Mon Dec 27 02:26pm EST
Florida International infielder Garrett Wittels, who is chasing Robin Ventura's college baseball-record 58-game hitting streak, could be in major trouble with the law after he was charged with raping two 17-year-old girls during a vacation to the Bahamas, the Miami Herald reported.
The incident occurred Dec. 20, while Wittels and a group of friends were vacationing at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas. Wittels was released on $10,000 bond after a court hearing on Dec. 23. Bahamaian officials noted that a preliminary inquiry and decision on whether to take the case to trial won't come until April 18, a month after FIU begins its college baseball season.
Wittels' father, Michael Wittels, confirmed the arrest and believes that his son will be vindicated when all details are released.
The father added that Garrett and his friends met the girls in a casino, and the girls willingly joined the men at a private party. No details about what happened at the private party have been released.
Under Bahamian law, this case is not statutory in nature. The age for sexual activity in the Bahamas is 16, thus making consensual activity legal.
"Anyone can accuse anyone of anything at any time," Michael Wittels said in the report. "He's not doing well, obviously. He's blown away. He's devastated that someone would accused him of this."
No time table has been set for when and if the case will go to court, thus raising the question about Wittels' eligibility with the Panthers. FIU, though, isn't jumping to conclusions and is still gathering information on the matter.
"We will continue to gather any possible information when it becomes available," FIU athletic director Pete Garcia said in the report.
The Panthers open the 2011 season on Feb. 18, when they play host to Southeastern Louisiana in a three-game series. Wittels' current game hitting streak sits at 56, two shy of Ventura's record. Wittels would break the record with a hit in all three games.
The maximum penalty for a first-time rape offender in the Bahamas is seven years in jail.
Fri Dec 24 01:42pm EST
College baseball lost one of its all-time great coaches on Christmas Eve when former Clemson coach Bill Wilhelm passed away at age 81.
Wilhelm was the architect of a very successful Clemson program. He also was one of the great pioneers in the history of the sport, bringing much attention to a sport that now is in its greatest days and has many great years ahead of it.
While his contributions to college baseball as a whole were special, his success as coach at Clemson was extremely impressive.
Wilhelm spent 36 years (1958-93) with the Tigers and guided the program to six College World Series appearances, 17 NCAA tournament appearances and 11 ACC titles. He led the Tigers to the CWS two years before he retired.
His impressive accomplishments didn't stop there. Wilhelm never had a losing record in his 36 seasons and is the university's all-time wins leader in all sports with a career record of 1,161-536-10.
Current Clemson coach Jack Leggett served two seasons (1992-93) as assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for Wilhelm.
Wed Dec 22 09:48am EST
It's comforting to know former New York Yankees don't have issues finding employment after their professional baseball careers are finished. Interestingly, former Yankees first baseman Andy Phillips has the unique opportunity of coaching big-time college baseball in the SEC at Alabama, his alma mater.
Phillips will coach the Crimson Tide hitters and assist in recruiting, while Dax Norris, who spent several seasons in the minor leagues and is a former catcher, shifts from hitting coach to pitching coach.
The interesting moves come as a result of pitching coach Kyle Bunn abruptly announcing his resignation last week. And with the season slated to begin in less than two months, the Crimson Tide had to quickly move for an assistant coach.
The search ended with Phillips, someone with plenty of credibility as a player at the collegiate and professional levels.
"He brings something special to the table. He was a great player here and a good player at the Major League Level. Most importantly, he has a passion for coaching at Alabama and the timing was just right. I couldn't be more excited to have him," Alabama coach Mitch Gaspard said. "Obviously, with two former college All-Americans on the staff now, I think we have a great deal of knowledge on our staff."
"While Andy is excited to join the program, I think Dax also is excited to be heading over to the pitching side of things for us."
Though there's always a risk in hiring a first-time assistant, there's no question Phillips brings much credibility to the table from a playing standpoint.
Phillips played for the Crimson Tide from 1996-99 and compiled a .356 career batting average. His 322 career hits with the Tide remains the school record. Additionally, he helped guide the Tide to the College World Series in three of his four seasons with the program in '96, '97 and '99. Phillips finished his career with All-American honors.
The Yankees selected Phillips in the seventh round of the MLB draft out of college in '99, and he made his MLB debut with the organization toward the end of the '04 season. In his first at bat with the Yankees, Phillips hit a home run over the Green Monster in Fenway Park, and is one of just seven Yanks to hit homers in their first at bat.
