Chris Officer

Explore Through a World of Facts

Depleted Blue Demons finding ways to win

Despite five key players sidelined with injuries and leading scorer Anna Martin hindered with the flu, DePaul gutted out an impressive 71-59 win over rival Marquette Sunday at McGrath Arena. 

Martin scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and freshman guard Brittney Hrynko added 16 points and five assists for DePaul, (No. 20 ESPN/USA Today No.24 AP) who have been struggling all season to keep players on the court and healthy. 

“When (Martin) decided that she’s going to have the flu today, I just told her she has the Michael Jordan flu. We’re not going to let (Martin) sit down and not play.” Said Coach Doug Bruno, when learning his star player had the flu just 15 minutes before tip-off. 

Coach Bruno was of course referring to Michael Jordan’s incredible Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals, when he scored 38 points while battling the flu. 

Similar to Jordan, Martin didn’t play as if she had the flu. Her relentless effort made an impact on both sides of the court as Martin posted her first career double-double.  However, the flu she was ailing from was the only comparison Martin felt she had with the great Michael Jordan. 

“I feel better now, I think I might of sweated (the flu) out a bit, but no I don’t feel like Michael Jordan, not even close,” Martin said.

The Blue Demons, who were already without pre-season All America forward Keisha Hampton, struggled early against Marquette (13-11, 4-7).  The Golden Eagles took advantage of DePaul’s lack of size in the first half by blocking shots, creating turnovers and getting the Blue Demons in early foul trouble.   

“Marquette is so big, I knew the guards really had to step up and put a body on them,” said the 5-foot-9-inch Martin, who had to take on the added responsibility of guarding Marquette’s front court.  “I just tried to crash the boards when I could.” 

With just over two minutes in the first half and Marquette leading 28-22, the tide shifted when Marquette’s 6-foot-5 freshman center Chelsie Butler twisted her ankle and left to the locker room.  With Butler in the game, Marquette’s ability to control the paint gave the Golden Eagles a distinct advantage both offensively and defensively.  After Butler’s injury, however, Marquette instantly lost their edge in size. 

Despite the loss of their freshman center Butler, Marquette still lead DePaul 44-41 midway through the second half.  Then DePaul started useing their quickness to their advantage and picked up the tempo of the game.  The Blue Demons full court pressure was the catalyst to their comeback. With just over 10 minutes remaining in the game, DePaul forced three Marquette turnovers and converted on four consecutive transition layups to take a 49-45 lead.  This stemmed a 15-5 Blue Demons run and Marquette found themselves trailing 56-49 with just over seven minutes to play. 

With Marquette only trailing by four with six minutes left in the game, senior guard Deanna Ortiz stepped up and drained two 3-pointers to give the Blue Demons a comfortable 62-52 lead and DePaul didn’t look back from there. 

“Deanna hit a couple huge shots down the stretch when it was still a very (close) game,” said Coach Bruno as he praised his senior guard.  “It was a huge, huge three.” 

Marquette’s Katherine Plouffe scored a game-high 22 points in the losing effort, 16 of which came in the second half.  Arlesia Morse added 15 points for Marquette, but it wasn’t enough as DePaul’s offensive poise sustained Marquette’s persistent attack.    

The win improved DePaul’s record to 19-7, 7-5 in conference play.  Marquette suffered its fifth loss in the last six games and is clinging on to their NCAA tournament bid lives.  DePaul on the other hand is adapting well without their star Hampton, whose college career has ended.  The Blue Demons are finding ways to win despite the injuries. 

Marquette managed to get to the free-throw line 21 times, but only converted 13 of them.  But it was 3-point shooting proved to be the difference. The Blue Demons – who are top ten in the nation in 3-point field goals made – shot 9-for-28 on 3-pointers, compared to Marquette’s 2-for-13.     

The Marquette Golden Eagles played the game in pink uniforms commemorating Coach Kay Vow and her “play4 Kay” breast cancer awareness. 

February 13, 2012 Posted by | Sports Blog Extravaganza | Leave a comment

Lost and found

LOOKOUT PASS — On the brink of another successful day of skiing in the mountains of Montana, my mind  started to meander to the ski lodge. I was imagining that first sip of cold beer splashing my lips.  Little did I know that that much anticipated sip of beer would turn into a miraculous mark of achievement.

The day was drawing to an end. The sun was setting, the temperature dropping, and my toes were feeling the sting. The decision to call it a day was all mine. On the second run of the day, I was separated from ski buddies – with who I came up with – a precursor of things to come.

I wanted to make my last trip down the mountain memorable, so I was adamant to ski my favorite hill – Rainbow Ridge.

Looking at Rainbow Ridge, I could see a long line of pine trees hugging each side of the slope. Despite Rainbow Ridge being my hill to ski, I’ve skied it several times, and I felt an urge of spontaneity. While descending from the hill, I quickly made up my mind that I would venture off the beaten path, go off-course and cut through the trees.

As I meticulously made my way down, small signs were posted with warnings, “Out of bounds,” and “Ski patrol doesn’t patrol this area.” But in all honestly, I’m not sure what the signs said.  I wasn’t paying too much attention to the signs.  All I was focused on was dodging trees and ducking branches.

I came to a stop and was now standing over a steep slope, surrounded by trees.  I pointed my ski tips down and raced through the woods. Exhilarated, I cut in and out of trees, making my way through the powdery, virgin snow. The rest of the mountain – the part that is actually considered the ski resort – was compiled of dense, choppy snow that sounded like sandpaper under your skis.  Not my snow. My snow was thick, and untouched by humans.

My initial plan before I ventured into uncharted snow was to gradually ski to my left and eventually cut back onto a slope within the confines of Lookout. But the further down the hill I got, the further away from skiing civilization I became. Finally, after five minutes of whizzing through trees, my journey came to a pause. Once I broke the final tree line, I stopped and my skies were positioned parallel atop the snow.

With the sun shining bright on my sweat soaked face, I realized I was stuck. Suspended in what only could be a cross-country path of some sort. Both ski and snowmobile tracks were imprinted in the snow. At first I stood there, in thought, like a chess player contemplating his next move.

I began heading west, plunging my poles in the deep snow, trying to gain as much momentum and coast before plunging my poles in again. In the distance, two other ski poles were sporadically stuck in the snow. Abandoned. I tried not to think about why two lonely ski poles where left in the middle of nowhere, unattended. Because every thought that arose was drowning in pessimism.

After cross-country skiing for 10 minutes – though it seemed like 60 – I decided to switch my game plan. The further west I went, I started noticing a new hill materialize to my left.

I figured, instead of skiing on flat land the entire way back to the lodge, I will go down this recently developed slope and gradually head west while moving downward. So again, I faced the slope, pointed my tips downward and raced towards the lodge. Not even a minute passed before I encountered some more flatland. But this time it wasn’t just flat land that was preventing my progress.

To my amazement, a creek, with flowing water, about five feet wide rushed through the mountains and along my path.

Worries crept slowly through my skull. Why is there a creek, with running water, smack in the middle of a ski resort? That’s when it occurred to me. I was no longer in the ski resort.

With nowhere to go but the way I came, I bridged my skis across the stream and desperately sprang forward, clearing the water.

Because my arms were tired from pushing, I started to walk.  Me and my 59-inch skis making our way through the snow, flopping around like a scuba diver walking on the beach. I had no clue what my next move would be.

