Thursday, January 31, 2008

A collection of tidbits on 49ers athletics

  • - Interesting story by Stewart Mandel on in He flatly considers any labels of mid-major to the Atlantic 10 as being unwarranted and undeserving. I couldn't agree more. If the seventh-ranked conference in the country with multiple teams in the top 50 of RPI is "mid" anything, what does that say of the 24 conferences below it?

    - As of Thursday morning, has Charlotte listed at No. 72 in the country with a schedule ranked 96th. The 49ers' next opponent - Richmond - is ranked No. 131 and fresh off a 78-64 loss at Rhode Island.

    - The Charlotte 49ers' baseball team will kick off the 2008 season with its first practice on Friday at 3:30 p.m. at Hayes Stadium, followed by a "meet and greet" at Picasso's Sports Bar-University from 6 until 9 p.m. On Saturday, alumni are invited to tour the new stadium beginning at 11 a.m. and watch the 49ers' Green/White scrimmage at noon.

  • Several former Charlotte stars now playing professional baseball will be there, including current New York Mets starter and former Conference USA Pitcher of the Year John Maine and 2007 draft picks and minor leaguers, Adam Mills, Kris Rochelle and Spencer Steedley. The current pros will hit the field for a scheduled workout at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Lutz contract update

Here is a short update on contract negotiations between UNC Charlotte officials and 49ers men's basketball coach Bobby Lutz.

Information recently shared with me indicates high level people in the Charlotte 49ers athletic department and school administration expect Lutz to sign an extension and they hope to have it done by March 1 or earlier.

Now, whether it gets done by then or the terms are amiable to both sides remains to be seen. But right now, everything remains on track to get the deal done. There are no current roadblocks or slow downs or other delays. However, remember, this process only got underway last week.

House for sale; is move in works?

Yes, Charlotte 49ers men's basketball coach Bobby Lutz has listed his home in Harrisburg for sale.

No, that does not mean he already knows he is not returning as the 49ers' coach next season.

Some astute members of the 49ers fan base located the listing for Lutz's home through Allen Tate late Monday night and some others shared the information on the Web site and of course the speculation took off.

I checked with Lutz this morning to make sure nothing had changed since last week when it was announced the school and Lutz had started negotiations for a contract extension. His contract expires at the conclusion of the 2008-09 season.

Here is the summary of what Lutz said: Nothing has changed since last week and this decision on listing his home has been in the works since before Christmas. He and his wife, Janet, are basically just "testing the waters" and making long-term business decisions regarding the home, which funny enough is listed with an asking price of $1,699,049.

So for now, no need to sound the alarms.

However, if you're interested, I'm sure Lutz is open to all offers. Here's the listing.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Don't pack it in, Pack the House

Charlotte 49ers fans, the NCAA is challenging you to pack the house Wednesday.
Will you accept?
The "Pack the House" challenge is a competition among NCAA schools this season in which they try to set attendance records and grow the sport of women’s basketball.
Charlotte’s challenge date is Wednesday, when the 49ers (13-8, 4-1) will host Atlantic 10 rival La Salle at 7 p.m. at Halton Arena. The first 500 students in attendance will receive a commemorative gold T-shirt.
Wednesday’s game also is the second of three "49er Pride Rewards Program" games on the women’s schedule. The program rewards men’s basketball season-ticket holder and student attendance at Charlotte men’s and women’s games throughout the year.
Tickets for the game are $5 for adults/$2 for youth and can be purchased by calling 704-687-4949; or visiting the Charlotte 49ers ticket office.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Atlantic 10 officiating is bad

Charlotte 49ers coach Bobby Lutz found himself Wednesday night repeating something he had just recently said while talking of sophomore point guard Michael Gerrity playing his "best game yet" in Charlotte's 84-78 win.

I, too, find myself repeating things I have stated, sadly, quite often in the past.

To say Wednesday's night's game was badly officiated would be an understatement. It would be an affront to all the other badly officiated games this season in the Atlantic 10.

And when I say the officiating was bad, I mean it was bad on both ends of the court. Not just in Charlotte's favor or against the 49ers.

I will recount one incident from Wednesday's game, which to me, illustrates why this conference needs an overhaul in referees from top to bottom.

