Jul 25 / Rob

Something Interesting Actually Happened at CAA Media Day

schor waitCAA Football Media Day took place today in Baltimore. The Dukes were picked to finish first, because of course they were. Bryan Schor was tabbed as the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, while Jonathan Kloosterman, Aaron Stinni, Andrew Ankrah, Raven Greene, and Robert Carter all joined him as preseason All CAA selections. Coaches spoke. Every team had a great summer, getting stronger and faster. The top teams think they’re ready to take the next step. The bottom teams like being underestimated. Blah. Blah. Blah. In short, it was like every other media day and you missed nothing from the official program. And based on the tens of thousands tens of people who bothered to tune into the broadcast, odds are you definitely missed it.

But believe it or not, we did learn something interesting today. Of course it wasn’t from the official Media Day events. Instead, it came courtesy of some solid reporting from the DNR’s Greg Madia, who tweeted the following:

Now if you’ve been following along, you’re well aware that we’re a little over a month out from football season and there is still no CAA Football broadcast deal in place. The league’s contract with NBC Sports ended after last season. Since then there has been very little information about any other deal. At this stage, it was pretty clear that the odds of a television deal were slim. But many fans (us included) were anxious to learn about streaming broadcasts. Needless to say, today’s little nugget has us very excited.

We have actually been hoping that the league would move in the direction of streaming online. Yes, watching games online is still a hurdle for some who prefer traditional television broadcasts. The days of networks paying big rights fees are probably behind us for all but a few prized properties though. The league would be better off prioritizing maximum exposure though online platforms.

The NBC Sports package sounded better than it actually was frankly. The production value was nice, but most of the broadcasts were relegated down to regional networks. That typically worked out great for those of us in the Mid-Atlantic. It all but cut off Dukes fans living elsewhere many weekends though. Twitter on the other hand, essentially offers worldwide distribution.

Some might scoff at the idea of watching a game through Twitter or CBS’ digital platform, instead of on a traditional network. That’s foolish in our opinion. The quality is top notch and both platforms are easily accessible. Ask anyone who tuned into any of the Twitter’s NFL broadcasts last year, or watch March Madness online with CBS and they’ll tell you that they are top quality products.

This is a great move for the CAA. We’d love it for the league to have the SEC’s deal with nationally broadcast games every Saturday. But that isn’t going to happen. Instead of going further down the television ladder, it sounds like the league wisely pursued more modern streaming platforms with far greater reach. If they’re able to close on the deal, it will be a win for the league, and a win for fans.

Jul 24 / Todd

Do Dukes Fans Need To Check Our Expectations?

Five short weeks from Saturday the Dukes will take the field in Greenville, NC to begin what is far and away the most anticipated season in the football program’s history. There have been years, especially in decade plus since the ’04 title, where us fans had sky-high expectations (’08, ’15 for sure) or reasons for massive excitement (opening of New BFS in ’10). But there has never been a year when predictions from everyone that bleeds purple for a pending campaign almost universally ranged ONLY between a “disappointing” 10-1 or a spotless 11-0 for the regular season with an absolute assumption of a deep playoff run if not a third championship. At today’s CAA Media Day in Baltimore (insert CAA jokes here), any coach or writer that picks – or even mentions – a different conference champ in the official preseason poll or the straw polls will be laughed out of the room.

In very un-JMUSB fashion, we’re here to do some much-needed tempering of those delusions of grandeur. This is equal parts preview, commentary, and horsecrap, but we think it’s much needed at the moment.

Yes, we know the Dukes turned into a ridiculous juggernaut late last year after less than a season of Coach Houston drilling them into his likeness. They won every playoff game by double-digits and could’ve won a couples by triple-digits (we see you Soft Houston St.). And yes, we know JMU is bringing back truckloads of talent including best-in-the-nation-at-their-positions players like QB Bryan Schor, LT Aaron Stinnie, and TE Jonathan Kloosterman, not to mention a defense that while it lost some big-time performers (Reynolds, Steele, etc.) should be even more dialed in during year two of this staff’s system. And they’re adding not only a slew of potentially strong FBS transfers, but also a few beasts from the group that redshirted last year after staying the course from what turned out to be a very strong class during Everett Withers’ single real recruiting cycle. They have the perfect coaching staff, the perfect schemes, a mountain of momentum, great unis, a continuously more watered-down FCS, the best stadium in the country at this level, and a raucous fanbase that remembered (or learned depending on your spot in the JMU fandom evolutionary progression) what it is like to really root fer’ Dukes last year. Our beloved Dukes are ranked in the top three nationally in every major poll, including #1 in Lindy’s. Oh yeah, and Raven Greene got an extra year of eligibility. All those things plus a bunch of things we forgot are understandably contributing to the hysteria.