I removed my skis, thinking I could gain ground faster walking with them off. I took one step, instantly I sunk down, my entire lower body inundated by the snow.

Finally, as I’m cross-country skiing my way back to some sort of civilization, a ray of hope shines on me. I notice two pairs of boot prints, walking in the same direction I was skiing.

My first thought was, at least I’m not the only person dumb enough to be headed up creek without a paddle.  My second thought was, just follow these boot prints, and sooner or later I’d be sitting in the lodge, wrapping my lips around an ice-cold beer.

Dressed in multiple layers and pouring down sweat, I removed two sweaters, my scarf, hat and gloves. Vigorously, I made my way through the unforgiving snow. My momentum slowed by water accumulating on top of the snow from the hot sun.

The day was creeping into the late afternoon and the lifts were beginning to close.  I could hear trucks in the distance.  At first I was hoping it was the sound of snowmobiles, but realized that was just wishful thinking.  Every bend in the trail gave me hope of seeing a skier, or a snowboarder, something to signify that I was still on the ski resort. I took another bend, I looked up, a thick bed of bushes and tree branches impeded my path.

I looked down at the set of boot-prints I was following for so long, they suddenly stopped.  It then occurred to me that I wasn’t following two sets of footprints.  I was following one set of footprints.  A set of boot-prints that walked one-way, turned around, and walked another. I was following a set of boot-prints that were lost – like me.

My instincts failed me and I was ‘going the wrong way!’

Frustration filled my body.  I took a second and sat in the snow. Thirsty, I took a fistful and ate it.

The one constant that remained was the noise of speeding trucks racing down Interstate-90.  I decided that I’d come too far to turn around.  So I found a slight passage through the thick woods and I continued on.

The further I went, the louder I heard trucks. I started to see a slight glimpses of the tops of semis just above the ridge.  A ridiculous, but a realistic opportunity for me being found was creeping into my head.  It was something that I thought of 20 minutes before but laughed it off and considered it a joke.  But suddenly I started to think that this joke would soon turn into reality.

Facing the highway, I emphatically removed my skis.  I secured my poles to one wrist and grabbed my two skis with my other hand.  I realized my only hope of survival – or at least saving the embarrassment of having ski patrol come rescue me – was to make it to the highway.  The only thing separating me from I-90 was a hill around 30 feet high, too steep to stand on and covered with snow and sticks.  With my skis on one arm and my poles on the other, I dug my hands and boots into the side of the hill and I slowly made my decent towards the highway.

The climb was grueling.  Worse than cross-country skiing, worse than crawling over a stream on skis.  One aggressive step sent my feet and hands falling through the two-feet deep snow that had accumulated on the side of the hill.  I held a firm grip on my skis and poles, which made it harder to climb. I knew if one of my skis dropped down the steep hill, I wasn’t going back down to get it.

Gingerly, I took another climb toward the top.  As I got higher up the hill, the white snow was turning black from car exhaust and oil splattered from the highway.  I knew I was close.

Winded and out of breath, I made my last reach, threw my ski equipment to the top of the hill and lunged to my finish line.  I felt I made it.  Then quickly realized I was on the side of a highway, not certain if I was in Idaho or Montana.  I started to walk.  My ski boots scraping against the cold highway gravel.  Cars and semis raced by at 70 mph, blown away beer cans  and potato chip wrappers scattered across the shoulder.

Too ashamed to stick my thumb out like a true hitchhiker, I simply walked down I-90, my skis over my shoulder, hoping a motorist would stop.

The sun was approaching the mountain tops, I knew it would be dusk soon and I still wasn’t sure how far I was from the ski lodge.  That’s when two red lights lit up like an angel from heaven.  But it wasn’t an angel, it was a car hitting their breaks and pulling off to the side of the road.  The car then began to back up and I quickly raced to meet it.

A woman rolled down her window and asked if I’d like a ride to Lookout?  I smiled and she helped me throw my skis in the back of her truck.  Her husband who was driving stayed quiet as his wife was loquacious and asked me questions.  I noticed we were at mile marker three.

Three miles away from the lodge.   Sitting in the back seat of the strangers car, I could only think of how did I manage to ski three miles off course?

The short five-minute drive ended with me thanking the motorists repeatedly.

The lady empathized with me and simply said while I was leaving, “You need a beer!”

May 30, 2013 Posted by | Sports Blog Extravaganza | Leave a comment

NFC North: Best Division in NFL, Bar None

Despite earning the nickname “black & blue” division for its’ physical, defensive-minded football – and while still embodying this style of play – the NFC North has evolved into something different.

Draw plays on third and 10 are a thing of the past and high-octane offense is the budding future.

The once defensive-oriented division has transformed into a deadly offensive juggernaut.

Thus, making the NFC North the best division in football. Here are the four reasons why.
Nominations for the AFC North and the NFC East were taken under consideration, but from top to bottom, the NFC North has earned the title “Class of the NFL.”
Let’s get down to brass tacks.

Reason 1: Aaron Rodgers and Co.
They didn’t win it all last year, but they were close. Defensively they can cover receivers and despite an underwhelming 2011 season for Clay Matthews, the Packers can still get after the quarterback. This team can really play D, and their ability to force turnovers (38 in 2011) stops red zone drives and sparks good offensive field position.

But it is quarterback Aaron Rodgers that makes this team great. After compiling one of the best regular seasons in NFL history, (4,643 yards, 45 TD, 6 int) there is no sign of him slowing down in 2012. The Packers don’t have a stud running back or wide receiver, but collectively, they’re amongst the top offenses in the game.

Although father time might be catching up to Greg Jennings and defending Dancing With the Stars Champion Donald Driver, this offense has plenty of stars on the rise. Jordy Nelson might see a little more attention from the secondary this year, but the young wideout should have an outstanding year.

Both tight end Jermichael Finley and running back James Starks give Rodgers a well-rounded offensive attack.  And the addtion of Cedrick Benson only adds to their depth. 

The immense amount of talent in America’s dairyland doesn’t question whether the Packers will make the playoffs, but rather how far in January they will go.

Reason 2: Brandon Marshall and a motivated Matt Forte

Word around Chicago – where I currently reside – is that this may be the Bears’ corp groups last year to make a Super Bowl run. The Bears’ defense, led by future Hall of Famers Brian Urlacher  and Lance Briggs has been the cornerstone of the franchise for the past decade. Even taking a Chicago team led by, wait for it… Rex Grossman to the Super Bowl in 2006.

But all great things must come to an end, and unfortunately for Bears fans, this heralded defense is on the El approaching 95th Street and Dan Ryan. Luckily for the Bears, they have an offense this year that might even be better than their defense.

When healthy, Jay Cutler is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the game. Giving him any receiver other than Devin Hester and Johnny Knox is a tremendous improvement. Giving Cutler a former Pro Bowler who once caught 20 passes from another Chicago quarterback legend, Kyle Orton, has success written all over it. Yes Marshall has some baggage, but bottom line is the guy can ball.

Reuniting him with Cutler suggests this offense will have no trouble keeping up with their storied defense. But let’s not forget about Matt Forte, whose electrifying 2011 season was cut short due to a knee injury. Forte has solidified himself as one of the best backs in the league, both by catching and running the ball out of the backfield.

Entering the last year of his contract, Forte is in hopes of a new deal, if not by July 16 then at the end of the year. If terms aren’t reached, expect a motivated Forte, under a franchise tag, to run like he has something to prove. The three-headed monster of Cutler, Marshall and Forte, along with the Bears’ reliable defense, will ensure a second team from the NFC North makeing the playoffs.

