Category Archives: IUPUI Jaguars

monday, 14 may 2007: the decision that changed everything.

000_0459Ten years ago today, I started working for the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce. At the time I took that job, I told myself it was going to be a major turning point in my career.

I said this because it fulfilled several goals for me:

  1. I wanted to work in a downtown office in a big building (Chamber’s offices were on the 19th floor of Chase Tower, Indiana’s tallest building)
  2. I wanted a job that connected me to the movers and shakers in Indy
  3. I wanted a job that expanded my role and responsibilities

With those three boxes checked, I immediately believed my career and life trajectory would take a drastic turn, thanks to the Chamber opening doors for me. I was only half right. Ten years ago today, my life’s trajectory took a drastic turn. But it never went to where I expected.

I had it all going for me. So why did I leave that job after one year and eight months? “Mid-life crisis,” is how I usually answer that question, jokingly, but it was more than that. So let’s take a look back in time, eh?

This is where the story begins.

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Chase Tower (now called Salesforce Tower). The tallest building in Indiana is smack-dab in the middle of Indianapolis. And I loved working there.

May 2007: Suite 1950
That was (and is) the Indy Chamber’s suite address at Chase Salesforce Tower in downtown Indianapolis. Truly an impressive structure, it is the tallest skyscraper in Indiana. Each day, I would be going to work in the heart of Indianapolis. While some folks hate the Urban Jungle, I love it. “Welcome, Kevin MacDonald” was written on a printed sign, greeting me as I pushed open the glass double doors on my first day. I walked down the hall, past a small cube farm—a cubicle “garden,” if you will—took a right at the Chamber president’s corner office and arrived at my office, about a third the way down the hall. There it was. My own office on the eastern side of 19th floor of the Tower. I felt important. I felt like a bigshot. I really did.

I’ll spare you the day-to-day details of my tenure there because, really, it’ll sound like the goings-on at any office in America.

The reality is my Chamber gig was great. But it was a volatile place. Not in the sense that people were screaming at each other and you’d have to duck a stapler being thrown at you. It was more subtle than that; more understated than that. Turnover there was high, that I recall. I did the math on it once and it was something like nearly 10 people had left over the course of a year or something.

It was a pressure-cooker job, but that didn’t bother me. I loved the Chamber and everything we were trying to accomplish while I worked there. In fact, I am still very loyal to that place. Sure, my frustration with certain elements of the job led me to bang my head against a wall to ease the pain, but isn’t that the same at any job? Truth is, I bought into the Chamber’s mission. It was an organization founded by Col. Eli Lilly to make Indianapolis a better place. That truly meant something to me.

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Riding the elevator to the 19th floor. Clearly, I was a serious man with a serious job.

My All-Time Favorite Chamber Experience
Working for the Chamber also availed be access to the major players in the business community as well as the political community. Even though I was a bit player at the Chamber, I was still privy to knowledge of big doins’ around town. My favorite story is of the city’s successful bid to land Super Bowl XLVI. It was May 2008 when Indy’s host committee presented before the NFL owners. Local businesswoman and past Chamber board chair Cathy Langham was on that committee.

Having met her and spoken with her at several Chamber events in the past, I asked her to call me with the results of the vote. I had a Post-It note with her cell phone number stuck to my computer monitor, in case I didn’t hear from her. She called me immediately following the vote to tell me we won the bid. This moment in my professional history is one of my all-time favorite moments because, for about 10 – 20 seconds, I knew something REALLY BIG before anyone else in Indianapolis knew.

About the time I hung up the phone, I could hear other phones ringing around the offices and cheers of “we got it!” Within minutes, it was breaking news on local television. But for about 10 seconds, thanks to my connection with Cathy, I knew before anyone else.

No, I can’t put that on a résumé, but it represents one of the more unique and interesting aspects of working for the Chamber.

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The road to this place…

About That “Mid-life Crisis”
Yeah, about that. Around the same time I was working at the Chamber, I had another goal, competing with my realized Chamber goals. For those who don’t know me, this particular life goal I’m referencing may seem like it’s out of nowhere. In some ways, it was, but it was what I wanted and in my head, I started to plot and plan for it right around New Year 2008.

