bigger conference will give Hampton athletics a chance to not just prove themselves, but also the athletic worth of all HBCUs.

According to ESPN’s The Undefeated, Hampton is the second HBCU at the Division I level not competing in a historically black league, the other one being Tennessee State.

“Our goal at Hampton is to be the best mid-sized university in the country, and I think that the Big South helps us to obtain that,” Marshall said.

Hampton alum Lysander Bracey thinks the decision to go from MEAC to the Big South will be a great move.

“We’re on a bigger stage now, and the competition gets better as well,” Bracey said. “I’m excited for the upcoming years in the Big South.”

The change to the Big South will likely mean a change in attendance. Will more or less Hampton students attend athletic events to cheer on the Pirates? This positive or negative change can only be determined with time.

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Has the bar been set too high for college football coaches?

William Ricks | Contributing Writer

Being a head coach for any sport is a tough job, especially in college football. Many coaches are learning that this season, as a number of them are being fired from their college football teams.

A lot of them have led their teams to above-average records and have brought success to their program, but are still being let go.

Now, people have begun asking this question: Has the bar been set too high for college coaches?

Coaches have been fired throughout the season, with most of the firings coming in the recent weeks. Some of these names are big ones, including Texas A&M firing Kevin Sumlin, UCLA letting go of Jim Mora, Arizona State sending Todd Graham home and Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen resigning to go to Florida.

As of Nov. 28, a total of 14 college football coaches had either resigned, been fired or mutually parted ways with their team. Out of the 14, seven had a record of .500 or better during their tenure.

In college football, winning at least six games makes a team eligible for a bowl game, and many of these coaches have brought many bowl victories to their schools.

Even though they are bringing back bowl trophies and getting national recognition, they are still being let go, simply because the athletic directors set the bar so high for their programs.

Lots of athletic directors see the amount of success that Alabama’s Nick Saban, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney have with their programs. The three coaches have a combined total of 400-plus wins, 28 bowl wins and nine national championships while coaching at their schools. When athletic directors see this amount of success, they want their programs to achieve the same level.

These prosperous programs have set the standard for other schools, and anything less than that is a failure in the eyes of the fans, boosters and athletic directors.

In this day in sports, coaches are constantly on the hot seat, no matter how long they’ve been with their program. The shelf life of the head coaching job has diminished because the demand for success is so high. With fans and booster clubs having so much impact on their coach’s future, if they are not satisfied with the team’s success, they will push for them to be removed.

Many football programs want immediate success, but fail to realize that building a championship program takes time.

If athletic directors make the head coaching job a revolving door for their schools, will they ever be able to achieve the success of schools like Ohio State, Clemson or Alabama?

It is hard for coaches to turn around a program with the athletic directors, boosters and fans wanting immediate results. Making a championship team in only one season almost never happens. It takes time to build a winning culture. Maybe the new culture of instant success isn’t fair to the coaches who take on these new programs.

The bar is set very high in college football, as it is one of the most popular college sports in America. So, should college football programs re-evaluate how they measure success? Is it fair for university officials to have expectations to be the next Alabama immediately after hiring a coach?

College football is a win-now league, and many universities are adopting this new culture.

After a four-game skid, are the Chiefs in trouble?

Harrington Gardiner | Contributing Writer

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chiefs.com

Early in the season, the Kansas City Chiefs were considered by many to be a potential Super Bowl favorite and a threat to the always dominant New England Patriots in the AFC.

The superior play of Alex Smith at quarterback as well as the emergence of rookie running back Kareem Hunt caused many to believe that this team has what it takes to be a Super Bowl contender.

Lately, though, they’ve been inconsistent and have taken losses in their past games.

In the first five weeks, they looked to be the NFL’s hottest team, but now they are 6-6 and in a three-way tie with the Los Angeles Chargers and Oakland Raiders atop the AFC West.

What happened with the Chiefs, and can they rebound to save their season?

With the talent on their roster, it’s definitely possible.

Kansas City started off with a 5-0 record and was the last remaining undefeated team in the league. Early in the season, the Chiefs suffered a huge loss, losing pro bowl safety Eric Berry to a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Even with this loss, other Pro Bowl-caliber players on the roster have made an impact, including tight end Travis Kelce and receiver Tyreek Hill.

The two men have been making plays all year.

However, the struggles for this team are a serious concern, especially since the Chiefs are competing for a playoff spot.