Phillips had a more prominent role for the Yankees in '06 when a Gary Sheffield injury forced Bernie Williams to move to the outfield, thus leading to Jason Giambi taking over the designated hitter role and Phillips moving to first base.
His best year at the big level came in '07 when he batted .292 with two home runs and 25 RBIs. He ended the year with 185 at bats.
Phillips also had stints with the Reds, Mets and White Sox before finishing his career with two seasons in the Nippon Professional League in Japan.
Overall, knowledge of the game won't be an issue with Phillips. But it will be interesting to see how he coaches and how much his background plays to the Crimson Tide's favor on the recruiting trail.
Either way, it's always nice to see a former big leaguer give back to his alma mater. Phillips is just doing it in extra special fashion.
Fri Dec 17 01:14am EST
Alabama suffered a tough break with the season nearing when pitching coach Kyle Bunn turned in his resignation to Crimson Tide head coach Mitch Gaspard this week.
No details on why Bunn resigned his post were released by the Crimson Tide, though, Gaspard had an interesting quote to the Tuscaloosa News.
"He resigned and really it's just a matter of … I think that Kyle would have to answer that about parting ways," he told the paper. "I respect Kyle as a coach. Obviously, I accepted his resignation.
Calls to Bunn were not answered Thursday, and there was a prompt announcing the phone number already had been disconnected.
Bunn's departure from the Alabama program comes as a surprise. Though the Crimson Tide finished last season with just a 5.06 ERA, the staff improved as the season progressed with Nathan Kilcrease and Jimmy Nelson leading the way.
Before his one year stint with the Tide, Bunn spent two seasons at Clemson after previously spending a season as a full-time coach at Mississippi. Bunn also spent four seasons as a volunteer assistant for the Rebels before his role as a full-time assistant.
While Bunn steps away and must reassess his situation, the Crimson Tide now have the tough chore of finding a pitching coach with the season beginning Feb. 18, with a home series against Alcorn State.
Alabama hitting coach Dax Norris, who has experience dealing with pitchers, could gravitate to the role of pitching coach. However, Gaspard made it clear to us that he was committed to hiring the best coach possible for the sudden vacancy.
"We're just checking interest for the opening right now," he said. "I'd like to fill the open position by the first day of spring classes, which is Wednesday, January 12."
The Crimson Tide will have some tough holes to fill in the spring, but are coming off a campaign that included a super regional appearance and a 42-25 record.
Stay tuned to Yahoo! Sports for more on Alabama's vacancy.
Wed Dec 15 11:32pm EST
The NCAA report confirms what I stated since the first day of the investigation. “That I have never intentionally or knowingly violated NCAA rules.” Now that the investigation is complete I am pleased that all can see whether violations were deemed major or secondary, there was no dishonesty or cheating and that no competitive advantage was sought. All of the violations were unintentional. My penalty of one year recruiting call restrictions indicates the NCAA realized that I was not the crux of the problem. Fortunately, the attempt to portray me as the sole responsible party has failed. Based on sanctions against the university its obvious that compliance is an ongoing problem. My evaluations and compliance record, including the ones done during the investigation speak volumes to my willingness to follow the rules. I do accept responsibility for not being well versed on some rules and interpretations, and the monitoring of my staff’s paperwork. I remind you that I was consistently applauded for my compliance record, in season ending reviews.
My reputation was called into question throughout this process. Now people will no longer have to speculate if I was intentionally breaking rules. I am responsible for making myself an easy target. My defensive behavior didn’t serve me well once the investigation started. While I was pleased to learn that I can coach in the NCAA immediately with a minor penalty, there is no happiness in seeing the program sanctioned. Due to the repeat offender status of the university, for its second lack of institutional control violation in a five-year span, the sanctions against the program are more harsh. The players’ achievements both on and off the field in recent years match the greatest era of ASU’s storied baseball history. Few programs in any sport can equal the rankings in the last six years.
The injustice of losing a top coaching position while the program was thriving has been a life and family changing experience. However, somehow I am grateful for having endured this and am certain it has taught me valuable lessons. Only the love for my children exceeds the passion for helping student-athletes develop in life. This process has educated me beyond what coaches typically understand. My hope is no other coach will have to endure this process based on the same kind of facts that precipitated this investigation.
Wed Dec 01 01:25pm EST
The landscape of college baseball has greatly changed over the past two decades. It has evolved from a sport dominated by two specific regions to one that is seeing programs in the Northeast and Pacific Northwest become prominent players on the national stage.