What is this life goal? I wanted to be a dice dealer at a resort on the Las Vegas Strip. As a communications manager for the Indy Chamber, I couldn’t have been farther away from that goal. I hadn’t been a dealer since about May 2001. That’s a long hiatus for a job that requires some intense mathematical skill as well as the manual dexterity to not look like an idiot, fumbling cheques all over a dice table. But as the weeks and months went by, the desire to be a dealer again grew with every passing day.

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…would go through this place: Blue Chip floatin’ Casino! Michigan City, Indiana.

Was I burnt out on being a PR monkey? Maybe, but as my fire for communications seemed to be fading, I became more and more in love with the idea of being a Vegas dealer for a few, simple reasons: I could make decent money at a job that was stress-free (by comparison) and never required me to work extra hours from home. I could go to work, do my job, then go home and not think about it until my next shift. That seemed so desirable at the time. It really did.

Of course, that also meant bidding adieu to my favorite side hustle of all time: PA announcer for the IUPUI Jaguars athletics program. I had just wrapped up seven-ish seasons of working the mic for every men’s and women’s home basketball game (save one, when a flat tire sidelined me), a few softball games and most of the men’s and women’s soccer matches. At the time, I thought this was the end of my era. So did they. The good people of IUPUI even honored me at the final home game of the 2007 season with a plaque in recognition of my time there. It was humbling, but nice to be appreciated. Sure, at the time, we all thought that was the end of the road for me. But I pulled a Jordan (or a Magic, or a KISS) and came out of retirement when I got back to Indy in 2010, working another three years or so before officially retiring. No, they did not give me a plaque this time, but we parted on positive terms.

Welcome Back!
As for becoming a Vegas dice dealer, I knew I couldn’t simply pack my life into my Blazer and skip across country on a lark. For one, the casinos have gone corporate. They no longer will take an audition from someone in black-and-whites who wanders in, just because you asked. And two, I hadn’t dealt in seven years at that point. I had to “get my dealing hands back,” as I told people.

To do that, I turned to an old friend: Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City, Indiana. I worked there for about a year and a half in between my job at IU South Bend and IUPUI. Blue Chip welcomed me back with open arms, offering me full-time employment as a dice dealer on the graveyard shift. I took it. I still remember taking the phone call from John, the shift manager, when he offered me the job. “We want you to come back,” he said on the phone. It sounds corny, but that meant something to me, hearing that. It felt good to know I was appreciated (well, before I got on a live dice game again, at least).

Amidst several familiar faces and many more new ones, I made my return to the gaming floor over Fourth of July weekend 2008. My very first shift was all blackjack, highlighted by getting stuck on a table for the first 2-1/2 hours of my night, thanks to a shift manager who had forgotten about my table. “Welcome back!” he said, once alerted to the problem. That guy’s in prison now (for other reasons we don’t need to discuss).

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My Chamber office. One of the coolest offices I’ll ever have.

Meanwhile, Back at the Chamber
The good people at the Chamber allowed me to work part-time, remotely for a few months. Initially, the arrangement was…well, let’s be honest: it was a struggle for everyone. Working a graveyard shift meant I was trying to do Chamber work when I should’ve been sleeping. I ended up taking projects to the casino with me and writing news releases, newsletter articles and whatnot during my 20-minute breaks. It was hard for everyone involved; harder than they wanted to say (until it had to be said).

I made my way to Indianapolis about once a week or so to check in at the office. But by the time we reached October, it was clear this was no longer working. At the time, it was hard to admit that. But it was the simple truth. I couldn’t be in two places at once—mentally or physically—so I had to make a decision. By the time Halloween 2008 rolled around, I was no longer working at the Chamber.

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Employee #040776 at Wynn Resorts.

By November of the following year, I relocated to Las Vegas and was working as a dice dealer at the Wynn and Encore; the finest resorts on the Las Vegas Strip.

I walked away from one goal to pursue another goal. And got it within 18 months.

Mission accomplished and they all lived happily ever after, right? If only…

Oh Yeah…There’s More
What I didn’t tell you is, in the midst of all this mid-life crisis nonsense was, of course, a girrrrrl. I know, I know. Cliché, no?