The inconsistencies on offense have resulted in failure to put enough points on the board. This has led them to question of whether or not Alex Smith should be benched for rookie quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

While it’s unlikely that Smith will be benched this late in the season, it’s important for the Chiefs to figure out the solutions to their problems.

Otherwise, things could get even uglier in the final weeks of the season.

Kansas City’s offense this season has been dangerous at times. Unfortunately for them, their issues lie on the opposite side of the ball.

The defense, which looked legit the first few games of the season, currently sits in the bottom half of the league.

Having a subpar defense this late in the season heading toward postseason play is a huge red flag.

The Chiefs may no longer be a Super Bowl contending team, but it’s not too late for them to save their season.

They can still rebound from their inconsistencies with the remaining games that they have on their schedule.

Andy Reid and his coaching staff will be put to the test late in the season. It’s time to see if this Kansas City team is the real deal or just all hype.

The Chiefs must remember this: It’s not how you start; it’s how you finish.

Grizzlies say goodbye to Fizzle

Justin Norris | Staff Writer

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espn.com

The Memphis Grizzlies fired coach David Fizdale after just 19 games into the 2017-2018 season. He coached the Grizzlies to a playoff berth in his first season as a head coach and was in the second year of a four-year, $10.2 million contract.

This season, under Fizdale, the team was in the midst of an eight-game losing streak and had lost 11 of their past 13. The Grizzlies’ firing of Fizdale came on the heels of him benching star center Marc Gasol in the fourth quarter of a 98-88 loss to the Brooklyn Nets.

The decision to get rid of the coach has become extremely controversial, and many around the NBA have spoken out in support of Fizdale.

LeBron James, who played for Fizdale while he was an assistant coach in Miami, tweeted, “I need some answers. Feels like my man was a fall guy.”

That sentiment has been echoed by other players and media. On First Take, Stephen A. Smith called the Grizzlies’ decision “a bogus firing. There’s no excuse for it, and they should be ashamed of themselves.”

Fizdale’s tenure in Memphis was plagued by various injuries to key rotation players. Franchise point guard Mike Conley has missed the team’s past seven games this season, which obviously coincides with their losing streak.

Small forward Chandler Parsons, who agreed to a four-year, $94 million contract before the start of last season, has been frequently injured since signing with the team. Due to Parsons’ inability to stay on the floor, his contract has been viewed as an albatross for the team.

The Grizzlies were also notorious for using their slow-paced, “Grit and Grind” style of play, while the majority of the NBA embraced a more up-tempo style that emphasized positionless basketball and 3-pointers. The aging roster Fizdale was in charge of was ill-equipped to adapt to the modern NBA due to the dearth of talent at his disposal.

It appears that Fizdale’s rocky relationship with Gasol played a significant role in his dismissal as well.

The Grizzlies’ front office has a track record for firing successful coaches.

Since 2013, the organization has let go of Lionel Hollins, Dave Joerger and Fizdale. Hollins led the team to a 56-26 record and a Western Conference Finals appearance the year before he was let go. Joerger guided the team to three consecutive trips to the postseason.  Fizdale coached an aging roster to a competitive first-round series against the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs last season.

J.B. Bickerstaff was named interim head coach. Whomever the Grizzlies name as their next head coach will be interesting, because regardless of accomplishments or achievements, the head coach of the Grizzlies seems to have little-to-no job security.

 

The rivalry renewed: HU vs. HU

Randall Williams | Sports Editor

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Twitter | @PeteDPirate

It’s officially that time of the year, rivalry week is upon us. Universities across the entire country face off against their arch nemesis.

One of the matches that is frequently overlooked is Hampton University vs. Howard University.

As you can see, both teams have the exact same “HU” initials. This has sparked a rivalry between the schools.

Ever since Hampton was renamed from “Hampton Institute” to “Hampton University,” bad blood has been boiling between the two schools in reference to who the “real HU” is.

Regarding football, Hampton is undoubtedly the “Real HU.”

The Pirates lead the series 51-41-1, so in order for Howard to catch up, it’s going to take an entire decade.

That streak could start this weekend.

The Bison are second in the MEAC conference with a record of 6-1 in league play and 7-3 overall.

Howard made headlines earlier this year after beating UNLV in the biggest upset in college football history.

A week after that, they only lost to Kent State University by a mere seven points.
Leading this Bison team is Caylin Newton, the little brother of the Carolina Panthers’ starting quarterback Cam Newton.