During the second half of Wednesday's game, while La Salle had possession of the ball under its basket and the ball was in play, official Frank Scagliotta turned and walked toward where I sat near halfcourt, next to an A-10 evaluator of officials (his name I don't have at the moment).

Scagliotta said looking at the evaluator, "Has Bobby been giving you (expletive) from across the court?"

The evaluator looked dumbstruck. He turned to me, looked down, then said softly, "No" and Scagliotta walked away.

This incident is bad for several reasons:
(a) The ball was in play and there was one less referee paying attention to what was transpiring on the court while La Salle was trying to score.
(b) I do not believe it is appropriate for any official to conduct a conversation at any time with someone who is not involved in the management of the game or players or a coach (it may also be a rule, I don't know).
And the most important:
(c) What was Scagliotta going to do if the evaluator had said "Yes?" Was he going to stop play and issue a technical on Lutz for something Lutz directed at someone other than the officials? Not to mention the information Scagliotta would be using to make such a call would come second-hand. Can you imagine what such a call would open up in the future?

The thought of that is scary and goes to show how much influence officials can have on the game, sometimes whether they intend to or not.

Everyone who is part of the A-10 knows the officiating is bad. It's been mentioned and written by numerous beat writers for schools in the league; it's openly joked about by the league's coaches.

With the conference rebounding this season with several ranked teams and playing an exciting brand of basketball, isn't it about time the conference put as much effort into improving itself as the schools have?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Football: Time for waiting is over

The Observer's editorial board on Tuesday offered an unsigned editorial in which it questioned the timing and expense of UNC Charlotte adding a Division I football program.

Part of its reasoning is that expenses incurred to operate such a program would somehow detract from unmet funding needs the university requires to pay for classroom and office space and to continue to develop its doctoral programs.

First, let me say as a 1991 Charlotte graduate, I agree the university does not get its fair share of funding relative to its size in the state university system, its impact on the Charlotte community or the quality of graduates it produces.

However, I believe the editorial position mistakenly equates methods of funding of athletic and academic programs. They could not be more different.

If Charlotte is not receiving proper funding for its academics and not getting its fair share in comparison to other state universities, that is an issue for state government and the university's board of trustees. It is not a burden to be placed on potential contributors for an expansion of an athletic department. Nor should they be made to feel guilty for not doing so.

Corporate sponsorships that would be solicited for support of athletic facilities or their expansion are not monies that could instead but simply shifted over to the department of mechanical engineering, for instance. To make it appear that could be the case is misleading. This is not a question of if you give to one, you must take from the other.

A university is in many respects a microcosm of our country, a "city within a city" if you will. All aspects of the university must be attractive to potential students in order for the university to establish the best, brightest and most diverse collection of students.

To be fair, all athletics programs at all state universities could be shut down and the total emphasis of all solicitation of donations be put toward academics. But does anyone really believe the same amount of money would instantly transfer? Do we honestly expect this same "academics-first" philosophy will next be asked of schools in Chapel Hill, Raleigh or Greensboro?

A 10-member committee, handpicked by Charlotte's chancellor, came back with a unanimous recommendation that the school should add Division I football, and for a multitude of reasons.

One that was not emphasized was an increased feeling of attachment by students and graduates that could produce increased contributions to the school - in other words, a new revenue stream. Is that not what the end result should be?

For too long, Charlotte has stood back and waited -- waited for funding, waited for its fair recognition, waited to expand its athletics programs and waited to take the next step in expanding the profile and the reach of a strong university.

The time for waiting is over. The school should not be left on the sidelines again while the rest of the country is still playing the game.

What do you think? Post your opinion in the comments section below.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Maybe 49ers' surprises aren't over