Reason 3: Megatron & the rising Detroit Lions

A few years ago it would be ludicrous to say the Lions are one of the reasons why the NFC North is the best division in football. But the combination of Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson makes them hard to ignore. The two Pro Bowlers carried their offense last year to the playoffs and the young superstars are only getting better.

It’s no secret what Stafford and Johnson, along with running back Jahvid Best and tight end Brandon Pettigrew, can accomplish offensively.

It’s the defensive side of the ball that will need to improve in order for the Lions to get deeper in the playoffs. With defensive studs like Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, the talent is there, but the maturity isn’t. Suh, however, seems like an intelligent man who is going to figure out how to channel his emotions. Year three in the league seems like the perfect time to do so.

With new leadership from Suh and continued mentoring from Kyle Vanden Bosch, second-year man Fairley will keep his head on straight, for the most part. With those three on the D-line, and Stafford and Megatron on the other side of the ball, Detroit will be the third representative from the NFC North to reach the postseason.

Reason 4: The worst team in the division really isn’t that bad

The division’s worst team, the Minnesota Vikings, who are in more need of offensive weapons than Antonio Cromartie is in need of a vasectomy, are still not that bad.

Second-year quarterback Christian Ponder showed flashes of being an above average quarterback in the NFL. Newly signed free agent Jerome Simpson made quite possibly one of the greatest end zone plunges in history last year; his athleticism will be much appreciated. And let’s not forget about the Vikings’ superstar running back, Adrian Peterson.

Overall, the Vikings aren’t playoff contenders, but let us look at the rest of the NFL’s division cellar dwellers. You look at the Redskins, Bucs, Rams, Browns and Colts — any of which aren’t very good. Looking at the roster top to bottom, the Vikings have a considerable advantage over them. Even though it wouldn’t shock me to see either or all of those teams win their division, which the Vikes have no shot at doing, Vikings are still a respectable last place team.

July 14, 2012 Posted by | Sports Blog Extravaganza | Leave a comment

Finding relevancy in Mr. Irrelevant

With the NFL greenroom empty for days, and the late-round sleepers already packing for rookie mini-camp, one pick, the last pick, still remained on the board.  Certainly, nobody likes to be picked last, and as the final pick of the 2012 NFL draft Chandler Harnish knows, finding relevancy on an NFL team can be challenging, especially for Mr. Irrelevant. 

The title Mr. Irrelevant began when wide receiver Kelvin Kirk was selected last in the 1976 NFL Draft, and former USC football player Paul Salata felt it necessary to honor the underdog.  Thirty six years later, the tradition continues, now more popular than ever.  To accompany being drafted into the NFL, the now prestigious title includes a vacation to California, where during the annual irrelevant week; Mr. Irrelevant will play Chairman to numerous events such as a parade and a golf tournament.  The winner is also recognized with the “Lowmans Trophy,” a trophy simular to the Heisman; expect the Lowmans is fumbling a football instead of stiff-arming an opponent such as the Heisman Trophy does.  Although most final picks of the NFL Draft lived up to the expectations the award proclaims, some winners have demonstrated an exuberant amount of relevancy throughout their professional careers.

One of the early winners of Mr. Irrelevant – quarterback Bill Kenney – who earned the title in 1978, was everything but irrelevant.  After being drafted and eventually cut by the Miami Dolphins, Kenney went on to start at quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs, passing many of the Chiefs single season passing records along the way.  Kenney would earn a Pro Bowl nod in the 1983-84 season, the only Mr. Irrelevant in history to earn such honors.  Proving his relevancy outside the pro sports spectrum and into the political one, Kenney went on to become the majority floor leader of the Missouri Senate for two years.  The Chiefs continued relying on Mr. Irrelevant’s when they drafted placekicker Ryan Succop with the 256th pick of the 2009 Draft. Though only a kicker, Succop has thrived in the NFL and set a Chiefs rookie record for field goals made (25).

Another player who rigorously contradicted his title of Mr. Irrelevant was Jim Finn, the 253rd pick of the Chicago Bears in 1999.  Later that year Finn was released by the Bears and eventually picked up by the New York Giants.  With the Giants, the Ivy league fullback out of Pennsylvania blocked for stars like Tiki Barber and helped Barber reach 1,860 rushing yards in 2005, a Giants single season record.   Finn would also prove his relevancy off the field.  In 2011, Finn and 11 other NFL players filed a lawsuit against the NFL, claiming the league didn’t properly treat head injuries of players, which resulted in numerous brain injuries.

In fact most players chosen last in the NFL draft, being named Mr. Irrelevant may be the most prestigious football honor they ever received.  Most Mr. Irrelevants fail to make the 53-man roster.  Players like Ryan Hoag, 2003 263rd pick and winner of Mr. Irrelevant, failed to play a game in his short 3-year NFL career.  Quite possibly Hoag’s biggest claim to fame outside of his Mr. Irrelevant award, was his appearance on ABC’s The Bachelorette in 2008.  Unfortunately, Hoag wasn’t even picked last to receive a rose and was eliminated from the show.

More players like Tevita Ofahengaue, found that being named Mr. Irrelevant would ultimately be a high point in their career.  The former BYU tight end failed to make the stat sheet in the NFL, Ofahengaue did however make a charge sheet in 2011 when he and former NFL running back and BYU teammate Reno Mahe were charged with stealing over $50,000 worth of gasoline.

As for Chandler Harnish, 2012 Mr. Irrelevant, the future will likely hold obscurity during his tenure in the NFL.  In the 37 years the Mr. Irrelevant trophy has been awarded, only 6 players have ever played significant minutes in the NFL.  Unfortunately for Harnish, being drafted at quarterback by the Colts presents it’s own set of obstacles.  Exactly 252 draft picks before Harnish, the Colts selected quarterback Andrew Luck with the No. 1 overall pick.  Not only will Harnish face the tough odds of being drafted last, now all Mr. Irrelevant has to do is play behind the man thought to be the second coming of John Elway.

June 8, 2012 Posted by | Sports Blog Extravaganza | Leave a comment

Heat vs. Pacers Game three of the Eastern Semi’s

Indianapolis—-

Even the sea of gold could have never expected this.  With under 3 minutes left in game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semi-finals and superstars LeBron James and Dwayne Wade on the Miami Heat bench, it’s easy to conclude the game was a one-sided affair.  What isn’t easy to grasp is that the relitivelystarless Indiana Pacers would take an emphatic 2-1 series lead by dominating the Heat 94-75 in Thursday night’s playoff showdown.

Led by George Hill (20 points, 5 assists) and Roy Hibbert, (19 points, 18 rebounds) the Pacers took a seesaw game in the first half and turned it into a victory in blowout fashion.  Pacers forward Danny Granger added 17 points, as well as holding James to just  6 second half points, as the Pacers, at times looked dominate over the heat.

What could arguably be considered as Wade’s worst game in his NBA career (2-13 FG%, 5 points and 5 turnovers.) The Pacers Hibbert endured possibly his best game of his career, as the Pacers suffocated the Heat defensively and dominated the offensive boards…   

The first half ended in a 43-43 tie and showed that the Pacers were more than game to make this a series.  But Miami, being the concessions NBA finals favorite, was bound to take control in the second half, but it was quite the opposite. 