Since the loss to the Golden Flashes, Howard has been 6-2, and are currently on a five game win streak.

Meanwhile at Hampton, things haven’t been going so well. Just three weeks ago, the Pirates were under North Carolina A&T in the conference standings with an overall record of 5-2.

Since then, the season seems to have collapsed, as the Pirates have lost three games straight.

Hampton sophomore Kimand Albright says, “It seems like the team just got complacent with where they were. [However,] down the stretch the play-calling has been questionable along with the execution of the plays.”

Albright isn’t the only one that feels that way.

Hampton student Juwan Williams agrees, saying, “The team may need to try new athletes in at different positions to get a better feel of where they stand, maybe even at quarterback.”

Brendan Greene, a player for the Pirates, says, “It’s easy to blame play-calling when we’re losing. Honestly, it comes down to execution.

“We need to come out ready so that we can finish the season strong.”

For Hampton, there isn’t much on the line other than the basics.

If they win, they finish the season with a winning record; if not, they’ll finish 5-6.

On the opposite end, the Bison have higher stakes. If North Carolina A&T loses and the Bison come out on top, they will share the conference championship.

A victory in this game would be Howard’s first time winning the MEAC title since 1993.

Rivalries are always tense, but the energy for this year’s “Battle of the Real HU” will likely be at an all-time high.

What’s wrong with the Cavs?

Justin Norris | Staff Writer

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Andres Kudacki | Associated Press

 

The Cleveland Cavaliers, three-time defending Eastern Conference champions, have gotten off to a lackluster 7-7 record to start the season.

So far, the Cavaliers have lost to supposedly inferior teams such as the Magic, Nets, Pelicans, Knicks, Pacers and Hawks.

It took a 57-point outburst, the second-most of LeBron James’ career, to avoid losing to the Wizards. This is the second-worst start to a season for James, with the worst coming in his rookie season.

Offseason acquisition Dwyane Wade told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, “Our first unit, we got to start off better.”

While Wade’s assertion is correct, there are multiple reasons explaining the Cavs’ struggles.

The Cavs are working in several new players to their rotation after trading Kyrie Irving in the summer, and there is always going to be an adjustment period when incorporating so many new players.

To make matters worse, All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas will not return from his hip injury until January.

The Cavs also simply are not making shots: they are making three fewer 3-pointers per game compared to last season.

Cleveland has been wildly inconsistent. The Cavs are averaging 118 points per game in wins and only 103 in losses, while their 3 point field goal percentage is 10 points higher in wins than in losses.

Perhaps the biggest cause of Cleveland’s struggles stems from their lackadaisical defensive play.

The Cavs rank dead last in defensive efficiency.

Their defense was poor last year, but their offense was dynamic enough that it covered up how porous their defense was.

This season, their offense has slipped slightly, and their defense has remained lousy, so the high-scoring games that they would have won last year are losses this year.

A bigger problem is that many of the players they’ve acquired are aging, injury-prone veterans who do not shoot well, which means that they are not a great fix next to James.

While many presume that the Cavs are just coasting until the playoffs, the one troubling aspect is that James’ scoring and rebounding numbers are up, so it is clear he is not mailing in the games so far.

This is the last season before James becomes a free agent.

The Cavaliers’ management must be worried about their slow start and what impact it might have on James’ free-agent decision.

James has made it clear that he will go to whatever team gives him the best chance to win championships.

He has left Cleveland once before, and after fulfilling his promise of delivering a championship to Cleveland, he has every right to leave again.

Have the Colts wasted all their luck in Andrew Luck’s career?

William Ricks | Contributing Writer

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Mark Zalesky | Associated Press

The Indianapolis Colts have had their share of QB drama this season.

Andrew Luck hasn’t played a down and the Colts have felt the impact of his absence, having a 3-6 record at this point in the season.

Luck’s rehab from offseason shoulder surgery has taken longer than the Colts would’ve hoped.

He was shut down from throwing a few weeks ago and received a cortisone shot.

This week, Luck was placed on IR by the Colts, ending his season before it even started.

Has the former Stanford quarterback’s career been mismanaged?

The Colts had early success with Luck. He lead them to three straight 11-5 seasons, and even an AFC championship game.

He was so good in fact, that he was able to disguise the Colts’ issues. The biggest problem was the offensive line. Brutal hits have plagued the rising star throughout his career. He has never had a stable o-line around him, which led to defenses being able to get immediate pressure on him.