Who would have thought?
When Massachusetts finally pulled away for an 86-79 victory against the Charlotte 49ers on Saturday at the Mullins Center in Amherst, Mass., the Minutemen had toppled the last team undefeated in Atlantic 10 play – three games into the conference season!
Even more striking is the fact the battle of top teams was taking place between UMass and Charlotte – teams picked to finish eighth and 10th, respectively, in the conference’s preseason poll.
And what of the A-10’s nationally ranked teams – No. 14 Dayton, No. 20 Xavier and No. 23 Rhode Island? They all lost last week. Charlotte, which finished 14-16 overall and 7-9 in the league last season, was the last one without a loss.
The number of ranked teams, the quality of most teams’ nonconference schedules and the solid Ratings Percentage Index rankings of so many teams bode well for the conference.
This is going to be an exciting season of A-10 basketball. Home games will become all that more important. The teams that are able to pull win on the road likely will rise to the top.
In the past, some of Charlotte coach Bobby Lutz’s most successful teams have been those that performed well on the road. This group of 49ers got off to a shaky start away from Halton Arena, but the Jan. 9 win at then-No. 18 Clemson seemed to turn the tide.
The 49ers made a good accounting of themselves Saturday. Could they have done some things better? Of course. But this was not the same team that played Hofstra and Tulsa, and that can only mean good things ahead.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Weather forces cancellation of 49ers' noon flight to Massachusetts

AMHERST, Mass. - I have safely arrived in western Massachusetts for Saturday's game between the Charlotte 49ers and Massachusetts Minutemen, but the team is a different story.

I had an early morning flight from Charlotte to Hartford, Conn., on Friday, which went off without a hitch, even though this area was hit with snow and some ice early this morning.

Hours before the 49ers' scheduled flight at noon, they were notified their flight was canceled because of a missing flight crew (delayed somewhere else with weather problems) and will not be able to leave Charlotte until at least 8:15 p.m.

That's not exactly the best scenario for the team, which plays at 4 p.m. Saturday. There will be no practice today at UMass' Mullins Center. The team will instead practice in Charlotte before departing on its flight this evening.

Also, the scheduled 9 a.m. shoot-around on Saturday doesn't bode well for Charlotte, since the team will not arrive at his hotel near Springfield, Mass., until probably close to 11 p.m. Team officials hope they can reschedule the shoot-around for late morning.

All in all, not a good sign heading into Charlotte's first Atlantic 10 road game of the season.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Vitale nice to Niners, A-10

Veteran college basketball analyst Dick Vitale had several nice things to say about the Charlotte 49ers and the Atlantic 10 Conference this week in his column posted on on Tuesday.

Among them:
Brian Gregory has done an outstanding job at Dayton this season. Remember, the Flyers were picked to finish sixth in the A-10 preseason poll. Brian Roberts has been one of the All-Solid Gold performers.

• Oh, yes, my friends, the most improved conference is the Atlantic 10, with quality teams Xavier, Rhode Island, Dayton, UMass, Charlotte, Saint Joseph's and a host of others. There are no cupcakes, baby! Best of luck to Commissioner Linda Bruno, who retires at the end of the year.

And this tidbit from his "All need-more-pub team" list:

Leemire Goldwire (Charlotte), 5-11 senior guard: Has shown explosiveness at times. Ask Bob McKillop, since Goldwire put up 34 against Davidson.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Women have noon start Tuesday vs. UMass

The Charlotte 49ers women’s basketball team is getting off to an early start in Atlantic 10 play. Not early as in time of the season, but rather time of the day.
The 49ers (10-7, 1-0) open their home conference schedule on Tuesday with a game at noon at Halton Arena against Massachusetts (8-7, 1-0) in what is being billed as "Education Day" on campus.
Charlotte’s athletics department has invited three local charter schools to the game -- Lake Norman Charter School, Charlotte Christian and Sugar Creek -- and students from the schools will participate in daylong informative and interactive events familiarizing them with the college experience.
More than 600 middle school students will take part in four sessions beginning at 9:30 a.m. After a welcome to campus by athletics director Judy Rose and women’s basketball coach Karen Aston, the students will take part in sessions regarding admissions, experiences of student-athletes, a campus tour and a "21st Century version" of gym class featuring a video by HOPSports.
They conclude their day with attendance at the 49ers’ game with UMass. Admission to the basketball game is free.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

49ers get A-10 accolades

After an impressive week, with a victory at No. 18 Clemson and home win against Temple on Saturday night in the conference opener, a pair of Charlotte 49ers picked up individual honors Sunday.

Senior guard Leemire Goldwire was named the Atlantic 10 Conference’s co-player of the week, sharing the award with Dayton’s Brian Roberts.

