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Marques Pfaff
Marques Pfaff
News and thoughts about sports from Marques himself.

Bo Ryan and Wisconsin's Next Head Basketball Coach

Tuesday, Jun, 30 2015

For the longest time I, like many fans of Badger basketball, seemed to think the Bo Ryan era would just go on forever. Oh sure, I had openly had conversations with friends about when he might hang it up, but it always felt like Ryan had several seasons left in the tank ... that was not the case. After my initial sense of shock wore off on Monday, I slowly began thinking about the future of Badger basketball ... a future without its most successful coach of all-time. Since Bo took over in 2001, the program has yet to miss and NCAA Tournament and has never finished worse than fourth in the Big Ten. Of course, Ryan was building on the foundation laid by the great Dick Bennett, but prior to these two coaching giants, Wisconsin basketball was rarely anything more than the Big Ten doormat. So where should Wisconsin turn for its next head coach? Ryan has suggested his longtime assistant Greg Gard and I tend to believe this will be the direction Wisconsin ultimately goes. Of course, a lot can change over the course of a year but as of right now, Gard gives the program its best shot at continuity through transition. He understands the Wisconsin way of doing things and would undoubtedly give the Badgers their best chance to continue winning in the manner they've become accustomed to. Of course, fans will wonder aloud whether Barry Alvarez should strive for big name ... someone that can take this program to the "next level," whatever that may be. I tend to believe this would be a mistake. Wisconsin often time wins with kids that aren't necessarily recruited to some of the Blue Blood programs. While this isn't always the case, by changing styles and attempting to play more of an up-tempo style, Wisconsin would effectively be thrusting itself into recruiting battles with more established teams like Michigan State, Duke and Kentucky. Tony Bennett's name will undoubtedly come up over the next year, and rightfully so. Bennett may be the one candidate from outside the program that makes a lot of sense. But while I have no inside information (and don't know Tony Bennett personally), I would question why he'd consider leaving a program in Virginia that he has quickly established as one of the best in the always-difficult ACC. At Wisconsin, he'd be following in the footsteps of Ryan and his father Dick. At Virginia, Tony is the revered figure. At the end of the day, there will be a number of names that emerge over the course of the next year as we watch Ryan play out his final season as coach. Circumstances can change, but as of this writing I would ask, why look any further than Ryan's top assistant.

posted by: The Big One with Marques Pfaff 2 month(s) ago Comment On This Post

Masters Ramblings: Observations after two days of golf's greatest event

Friday, Apr, 10 2015

I’m not sure there’s anything inherently controversial in what I’m about to say. In reality, it’s merely an amalgam of observations in the spirit of golf’s greatest tournament. As the best golfers in the world prepare to enter the weekend at August National, I’m reminded of the PGA’s old marketing tag, “these guys are good.” How do I know this slogan to be true? I’ve spent the better part of my life in and around sports (i.e. playing them, working in them and covering them for media) and no sport has ever caused me as much pain and distress as golf – not even close. I’ve always considered myself at least mildly athletic – relatively speaking, of course – but with golf, it’s at times as if I have zero coordination to speak of. Oh sure, there are days where I’m feeling great about my game – multiple pars with a birdie here or there – only to follow it up a day later with multiple trips to the sand and seemingly endless supply of water hazards. And I’d rather not mention the number of times I “chunk” a shot. There’s just no ‘mastering’ this game. Yet, somehow, the men on tour come as close as humanly possible. And that’s what makes this tournament known as The Masters so much fun to watch. It’s an appreciation for the difficulty of the game – and the players’ ability to overcome its most difficult circumstances.

