Many big-name coaches have been saying that the Regionals will be the death of the traditional collegiate conference championships (of course, its' the big-name coaches at the big-name schools who were generally most opposed to the Regionals concept to begin with, so I'm not sure we're dealing with unbiased analysis).
I'm curious as to how those of you out there are real fans (as opposed to journalists, who are supposed to practice "no cheering in the pressbox") who were at one of the many big conference meets last weekend felt about that in retrospect? Were the meets any less exciting than in the past? Did the athletes seem less motivated to go out and win one for old Siwash U?
I wasn't at the IC4A last week, but asked the same question of non-jurnos. The consensus was that as much as the IC4A had turned into a last-chance meet in recent years (except for the two or three schools with a chance to win the team title), it was even worse this year.
West Virginia won the team title after finishing only 6th at the Big East champs.
First, a disclaimer: I am a journalist, and I cover one or two track meets a year as a favor to a sports editor friend, but I'm not really a sportswriter -- 99 percent of my journalistic life is covering politics, not track. So most meets I attend are strictly as a fan.
I've attended previous Big 12 meets and thought the meet this year in Austin stacked up as well as any. I know UT women's coach Bev Kearney is vociferously against regionals, but I also saw her women's team competing hard to win this year's Big 12 title. If there was any slack-off in quality, I didn't notice. The men's meet was a fairly tight competition until about three events left. And the mile relay was a barnburner! Baylor considers the conference 4x4 to be its exclusive property, and their anchor showed a lot of team pride and sense of tradition when he blasted out a 43.9 to haul in the Texas and Texas Tech teams that appeared to have him whipped until 100 meters left. I loved it. I'm hoping that next year's Big 12 will also be somewhere in Texas -- I'll be so happy if I can see conference, regionals (at Texas A&M) and nationals (Austin) in one year!
I think the IC4As will fade away just like in XC. Back in my day (late 80s), the 2 big meets for mediocre athletes like myself were Penn Relays and Heps. If you were fortunate, you got to compete at the IC4As too. I think for the majority of athletes, the conference meet will still be the biggest meet of the year with the new regional set up being a very nice bonus. Saying you qualified/competed at the NCCA Regional just has a much nicer ring to it than I ran at the IC4As, in my opinion. Of course, if you expect all along to compete at the NCAAs then it's a totally different story (especially if you don't get through Regionals).
I was also at the Big 12 Meet. I have been to at least a couple of these meets and some SWC meets before that. I didn't see any obvious evidence of teams holding back for regionals. Texas women had folks doubling and tripling in events. I sat behind the Missouri coaches and they were ecstatic when it appeared they had finished 3rd on the womens side after beating KSU in the 4x400 relay. They had not quite figured the score correctly and KSU had nudged them by 1/3 of a point. As far as being ho-hum as one person said, it appeared to me the talent level was down a little and the "stars" were mainly freshman like Sanya Richards, Brendan Christian and Labryan Blanton.
I was at the Big 10 meet and saw a great meet both days I was there on both the mens and women side. Both team titles were close until the very end. The Michigan women sealed the deal in the high jump event which ended very late in the day.
The men's team title was just as exciting. Purdue's 1-2-3-4 finish in the 100 meters was impressive, but is wasn't enough as the home town Gopher's came away with the victory with sime awesome races of their own!!!!!!
>as to how those of you out there are real fans
>(as opposed to journalists, who are supposed to
>practice "no cheering in the pressbox")
now that i think about it I remember Jim Mckay not cheering at '64 Olymics when Billy Mills did that thing he did. Saying anything would have detracted from the moment ... where have all the collegiate conference championship flowers gone .. gone by way of the Regionals everyone
>I thought the Big 12 was a rather ho-hum affair,
>with pretty awful attendance.
By "ho-hum," do you mean the competitiveness? I just can't agree with you there. But you're absolutely right about attendance (see my other post under "Does Anyone Care If There Are Any College Track Fans?").
now that i think about it I
>remember Jim Mckay not cheering at '64 Olymics
>when Billy Mills did that thing he did. Saying
>anything would have detracted from the moment ...
>where have all the collegiate conference
>championship flowers gone .. gone by way of the
You were at Jim McKay's house?! That's my subtle way of noting that since NBC did the Tokyo Olympics, not ABC, Mr. McKay probably wasn't even in attendance, so knowing whether he cheered or not is tough to say.
The play-by-play announcer was Bud Palmer, and you're right he didn't say anything! It's unclear whether he was just stunned by the enormity of what Mills was pulling off or if his sudden appearance left him grasping trying to figure out who it was (since he was a football guy as much as anything), but he indeed sat there in silence.
Your TV set was not silent, however. The legendary tracknut Dick Bank (T&FN's high school editor in the early '50s) was in the booth--don't know if he was doing color commentary or was the Walt Murphy of his day, imparting invaluable knowledge--and was so aghast at Palmer's inaction that he literally grabbed the microphone out of his hand and started shrieking Mills' name.
Needless to say, he never worked for NBC again. He did become the lead guy on CBS's track series of the late '60s and early '70s though, and anybody who heard him will agree he was clearly the best TV guy the sport has ever had.
He got pissed off at track in the late '70s and became a basebal freak.
From a II February 1971 interview with him in T&FN:
""I was working as a so-called expert commentator with Bud Palmer. I became more excited during the 10,000 than ever before, and when Palmer wasn't calling Billy Mills I took over. I only worked that first day. I was a spectator for the rest of the time, becuase the producer and I couldn'tsee eye to eye and it woul dhave been fustrating to work under such conditions."
On 22 May 2003, Garry Hill wrote:
"Many big-name coaches have been saying that the Regionals will be the death of the traditional collegiate conference championships . . . I'm curious as to how those of you out there . . . who were at one of the many big conference meets last weekend felt about that in retrospect? Were the meets any less exciting than in the past? Did the athletes seem less motivated to go out and win one for old Siwash U?"
Speaking only for the Southeast Conference, where I served as an official. I believe the athletes seemed very motivated.
As for those "many big-name coaches," they should consider the excitement that builds up in other college sports (e.g. basketball's "March madness") through a series of conference and regional competitions enroute to nationals.
Note also the continuing advocacy of another competition round in college football via playoffs leading to a "true national championship."
Closing extra: Fox Sports, after multiple showings last week of the PAC-10 and Big 12 conference meets, now schedules for next Saturday (May 31) the Southeast Conference meet. Try to watch for the men's 800 meters, won by one of the best tactical racing displays I've seen.