Seven Positive Thoughts About All the Patriot League Recruiting Classes

It's recruiting season.  Every incoming recruit is a Patriot League all-star, everyone is a first team all-American, everyone is undefeated.  It's all good times, a chance for kids to be admitted to some of the best Universities in the world.  In that, it's a win for everyone.

While we wait for each of the remaining recruits to be announced as a part of their recruiting classes, I thought I'd comb through all of the incoming classes of the Patriot League and tell you what sticks out to me.

This summart isn't a ratings-based system, than folks like 247Sports have in terms of measuring the number of "starred recruits" (they list Holy Cross as the "winner"), or even a hybrid-based system, like LFN's yearly Patsy Ratings (last seasons "winner": Lehigh) or HERO Sports' list of the top overall FCS recruits (which lists Lafayette as the "winner").  It's just one guy, looking at the recruit lists, and giving his opinion.

Let's start.
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Lehigh’s 2017 Recruitment Class Big on Championships and Big on Versatility

(Photo Credit: Dan Gleiter/PennLive)

Head coach Andy Coen came into the conference room at Taylor Gym with a broad smile on his face – the type of face that comes from winning a Patriot League Championship last year, of course, but also the type of face that comes from a man quite happy with his incoming recruiting class.

The fifteen names in the incoming class, "with four extra guys to announce later [on]", Coen said, seemed to fill Lehigh's needs, the fifth consecutive year that Lehigh has been recruiting with the same type of  scholarships as the rest of FCS.

"We had to shore up some depth, we really had to get a little bit of everything," he said.  "We graduated a lot of guys in the secondary, so it was important to get a good group there this year, and I think we did that."

Four defensive backs were announced today as being a part of the incoming class, DB Divine Buckrham, DB Tre Cundiff, DB Tre Neal, and DB Jaylen Floyd.

"The four defensive backs are not only capable of being corners but can also play safety or potentially grow into our rover position," Coen explained in Lehigh's official release. "That's always good when you have kids who start out with the ability to be very versatile in our defense."

In fact, the theme for this entire incoming class could be one of versatility – versatile defensive backs, a versatile running back in RB Evan Chadbourn (a "triple threat type of guy", according to Andy), and even a versatile quarterback in QB Addison Shoup (who is listed as a pro-style quarterback but showed some running ability in his the highlight reel that Lehigh Athletics showed of all the recruits announced today).

"Addison is a very active quarterback," Coen said. "He has a strong arm and does a lot of different things with his feet. He's a little different from QB Nick Shafnisky as he's more of a pure passer than Nick but he's capable of beating defenses by throwing the ball and running with it."

It felt like the guys Andy announced today on offense and defense could be used in a variety of different roles, and that's just how he wanted it.

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A List of Elite Athletes Falsely Accused of Doping

There are enough cases of elite athletes falsely accused of doping that I thought I’d start a list. The list below includes cases where the evidence is strongly suggestive, at least, that the athlete was falsely accused by WADA (or other organizations) of having violated the provisions of the WADA Code.

Below I list the athlete, the sport and the drug that the evidence suggests that the athlete was falsely accused of taking. Click on the athletes name for supporting information. I welcome any comments or suggestions to the list.

  • Mamadou Sakho (France, football, Higenamine)
  • Kusal Perera (India, cricket, 19-Norandrostenedione)
  • Paola Pliego (Mexico, fencing, modafinil)
  • Andrus Veerpalu (Estonia, Nordic skiing, recombinant human growth hormone)
  • Erik Tysse (Norway, race walking, rEPO)
  • Steven Colvert (Ireland, athletics, rEPO)
  • Hossam Ghaly (Egypt, football, nandrolone)
  • Samir Ibrahim Ali Hassan (UAE, football, nandrolone)
  • Hassan Tir (UAE, football, nandrolone)
  • Al Kowaibki (Saudi Arabia, football, nandrolone)
  • Pedro Solberg (Brazil, beach volleyball, testosterone)
  • Diana Taurasi (US, basketball, modafinil)
  • Monique Coker (US, basketball, modafinil)
  • Deco (Portugal, football, hydrochlorothiazide and tamoxifen)
The consequences to an elite athlete of being falsely accused of doping can be career ending. I will update this list as warranted.

Story Of Philadephia Eagles’ 1968 Mud Bowl Parallels 2016 Election

How do you write about sports when it doesn't feel like a game anymore?

This is the crux of the question I've been struggling with over the last few weeks.

