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The Michigan State Spartans tip off their 2011 NCAA Men’s basketball tourney tonight in Tampa against the UCLA Bruins.    The tenth seeded Spartans stumbled into the tourney compiling a 19 win-14 loss season.   The seventh seeded Bruins posted a slightly better 22 and 10 record. 

(official White House photo)

The NCAA Men’s basketball tournament begins in earnest tomorrow.   But one very well-known basketball fan expects no team with ties to Michigan will reach the Sweet 16.  

The White House released President Obama’s brackets today.  

(mountlebanonlouisiana.com)

The State House Natural Resources, Tourism and Outdoor Recreation committee tomorrow will consider legislation to allow young children to hunt in Michigan.  Michigan currently allows children as young as 10 to hunt with a bow and as young as 12 to use a firearm to hunt deer. 

Peter Pettalia is a state representative from Presque Island in northern lower Michigan.  His bill would eliminate the age limit, as along as the young hunter has an adult with them.  

“It gives parents the right to determine when their children are ready in their eyes to safely hunt.   So myself, if I have a grandchild I believe could carry a weapon to hunt, it gives me the opportunity to decide that.”

Pettalia says allowing children to take part may help reverse the decline in the number of hunters in Michigan.   

“We have thousands, hundreds of thousands of acres of huntable land, yet we have the worst hunter recruitment rate in the nation and dwindling hunter retention numbers.”  

Pettalia says he doubts allowing young children to hunt with their parents or adult mentors will increase hunting accidents.   

Cseeman / Flickr

It’s time for March Madness, which means the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament begins this week.

Seven Big Ten teams made the cut.

No. 8 seed the University of Michigan will play No. 9 seed Tennessee on Friday. Michigan State University earned a No. 10 seed and will play No. 7 seed UCLA on Thursday.

Oakland University also made the tournament. Oakland will play the Texas Longhorns on Friday.

user johntex / wikimedia commons

It looks like Jim Tressel has gotten himself into a bit of hot water.

That’s why his boss, athletic director Gene Smith, flew back to make sure everyone said they were “taking responsibility” – a phrase which changed some time in the last decade, and now means the exact opposite.

It was fine theater.  

(Ohio State University athletic dept.)

Ohio State University head football coach Jim Tressel is facing a two game suspension and a quarter million dollar fine for failing to tell university officials about possible NCAA rules violations. 

Tressel admitted that he didn’t tell university officials that some of his players were part of a federal criminal investigation.  None of the players were the subject of the investigation. Tressel knew about the investigation last April.  But, he didn’t say anything until the university was contacted by the U.S. Justice Department in December.

The Justice Department was trying to confirm whether Buckeye memorabilia in the possession of a Columbus tattoo shop owner was obtained legally. Several players, including star quarterback Terrelle Pryor, admitted exchanging the memorabilia for tattoos. The players were given 5 game suspensions next season. Though, they were allowed to play in the 2011 Sugar Bowl.

OSU Athletic Director Gene Smith says it was only after that that university officials learned of emails that coach Tressel received in April informing him of the federal probe. Smith says the university was about to complete its internal investigation and send the results to the NCAA, when word of Tressel’s actions were reported by Yahoo Sports.

Tressel says his decision not to take action back in April was with the players’ interest in mind, not the OSU football program. SBNATION produced a transcript of last night's news conference.

The NCAA is reviewing Ohio State’s self-imposed penalties. The college sports governing body may accept OSU’s self-punishment or impose penalties of its own.

Update 7:03 p.m.

Ohio State University football coach Jim Tressel suspended for two games. Tressel did not report potential NCAA rules violates in a timely manner to OSU officials.

Original post 4:24 p.m.

Ohio State University has called a 7pm news conference to address news reports that head football coach Jim Tressel was aware of potential NCAA rules violations months before university officials learned about them.

The violations involved five Buckeye players, including star quarterback Terrelle Pryor. The players allegedly traded memorabilia with a Columbus tattoo parlor owner in exchange for tattoos.

Yahoo Sports reported this week that Tressel was first notified of the possible NCAA violations last April.  

But it was December before any action was taken involving the players. They were suspended from playing during a handful of games next fall. Though they were allowed to play in 2011 Sugar Bowl.  

SBNATION reports Tressel's contract does include penalties if his program commits NCAA violations, including termination of his contract. Neither Tressel or university officials have commented on the allegations made in the Yahoo Sports article.  

OSU president E. Gordon Gee did tell reporters in Columbus that the NCAA has been notified.

OSU athletic director Gene Smith was scheduled to be in Indianapolis this evening, but he has flown back to Columbus to take part in tonight's news conference with Gee and Tressel.

