ATN Podcast: Live from Salem

Keith McMillan and Gordon Mann have landed in Salem. On their feet. And everything. And we’re ready to go for Stagg Bowl XXXVI.

We discuss, what else, the Stagg Bowl. Listen.

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Sideline Guy: Meet the Teams (and Miss Virginia)

[Note: This is an entry of an ongoing Stagg Bowl blog by sideline commentator Frank Rossi. To read his previous entries, click the following links:

1) 12/17/08 – The Road (Sky) to Salem;
2) 12/18/08 – Cold Weather, Warm Reception; or
3) 12/19/08 – A Night of Celebrations.]

Quick update direct from the Press Box overlooking Willis White Field, home of the Stagg Bowl. I’m going through a post-lunch lull right now after a great lunch reception put together by Salem and the Old Dominion Athletic Conference that introduced the teams, coaches and members of the NCAA inside the Salem Convention Center’s basketball arena. It was a great setup and really good food — I certainly haven’t gone hungry since arriving on Wednesday night.

While I’d love to go on and on about the teams and coaches and that part of the program, I have a story that tops all of that. When we walked into the arena for lunch, Miss Virginia 2008, Tara Wheeler, was there to meet and greet the participants. She seemed sweet, but we continued on toward the table area. Since we were a little later than we had hoped (my bad), we had to push toward the front tables and found a table with five empty chairs (we had three people from As Pat Coleman reached to pull out a chair, I noted to him that a chair that is leaning on the table generally denotes a “saved” seat. There were only two of those, though, so we sat in the remaining three chairs. The program began and Miss Virginia did a great job singing the National Anthem. Next thing we know, she and one of the executive directors made their way to the saved chairs at our table! Yes, I stopped Pat from stealing the chair from Miss Virginia — a former Penn State ice hockey goalie who might have beaten him up for that chair. Yes, I saved Pat from certain destruction — and ensured that Ryan Tipps and I had a very pleasant lunch guest with whom we could discuss sports and pageants. I now have a new favorite for the 2009 Miss America Pageant — and I have the picture to prove it (click here).

Oh, wait, there’s a football game tomorrow! I almost forgot. Keegan Brennan, UW-Whitewater linebacker, spoke on behalf of his team and knocked the ball out of the park with his remarks — a great mixture of comedy, modesty and thanks. Greg Micheli spoke on behalf of Mount Union. After my interview with him last night, I knew that he would keep his comments poignant but brief — and he didn’t disappoint. It was a great job done by both guys.

The honest impression you come up with when you see both sets of starters lined up in front of you is that both of these teams look very young. That’s a credit to these teams because remember, we’re at the championship game right now. That’s a word of warning to the other couple hundred teams in Division III, as these teams may be around for some time to come. Work hard in the offseason, guys.

It’s time to break my lull and help Pat, Gordon Mann and Keith McMillan get the shows (pregame and actual broadcast) together for tomorrow (Pat’s beginning to wonder why I’m hiding in the corner, typing like a madman). So, hopefully I’ll update you once more tonight before we go on the air at 9am EST tomorrow with our pregame show. We all hope you can listen.

Sideline Guy: A Night of Celebrations

[Note: This is an entry of an ongoing Stagg Bowl blog by sideline commentator Frank Rossi. To read his previous entries, click here for the first entry or here for his second entry.]

The official portion of our first day in Salem ended with the awarding of the Gagliardi Trophy to Greg Micheli. The reception included both teams and their coaching staffs, as all of this weekend’s participants celebrated one player’s great achievements.

A lot of people want to try to compare the Gagliardi Trophy with the Heisman Trophy, but there are many differences that, I feel, make the Gagliardi concept superior. First, the criteria for the award include factors that make the recipient a well-balanced individual, not just a great football player. The award has been nicknamed the ”Academic Heisman” because of its emphasis on a player’s classroom performance, but a player’s service record is also considered in the balloting. This is an appropriate measure because, as we always point out on the air, the odds are greater than 99.9 percent that Division III Football players will not play at the next level — making the other aspects of their collegiate experience as or more important than their participation in the sport of football. This, too, is why the award is presented only to a senior — so that the player’s entire academic and athletic careers can be evaluated, not just a portion of each.

What jumped out at me about Micheli’s resume wasn’t the 2008 season pass efficiency rating he’s compiled (which was amazingly over 200), but his 3.84 GPA at Mount Union — in his mathematics and physics double major. This guy’s got brains and tremendous career potential, and in the interview I did with him after he received the Gagliardi Trophy (included below), he discusses his plans for after graduation.

The other thing that makes the Gagliardi Trophy superior is that the ceremony is crisp. From the beginning of dinner to the final speech took about 90 minutes — the ceremony seemed to fly by. It’s not that I was excited to just be done with the ceremony; instead, the efficiency of the ceremony allowed me to retain focus as to why we gathered together with our Division III colleagues to celebrate. The only shortcoming I can find is that there is no suspense at the actual ceremony — the winner is announced about a week before the ceremony — and the suspense could create a celebration of a few more very deserving players that we should honor. This point could be debated either way, but the St. John’s “J Club,” the Salem Rotary Club and Jostens should be proud of the job they did tonight in celebrating Micheli’s career.

Upon returning to our hotel, we joined some members of the NCAA Selection Committee, fans and media in the hospitality room. The night came full circle as we all kicked back and discussed the day and the season, as the son of Coach Gagliardi, St. John’s Offensive Coordinator Jim Gagliardi, sat and talked football with us for a decent amount of time. What became clear was that while his father is truly a fixture at St. John’s who exemplifies the values of Division III Football and coaching in any division, Coach Gagliardi’s bloodlines contain that same extreme passion, understanding and love for the sport. It gave me a better perspective as to why the Gagliardi Trophy was named after Coach Gagliardi beyond the fact that he holds the record for wins by a Division III coach. Like I said about the coaches’ interviews we performed earlier in the day, these moments humanize the figures in this division with whom we might not have much personal contact during the actual seasons. Tonight furthered this point.

So, I go to bed tonight thinking about the celebration of two careers I witnessed tonight — one career that will begin to head in a different direction after Saturday and one career that has helped pave the way for the first man to have memories that will never be forgotten. Congratulations to Greg Micheli, and thank you to Coaches Gagliardi, both father and son.