From the opening tip, the Pacers were more energetic, more aggressive and plain out punched the Heat in the mouth.  Despite a ten made field goals in a row run by the Heat late in the first quarter, the Pacers controlled the game from start to finish.  What seemed to spark the most interest in the game was Wade’s performance and the interaction him and coach Eric Spoelstra had during a Heat timeout. 

With 7 minutes to go in the third and Miami trailing 55-48, Spoelstra and Wade got into an animated discussion with Wade angrily leaving the huddle and sitting at the end of the bench.    

“That happens, anyone who has been a part of a team, that happens,” said Spoelstra in the post-game interview.  “We were getting are butt kicked, those type of things happen during the season.”

After two Heat offensive fouls and a 3-pointer by Danny Granger, the lead ballooned to 13 and the Heat was forced to call 3 timeouts in the first eight-minutes of the second half.     

Tempers were tested later in the third when James was grabbed by Granger during a Heat fast break opportunity.  Following an up-close and personal discussion between the two, Granger received a technical and the Heat looked to build momentum.  However, James inability to get to the rim left him settling  jumpers, a compromise the Pacers team were more than happy to take. 

Hustle plays such as back-taps, batted balls and charges made the Pacers seem like the superior team throughout the second half.  James, who scored 16 points in the first half was limited in the second and was desperate to find some help.  The injury to starting forward Chris Bosh was taking its toll on a Heat team in need of some depth. 

Mario Chalmers made up for the lack of scoring for the Heat by contributing a game high 25 points, most of which coming inside the paint.  Before the game, if anyone would have said Chalmers would have 25 points, it would equal to an easy Heat win.  What wasn’t counted on was Wade’s dreadful five point outing and the Heat again couldn’t break past the 80-point barrier. 

Bosh was surely missed as Hibbert and the rest of the Pacers front line controlled the paint, despite Chalmers array of floaters inside.  It was obvious that besides  James and – in this case Chalmers – nobody from the Heat could score the ball..  The Pacers however, displayed a team first concept and had four players scoring above 14 points.  All while shooting 43% from the field and 57% from long range.  The Heat on the other hand shot 37 %, 20 % from the 3-point line and just plain lacked effort and intensity. 

Game four is still in Indiana and the Heat still need to find a way to score points.  Relying too heavily on three-pointers – which James is 1-10 so far this series –  results in long rebounds sparking the Pacers transition game.  Higher percentage field goals will result in more makes and slowing the game down, a pace the Heat are more adept to playing at.

June 8, 2012 Posted by | Sports Blog Extravaganza | Leave a comment

Cheaper Alternative (A look inside DePaul University’s Cafeteria)

With the remaining weeks of the school year dwindling, students at DePaul University are scrambling to the Student Center cafeteria, urgently swiping their student ID cards, hoping to spend their remaining meal plan balance.  But the last- minute spending, high prices and lackluster food options leave students eager for an alternative next year.

DePaul’s cafeteria, an open venue where you witness burgers flipped on the grill and noodles frying in a wok, allows students to visually explore different food options for their breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Unfortunately for DePaul’s freshman class, eating at the cafeteria isn’t just an option.  Every year, DePaul freshman are forced to buy a meal plan that they can use to buy any food or beverage on campus.  But the selection, quality and more importantly, the price of the food have most freshmen in an uproar.

Students are required to purchase one of four meal plans upon registering their freshmen year.  Meal plans start at $1,030 a quarter, with $1,517 being the most expensive plan.  The problem most freshmen students have with the obligatory fee is they’re forced to pay for over priced food and beverage items, when half of the time, its food that there not interested in eating.  Moreover, if the pre-deposited money isn’t spent by quarters end, the funds will be an automatic forfeiture and not be carried over to next term.

“Overall the food is decent, but the prices are way to high,” said freshman Louis Calderon, who only eats at the cafeteria sporadically whenever he is in the mood for a Panini.

Some students like freshmen Cassie Shaw and Angela Moses, swiping their Demon Express and using all the funds isn’t the problem.  The problem lies within not having enough money to spend throughout the quarter, due to DePaul’s high food prices.

“Most students that do eat here are freshmen, but the prices are so outrageously high, if it wasn’t for me having to use my meal plan, I would never choose to eat here,” said Shaw.

But when asked if the two freshmen girls would convert to the meal plan as sophomores, both replied simultaneously with an emphatic “No!”

So as students semi-enjoy their somewhat good, often overpriced meals, alternative methods to filling their hunger void await them.  Dominick’s grocery on Fullerton and Sheffield (although not the most praised supermarket in the area) offers a lot of the same food as DePaul, but at a cheaper price.  By no means is Dominick’s food cheap, but for the sake of comparison, it is in fact a better alternative.  Just a block away from the Student Center, Dominick’s gives those not financially committed to the freshman meal plan a great substitute.

For instance, a slice of pepperoni pizza, (which is one of the five major food groups for a college student) at the cafeteria will run you $3.45.  While at Dominick’s, a fairly identical slice will only cost you $1.99.  Also, the ever popular breaded chicken sandwich will cost you over $3 more at DePaul’s cafeteria than at Dominick’s.

After almost a full year under DePaul’s meal plan, most freshmen felt reluctant, if not down right certain, they wouldn’t continue with the plan during the rest of their DePaul career.  Bonnie Dunkel, a freshman standing in line for the salad bar felt frustrated with the price she was paying to eat lunch.  “The prices are way too high, I am transferring schools at the end of the quarter, but if I stayed here next year, I definitely wouldn’t continue my meal plan,” said Dunkel.  “In fact, most students I know are frustrated and are not doing the meal plan next year.”

It’s not just the delicious greasy food like pizza that has a drastic difference in price.  Salads at DePaul’s cafeteria also are pricier than those at Dominick’s.  At DePaul, the salad bar doesn’t provide as many ingredients in their salad bar as Dominick’s, which offers different options like radishes, beets and multiple types of red and purple leaf lettuces and charges 31 cents an ounce, compared to DePaul’s 40 cents an ounce.

Other freshmen like Kayla English admit the food prices at the cafeteria are high, but find it more convenient to purchase the meal plan and eat at school.

“It’s hard for me to eat anywhere else, considering we aren’t allowed to have any cooking appliances in our dorm rooms,” said English.  “I’m not too concerned with the high prices though, the [meal plan] is an easy way for my parent to buy all my food.”

Sushi lovers should also check out Dominick’s for their California cravings.  Students pay $5.50 at DePaul’s cafeteria for 7 ounces of a California roll, compared to Dominick’s, which charges $6.99 for 13 ounces.  Homestyle dinner options can be much more affordable at Dominick’s as well.  Entrée items such as roasted and fried chicken, meatloaf and turkey, with two sides like mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese, along with a drink will cost a little over $7.  While the similar food at the DePaul cafeteria will cost you around $10.

Spending money on everyday snacks and necessities at DePaul’s convenience store ‘etc…’ can also be inconvenient on your wallet.  Perplexingly, items like a large bag of Doritos and a quart of milk would cost over $7 at DePaul.  A bag of Doritos and a gallon of milk at Dominick’s would cost under $6.

Although the price difference isn’t staggering at first sight, the savings perpetuated over the course of a 4-year college career could be astronomical.

June 8, 2012 Posted by | Community, National and World Wide News Source | Leave a comment

Things to Do in Chicago, If You’re NATO.