In the 2015 season, Luck missed nine games due to the same shoulder injury he has currently.

Instead of sitting him out during last year’s season, his team gave him painkillers. This allowed Luck to be a tackling dummy, as he stood in the pocket behind a poor excuse of an offensive line.

It was no surprise that Luck needed shoulder surgery after playing through that kind of injury for two years.

The Colts’ lack of managing Luck’s injury better has caused them to throw away the 2017 season.

The organization had time to put pieces around Luck, as he was on a rookie contract until he signed a six-year $140 million contract in 2016.

Unfortunately for them, they didn’t take any steps to signing any impact players on the o-line or defense.

Now the Colts lack the cap space to sign any high-quality players.

This could be blamed on their former general manager Ryan Grigson, who made many questionable decisions during his time in Indianapolis.

Luck is 28 years old, so he still has many prime years left as a quarterback.

When he is healthy, he can tear apart a defense, throwing 132 touchdowns in his first five seasons.

The Colts haven’t wasted Luck’s career yet. The problems the Colts have on the offensive line, as well as the defensive side of the ball are so big, even Luck can’t cover them up like he did his first three seasons.

If the Colts don’t want to waste Andrew Luck’s career, they need to take this upcoming offseason to sign impact players on defense and solidify their offensive line.

Luck should be ready for the start of the 2018 season, and if he has the necessary pieces around him, his career will be reignited.

MEAC battle at HU against NC Central

Harrington Gardiner | Contributing Writer

Hampton - FAMU Football Game

Yankee Johnson (#2) | Courtesy of Glenn Knight

After a three-point loss to Bethune-Cookman in Daytona Beach, Fla., the Pirates face their toughest test of the season this upcoming weekend against North Carolina Central.

Central is coming off an impressive 42-14 homecoming win against Delaware State, and now the Eagles will come to town sitting a game above the Pirates with a 6-2 record. The Pirates, however, are sitting at 5-3 with a 4-1 record in MEAC play and must now put Saturday’s loss to the side to focus on this much-anticipated matchup.

Prior to this past Saturday’s game, Hampton coaches acknowledged the importance of the inter-conference battle against NC Central. However, like any team, they were focused on the task ahead: to handle Bethune-Cookman on the road.

Pirates defensive coordinator Kevin Ketchum stressed the importance of focusing on the task ahead.

“We know Central is very good; they’ve lost one game in this last three years in the league, and that was last week to Norfolk State,” Ketchum said. “Do we have a game plan? No. We have our plan of how to practice, and you don’t change that.”

Ketchum also discussed the Pirates’ 5-2 record and the landscape for the rest of the season in MEAC play.

“So far, 5-2 has been successful, but there’s four left,” he said. “Now, with four left, that can go 9-2, or that can go 5-6. I don’t see anything that would lead me to believe that any of the last four are going to be easy.”

Injuries are another factor that could decimate a football team, and they have impacted some games already. Ketchum addressed that by saying, “You’re deep into the season, so try to get some kids who are hurt back onto the field so that you have a full complement of players to be ready for Saturday.”

The Pirates fell just short on Saturday afternoon against Bethune-Cookman. They had 125 yards rushing along with one rushing touchdown and a 6.8 passing average per attempt. Hampton also had two passing touchdowns, both of which were thrown by quarterback Delmon Williams to wide receiver Ronald Bell. Bell had 119 all-purpose yards, 79 of which were receiving.

This game had been controlled by Bethune-Cookman for the first half, but after halftime, Hampton came back to take a lead late in the third quarter. Even after the Pirates took a 21-17 lead, the Eagles scored late in the fourth quarter with a 7-yard touchdown pass by wide receiver Jawill Davis, making it a 24-21 game.

In heartbreaking fashion, the Pirates were unable to tie the game toward the end, as kicker Adam Brown missed a 29-yard field goal that would have sent the game to overtime.

Hampton did struggle late in Saturday’s game, but with time to regroup, the Pirates should be ready to play arguably their most important game of the season. NC Central, however, has plenty of momentum heading into this Saturday after a dominating performance against Delaware State. With that being said, they’ll be confident in trying to gain MEAC supremacy over Hampton.

The Pirates will look to secure a win to stay on track of what already seems to be a promising year so far.

It’s “Ball” season

Justin Whitner | Staff Writer

It seems as if the No. 2 draft pick from the 2017 class has a target on his back.