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On a break in the EDR (employee dining room) during a shift at the Encore.

We met while I was working at the Chamber and started going out. It was going very well until you-know-who decided he had to run off and join the circus and that was more important. Yeah, tell me THAT goes over well with the ladies, am I right? “Sorry, honey. You’re great an all, but I wanna go to a place where I’ll be surrounded by degenerate gamblers, hookers, endless smoking and drinking and all manner of social addictions. Gottagobyeeeeee!” I’m a real charmer, I know.

Out of respect for her, I will not share the details of our conflicts beyond simply saying it didn’t work out. That’s all that needs to be said. I’ll simply say that decision of mine set off a three-year, off-and-on-and-off-and-on-and-off-and-living-together rollercoaster ride of a relationship that never settled into a good place for either of us.

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My first Las Vegas apartment, just as I was moving out. And yes, that’s about as furnished as it ever got.

Our relationship played heavily into my decision to move back to Indiana from Las Vegas in March 2010—not even five months after moving to Vegas. The other major reason was the economy. I was the low man on the totem pole at work and getting very few shifts. There was also a rising sense that I made the jump too soon. Sure, in my heart, I was ready to go to Vegas. But from a rational standpoint, I probably needed a little more time so I could establish myself. The struggle to stay afloat seemed too daunting and, given what the heart wanted at the time, it seemed best to pack up and move back to Indiana. Even though my employment prospects were pretty bleak in that moment, I knew I was coming home to the love and support of family, friends and The Girl.

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On the road back to Indiana, late-March 2009. Gassing up somewhere in America in the middle of the night. I was broke. My car was broke. It was nothing short of an adventure.

We all lived happily ever after, right? Well…fast forward 10 years later, Sunday, 14 May 2017 and here I am. Living in Las Vegas.

Again.

How did that happen? I’ll save the rest of the intervening years (2010 – present) for another day. It’s an interesting story by itself, but let’s stay focused on my 10-year anniversary of going to work for the Chamber. There’s good reason I want to do that.

The Fulcrum
Even though the jump from the Chamber to Blue Chip in 2008 feels like the turning point for everything that followed, it was really my decision to work for the Chamber in 2007 that served as the true fulcrum; the actual jumping-off point of every life decision I would make to follow. Without my move to the Chamber, none the dominoes that fell to put me where I am today—and where I’ve been over the past 10 years—would’ve have fallen the same way. Again, goes back to that “trajectory” thing. Moving to the Chamber set the course.

My stint with the Chamber has also cast a long shadow over the past 10 years of my life; mostly in a good way. Other times, not so much. Either way, I embrace it all. Sure, there were a few more bumps in the road than I would’ve preferred, but that’s life, man. There will always be bumps in the road. How you navigate over them and around is what matters.

There is no moral to this story; no fairytale ending or any of that crap. It’s a simple reflection on a moment in time in a series of moments in time that proved more pivotal than I ever anticipated. I thought I was just taking a new job that would advance my career. It turned out to be so much more than that.

As I sit here, less than a month away from embarking on a new professional journey, I can’t help but consider the parallels between then and now. Just as I did 10 years ago, I approach my unwritten future with excitement and happiness.

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Somehow, I ended up back in Vegas. Go figure.

How Did I Get Here?
There are mornings when I’m driving to work and I catch myself admiring the mountains in the distance that surround Las Vegas. I’ll turn off NPR and drive in silence, appreciating the Sheep Range mountains to the north, which loom over my morning commute, every Monday thru Friday.

I’ll look across the skyline to the east and trace the outline of iconic Las Vegas Strip resorts—the Stratosphere, standing tall like a needle in the desert; the Wynn, like a piece of shiny, curved glass, gleaming in the sun; the High Roller, slowly rotating like a giant bicycle wheel. As I approach downtown, I laugh at the fact that I’ve passed no less than five local casinos to get to work…and lament that I have to drive directly into a tangle of highways colloquially known by locals as “The Spaghetti Bowl.”