Like many of you, I was shocked at the election of Donald Trump to become our next President.  Also like many of you, I paid as he did things differently when it came to talking about the political foes he defeated, how he went about assembling a cabinet, and how he engaged the press.

Everything about this point in time in history feels historic.  No set of Americans have ever elected someone like Donald Trump as President.  Nobody, not Trump of the mobs of Twitter people that seem to follow him, have used Twitter to attack people so directly almost like a weapon, especially focused at journalists that are trying to get at the truth.

Frankly, nobody knows what's coming next.

So how do you write about sports at a time like this?  How do you compartmentalize what you're feeling about the election, and crack open the vault which waxes philosophic about Lehigh's latest and greatest postseason award for football, or latest achievement in basketball or wrestling?

The answer appears to be to look to history – and to look to sports – to find narratives.  And I found one.

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2016 Season In Review: Mountain Hawks Complete Five Year Trek To Patriot League Championship

Kids come to play football at Lehigh because they want their games to matter.

They come to Lehigh willing to sacrifice so much, because they want to win games, of course, but they also play the game in order to win championships – Patriot League Championships.
They want those rings.
Sure, they get to square off against the Villanova's, James Madison's and New Hampshire's of the FCS world to measure themselves against the best of their division.  And they get to participate in the nation's most played Rivalry in all of college football, putting them in an elite club of players and into college football history.
All of those things are very important, of course, and allow them great playing memories and, in the case of the Lafayette game, perennial bragging rights.  
But 2015's heartbreak in Hamilton, the 49-42 loss to Colgate, really hurt on a fundamental level for this Lehigh team.  When that senior class was recruited, one of the things that is a part of the deal is that the Mountain Hawks have won Patriot League championships at least once in every four year span.  Until, that is, the class of 2016, though they came agonizingly close several times.
That disappointment seemed to inform this year's team, which also had a couple of fifth-year seniors in senior WR Derek Knott and senior ROV Laquan Lambert, that so many of last year's team didn't get the chance at the championship rings that they ended up earning this season.  
It informed them all the way to a championship, and rings.

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Lab Times Exchange on Problematic Doping Conviction of Steven Colvert

Today, Lab Times has published an exchange between WADA (Christine Ayotte) and the team of Norwegian scientists who first raised questions about the problematic doping conviction of Irish sprinter Steven Colvert. For background see: here and here and here.

WADA’s response comes in the form of a version of the letter first posted on the WAADS website last month, which I discussed here. Ayotte’s main response is to appeal to authority:

While it may sound seemingly insignificant to refer to ‘WADA’s credibility’, this oneside vitriolic opus is a charge against skilled, experienced scientists. The SAR-PAGE and IEF data presented are of excellent quality, the results clear and convincing. The methods, the interpretation of test results were published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature (more than 40 research articles from anti-doping scientists) and so were the criteria for issuing positive findings that are available on WADA’s website.

Let me point out what should be obvious: everyone in this issue is an expert. All have impressive degrees, publications and long CVs. Appealing to authority doesn’t get you very far. In fact, with various WADA labs suspended around the world, including for improper false positive results, now is probably not the time to appeal to WADA’s authority. Ultimately, what really matters here is evidence and procedure.

The team of Norwegian scientists (Jon Nissen-Meyer, Erik Boye, Bjarne Østerud,Tore Skotland) respond in the same issue of Lab Times.  They note the appeal to authority presented by Ayotte, and push back against the idea that it is improper to discuss this issue in the academic literature:

It is fair to say that Ayotte presents no scientific arguments against the assessments we make in our article. She claims that the scientists involved in analysing Colvert’s urine sample were highly competent and that the methods applied (PAGE, IEF) are widely used and have been the subject of many publications. We are not convinced that these matters determine whether the data were correctly obtained, interpreted and presented. More importantly, they certainly cannot determine whether or not problematic and inconsistent results should be subject to public discussion.

The exchange does get into some very important substance.

First, Ayotte criticizes the Norwegian scientists for not presenting their own data. This is of course ironic because WADA destroyed the original samples and has thus far refused to make available the original images from the case to either Colvert or the Norwegian researchers.

But the original data is probably not even necessary to resolve this case. The most important aspect of the exchange is that Ayotte repeats her claim that WADA scientists made mistakes in their evaluation of the data in Colvert’s case:

If the laboratory expert was correctly quoted, he made a mistake when he stated that the amount of recombinant was small when compared to the endogenous EPO.