It's safe to say the sport is always changing. However, in the case of some things, the sport simply hasn't changed quick enough.
With the sport slated to welcome a sparkling new facility in downtown Omaha next June that will host the College World Series, it's time to analyze ten things that could be done better or added to college baseball to make the sport better.
Let the debates begin.
More national television games
There was a time when college baseball was on ESPN at least once a week during the season, but that was two decades ago. Now, the SEC is trying to put the sport back on center stage from a television standpoint by announcing last week it will televise an "SEC Game of the Week" on ESPNU several Thursdays next season. That's certainly a step in the right direction, but we'd prefer see those games played on actual ESPN, not ESPNU. Either way, we give credit to the SEC for at least trying to give the sport more television exposure. Good ratings on ESPNU could mean big things for college baseball's television future. So, even if you're a casual fan, be sure to watch the games.
More marquee non-conference matchups
There are plenty of programs that make efforts to schedule solid non-conference opponents, but there also are those that make a point to stay at home and play weak schedules. By the way, you know who you are. For the good of college baseball, we're all for teams putting together marquee non-conference matchups, series that extend out of your comfortable region and engage programs in other regions of the country. The Big Ten/Big East Challenge is a fantastic idea. What would be better, though, is if the SEC/ACC had a challenge and the Big 12/Pac-10 put together a challenge, too. Hey, one can dream, right?
Speaking of roads we've traveled down before, it's a no brainer that college baseball should increase its scholarship totals. As has been the case for years, most programs have scholarship totals of 11.7. However, there's no question the sport is shafted from a scholarship standpoint when compared to other comparable Division I sports. The argument against increasing scholarships is many programs still aren't at 11.7. However, increasing scholarships, in most instances, would force administrators to make a greater commitment to the sport. It's a win-win for most.
More commitments to building programs
Many programs continue to make stronger commitments to their programs with renovated or new facilities. However, making stronger commitments will continue to be a goal as long as an institution such as California is considering dropping its baseball program. Furthermore, Coastal Carolina has given the little guys hope they someday can become one of the big national players. Programs are making stronger commitments, but there's never an end in this department.
Eventually move to wood bats
The NCAA raised plenty of eyebrows this fall when it mandated programs must begin using the new BBCOR bats. Well, the BBCOR bats certainly act more like wood than any bat used in years. So, that begs the next question, why not just move to wood bats? Some coaches and pundits argue that aluminum bats make the college game unique. But, you must remember the mere presence of aluminum bats also turns off many casual baseball fans. Some say who cares about those fans, but those are the fans that will determine if college baseball becomes a big-time sport. As much as some dislike the idea, moving to wood bats has a better bottom line.
Move up the MLB draft signing deadline
There's a very good chance this happens when the new Collective Bargaining Agreement is voted on next year, but it's important to reiterate our stance. There were several college coaches anxiously waiting by phones on Aug. 16 to find out if their prized recruits were signing pro contracts or going to college. That's all fine and dandy except the fact school had already started for some of those coaches, meaning if a player signed they could be unable to fill his spot. Many believe the signing deadline will be moved to July 1. That would be perfect for college baseball, but I'd be surprised if the new deadline wasn't in the middle of July. That would be a good compromise.
Develop a fall baseball schedule
This is something that must be done. The NCAA allows softball programs to play fall contests with no penalty during the sport's spring season. Baseball programs have games removed from their spring schedule if they play games during the fall. There's something wrong with that picture. The NCAA should allow baseball programs to play a four or five game fall schedule that do not count against your 56-game regular-season schedule. Many of these games could be played between rivals on football game weekends to generate more interest in the sport.
Less regionalization of NCAA Super Regionals
There's a reason Major League Baseball would prefer in most instances not to have teams from the same area in the NLCS, ALCS or World Series. It brings down television ratings. Somehow, the NCAA hasn't figured out the popularity of college baseball will increase long-term by putting together intriguing national matchups as opposed to pitting regional teams together like they did with Cal State Fullerton-UCLA, TCU-Texas (for the second straight season) and Miami-Florida last season. We're of the belief that super regional venues will attract thousands of fans no matter who the home team is playing. Not everything must be regional in nature.
Get the northern programs more involved
We've never been champions of making sure other regions are involved in the landscape of college baseball, but now is the time to get the northern programs more involved. There are plenty of northern programs that head south during the early part of the season. But in many instances, these programs aren't playing the marquee southern and western teams. That must change for the landscape of the sport to improve. It also would help if programs in big conferences such as Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina would occasionally make midweek trips to the northern part of the country. College baseball will continue to gain popularity, but doing a better job of attracting the north is the final piece to the big puzzle.