With 28 countries visiting Chicago for the NATO summit this May, the city will be able to showcase the array of cultures it has embraced throughout the years and provide its guests from abroad some familiarities of their home country.

Chicago is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in the world.  However, some tourist attractions may not appeal to the highly intellectual minds of the NATO committee.  Along with the convention, the weekend of May 19-20 will showcase Chicago’s civil war when the Cubs host the White Sox in the El series.  Unless political diplomats are interested in 40,000 drunk, belligerent Chicagoans screaming North side and South side, the historic Wrigley Field might not be the most ideal place for the NATO countries to visit.  The Willis Tower, the United States largest building provides a sky deck for a bird’s eye view of the city.  A must see for any typical tourist, NATO countries may find the ninth tallest building in the world’s view underwhelming.  The month of May in Chicago could bring in many clouds to disrupt visibility, plus, surely the view flying in to Chicago from each country’s private jet provided an adequate view of the city.  Fortunately, Chicago provides many other great experiences that would sure to entertain all parts of the world.

We know the French’s high standard for food, especially crepes.  Luckily for France, La Creperie located on 2845 N. Clark St. fits the bill offering both delicious savory and sweet authentic French crapes.  This traditional Western French cuisine is a great light substitute for heavy American food, (just in case France doesn’t approve of Chicago dogs and deep dish pizza.)  After the meal to burn off the calories, France would feel right at home with a walk around Buckingham Fountain.  The Chicago landmark located in Grant Park was motivated by the Latona Fountain, which is near the Grand Canal in France.

Spain can stake claim to some of the most prestige restaurants, breath taking scenery, and amazing works of art.  There isn’t much the country of Spain hasn’t experienced or could be impressed by.  Fortunately, Chicago has its own touch of Spain to accommodate the Spaniards in their visit.  One of the world’s most famous artists, Spain’s own Pablo Picasso graced Chicago with his artistic genius.  Chicago’s Picasso, the 50-foot sculpture that sits out front the Richard J. Daley Center, located on the corner of Clark and Washington, was donated by Picasso to the people of Chicago in 1967.  Spain can also get a taste of Catalonia here in Chicago by visiting Mercat a la Planxa, located at 638 S. Michigan Ave.  World renowned chef Jose Garces serves up outstanding tapas, steaks and seafood, as well as Spain’s greatest gift to the world, sangria.

Italy could find pleasure of touring the city of Chicago and still feel right at home with one of Chicago’s riverboat tours.  Although it may not be Venice, the riverboat tour presents a one-of- a kind view of the city and its amazing architecture.  After the tour, Italian diplomats can dine at Spiaggia, Chicago’s premier Italian restaurant.  Located on the Magnificent Mile, Spiaggia has won countless awards and is considered one of the best Italian restaurants in the country, as well as one of President Obama’s favorite eats.

England, which represents one of four countries of the United Kingdom, can appreciate great art work from an artist who came from their homeland.  Chicago’s Cloud Gate, or more commonly known as “The Bean,” was constructed by Indian-born British sculptor Anish Kapoor.  The sculpture is just another iconic symbol of Chicago and a great testament to British art.  A short cab ride from Millennium Park to Adams St. in the West Loop is Elephant and Castle Pub.  This restaurant offers traditional English food and an array of European beers.  The fish and chips are said to be excellent, however, English food has a reputation and England might be better served trying out an authentic Chicago-style Italian beef sandwich.

The country of Belgium should look no further than Lincoln Park to find their 18th century food creation.  Baladoche’s Belgian zucker waffles, located on 2905 N. Clark St. offers the traditional Belgian staple.  Stack it high with strawberries, bananas, and whipped cream and of course, their famous Belgian chocolate.

Greektown, one of Chicago’s most famous and historic neighborhoods should make Greece’s NATO visit a little more familiar.  The South Halsted neighborhood west of Downtown provides an authentic Athens experience, with numerous Greek owned businesses.  The language is still spoken in the streets of Greektown and their restaurants are known for really good food for cheap.  Perhaps inexpensive food is exactly what Greece will be looking for in Chicago.

June 8, 2012 Posted by | Community, National and World Wide News Source | Leave a comment

Let Them Play (OPED)

With the conclusion of another college basketball season comes a new crop of fresh faces bursting onto the NBA scene.  Despite efforts of combating players early entry into the NBA, the number of “one and done’s” coming into the league this year is at a staggering rate.  According to CBSsports.com 2012 NBA mock draft, 21 of the 30 players drafted in the first round are freshman or sophomores.  Most notably, the University of Kentucky Wildcats, this year’s NCAA men’s basketball champions, has an unprecedented 5 underclassman entering the NBA draft; all are projected to be drafted in the first round.  The NBA has been under scrutiny about their age requirements to enter the league, more than the other three professional sports, for various reasons.  However, players forfeiting their college career early and pursuing their dream of playing in the NBA is ultimately a rational decision, regardless of the outcome of a successful career. 

In the 1995 NBA draft, high school players, such as Kevin Garnett started developing a trend in the NBA, to skip college entirely and enter the draft.  Future Hall of Famers such as Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and LeBron James all elected to forgo college and go straight to the pros.  There have also been players that decide to skip college, but had a lot less successful careers, players like Jonathan Bender, Kwame Brown.  All of whom failed to meet expectations.  After the influx of high school players entering the NBA draft, in 2005 the NBA made the rule that you must be 19-years of age and at least one year removed from high school to play in the league.

Fast-forward six years later and the controversy remains.  This time thoughts center on pushing the eligibility age to 20-years-old and two years removed from high school.   However, with great players such as Kevin Durant and Kevin Love – both who entered the draft after their freshman year – it’s hard to find a reason why the NBA should move the age limit up.  Especially since international basketball is becoming more popular, players forced to go to two years of college would likely just go to Europe and play as professionals, just asked the Bucks Brandon Jennings; thus, hindering the college game even more than it’s hurting now.

Having players skip college and go overseas isn’t necessarily a concern to NBA commissioner David Stern.  A player gaining more experience seems to drive Stern’s ambition to increase the age limit.

“Our rule is that they won’t be eligible for the draft until they’re 19. They can play in Europe, they can play in the D-League, and they can go to college.  This is a business rule for us,” said Stern in an April 3 interview with ESPN.

The pressure commissioner Stern is putting on the league to pass the new age requirement stems from a business aspect.  Players drafted high in the lottery are large investments for team owners worth a lot of money.  Stern, as well as the owners, want to see a player play more basketball in order for teams to get a fair assessment on that player.  Two years out of high school would give teams a larger sample size to see a player’s ability.  However, one could argue that Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and University of North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes would’ve been top 5 NBA draft choices last year as freshmen.  This year, due to failure to show much improvement from their freshman year, Barnes and Sullinger are expected to slip down to the top 10 in this year’s draft.  Although their stock dropped slightly, the potential the two players have is still lucrative enough for teams to spend a top 15 draft pick on.   

The NBA assesses players eligible for the draft on potential.  A player’s size, speed – two abilities that won’t necessarily change over one year, disregarding injury – and his prospective ability to play well are primarily what professional scouts look for in drafting players.  Seeing a basketball prospect play one more year of college basketball, or even international ball, would not affect their future potential negatively, unless that player is injured.  Harrison Barnes, North Carolina’s star player had a disappointing freshman year and a not so spectacular sophomore year in college.  Barnes, who is 6’8’’, has an NBA body and possesses great shooting mechanics has star written all over him, and is still expected to go in the top 10 and possibly top 5, even after two under preforming years at Chapel Hill .  The point is Barnes has all the potential in the world and that’s what NBA teams look for in the draft, despite under achieving in college.