I allow myself to appreciate the scenery, the weather, the gigantic tourist attraction that pays my taxes (thank you, tourists!) and another day of drawing breath, and I ask myself, “how the hell did I get here?”

The answer: it all started on Monday, the 14th of May, 2007, when I went to work for the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce…

Sure, the last four or five years have been every bit the roller coaster as that 2007 – 12 stretch, but we’ll save that for another day. In the meantime, I will never stop appreciating everything—and the support of everyone—that led me to this moment.

Even the bumps along the way.

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Filed under Indiana, Indianapolis, IUPUI Jaguars, Las Vegas, Life, Personal

the show must go on.

IMG_1852For the better part of a year, now, my life has taken some strange and unexpected turns. Yes. You knew that already. Those turns forced me to make many difficult decisions, including choosing to step away from the microphone for the IUPUI Jaguars this season.

As the old saying goes: the show must go on. And it’s going on without me. I’m sad, but I certainly harbor no ill feelings toward anyone. There is no such thing as irreplaceable. I am, in fact, completely and totally replaceable. The Jaguars men’s basketball season started last night without me announcing the opening game for only the third time since 2001. And you know what? The show went on just fine without me.

I made the decision to step away a few months ago when it was clear I wouldn’t be able to fulfill my announcing duties for the upcoming soccer and volleyball seasons. I let the SIDs know well in advance of the seasons to allow time to find replacements, which they did.

For all intents and purposes—and without any official acknowledgement—I believe we all regard these changes to be permanent now, and that’s perfectly understandable. The program needs someone whom they can rely on to be there. My circumstances simply mean I can’t guarantee that.

The show must go on.

With nary a sound nor hint nor any sort of pomp and circumstance, my role as the Jaguars public address announcer has likely come to a close. We parted ways gently and amicably, but the parting seems necessary for all of us to advance on our respective paths. I went out quietly. And I’m okay with that.

Joe & I, working the NCAA Midwest Regional Final.

Joe & I, working the NCAA Midwest Regional Final.


For the better part of the past 12 years, I was IUPUI’s public address announcer for basketball, volleyball, soccer and sometimes softball. I loved (nearly) every minute of it. I met some nice people. I watched a lot of great games. My Jaguars career culminated with being the PA announcer at the NCAA Midwest Regional last year; an experience I’ll never forget and probably never top.

If you went to a Jaguars home game in any of those sports over the past decade or so, chances are you heard my voice. Chances are you probably didn’t even notice me or find anything I did to be remotely out of the ordinary. And that’s just the way I liked it. I was there to augment the experience, not be the focal point.

While I sincerely hope to take up PA announcing again at some level, I think my time with IUPUI is officially done. We thought it was done six years ago, when they honored me (by surprise, I should add) with a plaque and halftime announcement. But I pulled a Keith Jackson and came out of retirement. We ripped down the retired number, so to speak, and plowed forth as though the plaque ceremony never happened.

So what’s different now? Given the fact that my current job search could take me far away from Indianapolis, I don’t think it’s fair to play Russian roulette with the Jags program every year. It’s best to simply pass the baton and move on.

It’s a much quieter exit than the last time, and that’s perfectly fine by me. I don’t think the program needs to waste its budget on another plaque for me. Of course, I hope to have the opportunity to come back once in awhile and serve as a guest PA announcer, if they’ll let me; especially when the Jags move to the Coliseum next season, but that’s not something we need to decide right now.

In the meantime, I’ll reflect on more than 10 memorable years that put me in touch with a lot of really great people. I’m going to miss working with the table crew at our games: Joe the official scorekeeper and I started working together in 2001; Matt Davis, one of the best shot clock operators around; Gary, our most recent shot clock regular (who is also one of the best…and always brought us Taco Bell!); Eggiman, who ran the shot clock a lot in the early days; CD, who ran the scoreboard for most of my time at IUPUI; followed by Mike, who took over the past couple years; and too many interns and assistants to name.

I’ll miss the pre-game chats with the officials and coaches. I’ll miss the random, trivial, in-game conversations with Joe, next to whom I sat for at least 90 percent of the games. I’ll miss the cheerleaders and dance teams. I’ll miss the wonky PA system that usually worked (but not without a fight). I’ll miss sitting along press row at the conference tournaments. I’ll miss the JagBand. I’ll miss giving nicknames to JagBand director David Copeland at every game. I’ll miss “one minute remaining.”