The Norwegian scientists, in their response to Ayotte, document that indeed the expert was correctly quoted making this claim, as was a second WADA expert. They write:

Ayotte clearly states in her letter that the laboratory experts are incorrect in their judgments of the PAGE results, and thus there is a disagreement among WAADS experts in the interpretation of the results used to convict an athlete for doping. We maintain that if the experts in the hearing are correct about the low level of rEPO in the PAGE analyses, the hearing should have concluded that the analyses are not consistent with one another and the case should have been dismissed. Alternatively, Ayotte’s interpretation is correct, in which case she has to explain how she can see such a large amount of rEPO in a gel where other people experienced in interpreting PAGE tests, including experts from two WADA labs, see little or nothing.

Either way, something is not right here.

The Norwegian researchers are correct. With WADA scientists in open disagreement on the data in this case and a team of independent researchers having published a critique of the application of WADA guidelines, that should provide sufficient evidence to overturn the Colvert judgment.

I don’t know if Colvert doped and neither do you. Nor does WADA. At this point proof of guilt or proof of innocence is probably not forthcoming. But that is the point. Colvert should be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and WADA’s evidence does not prove him guilty.

Here is a big problem that Colvert and other athletes falsely convicted face: An expert familiar with the case tells me that for Colvert to take on WADA with a legal challenge would cost him more than $ 200,000, just to start. That would appear to be prohibitive for Colvert, based on media reports.

So even as the scientific literature and the court of public opinion appear to indicate that Colvert was wronged by anti-doping authorities and procedures, he essentially has no recourse to right the wrong. His athletic career has been derailed and that won’t change. But it is not too late for Irish Sport, in particular, to do the right thing in support of one of its athletes.

Mistakes can be made, even in the best run processes. How organizations respond in the face of evidence of mistakes says far more about the integrity of those organizations than the mistake itself.

Irish Sport, do the right thing.

Lehigh Football Recruiting: Analyzing Needs For Class of 2021

Is it already time to ask Santa for a bag filled with new Lehigh recruits?

Since the conclusion of Lehigh's championship 2016 football season, head coach Andy Coen and all of his assistant coaches have been on the trail recruiting the next great Lehigh football players.  While it's a "quiet period" now, as per the NCAA, the Mountain Hawks have been busy.

But what, exactly, does Lehigh need in regards to the offseason?

I forgot; that's why you're here.  Let me share what I think.
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What Are You Doing the Night of Lehigh’s 2017 Home Opener?

I have this vision.

It's the weekend of the home opener at Murray Goodman Stadium, Labor Day weekend.  It could be a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday.

And it's 6:00 PM.

In 2018, the Lehigh football team will open the season with a big celebration of the football program – at Navy, Lehigh's first game against an FBS team in over a decade.

In 2017, why not, as a one-off opportunity, try to have one Lehigh football game, the home opener, be the first-ever night game at Murray Goodman Stadium?

Will it cost money?  Yes.  Will it be easy?  Probably not.

However, is it doable?  I've got to believe the answer is "yes".

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Review of the Professional Cyclists’ Union, A Guest Post

This is a guest post from Steve and Joel at The Outer Line.

Review of the Professional Cyclists’ Union

The Cycliste Professionnels Associés (CPA), formed in 1999, had two important early accomplishments – the “Joint Agreement” with the teams to help govern the relationship between teams and their riders, and a riders’ “Solidarity Fund” -to provide limited financial support to certain retiring riders.  However, the CPA has struggled to grow or expand its influence very much in pro cycling over the intervening fifteen years.  A recent review and assessment by The Outer Line takes a detailed look at the performance and operations of the CPA, evaluating how well the organization has complied with its own by-laws, and benchmarking its performance against a widely-accepted set of external sports governance guidelines.  Although clearly hamstrung by its historical financial and human resources constraints, the CPA nevertheless rates fairly weakly in terms of complying with accepted governance standards – particularly in terms of its financial management and the general transparency of its operations.  The Outer Line report describes the current  risks and the future opportunities by which the CPA might play a greater role in pro cycling, and provides a set of eight specific recommendations for how the CPA can become more powerful in the future.   The report argues that a stronger cycling union would actually strengthen the overall sport, and would actually be good for the other key stakeholders in the sport, pointing out that other pro sports made their greatest leaps in popularity and revenue following the development of a more powerful voice for the athletes. 

An executive summary of the report can be found here, and the full 15-page report is available to be downloaded here.