Weaker transfer rule
We've been on this soapbox for over a year now, and we're still of the belief there's something wrong with the rule that states you must sit out for a year if you transfer to another Division I institution, barring a special exemption. Again, it must be reiterated, college baseball is not the same as college football and basketball. Unlike those sports, baseball is not a full scholarship sport and shouldn't be treated as one. If a player is with a program that can't give him more scholarship money than another program, he should be allowed to transfer with no penalty for financial reasons. Deep down, we're not fans of players freely transferring all over the place. However, having a loose transfer rule is one of many ways to get the NCAA more involved in increasing scholarships.
Fri Nov 19 01:15am EST
The Team USA National Collegiate Team may not finish next summer with an undefeated record, but there's no question it will have an excellent coaching staff with Missouri's Tim Jamieson serving as manager.
Jamieson, who is regarded as one of the nation's best teachers, has done a fantastic job during his tenure at Missouri. He also earned a great reputation in 2005 when he helped lead Team USA to an impressive 16-4 summer record.
We are thrilled to announce Tim Jamieson as our 2011 manager,” said Eric Campbell, USA Baseball General Manager of National Teams. “His experience from 2005 -- coaching players like David Price, Matt Wieters and Matt LaPorta -- will serve him well, and teaming him with Dave Van Horn, Scott Stricklin and Rob Walton will provide our athletes with a unique opportunity to learn from some of the best college coaches in the game. Once again, the college coaching community has rallied around the Collegiate National Team program."
While the hiring of Jamieson as head coach is impressive, the rest of the coaching staff Team USA assembled is equally impressive.
Oral Roberts' Rob Walton, Arkansas' Dave Van Horn and Kent State's Scott Stricklin will serve as assistants.
Walton managed Team USA in '08 and had a phenomenal summer, leading the team to a perfect 24-0 record and a gold medal at the FISU World Championships with a 1-0 victory over Japan.
Van Horn and Stricklin will make their first appearance at Team USA, but will do so with very impressive resumes at their respective institutions.
Van Horn guided the Razorbacks to the College World Series two seasons ago and fell just short of Omaha last season with a super regional series loss to Arizona State. Stricklin, meanwhile, has developed Kent State into one of the north's best programs and one of the most successful mid-majors.
Kudos to Eric Campbell and Team USA for assembling a fantastic staff, and may a gold medal be on the team's horizon after a tough loss to Cuba in the title match this past summer.
Thu Nov 18 06:06pm EST
North Carolina sophomore outfielder Brian Goodwin has been suspended fro the 2011 season for violating unversity policy, the school announced on Thursday.
The Tar Heels confirmed his suspension is not related to the university and NCAA's investigation into the UNC football program. Additionally, the school announced Goodwin would stay at UNC from an academic standpoint.
Goodwin's suspension is bad news for a team looking for an offensive identity.
The versatile outfielder had a solid freshman season for the Tar Heels. He started all 60 games last season and batted .291 with 13 doubles, eight triples, seven homers and 63 RBIs. Goodwin also slugged .511 and had a respectable .409 on-base percentage.
The Tar Heels had very high hopes for Goodwin next season before the suspension was announced.
Without Goodwin, the Tar Heels now will look even more to Levi Michael and Jesse Wierzbicki for more offensive production. Both sluggers missed most of fall workouts with hand injuries.
UNC finished last season with a 38-22 record and failed to reach the College World Series for the first time in five seasons. It opens the '11 campaign against Cal Poly.
Thu Nov 11 02:29pm EST
As arguably the nation's premier conference, many college baseball fans are interested in what's going on with the SEC. The SEC's 12 coaches met in Hoover, Ala., earlier this week to discuss a variety of topics, including the use of a pitch clock in the conference tournament, the possibility of playing games in the fall without penalty, the controversial new bats and the future location of the conference tournament.
Interestingly, the pitch clock was one of the first topics brought up by an SEC coach that we spoke with. Currently, the SEC has a visible pitch clock placed to the left of the Regions Park scoreboard in right field. However, umpires are proposing that a fourth umpire be added and that fourth umpire would keep the time -- not the pitch clock next to the scoreboard.
"The umpires are really concerned that people care a little too much about what the clock is saying out there," the coach said. "They don't really want people getting really upset in the future if a pitcher goes one second over on the clock."
By the sound of that, it seems like the pitch clock is more of a deterrent and not intended for ultra strict use.