I watched one of the best basketball games I’ll ever see—a triple OT thriller against Oral Roberts (Jags won). I watched George Hill become a pro-caliber basketball player and school too many opponents to count. I saw the legendary Rollie Massimino prowl the sidelines at the Jungle. I watched former head coach Ron Hunter become a national sensation by simply coaching a game in his bare feet. I learned to enjoy the game of soccer from the press box, albeit from a perch so high at Michael A. Carroll Track & Soccer Stadium that you could look down at the Statue of Liberty. I even had the pleasure of butchering my way through a handful of softball games.

I’ll never forget the first time we played at Conseco Bankers Life Fieldhouse. I’ll never forget the huge weekend in 2007 when we beat Valpo and Oral Roberts in front of a packed house (including a couple Indiana Pacers). I’ll never forget greeting Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan when he came to the Jungle for a pre-Super Bowl basketball game. I’ll never forget calling my first (and only, so far) championship game for the Jaguars last season when the volleyball team won the season championship. All told, it’s been a blast.

IUPUI's game day crew, circa 2008: Eggiman, Buerge, Sherrill, me, Joe & CD.

IUPUI’s game day crew, circa 2008: Eggiman, Buerge, Sherrill, me, Joe & CD.


Individually, thanks to Ed Holdaway, John “JB” Berry, John “JR” Rasmussen, Mike Moore, Kevin Buerge, Billy Potter, Trevor “T-Mac” MacDonald, Scott Taylor and everyone with the program—past and present—at IUPUI who played some part in the opportunity for me to be the Jags PA announcer. I enjoyed working with you all.

Thanks, IUPUI Jaguars. It was a great ride.

But the show must go on.
IUPUI Gang

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Filed under college basketball, IUPUI Jaguars, NCAA, Personal, Uncategorized

begonia?

When it comes to public address announcing, softball has always been something of a discomfort zone for me. I’ve done it so infrequently that it barely counts. A couple months ago, I was asked by the IUPUI Jaguars program if I’d help out and announce some games. Naturally, I obliged. Of course, no one expected the colossal trainwreck that followed.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t that bad, but compared to basketball, soccer and volleyball, my performance as a softball PA announcer leaves nothing but room for improvement. Take yesterday’s doubleheader at the IUPUI Softball Complex. When announcing the starting lineups for the teams, I had trouble recognizing one of the names as it was written on the lineup card. The batter in question was eighth in the lineup. I correctly identified her position and number, but her name? A pregnant pause gave way to a second of awkward silence, which allowed just enough panic to set in that I winged it on the illegible name: “Audria…Begonia,” I said, to a smattering of laughs from both the team’s players and the fans scattered in the bleachers behind me.

I glanced at IUPUI’s Sports Information Director John Berry, who could barely contain his laughter, corrected me between giggled. “Basquez!” he said.

Yep. I turned Basquez into Begonia. It gave J.B something to laugh about for a solid five innings.

After the name faux pas, everything else settled down. The Jags won the nightcap 3-1, after dropping the first game 5-4. Truth is, I don’t mind working softball, but it’s not as comfortable as working for our other sports. I don’t think I’m telling any stories out of class by saying the Softball Complex leaves much to be desired. There is no press box, forcing the stat crew, visiting SID and gameday crew to occupy a couple rickety tables behind the backstop. There is no overhead cover, exposing us and, more importantly, our gear, to the elements. When it’s cold and threatening to rain in early spring, it’s especially cold for us. When it’s an otherwise warm, perfect day (as it was yesterday), we bake in the sun. I went through about five bottles of water just to stay hydrated.

We end up spending most of our time standing behind home plate, going through our motions. It’s not as intense a pace as basketball or volleyball, nor is it as slow as soccer. From an announcer’s standpoint, there’s not much to announce other than batters, pinch runners, new pitchers, etc. Even though I’m a baseball fan, my relative lack of familiarity with working softball lends itself to dumb errors. Should I pick up the slack and announce at softball next season, I’ll need to tighten up.