BUT…this shit is hard. Like, really hard. You think NDSU didn’t think every second until the John Miller TD in December that the Bison weren’t winning their sixth straight or Eastern Washington didn’t think they were going to outscore the Dukes in the title game until the YSU kid made a grab that would make David Tyree blush? Every single Dukes fan in the world thought the ’08 and ’15 teams were championship bound right up to the moments Rodney Landers and Vad Lee went down. The Dukes eeked out a great win over the rival Ticks in Richmond last year, then the SweaterVests suffered a bunch of injuries and their coach dropped a deuce on their administration at playoff time. But Satchmo and company will be in fine shape after stealing Russ Heusman away from Chattanooga as the Dukes did with Houston from El Cid the year before. Just in the CAA there will be more challenges. Always talent-laden Delaware will be coached by former Ticks HC and surprised-face emoji Danny Rocco. They’ll be better immediately. Villanova will be Villanova, and out to support their new regime. Maine had a few stud freshman that made that game annoying last year. UNH will be UNH. Actually, on second thought, UNH might finally suck, or at least we hope so.

Lock the Damn Gates!

Lock the Damn Gates!

And that game at ECU we’re all feeling so great about? Let’s not forget they were in their first year with child-coach Scottie Montgomery during whatever that was they tried to play last season (seriously, good job effort there JMU-grad-AD Jeff Compher in firing pretty much the most respected man in college football Ruffin McNeill to go 2-9 last year). They have 22 more scholarships than JMU and the Pirates absolutely know they might not win a game till Week 5 if they can’t hold serve at home in their FCS opener. It’ll be four thousand degrees down there that night if there isn’t a three-hour lightning delay (don’t say you weren’t warned) and EZU will be ready.

So let’s all just slow our roll a tiny bit and, in the boring words of literally every coach ever, just enjoy “the process.” JMU needs all the talent to gel and not get complacent after a trophy or be irked by having to share playing time and the spotlight. It needs Cole Johnson or one of the other QB2’s to make us feel like the entire season isn’t dependent on Schor’s collarbone. The Dukes need special teams to be as special as they were last year. And maybe most importantly, they need to realize that the first three games (ECU and then two cupcakes at home) may not be indicative of how good – or not – the squad is and they better be ready to play when the Black Bears come to town in late September.

So let’s all pace ourselves as we get ready for the 2017 season. After all, it’s still six months till Frisco! Go Dukes!

Jul 23 / Todd

USA Field Hockey Featuring Former Dukes’ Star

So we don’t know a lot hardly a thing about international field hockey besides the fact that it’s huge in other places like Europe and South Africa and that all the countries that are considered “powers” take the men’s game as seriously as the women’s unlike us Yanks. But we do know that one of our all time favorite JMU athletes, Taylor West, the superstar of the Coach Lucas years and a player that truly bleeds purple, is now on the US Women’s National Team. And not only is she on this developing program (we may be wrong, but our hockey team seems roughly equivalent to our Men’s Soccer team on the international front – dangerous but not quite on the world’s upper-upper echelon just yet), just a year or two our out of Harrisonburg, she’s quickly turning into one of the squad’s stalwarts.

Before They Were Stars JMU Edition (although she was already a star!)

Before They Were Stars JMU Edition (although she was already a star!)

This weekend, the USA beat the Germans 3-2 in Johannesburg, South Africa to win something called the FIH World Hockey League Semis. We don’t know exactly what that means, but we do know the USA avenged both losses it suffered in last summer’s Olympic games in this tourney.