Goldwire averaged 21 points and 6.5 rebounds while shooting 50 percent (7-of-14) from 3-point range in leading Charlotte to a pair of wins. He earned his first career double-double in the Clemson game, finishing with 21 points and 10 rebounds.

Charlotte redshirt freshman Charles Dewhurst, a former standout at Charlotte Latin School, was named the league’s freshman of the week. He averaged 11 points and 8.5 rebounds in the 49ers’ two wins. He earned his second double-double of the season in the win against Temple, finishing with 11 points and 10 rebounds and scored nine consecutive points in the first half.

49ers nearly throw it away

It took a big play to help Charlotte stay in position to secure its 60-58 come-from-behind win against Temple on Saturday. A botched play nearly gave the Owls an opportunity to tie or steal the win.

With the clock winding down in the game and Temple down two, guard Luis Guzman drove the sideline looking to score but Charlotte forward Lamont Mack was firmly entrenched in position and Guzman was called for the charge. Charlotte got the ball with 1.1 seconds left and a two-point lead. Game over? Not quite.

After a timeout, Mack took the ball out of bounds on the baseline and attempted a half-court pass to Phil Jones, who was closely guarded by Temple. Jones couldn’t get his hand on the ball and neither could his defender, so the ball hit the floor and rolled out of bounds.

Since the ball wasn’t touched by any player, Temple got possession under its own basket, still with 1.1 seconds left. Luckily for Charlotte, the Owls couldn’t get a shut off with the second chance.

"We were trying to get a guy to touch the ball so the clock would run out. I tried to get it to Phil Jones and obviously it went over his head," Mack said.
Charlotte coach Bobby Lutz said he took full responsibility for the play.

"We wanted to look for DiJuan (Harris) and Lee (Goldwire) first if they were open. If not, we would throw it the length of the court," Lutz said. "I’ll take full blame. I’m the one who called that and it didn’t work out.

"They made a slip and we attacked it very well in that last one second and kept the ball on the floor."

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Notes, one day after Charlotte's upset ...

OUCH: Charlotte’s first practice following its 82-72 upset of No. 18 Clemson was marred with an injury to shooting guard Ian Andersen, who rolled his right ankle at the start of practice. He spent the rest of the afternoon with his ankle in ice packs and was headed for precautionary X-rays late Thursday. The extent of his injury remains unclear.

BIG JUMP: Charlotte’s win at Clemson had a large and immediate impact on the team’s RPI (Rating Percentage Index), which is used by the NCAA in making at-large selections to the NCAA tournament. By Thursday morning, Charlotte had moved to No. 114 according to – a jump of more than 50 spots from the day before.
In addition, Charlotte’s strength of schedule, which had spent most of the early season ranked 200 or higher among the 341 Division I schools has jumped. As of Thursday, the 49ers were credited with the 122nd-strongest schedule.

ALSO CONTRIBUTING: Overlooked in Charlotte’s win, which came with the assistance of several strong individual contributions, was the play of junior forward Lamont Mack, who finished with 15 points (on 6-of-11 shooting), five rebounds, two assists and three steals. Mack was key in Charlotte’s ability to pass around and over Clemson’s pressure defense throughout the game and was effective attacking the basket.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Jones came through against Clemson

CLEMSON, S.C. -- "It's been a while."
Those were first words from Charlotte center Phil Jones after the 49ers' 82-72 upset victory over No. 18 Clemson on Wednesday night at Littlejohn Coliseum.

Since the season started, Jones, a 6-foot-10 sophomore center, has struggled to find his place with this new group of 49ers. He has shown moments of great potential and started several games early in the season but has struggled to find a consistent rhythm.

He lost playing time to freshman Gaby Ngoundjo, who has proved to be an effective defensive force under the basket. But always, Charlotte coach Bobby Lutz and Jones' teammates have encouraged him to continue to work hard, promising his effort would pay dividends.

It certainly did Wednesday. The first two times Jones touched the ball, he hit a dunk from a nice pass from Michael Gerrity, then scored off a rebound with a sweeping hook shot.

He played 17 minutes - the most since a Dec. 15 loss at Hofstra - and finished with eight points, three rebounds and two blocks.

"I have been a little nervous playing in the games and in turn I wasn't playing hard. Coach talked to me before the game tonight and told me to go out and have fun and play hard. That's what I did today," Jones said.