Steve Johnson / Flickr

The Fennville boys basketball team suffered an unbelievable tragedy last week when their star player, Wes Leonard, died from a heart attack minutes after hitting a game winning shot in overtime.

It was later found that the sixteen year old had an enlarged heart.

Now, the Fennville Blackhawks (20-0) have decided to play on despite their immense sadness.

From ESPN.com:

The Fennville team will play Monday night against Lawrence High in the Class C district playoffs. The game has been moved to Hope College in Holland.

The Sporting News says the game was moved from Lawrence High School to Hope College to accommodate an expected large crowd and large media presence.

The Lawrence High School coach spoke with ESPN about how he expects the Fennville boys team to play. From the Sporting News:

Lawrence coach Curt Meat told ESPN of Monday’s game, “Either they’re going to come out and break down and be terrible, and I’d hate to see that … or they’re going to come out and they’re going to have angels on their shoulders and really light it up.”

Drew Sharp has an opinion piece in today's Detroit Free Press. He quoted a statement from Fennville superintendent Dirk Weeldreyer talking about Lawrence High School decision to change the venue:

"They have been more than gracious and accommodating in making this decision. By doing so, they are relinquishing home-court advantage. We also recognize that Lawrence has been cast in an unenviable position and must feel as if the world will be rooting against them. Rather than focusing on the outcome of Monday's game, our joint goal is to make it a fitting tribute to the memory of Wes Leonard."

Wes Leonard’s funeral is scheduled for Tuesday morning at Holland's Christ Memorial Church.

Visitation is today from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. at Fennville United Methodist Church.

Here's a video from WMMT TV in Grand Rapids:

User shockmotion / Flickr

The Associated Press and USAToday are reporting that a 16 year old Fennville student died last night after making a game-making layup. From the AP:

The Fennville Schools superintendent says the basketball player who died last night after making a game-winning shot was "the quintessential all-American kid."

It's still not clear what caused the death of 16-year-old Wes Leonard, who collapsed on the court after making a last-second layup in Fenville's 57-55 win over Bridgman. The victory capped Fenville's undefeated season.

Leonard fell to the ground after teammates and fans rushed the court. Rescuers performed CPR, but he was later pronounced dead at the hospital.

The junior was also the quarterback of the school's football team.

Grief counselors are on hand at the school today.

Jeramey Jannene / Flickr

Eastern Michigan University had a very strong basketball team in 1996.

The Eagles were so good they stunned the Duke Blue Devils in the first round of the NCAA tournament, 75-60.

They had nation’s second-leading scorer - and their program listed his height at 5-foot-8 inches.

This, I had to see. 

I watched Earl Boykins and his teammates torch Central Michigan, Western Michigan and Ball State.

flickr

The city of Detroit could face an economic hit this fall if the National Football League and its players don’t agree on a new contract.  How big an impact is not clear.  

The current contract between NFL owners and the players association expires at midnight.   Without a deal, Ford Field in Detroit will sit empty during the Lions scheduled pre-season and regular season home games this fall.

A study commissioned by the players association says $20 million is spent on average in NFL cities during regular season home games.  In some cities, much more is spent.  The Christian Science Monitor reports small businesses may pay a big price. 

Jesse David is a senior vice president with Edgeworth Economics, the company that did the study.  David admits people will probably spend money on some form of entertainment, whether or not they go to a game, but they may not spend it in Detroit.  

“It may be that someone else, somewhere else sees their income go up…but there’s still going to be an effect on a group of people.”

Even if they miss tonight’s deadline, NFL owners and players still have several months before games will have to be canceled or rescheduled.

Derek Hatfield / Flickr

Bob Probert was known as an "enforcer" in the game of hockey. The guy who had your back.

If an opposing player started something, Probert was there to exact a penalty on the other player with his fists.

He played in the NHL for sixteen seasons, including a long stint with the Detroit Red Wings.

Probert died last year at the age of 45 after suffering chest pains.

The New York Times published a piece this morning on the discovery that Probert suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) - a brain trauma disease that has also been found in many former NFL players.

After learning about CTE, Probert told his wife he wanted his brain donated to researchers.

Probert's widow, Dani Probert, is quoted in the Times article:

"I remember joking with him, ‘Wouldn’t your brain make a nice specimen?’ ” she said. “He started questioning whether he would have it himself. He told me that he wanted to donate his brain to the research when he died. Who would have thought that six months later it would be happening?"

His brain was donated after his death last year.

Researchers at Boston University said they found evidence of CTE in Probert's brain.