The story of the tournament to this point is Jordan Spieth, a 21-year-old that makes us all feel just the least bit embarrassed to discuss what we were doing at such a young age. I assure you I would have been more than thrilled to contend in an online tournament of Golden Tee (if you’re confused, look it up). Yet, there is Spieth, making it look easy versus men twice his age, many of whom he undoubtedly grew up watching on TV. It’s stories like this that bring me back every year. Two years ago it was Adam Scott – avenging the heartbreak of a collapse at the 2012 British Open by winning his first green jacket. The list goes on. With so many great stories each year, I’m left scratching my head when talking about golf’s declining television ratings. Sure, it’s easy to point to the decline of Tiger Woods and suggest that alone is responsible. But I’m not convinced it doesn’t run deeper. Woods decline began several years ago now and even when he is playing decent golf (which is rare these days by his standards) the interest just doesn’t seem to be there. With so many young superstars and the game being played by more people than ever before, it would seem logical that more that people watch the game on TV. Perhaps golf, like baseball, has been victimized by the social preference for a faster pace. It’s easy to see where a younger generation might consider golf, with its lack of contact and low-talking commentators, to be boring. I’m not here to offer a wealth of suggestions on how to fix it (sorry), and I’m not sure there is an easy way to do so. A talent the likes of Tiger Woods – with his ability to transcend race and gender – comes along once in a generation. So for now, golf must continue to market its young stars while tweaking where necessary. There’s no need to create drama like some cheap reality TV show -- it exists organically. And let us never forget just how good these guys really are.

posted by: The Big One with Marques Pfaff 4 month(s) ago Comment On This Post

Social Media: Lethal in the hands of those untrained

Thursday, Mar, 5 2015

There’s no question social media now occupies a huge place in our day-to-day interactions and the newest form of communication shows no signs of slowing down. If anything, the medium will continue to expand, and provide individuals and businesses alike with exciting new opportunities. But for all the good that comes with outlets such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, the potential for disaster exists and in recent days has too often become the headline for numerous athletes. Curt Schilling, Leveon Bell and Marc Trestman have all had their own unique run-ins with the medium which leads me to the thesis of this piece. If you’re a public figure of any kind, HIRE SOMEONE … ANYONE … to either manage your account or at least verse you in the potential pitfalls of the medium. All of us are human and prone to react with emotion from time-to-time. The difference in the past has been the non-existence of a public forum in which opinions, however emotional they might be, are immediately disseminated to the masses with no filter. When you put it in writing like that, it’s easy to see why such a forum can be so dangerous. But back to the purpose of this post … there are a number of athletes and other public figures that utilize their social media accounts for nothing but good and I applaud them. That’s not to say they don’t have emotion or overreact like the rest of us from time-to-time -- they are human, afterall. No, the difference is their understanding of the medium and subsequent ability to avoid potentially negative situations.

And perhaps I should expand this piece to include everyday individuals – whether you’re a Hollywood actor, a Green Bay Packer quarterback or Paul from Menasha, working to provide for his family, social media can be a disaster waiting to happen if you’re not versed in how to use it. Attacking athletes with vile language might seem like some kind of joke at the time (although it’s one I fail to see the humor in), but as illustrated by the story with Schilling, the ill effects are lasting and can follow someone for a long time. Bottom line, treat social media like a potential weapon; effective in the hands of those trained to use it but potentially lethal to one’s pubic image if not handled properly.

posted by: The Big One with Marques Pfaff 6 month(s) ago Comment On This Post

Autonomy for the Big 5: College Athletics Shifting Closer to Massive Overhaul

Thursday, Aug, 7 2014

It’s no secret the almighty dollar ultimately governs everything in this world and amateur athletics is no exception. On the show today I brought up the issue of autonomy for the big five conferences (i.e. ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 & SEC)  in college football and whether it’s ultimately a good thing for all parties involved. While there will almost certainly be some good that comes from this vote today – in particular for student-athletes at major athletic institutions – I hesitate to say it will extend to all NCAA Division I members.

If you missed the story don’t worry, you’re not alone. Given the potential impact of this decision on college athletics, it received very little in the way of publicity. Here’s a brief synopsis; the NCAA Division I Board of Directors voted in favor of allowing the power conferences to create and implement their own rules such as additional stipends and insurance benefits not currently covered by a scholarship. The vote will also allow these conferences some additional freedom in recruiting rules. This is a watered down explanation and I encourage everyone to check out Stewart Mandel’s article explaining things better (link below).