An aspect and perhaps the most glaring one that intrigues college basketball players to enter the NBA draft early is their prospective salary.  According to Yahoosports.com, in 2011 the average NBA salary was over $5 million, almost $2 million more than other sports in America.  The pot of gold these collegiate athletes see at the end of the rainbow may be too tempting to pass up.  Before 1971, a player couldn’t be eligible to play in the NBA, unless their college class graduated.  This rule was compromised when Seattle SuperSonics’ Spencer Haywood won a settlement that allowed him to play in the NBA without 4-years of college.  This propelled the NBA to implement another rule, the hardship rule.  Under this regulation, underclassmen that can provide evidence of financial hardship would be allowed to enter the draft.

However, as sportswriter Jackie Lapin would state:  “Almost anyone who has been any good at the game in the past decade would qualify”

June 8, 2012 Posted by | Sports Blog Extravaganza | Leave a comment

Blue Demon blues

Over the last 30 plus years, the DePaul men’s basketball team has endured enormous success and unforeseeable setbacks leading to their current state of turmoil.  What caused this dramatic downfall and will the Blue Demons of DePaul ever rise to the top again.    

As the buzzer sounded on DePaul University’s senior night, the men’s basketball team exited the court celebrating an 85-58 victory over Seaton Hall.  DePaul’s distinctive win over the Pirates certainly didn’t mirror the play the team displayed all season.  The game played today was reminiscent of 30 years ago, a time when DePaul basketball was something important – something special.    The fact is the victory was one of few this year for DePaul, who finished the 2012 regular season (12-18, 3-15 in the BIG EAST).  DePaul seniors Jeremiah Kelly and Krys Faber played their last home game at All-State Arena.  An arena they’ve grown accustomed to losing in.  Over Kelly and Faber’s last four years at DePaul, the Blue Demons are a combined 36-89. After the game, DePaul’s senior guard Kelly spoke on the past and the future of DePaul basketball.

“It was a tough four years.  Coach Purnell is doing a great job of recruiting and next year this team is going to be really scary.”

The encouraging words from the senior left some optimism in the wake of another disappointing season.

The hiring of Coach Purnell in 2010 was supposed to be a turnaround point for the University.  While enduring moderate success with Clemson in the highly competitive Atlantic Coast Conference, DePaul and Purnell inked a seven year contract.  Purnell had been notorious for turning around struggling programs.  He coached Old Dominion, Dayton and Clemson to above .500 winning percentages and all three made NCAA Tournament appearances.  DePaul Basketball needed a shot in the arm and they felt Oliver Purnell was just the basketball physician to do so.  Purnell, viewed somewhat as a surprise hire by many, looked at the DePaul job as an opportunity to overcome the odds.  In an April 2010 interview with ESPN.com, Purnell expressed where he thought DePaul basketball needs to be.

“DePaul belongs in the elite of college basketball. DePaul belongs in the elite of the Big East. DePaul belongs as Chicago’s college basketball team.”

Even though a turnaround wasn’t expected immediately, Coach Purnell had pressure to make Blue Demon basketball relevant again.  Purnell’s first two seasons at DePaul haven’t showed too much promise.  A 17-47 record hardly shows signs of a team turnaround.  However, Coach Purnell believed that DePaul is committed to excelling in college basketball.  If he felt there wasn’t a full obligation to winning, why would he take the job?

“They are very, very committed to restoring a tradition,” said Purnell in the same ESPN.com interview.

A tradition at DePaul that has nearly been forgotten.

Just like winning, losing can develop into a culture.  Currently, DePaul Men’s basketball team has created a losing culture.  It wasn’t always like this; in fact it was quite the opposite.  For 42 seasons, DePaul University came off the tongue when the country talked about college basketball.  Sure DePaul might have not reeled in the hardware like North Carolina’s and UCLA’s of the world, but the program was competing on a very high level.  A main responsibility for the schools success fell on the shoulders of legendary Coach Rey Meyer.  From 1942 to 1984, Coach Meyer led the DePaul men’s basketball team to an astounding 724 wins while developing an overall winning culture.

Meyer’s early claim to fame was when he coached a young 6-foot-10-inch clumsy DePaul sophomore.  That was until Coach Meyer transformed the awkward, goggle-wearing center into George Mikan, NBA champion and considered by many one of the greatest basketball centers of all time.  Meyer also established himself and the DePaul basketball program as one of the nations elite.  In Coach Meyer’s first season with DePaul, Meyer and Mikan lead the team to the 1943 Final Four where they lost to Georgetown.

In 1978 Meyer and DePaul recruited a pudgy, 6-foot-seven-inch forward from Chicago named Mark Aguirre.    Meyer’s ability to tap into one of the country’s highest producing basketball cities – Chicago –  gave the school access to some of the most talented players in the country.  In the 1978-79 season – Aguirre’s freshman year – he lead the Blue Demons back to the Final Four, DePaul’s first since 1943.

Chicago has always been an institution for great high school basketball.  It was just unfortunate that DePaul University hasn’t always taken advantage of their home grown talent.  Prior to Aguirre’s commitment to DePaul, Coach Ray Meyer delegated the recruiting process to his son Joey and adamantly told him, “Go get’em boy.”  Joey Meyer was unfamiliar with the recruiting process and commented that DePaul didn’t have the resources or the notoriety to attract big name players.

“I didn’t know what it was all about. Plus, we didn’t have much to sell because we hadn’t been winning. So when I went in to talk to a top local player like Bo Ellis, it was a joke. I was out of my league,” said Joey Meyer in a Jan 1980 Sports Illustrated interview.

However big time talent came in abundance during Joey Meyer’s first years of recruiting.  Following DePaul’s 1979 Final Four run, the school landed two more top prospects from the windy city, center Terry Cummings and guard Teddy Grubs.  Coach Meyer recognized the importance of Aguirre’s signing and the impact it would have on the future of DePaul basketball.  Coach Meyer, who died in March of 1996, explained how Aguirre paved the way for other Chicago basketball players to feel they could be successful at the next level.

“We were in the dark ages,” said Ray Meyer in the same Sports Illustrated interview.  “Now we’re able to recruit for a particular position and even go after the best players outside of Chicago. It’s an amazing thing what Joey has done with our resources.”

But it was the top home grown talent of Aguirre and Cummings that made DePaul a perennial national powerhouse.  From 1977 to 1984, DePaul basketball coined itself as “America’s Winningest Team” compiling a record over that seven year span of 180-30.  In those seven years, DePaul transformed its basketball program and they did it by compiling talent.  Being able to recruit talent based in Chicago is vital to DePaul’s success.  Unlike universities such as Illinois, Indiana or other Midwest schools, DePaul is located right in the heart of the city, quite different than college campuses in Champaign and Bloomington.  Although DePaul presents a great college atmosphere, it differs from the atmospheres you would see in a rural town.  Players like Aguirre ,who were born and raised in Chicago, wanted a school close to home.  With all the great basketball talent the city of Chicago is producing, it’s mind-boggling why the program continues to struggle.