And oh yeah, guess who scored the USA’s first goal to tie the game and build the squad’s confidence after a shaky start? You’re damned right it was the Duke Dog Taylor West! The National Team’s next action will be in two weeks in Pennsylvania in the Pan American Cup (where just like in soccer they’ll be much more heavily favored against the teams from our own hemisphere). And if things keep progressing for Taylor, JMU may get to claim not just an Olympian in 2020, but one of the true stars on a medal-contending team.

One more thing, the program back in the ‘Burg that gave our favorite place on Earth it’s first National Championship back when football titles seemed unimaginable is on the rise again. The Dukes lost in the CAA final last year 3-1 to Delaware. Yes, we hate the Blue Chickens and yes the CAA title often seems like winning the “developmental meet” for JMU, but just consider that UD went on to win the whole darned shooting match by winning the NCAA tourney. Needless to say, our hopes are as high for field hockey this year as they are for ANY other sport.

Jul 21 / Rob

50 Things That Make Me Happy (Including 5 JMU Ones)

The great Joe Posnanski posted this piece on 50 things that make him happy this week. I guess I could say it inspired me, but it would be more honest to just state the obvious. I’m stealing the idea because I loved it. It’s rather self explanatory. A list of 50 things that make me happy in no particular order. And since this is a JMU blog, the last 5 are JMU specific, so feel free to skip ahead if you want.

1. Watermelon

Do I need to explain this? It’s delicious. Bonus points if you’re eating it outside. Double bonus points if you’re teaching some kids how to spit seeds.

2. Fly Fishing

A more accurate description for me personally would be standing in the water casting aimlessly and praying a fish is dumb enough to eat my fly on accident despite the awful presentation. So I’m not good. But I love it.

3. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

I was watching an episode on a plane Tuesday and laughing so loud I thought other passengers were going to call the flight attendants.
read more…

Jul 2 / Rob

Steph Curry Visited JMU And Left Without a Scholarship Offer

Sports, like life, can be filled with plenty of “what if?” moments. We just discovered a big one for JMU basketball. The Steph in the quote above, refers to Steph Curry, the two time NBA MVP and two time NBA Champion with the Golden State Warriors. Perhaps you’ve heard of him.

The tweet is from Greg Warner, the current strength and conditioning coach for Kenny Brook’s Virginia Tech Hokies women’s basketball team. Greg worked as a strength and conditioning coach at JMU from 1992 to 2015. We did in fact confirm that Steph Curry visited JMU prior to committing to Davidson. Well, to be perfectly clear, we replied to Greg’s tweet with “Wait, Seth Curry visited JMU? Good gracious.” and he liked the tweet. We’re counting that as confirmation. We’re Rob and Todd, not Woodward and Bernstein.

20150214-3pt-stephshoot3Anyway, after flexing our investigative journalism muscles, we attempted to process this discovery. Everyone knows that Curry flew a little bit under the radar and only had one D1 offer coming out of high school. Plenty of schools regret that now. But the majority of them didn’t have Curry visit their campus and still pass on him. I mean, this appears to be a big &#%!@?! mistake for JMU basketball.

Curry entered college in 2006. Let’s get all the caveats out of the way. The players on JMU that time were all good Dukes, played hard, represented the school well, yada, yada, yada. But can you remember a single freshmen from JMU basketball that year? I can’t either, but I’m confident in saying that none of them have gone on to become one of the top 5 players in the friggin world. None of them averaged 34 points per game in the tournament while leading an underdog mid-major to the Elite 8. Arrgghhh. He could have done that at JMU. Instead, Dean Keener passed on him. And then lead the team to a 7-23 record Curry’s freshman year and got fired. Could’ve, should’ve, would’ve.

Jun 29 / Rob

Throwback Thursday: Terrance Alls Takes it to the House

Good morning everyone. There’s still zippy going on in the world of JMU sports, so let’s take a little stroll down memory lane. Today we bring you a spectacular 54 yard touchdown by Terrance Alls against New Hampshire. We chose this play because in many ways we think it summarizes JMU football’s 2016 season. The offensive line gave Bryan Schor plenty of time to throw, he threaded the needle, the receiver made a great catch, and a CAA defensive looked helpless chasing a Duke all the way into the endzone. Your 2016 JMU football season in a nutshell.
Jun 25 / Rob

Us Watching this Horse Racing Replay Is the Most JMU Sports Offseason Move Yet

Life moves pretty fast. One moment it’s January and you’re in Frisco celebrating the Dukes winning the National Championship. Next thing you know, it’s June and you’re combing Youtube for replays of 8th race at Florida Gulfstream Park. Yep. These are some dark days. I actually paid attention to a random Sunday afternoon horse race at a track 1,037 miles from my house. Honestly though, even if the track was just down the street it would be no less ridiculous.