"From the tip, we set the tone right away. The last couple of games, we've allowed the visiting team to set the tone and we had to fight back. This game, we came out and hit them in the mouth."

Jones and his teammates hope Wednesday's game provides the same kind of confidence boost as freshman Charles Dewhurst has recently seen in his game.

"Phil ran the floor real well tonight. Played well on defense. I think that really helped his confidence," said guard DiJuan Harris. "Heading into the Atlantic 10 (conference play), we're really going to need him."

Monday, January 7, 2008

49ers hoops news and notes

A roundup of Charlotte 49ers and Atlantic 10 news following practice on Monday:

INJURY UPDATE: Junior forward Charlie Coley did not practice on Monday but did spend some time working on a stationary bike. Coley, who suffered a left ankle sprain in Saturday's loss to Maryland, said he believes he will be able to play in Wednesday's game at Clemson. "I'll be good to go," he said. Charlotte head trainer Carlton Anderson was not as optimistic, and said Coley was "questionable" for Wednesday.

TAKE ON CLEMSON GAME: There has been much speculation about what the best result would be for Charlotte out of Sunday night's Clemson-North Carolina game since the 49ers will meet the Tigers Wednesday night at Littlejohn Coliseum.

Here is Charlotte coach Bobby Lutz's take: "I know this, they are a heck of team. It goes both ways. If they had won, maybe they overlook us. If they lost, obviously they would be focused on winning their next game. You can argue it many ways. I think some of it is overrated unless a team comes out of it with injuries or something or maybe playing the next game two days later instead of three. I don't think it will have an impact on the game."

FUTURE 49ERS: Interested in getting a look at some Charlotte 49er recruiting prospects? Friday night's high school basketball game between Vance and host North Mecklenburg offers the chance to see four potential Charlotte recruits -- North Mecklenburg forward Andre Marhold and Vance guards Jacoby Davis, Marquis Rankin and Daryl Traynham.

NEW FLOOR: Charlotte recently completed a refurbishing of its practice court floor in the Charles Hayward Gym. In addition, the new 3-point lines were installed, based on the NCAA's recent decision to move the line back a foot beginning with the 2008-09 season.

A-10 HONORS: For the first time since 2003, three A-10 teams are ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 poll. Released on Monday, Dayton (12-1) is at No. 17 after climbing three spots, while Rhode Island moved up one place to No. 22 after completing the most successful non-conference regular season (14-1) in program history. Xavier (12-3) returns to the rankings at No. 24 after posting wins over Kansas State, Virginia and Auburn. Massachusetts (11-3) is also receiving votes.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Charlotte's bench runs deep

Charlotte might be unpredictable at times with a team filled with eight newcomers, but one thing the 49ers have had plenty of this season is help.

It was evident again in Saturday's 76-72 loss to Maryland at Bobcats Arena.

Charlotte's bench outscored the Terrapins 25-8 with freshman Charles Dewhurst and sophomore DiJuan Harris scoring seven apiece, freshman Gaby Ngoundjo adding six and sophomore Ian Andersen netting five.

So far this season, Charlotte's bench has averaged 20.6 points per game and outscored opponents' benches 258-182. Eight different players scored against Maryland -- the 10th game this year that at least eight players have hit the scoring column.

And it's not just on offense the help arrives.

Ngoundjo matched a Charlotte freshman record with six blocks against Fairleigh Dickinson while Dewhurst provided a similar lift on defense in Saturday's game with his hustle.

-- Jim Utter

49ers-Terps Video

Some game action and photos from Saturday's game at Bobcats Arena. Maryland won, 76-72. Video, photos by Alisha Hord.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Updating Atlantic 10's RPI

The Atlantic 10 is ranked eighth out of 31 conferences through games of Jan. 2 by The A-10 is the only league to have four teams ranked in the top 21 overall as Dayton comes in at No. 10, followed by Rhode Island (14th), Massachusetts (17th) and Xavier (21st).

The rest of the A-10:
Temple, 56th
Duquesne, 57th
Saint Joseph’s, 61st
Saint Louis, 103rd
Charlotte, 155th
Richmond, 188th
Fordham, 196th
George Washington, 223rd
La Salle, 254th
St. Bonaventure, 264th