Some technical problems with the College Blog and my own bout with the flu have resulted in a backlog of news items this week. Here’s a quick rundown:
• The Big Ten Conference announced today that its conference tournament will be held in Columbus, Ohio, through 2012. In 2009, the Big Ten played its first neutral-site tournament since 1994 at Huntington Park, home of the Triple-A Columbus Clippers. The tournament will return to Huntington in 2011 and 2012, but due to a facility conflict, the 2010 tournament will be held at Ohio State’s Bill Davis Stadium. The 2009 tournament drew more than 12,000 fans, marking the tournament’s highest total attendance in the past decade.
• There was some tragic news out of Southern California on Tuesday. Long Beach State recruit James Wernke was found dead in Fullerton after going missing during the weekend.
“It’s never easy to deal with an enormous tragedy such as this,” LBSU coach Mike Weathers said in a statement. “We obviously thought very highly of James and will miss the opportunity to have him be part of the Long Beach State baseball program. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this difficult time.”
Wernke was a pitcher at Santa Ana JC and had signed a letter of intent to attend Long Beach State for the 2011 season.
• Two more college summer leagues announced expansion franchises. The Northwoods League will add a team in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., in 2010. The franchise will hold a contest to name the team. And the Cal Ripken League will add the Southern Maryland Cardinals in 2010. The Cardinals were formed in 2008, when they participated in the Maryland Collegiate League. Last year they moved to the Clark Griffith Baseball League, where they won the tournament championship. Southern Maryland will play most of its 2010 home games in Hanover, Md.
• Former Florida State baseball head coach and football assistant coach Charlie Armstrong, who led the Seminole baseball team in their first four years of the program’s existence, died Sunday at the age of 87. Armstrong coached the first four Florida State baseball teams and was the first assistant football coach in FSU history when head coach Don Veller hired the former Indiana star in 1948. Armstrong started the FSU baseball program from scratch, pulling together a team and equipment while posting winning records in each of the first four years from 1948-51. He finished with a career coaching record of 46-29 over his four seasons in Tallahassee, collecting a season-high 13 wins in 1950 and 1951.
• Over the weekend, Rob Reinstetle resigned as assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Mississippi. Reinstetle, who spent the last three seasons as hitting coach and recruiting coordinator at Ole Miss, said he resigned for personal reasons. Rebels coach Mike Bianco promoted volunteer coach Matt Mossberg to a full-time position and shifted Rob Francis from director of baseball operations to the position of volunteer coach. Pitching coach Carl Lafferty will assume full duties as recruiting coordinator.
OleMissInsider.com also reported that freshmen Evan Frazar and Zach Lowery were dismissed from Mississippi’s team last week, but no reasons were given. Frazar and Lowery are both strong, physical athletes that gave Mississippi’s 12th-ranked recruiting class added depth, but they were not the headliners in the Rebels’ class.
• On Friday, New Orleans took another step toward reclassifying as a Division III athletics program. The Louisiana State board of supervisers approved UNO’s decision to notify the Sun Belt Conference of its plans to withdraw from the league. UNO chancellor Tim Ryan said the school’s general fund coffers are subsidizing the athletics program about $700,000 a year, and with more budget cuts on the way, the athletics department could be facing a shortfall of nearly $3 million. In May, students narrowly voted down an increase in fees that would have provided enough funding for the athletics department to remain in Division I.
It looks grim, but the fight to keep UNO in D-I is not quite over. According to the (Baton Rouge) Advocate, Ryan must still develop an inclusive and comprehensive plan justifying the Division III move that must be approved prior to May 15 by the board.
“You’ve got a very, very short window of opportunity to go out and get some major donations,” LSU board member Jack Andonie told those who oppose the LSU move, according to the Advocate. “You’ve got to go out and act.”
UNO’s baseball program has a rich history, which includes 14 trips to regionals and one appearance in the College World Series, in 1984 under Ron Maestri. The Privateers made regionals in 2007 and ’08 under coach Tom Walter, who left this summer to take over as head coach at Wake Forest.
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