I wasn’t interested in the race because I’m some degenerate gambler. There’d be at least a shred of dignity in that. Sadly, my situation was much more pathetic. I was interested in the race because it featured a horse by the name of Dravite. And Dravite and his jockey were decked out in purple and gold silks today. They were wearing purple and gold because Dravite’s owner is Frank Payne, a proud member of the JMU graduating class of 1989. So I attempted convinced myself that in some very, very small way, today’s race passed for a JMU sporting event. I need help.

If you too are sick in the head, you can watch the replay of Dravite in action. Fair warning though, depending on how bad your JMU sports affliction is, the race might make you a bit upset. Because Dravite (horse #7), pretty much goes straight backwards from the start, before eventually falling off the screen all together. I have no idea what happened, but he definitely didn’t win. The announcers didn’t mention him at all. Maybe Dravite did something awesome like jump the rail and kick a Richmond owned horse in the head. Maybe he’s still running. I have no idea. But I do know there are only 69 (nice) more days until JMU football season.

Jun 21 / Todd

JMUSB Attends Another MAC…

…and this time there wasn’t even a major award involved. We simply were so thrilled about last year and learned so much that helped us sound slightly less uninformed than usual that we wanted to go back for a second dose. Plus it’s all Dukes fanatics like us so and it was a beautiful summer weekend in the ‘Burg so what’s not to like.

First, a refresher. MAC stands for Madison Alumni Conference (as opposed to that midwestern directional-school conference that plays games in front of tens on Tuesdays). The Alumni Association brings in a bunch of chapter leaders and general influencers from JMU Nation to learn about what’s going on at JMU currently and what they can do to help with fundraising and hosting social and philanthropic events out in the hustings (not sure I used that correctly, but I just love that word). They also have a big Awards dinner where they award things like Chapter of the Year, Event of the Year, Volunteer of the Year, and thank outgoing members of the Alumni Association Board of Directors. This year, since both new members were present, they also announced the two new members of the Board (more on that soon).

Our Four Big Stories This Year

1) “We’re All In.” Awkward, party of one, your table is waiting. So, funny story about writing this little project when two of you are in different places – particularly when one of us, in this case yours truly, is at an official JMU event like MAC, and the other partner is at home lobbing in snark on Twitter. When I walked into the plenary session on Saturday afternoon featuring one of the JMU’s coolest employees (and avowed Deadhead), AVP for Communications and Marketing Andy Perrine, I had a general idea that the session might be a test(y)-audience for JMU’s new slogan that had been presented to the BOV on Thursday to tepid reaction and reported on by The Breeze on Friday. Rob and I had texted Friday and generally agreed that while “Be the Change” had run its course over the last decade, “We’re All In” was about as meh as anyone could imagine. The exact thing that a bunch of fresh-outta-MBA-school guys with pastel golf shirts and Barstool stickers on their tailgates would come up with if they were hired as consultants by a large regional public university at a likely exorbitant rate. What I didn’t know was that Rob was tweeting at the time with lots of funny responses to “We’re All In.” Just as in my actual JMU days, I was one of the last slackers to stroll in and the four or five folks who know about JMUSB laughed in my general direction. It was beautiful actually in its own way. But poor Andy had to put up with a room full of resistant folks (and remember, those folks are the ultimate JMU cheerleaders under any circumstances). In any case, who knows if “We’re All In” is actually going to be rolled out given the BOV reaction, but it was an interesting session to say the least, including the inevitable and gloriously nerdy (for an English major) devolving into a discussion of the merits of “We’re” versus “We Are.”