It shouldn't come as a surprise the new BBCOR bats were a hot topic at the SEC meetings. Several SEC coaches, such as LSU's Paul Mainieri and Florida's Kevin O'Sullivan, have expressed in the past they don't believe college baseball needs new bats.
"I think some are upset with the fact they weren't given a chance to sample the bats before they actually went into practice," the coach said. "I think the NCAA feels a little duped by the bat companies at this point."
The coach added, and the NCAA has confirmed, that safety was the primary concern with the release of the new bats.
Whether coaches like them or not, the bats appear to be here to stay.
When Texas and Vanderbilt played a scrimmage earlier this fall, the games officially counted against both teams' 56-game regular season schedules in the spring.
SEC coaches want that to change.
The NCAA currently allows softball, which plays a 56-game regular season schedule, to play four games in the fall without penalty in the spring. As a result, the SEC coaches, led by South Carolina's Ray Tanner, plan to propose the same rule for baseball.
"We'd probably even be happy with having two games if it gives us games in the fall," the coach said. "We feel like we have a pretty good argument moving forward."
Arguably the most important topic on the docket, at least as the SEC is concerned, was the future location of the SEC tournament.
Some have led to believe that Memphis, Tenn., could be the location for the tournament beginning in 2012. But if the SEC coaches have their way, the tournament won't deviate far from where they had their meetings this week. They want the tournament to stay in Hoover, Ala., and be played at Regions Park.
The consensus, a coach said, was overwhelming.
"Everyone is pleased with the location of the tourney in Hoover. It's kind of been the Omaha of the SEC and it's been a consistent place with a central location," he said. "One concern, though, is some facility upgrades must be made. But in terms of how they put on the tournament, it's first-class."
The SEC and coaches have been assured the parking situation that inconvienced fans attending last year's Alabama-Auburn contest will be fixed by the time the 2011 tourney arrives.
It appears to be Hoover's to lose.
Tue Nov 09 02:10pm EST
Former Alabama coach Jim Wells is no stranger to making bizarre career decisions, but his latest gig has surprised many in the college baseball community. Wells decided at the end of October to become an assistant at Calvary Baptist Academy, a medium-sized private school in Shreveport, La.
Perhaps Wells simply wanted to return to his home state, but it's not everyday a former SEC coach decides to return to the career as a high school assistant. The decision is even more puzzling considering Wells is the all-time winningest coach in Alabama history.
Calvary head coach Rodney Traweek, who struck gold by hiring Wells, welcomed him with open arms.
"I feel like, by adding him, it's given me kind of a Dream Team of assistant coaches," he told the Shreveport Times. "He'll help us in so many ways. He'll be a big help to me as a head coach."
Wells is expected to help the Cavaliers in a variety of ways. For instance, he'll help the program with pitching and hitting. He also will lead the program's communication with college coaches around the country.
"I think it's great for those players that he's going to be around the program at Calvary. His knowledge of the game is second to none and he always has had a great passion for coaching," Current Alabama coach Mitch Gaspard said. "It's not everyday you can get the all-time winningest coach in the history of an SEC school to coach at your high school."
Ponder the accomplishments Wells brings to the table as a high school coach.
In his 15 seasons as Alabama's coach, Wells guided the program to three College World Series appearances, two SEC titles, four 50-win campaigns and 12 40-win seasons. He also compiled a 522-246 (.680) record during his tenure in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Wells spent 20 seasons as a Division I coach, spending five seasons at Northwestern State (La.) before heading to Alabama.
Interestingly, this isn't the first time we've been surprised by a Wells decision.
After the Crimson Tide finished the 2007 season with a 31-26 record and failed to reach the NCAA postseason, Wells, without anyone's knowledge, abruptly announced his retirement. Insiders believe Wells was frustrating with the lack of facility renovations.
Just a few days later, Wells had what he called a "change of heart", and returned to the program.
He again made a bizarre decision in September of 2009 when he again announced his retirement following a campaign that ended with the Crimson Tide going 0-2 in an NCAA Regional and ending the campaign with a 37-21 record.
This time, Wells didn't have a change of heart. Instead, Mitch Gaspard took over and guided the Tide to an NCAA Super Regional appearance against Clemson in his first season.
Wells obviously missed coaching baseball, whether it's at the collegiate or high school level. There's a good chance he could net a job as an assistant somewhere at the Division I level. There's also a good chance he could find a job as a high school head coach.
But a gig as a high school assistant?
One thing is for sure, the 55-year-old likes to make things interesting.