Currently DePaul just isn’t attracting the talent – in state or out of state – that they were in the 70s and 80s.  That realization is easy to figure out; the million dollar question is why the top prospects aren’t attracted to DePaul?  Several reasons could be speculated on, like what was mentioned before that DePaul University isn’t your prototypical college campus.  The men’s team plays at All State Arena, which is located in Rosemount Ill, around a 20 minutes drive from the Lincoln Park campus.  All-State, though a respectable arena, is a far cry from the Alumni Hall, the on-campus home of the Blue Demons men’s team that was tore down in 1980.  Not speaking facility wise, but All-State lacks the prestige and aura of a typical college arena.  It’s tough to say what impact the move had, but showing a young high school student the facilities at DePaul University, then driving 20 minutes to show him the arena he is playing in isn’t appealing for a young recruit.  Convenience for fans is one thing, especially the student body that has to use a bus shuttle to the arena.  But the losing seasons and unique stadium location makes All-State Arena, which seats 17,500, two-thirds of which are empty seats, resemble a July first home game in Florida Marlins’ old Pro Player Stadium.

Another hit that lead to the demise of DePaul basketball is the publicity it isn’t receiving on television.  Chicago based television station WGN was an avid broadcaster during the heyday of DePaul basketball.  During the days of DePaul’s dominance, WGN provided a canvas for DePaul players to showcase their talents.  Either coincidently or not, during DePaul’s struggles was the same time games stoped being played on WGN.  This all took place in the late 80s, around the time a certain Chicago sports star started to shine.  Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of both the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Bulls signed a television deal with WGN.  Needless to say the contract was signed just in time for Michael Jordan to invade the homes of America and Chicago found its new basketball star.  All of a sudden DePaul basketball became an afterthought in Chicago to Jordan’s Bulls.  When the losing began to pile up and the national notoriety began to diminish, so too did the recruits.

Yet another element hindering DePaul’s recruiting aspirations was new limitation on school contact with high school recruits.  Limiting to no more than three off-campus contacts during a prospects senior year deeply effected DePaul’s recruiting process.  Being located in the heart of Chicago, where so many great basketball players come from, the limitations striped DePaul of a considerable advantage.  DePaul’s unique proximity allowed them to visit home grown prospects on a regular basis.  Now that the visits are limited, DePaul fell right in line with the rest of the country in convincing Chicago based talent to play for their school.  This ailment accompanied by the absence of frequent television appearances on WGN; put DePaul’s recruiting in a hole.  Yet Joey Mayer and DePaul were still savvy enough to draw in big league talent.

Following Ray Meyer’s retirement in 1984, his son Joey took the reigns over from his dad.  Joey Meyer, who was celebrated for his recruiting ability, provided hope that he too could carry the winning tradition his father implemented.  By Coach Meyer’s second season, he coached the Blue Demons back into the Sweet Sixteen.  Led by Rod Strickland and Dallas Comegys, DePaul reached a second straight Sweet Sixteen and Meyer was named Coach of the Year for the 1986-87 season.  With top recruits like Strickland still coming to DePaul and a coach more than capable of surpassing his predecessor, the school seemed poised to stay on top.  However, this wasn’t the case and that 1987 season would be the last time DePaul advanced to the Tournaments round of 16.

Certain factors such as stadium location, television coverage and recruiting changes, Coach Joey Meyer was recruiting some of the best guards in the country such as Rod Strickland.  But when the All-American Strickland left for the NBA before his senior year, things began to turn sour for the Blue Demons.  When top high school recruit Sam Cassell verbally committed to DePaul University, Coach Meyer seemingly had a replacement for Strickland.  That was until Cassell was declared academically ineligible and was forced to go to junior college.  After two impressive years at a Texas junior college, Cassell transferred to Florida State where he excelled and DePaul was left without their blue chip point guard.  This setback did not detour Meyer from recruiting top prospects.

Despite Cassell’s restrictions to come play for DePaul, Coach Meyer recruited another top point guard in Texas high school star B.J Tyler.  As it turns out, Tyler’s freshman year was underwhelming and Tyler transferred the next year to the University of Texas.  Like Cassell, Tyler thrived at a University other than DePaul and was later drafted in the NBA.  To give credit when credit is due, Joey Meyer had successfully recruited three first round NBA point guards to play for DePaul in only four years.  It is unfortunate that Meyer’s great ability to recruit top tier point guards didn’t transfer to wins.

Still unaffected by an array of unfortunate and unforeseen circumstances, Meyer kept bringing in the nation’s top point guards.  McDonalds High School All-American Howard Nathan was a Chicago star for Manual High School in Peoria and an eventual Mr. Basketball for Ill.  Nathan embodied toughness in his game that only stems from being a product of Ill. state basketball.  DePaul apparently found their point guard of the future and Coach Meyer was more than confident of his new recruits potential.

“I think Howard Nathan would have been mentioned in the same breath as Rod Strickland,” Meyer said when referring to his star recruit.

But following a trend of previous would be Blue Demons; Nathan became academically ineligible and transferred the very next season.  The ability for Joey Meyer to recruit was indisputable.

“I can find point guards; I just can’t seem to keep them,” said Meyer, the former DePaul point guard who values the importance of the one guard.

Meyer’s ability to turn those recruits into solid college athletes was another question.  Essentially that’s what it boils down to, how great that player can become at the next level.  In college, basketball players on court success can be limited by their academics.  DePaul, a repeatable University has to not only recruit high quality basketball players, they have to develop them into successful students at the college level.  The learning apparatus that is a part of college sports threw a monkey wrench in Meyer’s recruiting system.

To add insult to injury, (as if losing three top-tier point guards before even playing two years at DePaul wasn’t enough) the school was in the midst of a NCAA scandal that would forever scar the program.  In 1992, DePaul University went under a self-investigation to combat allegations of NCAA rule violations.  The allegations were from 1985 to 1988 and involved a DePaul booster named Jeffery Tassani, who was also the vice president of the First National Bank of Chicago.  Then it was believed that Tassani provided apartments owned by the bank to DePaul players, free of charge.  Also, discounted meals and other amenities were included.  Tassani would plead guilty to misappropriating bank funds and DePaul would self-inflict sanctions upon themselves, more particularly Joey Meyer.  In hindsight of the scandal, DePaul froze Coach Meyer’s last year’s salary and would not negotiate a contract until the following year.  A tough penalty for a coach who had no direct affiliation with the scandal and in essence, had just as much to do with the ordeal then the athletic director did.  However, Coach Meyer acknowledges that when an infraction happens to a program, it’s the head coach that is responsible for it.

“I do and will accept responsibility for what transpired,” said Meyer.

The University’s penalty on Meyer was an attempt to lessen the damage the NCAA might cause on the program.  Considering DePaul investigated and reported the infraction themselves, the NCAA didn’t impose any television sanctions and DePaul was still eligible for tournament play.  The NCAA did however penalize DePaul in other ways.  First by striping DePaul of the NCAA Tournament appearances from 1986, ‘87, ‘88 and ‘89 seasons, which include two trips to the Sweet Sixteen.  Other penalties reduced school scholarships and on and off campus recruiting and visits were limited.  The penalties even furthered dampened a suffering recruiting process that worried Coach Meyer about the schools forthcoming season.  “We can’t use excuses,” said Meyer.  “We’ll sign a good class even though it might be more difficult.”