For the record, the great thing about Be The Change was it was a charge, it felt like JMU, and it was an adapted Gandhi quote. The problem was since JMU introduced it ten years ago, it’s been adopted by everyone from companies to political advocates to mommy bloggers. The other problem was that you can’t trademark a Gandhi quote as your own and use it for your own commercial purposes. So yes, it’s time for a change, but we’re just not sure a dated poker term is that change.

2) Tripp Hughes and Chiquita Jones on the AA BOD – These two new members of the Alumni Association Board are dedicated and deserving Dukes in every sense of those words. From an Athletics angle, with J.R. Snow, among others, rolling off the Board this year, we had some concern that our precious corner of the JMU universe might lose some passion, but with Tripp, a now veteran Richmond Dukes leader, coming on, we feel a lot better that the backroom will not forget what’s best for getting to places like Frisco, Oklahoma City, and the Big Dance in hoops.

3) Charlotte Wins Chapter of the Year (and MIP Chapter) – So since I moved to NC and I’m right smack between Raleigh and Charlotte I’ve been fortunate to meet quite a few folks from both chapters. Even more fortunate, I think I can safely call most of the Queen City’s Chapter leaders “friends of JMUSB” at this point. So it was really great to see the hard work that group has put in the last five plus years rewarded with not only this award, but even better with a robust, proud chapter in a city that is bursting with new Dukes alumni. Tim Emry, Jessi Groover, Carrie Klamut, Kate Schober, and their entire squad deserve a ton of credit for rebuilding this nascent chapter at a time when JMU itself wasn’t doing a ton of encouraging of new/rebuilt chapters. And I need one of those shirts!

4) Regional Ambassadors – While we were somewhat dismayed by the lack of Duke Club presence this year, one great piece of news from our standpoint was Alysia Davis working to use “Regional Ambassadors” more in locations that don’t have official chapters and generally being willing to help with events in those spots. Maybe that’s personal after we had 40 screaming Dukes in Greensboro for the NDSU game last December but it’s a really good effort after years of not really starting up new chapters aside from those that were already well-established.

5) THIS Video from the Steel City Dukes. This thing that the small but seriously passionate group of Yinzer Dukes put together for Giving Day this year was ridiculously impressive and raised the bar big-time for what is possible from a chapter in support of the Dukes.

And last but most certainly not least, an enormous thank you to the team of folks that host  (i.e. put up with us) this enormously under-the-radar-amazing event. These folks are led by Alysia Davis (the real drive behind MAC17) and Ashley Privott, but there’s a whole team of people that make the weekend so special (shoutout to Emma Maynard for her energy and open-mindedness this year at the “My JMU Network” breakout session).

Oh yeah, one final note. Like D-Hall last year, this upcoming school year will be the swan song for the beloved (ok, maybe just beloved for us Eagle folks) Mrs. Greens as it makes way for the expanded College of Business so make sure and make time for that incongruous salad bar/hot dog combo that only a JMU dining establishment understands how to get right when you’re back next year.

Jun 13 / Rob

The MRDs Are The Best Marching Band in the Country, Cause Jason Isbell Says So

isbellThe MRDs are the best marching band in country. We know that. You know that. And apparently Grammy Award winning artists do too. And not just any Grammy Award winning artists, but one of JMUSB’s undisputed favorite artists Jason Isbell.

While doing press for his latest release, “The Nashville Sound” (which you can listen to here), Isbell was interviewed by JMU alum Spencer Dukoff. Dukoff mentioned that he attended JMU, which prompted Isbell to say “Ah, the Marching Royal Dukes. They have the best marching band in the country.”

Well, there you go. We don’t want to say the MRDs just peaked, but it might be close. Now we just need to get Sturgill Simpson to give the Pep Band a shout out.

Jun 11 / Rob

We Figured You Could Use a JMU Football Highlight Fix

The good news is that it’s only 83 days until the 2017 JMU Football season kicks off. The bad news is that 87 is a lot of days. So if you’re anything like us, you’re probably jonesing for something, anything, related to JMU football to help you make it through the day. Well, we’re here to help. Actually, JMU’s cornerback coach Tripp Weaver is the one helping by posting the above highlight video to Twitter. We’re just embedding it here because it’s 2017 and that passes a new blog content nowadays. In any case, enjoy it. September 2 can’t come soon enough.