Sideline Guy: Gagliardi, the matchup, snow
Time for a catch-all blog entry, as the weather has caused things to be a little erratic around your broadcast crew. I’ll update the weather situation, among other things, throughout this entry.
For the first time in any of the Divisions’ highest college football awards (the Heisman, Walter Payton, Harlon Hill and Gagliardi Trophies), we finally have an offensive lineman as a winner in Blaine Westemeyer. I know the arguments will be forthcoming concerning whether the Gagliardi is akin to a “player of the year” award, but that’s not what Gagliardi night is about. It’s about showcasing the epitome of Division III Football — great student-athletes playing the game simply for the love of it. We met Blaine Westemeyer earlier in the day during the initial interview pool for the Stagg Bowl teams, and it was obvious right away that Westemeyer was a confident, smart and poised individual who does not embody the unfortunate stereotype many people bestow on linemen. It was a whirlwind week for Westemeyer, with a trip to Mexico City, a flight from there to Roanoke, Va., and then a return flight to Mexico City for the Tazon de Estrellas all-star game. If he was tired, you couldn’t tell it throughout the day.
Westemeyer’s speech was classy and a tribute to offensive linemen who have played and currently play football at any level. Keith Jackson used to call linemen the “Big Uglies” in the trenches, but there was nothing ugly about the setting nor the situation Thursday night. I think the interview Pat Coleman did with Westemeyer that we’ve linked below speaks to Westemeyer’s handling of the moment and the fact that the soon-to-be medical school attendee was a great recipient of this tremendous award.
I sensed a lot of frustration from fans concerning the idea that Mount Union and Whitewater are back for the fifth consecutive year. Sure, there have been plenty of tongue-in-cheek jokes about the teams’ familiarity with the area and the game. In reality, though, how true is that?
I think we often forget that a 52-man roster means that only about 30-35 underclassmen on average will have the chance to participate in the events of the week. How many of those 30-35 players were sophomores or freshmen? Not that many. With our fifth consecutive year of the matchup, we’re essentially guaranteed a complete turnover of players on both teams that have had Stagg Bowl experience (and likely a second turnover if you consider the shrunken rosters). Whitewater experienced a coaching change a couple years ago, meaning that, in essence, the only real high-profile stalwart in this fifth rendition of the matchup is Mount Union Head Coach Larry Kehres — and he always provides a certain level of unpredictability and wisdom to everyone that knows or meets him.
So is Division III football stuck in a rut? No. Two things make me answer that way. First, looking at the semi-finals, we had some real good competition for both teams, meaning that the “gap” may be closing between the rest of the Division and these two teams. Second, as I’ve said above, for as much as we hate to admit it, there are plenty of new faces every year appearing on the field at Salem Stadium for the Stagg Bowl. The mascots may be the same, but the game is different every year.
That’s why I’m still energized by this game for a third year on the sidelines.
As of this writing (1:15am EST Saturday morning), Roanoke, VA has seen about seven inches of snow fall — with some slowing over the last few hours. However, The National Weather Service has advised that there may be up to 12 to 15 more inches of snow overnight and into Saturday afternoon. There could be white-out conditions during the game, assuming the game kicks off at 11:03am EST. However, that is still an “if” — it is highly unlikely that the game will be pushed to Sunday since both teams and the officials are in place in Salem. The only possibility that seems possible is pushing the start time of the game to a later point Saturday if the weather appears to allow for improved conditions past the 11:03am kickoff. Could ESPN2 still broadcast the game? There is no other live event scheduled for the network until around 4:00pm, so there is some chance for a push of the kickoff. ESPN also has other networks, including ESPN Classic and ESPNU that could potentially broadcast the game in the event of a major problem. The answer to this question will not come until an early morning meeting of the key players of the NCAA and grounds crew. When we know more, we’ll fill you in.
For now, plan to join us live on the D3football.com Pregame Show, being videocast live starting at 9:00am EST. We’ll have a lot more on the weather story and will release the D3football.com 2009 All-American Team live.
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