Possibly unforeseen by Meyer, yet an inevitable reality started to sink in Lincoln Park for the Blue Demons, who are now hampered by a NCAA probation.  But even probation couldn’t stop DePaul’s unprecedented ability to recruit top point guards, and eventually lose them.  Guard Belefia “Lou” Parks was dismissed by the team before the 1994 season for violating team rules.  At the time of his dismissal, Parks, a former prep star at Simeon High School in Chicago, was the only other Chicago Public League (CPL) player on DePaul’s roster.  CPL is predominately occupied by African American students.  This prompted negative feelings towards Coach Meyer and his efforts to recruite inner-city athletes from Chicago.

“I would have made the same action if Lou was from Germany or China or the Public League,” said Meyer when answering critics about his decision to dismiss Parks.  “We have rules, and they apply the same to everyone.”

No matter the reason of no CPL players on the current 1994 team roster, one could understand the reasoning to why that was.  Meyer endured an unparalleled amount of student athletes not ready to make the transition from high school to college.  Whether that was contributed to lack of academic success or infractions of team rules, DePaul just couldn’t keep a bulk of their talent wearing royal blue and scarlet.  Whether it was opposed by the University, or Meyer assessing what he needed to do as a coach and recruiter, DePaul was shying away from their inner city talent.  Could it be that their institution wasn’t able to handle the tuff demeanor of a kid from the streets.

It was well known that Coach Joey Meyer and then Athletic Director Bill Bradshaw didn’t see eye to eye.  The different ideological viewpoints left recruiting and the basketball program in disarray.  It was becoming apparent that DePaul’s high academic standards where not coinciding with Coach Meyer’s recruiting tactics.  For a program trying to rebuild amongst NCAA sanctions and academic ineligibilities, for a head coach and athletic director to be in disagreement was restricting DePaul’s turnaround.  Unfortunately for DePaul, all this was transpiring during the Chicago Bulls great NBA Championship run.  DePaul University, once the television darling of WGN took a back seat to Michael Jordan’s Bulls and DePaul found them being less relevant every year.

The culmination of problems for DePaul including: stadium location, changes in rules for recruiting, less television appearances, student athletes academic and disciplinary struggles, sanctions imposed by NCAA, all contributed to DePaul basketball’s tailspin.  After finishing 3-23 in the 1996-97 season, DePaul fired Coach Meyer the following year.  After Meyer, a slew of coaches attempted to bring DePaul basketball back to relevancy.  Coaches such as Pat Kennedy, Dave Leitao and Jerry Wainwright, all were unable to perpetuate that winning culture instilled by the Meyer’s.  The next 13 years for DePaul University’s men’s basketball program were all but memorable, reaching the NCAA tournament only twice in 2000 and 2004.

Fast-forward to present day 2012, DePaul men’s basketball is still high from the convincing win over Seaton Hall.  But the enthusiasm is short lived for the win did nothing but shed a speck of light on another dark and disappointing season.  A lot has changed for the Blue Demons since the turmoil times of the early 90s.  Coach Purnell is determined to put DePaul basketball back on the map and his resume may suggest he is capable of doing so.  Sophomore standouts Brandon Young and Cleveland Melvin have been producing well for the Blue Demons, with Melvin earning Big East Rookie of the Year honors in 2011.  The two juniors next year will play with a decent, but not strong 2012 recruiting class that includes wingman Jordan Price and University of Illinois transfer Crandall Head.  Although an improvement, there is still little buzz surrounding the team and their expectations for next year.

If an outsider with no recollection of the dominate DePaul teams in the 70s and 80s came to DePaul, they wouldn’t have any indication of how great this schools basketball team once was.  Such a storied program all but vanished in less than 30 years.  Students here at DePaul are just as clueless about the teams past success and with a few more years of horrendous seasons, DePaul basketball could be too far down to ever be turned around again.  That is a realization some fans are hesitatingly willing to accept.  Jonathan Carroll, former DePaul alum, current season ticket holder and blogger for rantsports.com is frighteningly coming to the comprehension of DePaul’s inability to build basketball success.  Carroll believes the problem is internal and stems from the athletic department down.

“DePaul needs to fire their athletic director or they will continue to be bad.”  Said Carroll, who is worried about the level of commitment his alma mater has towards basketball.  Carroll proclaims that the fall out between DePaul and the Meyer family along with the onslaught of disciplinary actions ignited DePaul’s fall from grace.

What is clear is that DePaul is located in one of the best basketball cities in the nation.  With recent high school stars such as Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose and Anthony Davis all coming out of Chicago, none of them ended up playing for DePaul.  Wade and Davis both had DePaul on the radar when considering schools.  Wade was only recruited by three major colleges due to academic problems.  Wade ended up committing to Marquette where he subsequently sat out his freshman year due to academic ineligibility.  The next year Wade would end up shining for DePaul’s rival Marquette leading the Golden Eagles to the NCAA Final Four.  It is hard not to notice that Wade’s situation at Marquette was a lot like so many point guards originally committed to DePaul in the early 90s.  Great talent on the court, but not academically ready for a college career.  Although Marquette did with Wade what DePaul was unable to do with Cassell and Nathan among the others.  They were able to take their premature freshman star and tutor him and lead him to eventual college success.  How much of Wade’s academic turnaround lands on the shoulders of Wade or Marquette is not known.  Regardless, Wade’s inner city upbringing didn’t intercede on his basketball success, like so many other Chicago high school stars have.  Anthony Davis, one of this year’s top freshmen also considered DePaul after high school.  But the six-foot-10-inch stud choose Kentucky, in midst of a “pay to play” scandal where UK allegedly paid Davis to commit.  Even below the radar talent like Jack Cooley from Glenview Ill. didn’t end up on the Blue Demon roster.  As a junior this year, Cooley is averaging over 12 points and nine rebounds per game.  Earlier this season, Notre Dame, behind a 22-point performance by Cooley beat DePaul 84-76.  After the game, Cooley acknowledged that he felt he had something to prove considering DePaul barely recruited him while coming out of high school.  This is just another instance of DePaul’s struggles in college basketball and their inability to recruit hometown talent.

The history of DePaul University men’s basketball team is anything but ordinary.  The programs rollercoaster ride of success and turmoil makes for interesting discussion.  Great teams like Kentucky, UCLA and UNLV have all endured similar ups and downs, but those teams always seem to land back on their feet.  We have uncovered the potential reasons for struggles of the program, but we have yet to diagnose the resurgence of a once proud college basketball program.  With Oliver Purnell at the helm, optimism is slowly starting to spread throughout the existing DePaul basketball fans.  One thing that will erase all the negativity surrounding the basketball program is winning.  Even during DePaul’s dominance in the 70s and 80, the team never won a National Title.  Losing to Larry Bird and Indiana State may be admirable, but the fact is even the great Meyer family teams greatly underperformed in the Tournament.  College basketball has certainly changed in the last 30 years and DePaul should realize it doesn’t necessarily need blue chip prospects to win.  Mid-major schools such as Butler, George Mason and Virginia Commonwealth University have proved that a core group of experienced players can take you a long way.  If DePaul still sees themselves unable to catch the big fish, other tactics should be explored.  Because at the current state, DePaul basketball is in jeopardy of falling in the same category as disco and Miami Vice, all three died in the 80s.

March 7, 2012 Posted by | Sports Blog Extravaganza | Leave a comment

T’Wolves vs. Sixers 2/19/12

View the world’s response on Timberwolves vs Sixers game.  The final score was Timberwolves 91 Sixers 90:  Chris Officer’s Storify

February 20, 2012 Posted by | Sports Blog Extravaganza | Leave a comment

   

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