In the meantime, I’m hoping to win the Powerball jackpot so I can build a press box for next season.

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Filed under IUPUI Jaguars, PA Announcing, sports

jags move one step closer to clinching no. 2 seed.

It’s a bittersweet year for the IUPUI Jaguars basketball teams. The women’s team is enjoying one of its best seasons in years while the men’s team is having its most difficult since going D-I. The men dropped a road game tonight at North Dakota State and the women’s team avenged an earlier loss today, throttling the Bison 57-40 in the Jungle. The win gives the Jags a 9-3 conference record and are now 16-9 overall.

What’s getting to be more and more impressive with the women’s team is they’re sharing the “hero” status. Thursday night, Katie Comello shoots five three-pointers to ignite the Jags offense. Today, Dawn Luster comes off the bench and torches North Dakota State for 10 points and six assists. Even more impressive, the Jags out rebounded the Bison 48-29. I’m no basketball genius, but I’ve always said rebounding leads to victories.

One Step Closer.
Of equal import to the Jags win today is third-place South Dakota lost at Ft. Wayne this afternoon, 71-64. The good part? IUPUI needs just one more conference win to lock up the No. 2 seed in the Summit League Conference Championship Tournament. The scary part? Ft. Wayne is surging, winning three in a row to move into a tie for third place with South Dakota. IUPUI’s final game of the season is at home against Ft. Wayne. Depending on how the Jags perform on their final road trip this week against South Dakota and Kansas City, it may not matter.

Bad Blood?
IUPUI’s SID John Berry told me before the game the players circled this game on their calendars and were looking forward to this game all season. Seems odd the team would be fixated on a game against a seventh place team, fresh off beating No. 1 South Dakota State two nights prior. Turns out the intensity was ratcheted up, thanks to the Jags losing at North Dakota State 71-68 on Jan. 17 in a game marred by a questionable foul late in the game.

“Neutral” Site, My Ass!
Personally, I was worried about a letdown after the big win Thursday night. Despite the slow start (which concerns me, moving forward), the Jags have been a second-half team the last two games. I like their late-game intensity, but I worry about the lack of early offensive output when they go to Sioux Falls for the tournament. Even though it’s classified as a “neutral” site, the three Dakota teams will enjoy playing in front of their home fans more than any other teams in the conference. In other words, Neutral Site, my ass!

The good news for the Jags, though, is they’re playing some of their best basketball of the season at the right time. They’re on a five-game winning streak and have a chance to atone for laying an egg in that embarrassing home loss to South Dakota last month when they travel to Vermillion, S.D. on Thursday. Win that game, and you’ve all but punched your ticket for the No. 2 seed.

On the Verge of Something Special.
I don’t want to jinx anything, but with four games remaining, the Jags are on the precipice of doing something special. At 16-9, they are one win shy of equalling their mark for most wins as a Division I program. The women’s team won 17 games twice: once in 2005-06 (17-11) and again in 2007-08 (17-16).

More importantly, they still have a chance to win the Summit League regular season championship. If South Dakota State drops either or both of their remaining games (vs. ONU, at NDSU) and the Jags win their four remaining games, the title comes to Indianapolis by virtue of head-to-head tiebreaker.

Is it a longshot? Well, there’s a lot of basketball left to be played. Before we worry about that, the first step is to win Thursday’s game at South Dakota.

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Filed under college basketball, IUPUI Jaguars, march madness, NCAA

jags win ugly, thanks to rebounding…and katie freakin’ comello.

Last night’s 70-67 victory for the IUPUI Jaguars women’s basketball team over first place South Dakota State University was huge. With the season sweep of the Jackrabbits, the Jags have a firm grip on second place in The Summit League standings with an 8-3 record (15-9 overall).

It was an ugly game for both teams, really.
* A total of 53 personal fouls were called
* The Jags were only 17-31 from the free throw line
* SDSU wasn’t much better at 24-37

The Difference.
1. Rebounding. IUPUI grabbed 18 offensive boards, which led to 17 second chance points. I’ve always said the team that rebounds is the team that wins.