On the surface, this might sound great for a select number of athletes at what I’ll call the power institutions … and quite frankly it is. The problem arises in that you’ve effectively created a new level of football within the FBS. The smaller schools can’t keep up. Even if given the opportunity, there is absolutely NO WAY a school from the Mid-American Conference (MAC) or Mountain West can offer that same type of package to a potential student-athlete given the budgets these schools work with. The rich get richer and the college landscape continues to inch towards a change of massive proportion. In a system that favors a select number of schools – and all because of money – how can the current model of amateurism hold up? It can’t … and it won’t.

Consider a prospective football student-athlete choosing between a MAC school in which he could start right away, or an ACC school in which he’ll likely need to ride the bench for two years before seeing any kind of action. In the past, this individual may have chosen the MAC school simply to get on the field sooner … but how can anyone reasonably do that now given all the financial benefits associated with attending a power five conference. Now this rule won’t be applicable to many student-athletes whose only real chance to play comes outside the power conferences … but it will have a major effect on the many who are borderline. So while this decision will almost certainly have a positive effect on athletes at power schools, it also further solidifies the fact that money rules college athletics and the rich get richer.


posted by: The Big One with Marques Pfaff 13 month(s) ago Comment On This Post

NFL's Explanation of Rice Penalty Fails Miserably

Monday, Jul, 28 2014

I think the majority of people in this country last week were taken aback when Roger Goodell and the NFL issued what amounted to a slap on the wrist for Ravens running back Ray Rice. You’ll recall Rice is the man caught on video literally dragging his unconscious fiancé from an Atlantic City elevator in February of this year after a bout of domestic violence. The story and video itself are enough to make most of us cringe but the NFL’s subsequent two-game suspension of the star was an absolute joke and the public outcry was loud and boisterous. That all being said, I’m not sure the NFL has ever looked as foolish as they did today upon sending NFL senior vice president of labor policy Adolpho Birch to the ESPN airwaves today in an effort to justify the suspension. Where to begin with this ridiculousness …

First of all, why are we hearing from Adolpho Birch and not Roger Goodell on this matter? It’s clear that since he took office in 2006, Goodell has been the face of this league and has final say on all disciplinary matters. His failure to address the matter personally illustrates a complete lack of respect for the public outrage and the issue at hand. Add Goodell’s absence to the absurd explanation provided by Birch and you have, for the first time in recent memory, an actual black eye for all-powerful National Football League.

“So in terms of sending a message about what the league stands for, we’ve done that,” said Birch.

Oh really? In Birch’s eye, it appears that even the smallest of penalties for the most severe of crimes is enough to send a message. Look, I realize it’s an extreme example but you wouldn’t sentence someone convicted of murder to two weeks in the state penitentiary and you can’t issue a two game suspension to someone involved in domestic violence – it just doesn’t fit.

Birch continued, “It is multiple games and hundreds of thousands of dollars. I think that’s fair to say that doesn’t reflect that you condone the behavior. I think we can put that to rest.”

No, we can’t put it to rest. Until an appropriate punishment is handed down, the public should continue to look upon the NFL as a league that just doesn’t care. Sure, they’ll deck the halls in pink for October’s breast cancer awareness month but that ultimately amounts to another opportunity to line their pockets with alternative merchandise sales. The bottom line is this, when repeat drug offenders in the NFL receive a four-game suspension while “targeting” on the field of play can earn you one, a two-game suspension for someone guilty of domestic violence is downright wrong. I’m not sure I have an answer for what an appropriate penalty would be but I will suggest it should more than either of these offenses. And the fact the NFL can’t see that and would go so far as to defend the punishment is disheartening to say the least. Until we receive more information to justify the NFL’s position, I will continue to be appalled by what has transpired in this case. It’s an absolute joke.

posted by: The Big One with Marques Pfaff 13 month(s) ago Comment On This Post

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