One of the researcher's noted they couldn't isolate where Probert's exposure to head trauma came from:

“How much is the hockey and how much is the fighting, we don’t really know,” said Dr. Robert Cantuco-director of the Boston University center and a prominent neurosurgeon in the area of head trauma in sports. “We haven’t definitely established that the skills of hockey as a sport lead to a certain percentage of participants developing C.T.E. But it can happen to hockey players, and while they’re still relatively young.”

Probert's wife believes it came from all the checking and hits in the game itself. She did note that in his last years, Probert did show signs of "behavior uncharacteristic to him, especially memory loss and a tendency to lose his temper while driving."

Wherever the brain trauma came from, the NHL will likely take a closer look at protecting its players, the same way the NFL has been creating new rules to cut down on head trauma in its sport.

If they're successful in better protecting their players, the sports have reporters from the New York Times to thank.

Times reporters, like Alan Schwartz, have been exposing the effects of head trauma in sports for the last several years.

adwriter / creative commons

Baseball lovers and preservation advocates are working to win historic designation for a Hamtramck ballpark that was home to Negro League games in the 1930s.

The Detroit Stars played at Hamtramck Stadium between 1930 and 1937.

Gary Gillette is a baseball writer and and editor of the ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia. He says Hamtramck Stadium is one of only five Negro League sites that have survived.

Hockey net.
Dean Michaud / Flickr

Whenever I talk to a high school coach who quit, they always say the kids were great, but the parents drove them crazy.

It doesn’t matter what sport.  

But when I coached the Ann Arbor Huron High School hockey team, I was lucky.

Yes, getting to know the players was the best part, and now, seven years after I stepped down, I’m going to their weddings.

What I didn’t expect, though, was becoming lifelong friends with their parents, too.  

David Wilson / Flickr

More than 100,000 utility customers in southern Michigan lost power from the "Presidents' Day storm" that hit the state Sunday and Monday... and they're likely to remain without electricity for at least two more days. The Associated Press reports:

Consumers Energy spokesman Tim Pietryga said in a statement Tuesday that most of the Jackson-based utility's customers without power are in Kalamazoo, Lenawee, Monroe, Hillsdale, Calhoun and Branch counties. More than 160,000 customers have been affected.

Pietryga said workers, including 100 utility crews from Indiana and Ohio, should return power to most blacked-out customers by late Thursday evening.

But power may not return to the hardest-hit counties until Friday. DTE Energy Co. reported no major outages.

Six to 10 inches of snow, along with sleet and ice, fell on Lower Michigan between Sunday and Monday.

(commons/wikipedia)

Detroit Tigers' slugger Miguel Cabrera was arrested this week on suspicion of drunk driving.  Baseball Spring training is already underway.    The Detroit Free Press reports when the team starts regular practices on Saturday Cabrera will likely not be there. 

user greenkozi / Flickr

Last week my beloved television went POOF! It was seven years old, or 14 in sports writer years.  

So, what great sports events did I miss?

Well, I can’t be sure, of course, but I’m willing to bet… not much.

Sports writers complain about the dog-days of summer, when all we have to write about is tennis and Tiger and the Tigers – and, that’s about it. But there’s a lesser-known slow season for sports scribes, and it's called February.

Super Bowl Hoopla

Feb 11, 2011
user daveynin / Flickr

Forty five years ago, the Super Bowl wasn’t even the Super Bowl.

They called it the NFL-AFL Championship game, until one of the founders renamed it after watching his grandson play with a “High Bouncing Ball” – a super ball.

Tickets were only fifteen bucks for that first game, and they barely sold half of those, leaving some 40,000 empty seats in the Los Angeles Coliseum.   

A 30-second ad cost only $42,000, and they weren’t any different than the ads they showed the previous weekend.

The half-time show featured three college marching bands, including one you might have seen from the University of Michigan.

Over the next couple decades, of course, the event became a veritable national holiday.  Tickets now sell for thousands of dollars, and ads for millions.  The game attracts more than 100 million viewers in the U.S. alone.

Courtesy: Birmingham Athletic Club

You can check-out some high-level squash in metro Detroit this weekend. And no, I’m not talking about butternut and acorn. I’m talking about the sport.

The Birmingham Athletic Club is hosting The Motor City Open professional squash tournament over the next few days.

The sport is similar to racket-ball. But the ball used in squash is not pressurized, so it doesn’t have much of a bounce. The strategy used in squash is also different.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The University of Michigan's athletic department held a press conference to introduce the program's new head football coach, Brady Hoke.

David Brandon says he spent a lot of time in the past few days crisscrossing the country interviewing coaches. He said he spent hours interviewing coaches saying despite what is often reported in the press, "all that glitters is not gold."

Brandon introduced Hoke saying he's "a player's coach" and said he's someone who knows Ann Arbor and someone who loves the University of Michigan.

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