2. Katie freakin’ Comello. She was lights-out in the second half, hitting five three-pointers to spark the Jags’ offense late in the game. And these were not all wide open jumpers. At least two of them were well guarded, yet she was unstoppable.

It remains to be seen where this game ranks this season in terms of signature wins. Here’s something to consider, though: South Dakota State is in first place and only one conference team has beaten them this season: the IUPUI Jaguars.

Twice.

To understand just how significant this season is for IUPUI, you have to consider where it’s been.

A Brief History Lesson.
Exactly three years ago today, the IUPUI Jaguars women’s basketball team lost to lowly Centenary College, 67-57. It was Centenary’s only win in the conference that season. IUPUI finished the 2009-10 season 3-26 overall with a 2-14 conference record and missed the conference tournament. A tournament where, just two seasons earlier, the Jags were in the championship game.

As dismal a 3-26 season is, it paled in comparison to the off-court drama that unfolded. Long story short, NCAA violations, the public embarrassment of an expose of internal strife between players and coaches, and the dismissal of a controversial head coach just prior to the beginning of the 2010-11 season left the Jags in complete disarray. To right the ship, the program tapped men’s assistant coach Austin Parkinson to step in and guide the program on an interim basis.

Despite finishing 4-24—just one win better than the previous season—the Jags showed promise by adopting Parkinson’s attitude of never quitting. With the “interim” label removed from Parkinson’s title heading into the 2011-12 season, the Jags finished 13-19 and earned a berth in the conference’s postseason tournament, where they won their quarterfinal game.

Back to the Now.
In just three seasons, Austin Parkinson has taken a team that could barely win a game and has them firmly in second place in their conference, boasting two wins over the first place team and on the verge of its first winning season in four years.

Last night’s win is no guarantee of future success. It does, however, represent the grit and determination the Jags have shown just to reach this point. I don’t think anyone believed three years ago Parkinson could turn things around as quickly as he did. From doormat to contender in three years? No, it’s no guarantee of future success, but I certainly like the direction the team is going.

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Filed under college basketball, IUPUI Jaguars

a kind of homecoming in the jungle.

JungleYou can’t always get what you want. Isn’t that how the song goes? That’s become the theme for the long-suffering IUPUI Jaguars men’s basketball team this season. Yesterday’s game against Omaha was one of the worst I’ve seen at home in a long time. Up by 22 points with about four minutes to play in the first half, only to lose by seven, 85-78. That’s a 29-point swing. What’s even more maddening: the Mavericks staged their comeback in about 15 minutes of game time. By the midpoint of the second half, it was up for grabs. With about eight minutes left on the clock, Omaha had the lead for good.

Maddening. Frustrating. Bewildering.

The last time we suffered such a bad loss in a game I felt we should’ve won was two years ago against Southern Utah University. I wrote about it here. The same recipe for disaster as two years ago occurred last night: large, early lead only gets squandered.

Maddening. Frustrating. Bewildering.

About Yesterday’s Game.
It was one of the more enjoyable days in The Jungle, I must say. Thanks to Homecoming festivities, we had an actual student section at the game yesterday. That always makes it more fun. Omaha’s SID, Bonnie, was very nice. But that’s to be expected. In all my years of working with opposing teams—about 15, total, between IU South Bend Titans and the Jags—I’ve only encountered one or two challenging people. The SIDs throughout our conference are always pretty good people.

Omaha’s head coach Derrin Hansen gave the table crew a laugh, too. Early in the second half, after a called timeout, Hansen forgot we’d already taken the under-16:00 media timeout. He kept asking Mike, the clock operator and Joe, official scorekeeper, why we haven’t taken the media timeout yet. We finally clarified with him what time it was taken. About a minute or two later, he leaned over and said, “you’ve got to forgive me, we’re a little slower in Omaha.”

IMG_1964My Day Behind the Mic.
We had one of our best crowds of the season yesterday. It’s always more fun to work in a full house. I had a good voice for most of the first half, although the timeout reads are starting to wear me out. And the eight-minute halftime Homecoming read was a rather tall order. The challenge there is to get through it without sounding like your droning on and on. Though it sounds counterintuitive, the more you try to punch up the announcements, the worse they sound.