On the Los Angeles Lakers’ opening night, the Houston Rockets’ Patrick Beverley made it clear that it was going to be a long season for Lonzo Ball. In his debut, Ball ended up struggling. He never found a true comfort zone on the floor, and this is likely due to the defensive play of Beverley. The Rockets guard gave Ball trouble throughout the whole game. Beverly gave the rookie a few pushes and hard fouls while chasing him down the floor. Ball ended up bouncing back the very next night in an away matchup vs. the Suns. He finished with 29 points and was one assist away from a triple double.

It’s nearly impossible to discuss Lonzo Ball without mentioning his father. Love him or hate him, LaVar Ball does his best impression of speaking things into existence. He spoke Lonzo Ball playing for the Lakers into reality. The head of the Ball family made a new case that was proven on the night of Oct. 25.

“Wizards better beware,” LaVar Ball said. “Lonzo doesn’t lose twice in a week.”

Sure enough, the Lakers went on to beat the then-undefeated Washington Wizards in a late night overtime game.

“It’s a team game,” LaVar Ball said. “That’s how you’re going to beat someone. If you go one-on-one, you’re never going to win. If you keep taking it personal, trying to go one-on-one with my son, you’re going to lose every time.”

John Wall vs. Lonzo Ball was a hyped matchup for many reasons. For one, it was a matchup between a top-tier guard in the league and a 19-year-old pass-first point guard. Wall, who some say is the best defensive point guard in the league, struggled to find rhythm late in the game. His questionable shot-taking plagued the Wizards as the game went on.

The Wizards are hoping to reach a top-three seed in the Eastern Conference, while the Lakers would be ecstatic if they even reached the playoffs this season.

If the Lakers make the playoffs, it would be the first time since the season Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles in 2013.

So far this season, all games have proven one thing about Lonzo Ball: He will never focus on attacking the opposition one-on-one. Ball plays the game as a team sport and finds joy in making his teammates better players. The points don’t matter in Ball’s eyes, as long as his team is improving every week.

It will be interesting to see what Ball brings to the court for basketball fans the rest of the season.

 

Buckeyes shake the football playoff positioning

Nazim Trammell-Wells | Contributing Writer

A fierce showdown between the Ohio State Buckeyes and Penn State Nittany Lions on Oct. 28 shook the football landscape.

The excitement for the heated rivalry game only grew due to the teams’ rankings in the top 10, with Penn State at No. 2 and Ohio State at No. 6. To add on to the already high stakes, both teams are aiming for the national championship playoffs that only allow the top four teams in the nation to participate.

Penn State started off the game strong. Heisman Award front-runner Saquon Barkley was as good as advertised; he returned the opening game kickoff for 97 yards to start the game off 7-0. Shortly after, a fumble by the Buckeyes was recovered by Penn State linebacker Koa Farmer. This put the Nittany Lions in the position to eventually score again, making the game 14-3 in only the first quarter. With Penn State scoring so effortlessly, Ohio State found itself in a big hole, a hole so big that it made the highly anticipated game look like it was going to be a blowout.

After a slow start, Ohio State rallied together to make the game competitive. Ohio State finally got into the end zone twice in the second quarter with a 2-yard run from Mike Weber and a touchdown pass from star QB J.T. Barrett. A productive second quarter from the Buckeyes put them in striking range at the half, with the score 28-17.

The Buckeyes still hadn’t improved after halftime, only kicking a field goal and getting stopped on multiple drives. They ended the third quarter with the score 35-20, but the Buckeyes found motivation after a controversial call. A pass that caused two players to wrestle for the ball appeared to be an Ohio State interception, but it was overruled by officials and credited as a Penn State touchdown.

Usually, this would be a deflating momentum shift, but Barrett played the game of his life. He connected with Johnnie Dixon twice in the fourth quarter, first on a 41-yard touchdown at the 11-minute mark and then on a 10-yard score with 4:20 remaining. Later on, Barrett gave Ohio State the lead with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Baugh. Overall, in the fourth quarter, Ohio State outscored Penn State 19-3.

Barrett finished with 328 yards and 4 touchdowns. He also ran for 95 yards. Barrett was 13 for 13 passing for 170 yards in the fourth quarter. OSU propelled itself into the national championship conversation.

Hampton track runner Sissy Farmer, sister of a Penn State linebacker, had this to say about the playoff implications of the loss for Penn State: “I think the game Saturday affects the conference and the national playoffs. But I do believe that there’s [still] a chance for PSU.”