A friend of mine who’s had a career in broadcasting and PA announcing gave me a good note yesterday, after the game: slow down. He’s right. He’s dead right. There’s a tendency to want to rush through the reads—especially during the media timeouts—but it’s the best way to screw up.

Heading toward the NCAA regionals next month, I need to focus on slowing down my reads. The in-game stuff doesn’t concern me as much. I feel pretty good about my ability to manage the scorers, fouls and substitutions. I just need to focus on getting a little better with scripted copy.

No, I’m never satisfied with my performance. Ever.

But I did get a rather nice compliment from one of the player’s dads. After introducing the JagBand (where I always include a different title or nickname for the band director, David Copeland), Sean Esposito’s dad introduced himself to me so he could tell me he always gets a laugh out of those intros and looks forward to it every game. It’s always nice to hear folks appreciate when you’re trying to keep it fun. Although it’s getting tougher and tougher to come up with new nicknames for Dave. Yesterday, he was the “pet psychic to the stars.” Because of the long halftime reads, I was unable to get to the second read.

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jaguars wbb roundball roundup: …not even a fair fight; must not look past omaha.

Last night’s IUPUI Jaguars women’s basketball game against former conference rival Chicago State wasn’t even a fair fight. The Jags won 65-30 in a game that could best be described as an in-season scrimmage. No such thing as a bad win, but this game changes nothing in terms of post-season play. They only thing I’m sure Head Coach Austin Parkinson wanted more than a win was no injuries.

A few interesting facts from the game:
* The Jags scored 37 points in the first half alone.
* With 33 combined points, Kerah Nelson and Nicole Rogers outscored the entire Chicago State team.
* Chicago State actually led the game 13-10 in the first half.

Even Nervous Teenagers Score More Often Than This
Chicago State hit a layup with 4:01 remaining in the first half, making the score 33-17. They would add two free throws at :32 before the end of the half…they would not score again until 9:49 in the second half, when the score was 51-21.

When you do the math on that, that means they went 14 minutes and 12 seconds between field goals. Think about that! In real time, that’s close to an hour between baskets. And, not to pile on the Cougars, but if you saw their shot selection and their shooting technique, you wouldn’t be surprised. Many trips down the court, they were just chucking it at the rim, hoping for a miracle.

It’s also fair to point out IUPUI’s team defense is pretty strong.

Take Care of the Ball
If there’s a weakness in the Jags’ game to highlight, it’s turnovers. IUPUI coughed it up 22 times in the game. You can’t get away with that many turnovers in any of the remaining seven conference games.

Speaking of Conference Play
IUPUI is currently in second place by a half game with a 6-3 conference record. Holding onto the #2 seed is important, because it gives you the chance for a day off in the conference tournament. South Dakota State has a 2-1/2 game lead over IUPUI and will the the Jags’ next home opponent on Feb. 14. This game has huge implications for both teams. A Jags win would pretty much seal up any potential tie breakers for the top seed. Before that game, however, IUPUI has to travel to Omaha on Saturday. I’ll spare you my admonitions to beware The Trap Game! But seriously, don’t look past the Mavericks. They’re a pretty strong team at home.

As for league leading South Dakota State, they are in the driver’s seat. With the exception of IUPUI, they’ve already beaten everyone else in the conference at least once. They had a couple close shaves on the road agains Fort Wayne and Kansas City, but the Jackrabbits are not likely to have those problems again. No matter where South Dakota State finishes in the standings, they still enjoy a home court advantage in the “neutral” site of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Games To Watch This Week

  • Fort Wayne at South Dakota State, Thursday, 8 p.m. EST
    Could this be a trap game for the Jackrabbits?
  • IUPUI at Omaha, Saturday, 3 p.m. EST
    Jags are 4-6 on the road this season. A win keeps pressure on SDSU.
  • Kansas at South Dakota, Saturday, 3 p.m. EST
    A KC win only helps IUPUI.
  • Oakland at South Dakota State, Saturday, 8 p.m. EST
    Wishful thinking for Jags fans, but not gonna happen. The Grizzlies will get trounced.

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