Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Backyard Ice Rink Project - Part 2: Heat, Wind, & Leaves

On Christmas Day, the kids enjoyed a little hockey on the backyard ice rink just before lunchtime. It was a beautiful afternoon and the kids had a lot of fun out on the ice.
And over the next few days, the weather got even nicer. My thermometer says it hit 60 on Saturday...which was bad news for the ice rink. A cold front rolled through Saturday night and the temperature plummeted as the winds howled.  And when I returned from my in-laws on Sunday, I had an unpleasant discovery.

Leaves.  Melting.  And leaking.

In trying not to put holes in my liner, I didn't fasten the liner to the boards...and that appears to be a major mistake.  In the warmth, the ice pulled back from the boards, and the melting water leaked out.  Even worse, as the winds howled, in came leaves from all over the neighborhood.  Even a plastic chair that I had placed next to the rink as a "penalty box" and bench blew onto the ice.  And froze.

Some of the leaves could be removed by taking the shovel and scraping the surface.  The chair needed a good pull to free it from the ice, but it was easy to remove.  The rest of the leaves are probably there for the duration of the winter, but if I get enough water on top of it, they'll become hidden.

Except now any water I pour on top runs off the ice and out into the yard.  How to fix that?  Good question.  My first attempt to fix this problem is to take some rolled up newspaper and jam it into the cracks to occupy space.  I then poured a small amount of water on the paper to soak it and freeze it in place.  So far so good.  The remainder of the gap probably can be filled with the snow that scheduled to fall tomorrow.  I'll bank it against the boards after the Husker game tomorrow afternoon, and resume the fill process.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

UNO Hockey Coach Dean Blais Suspended 3 Games for Improper Reimbursement of Jaycob Megna's Stolen Watch

The World-Herald reports that UNO hockey coach Dean Blais and junior defensemen Jaycob Megna have been suspended for the Mavericks' next three games because the UNO athletic department doesn't understand the NCAA's rules over theft of student-athlete property.

The abridged version of the story:  During a game against Bemidji State in October 2012, Megna's watch disappeared from the locker room. Sophomore Aaron Pearce also reported the loss of $100 at that time.  The incident was reported to MECA, the organization that operates the CenturyLink Center where the Mavs play.  The watch and the money have not been recovered.

UNO internally determined that the athletic department could not replace the watch under NCAA rules.  Sounds like one of those cases where the NCAA's rules prohibit people from doing the right thing, right?

Wrong.  In this situation, it is allowed by the NCAA.  UNO just didn't realize it.

The story continued, and over time, the story shifted from the NCAA not allowing the reimbursement to UNO not being able to afford the $400 reimbursement.  That's downright ridiculous.  Last spring, Megna went ahead and replaced the watch himself.  Blais learned of it, and gave him the $400 replacement cost.

That's the NCAA violation.  Should Dean Blais know better?  Yes.  But he was doing the right thing by the student athlete.

And in the end, UNO did eventually realize they could reimburse Megna after all, but it was too late.  And once the Ha Ha Clinton-Cix situation at Alabama became known, Blais recognized that he had also done wrong.

Bottom line:  Megna and Blais will miss the New Hampshire series the first weekend of January as well as the Friday night game against Minnesota-Duluth the week after.  Megna also has to donate $400 to charity.

UNO says that they'll improve security around their locker room, which is all fine and well.  Shouldn't that really be MECA's responsibility anyway?

But more importantly, who in the compliance department is going to be held accountable for not getting the correct answer from the NCAA in the first place?  It's a shame that Blais and Megna have to pay the price for UNO's screw-up.

A lot of good things are happening around UNO athletics.  Just look at UNO men's basketball, who now have an RPI higher than Nebraska ... and Michigan .... and UCLA, for crying out loud.
And all this in spite of administrative functions that aren't working.  This is the same organization who is trying to build a 7,500 seat arena for a hockey team that averages nearly 8,000 fans a game.  And last week sent out a survey five times to season ticketholders to gauge how much more fans want to pay to watch UNO hockey.

Here's a thought for UNO.  Put the arena plans back in the file drawer...and fix the support system for these sports first. When UNO can't do the basic things right, how can you build an $80 million arena that's already questionable?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Backyard Ice Rink Project - Part 1

Hockey for me was an acquired taste; I never grew up around the game once. I do recall my father taking me to an Omaha Knights game at Ak-Sar-Ben when I was a kid, and occasionally we'd play hockey in the gym in our sneakers in elementary school, but that was it. It wasn't until that famous "worst-to-first" season for the Omaha Lancers in 1990 that I actually started to follow the sport to any sort of detail. And, of course, ever since UNO, my alma mater, started playing the sport, I've been a fan. But I've never played the game on ice; I can't even skate. (Roller or ice.)

As my son has grown, he's become more and more infatuated with the sport. He started as a toddler, using a kiddie golf club as a hockey stick. The grandparents picked up on it, and gave him a couple of kids' hockey sets, which he plays over and over in the kitchen and living room. But it wasn't until he attended a USA Hockey "Try Hockey for Free" event last winter that he'd made it onto the ice. And it was love at first skate; he had an absolute blast. When we left, he kept asking when he could go back to the rink again.

A week later, we had a nice sized snowstorm, and the inspiration was set. My wife's cousin had given us a couple pairs of old kids' ice skates, and I'd seen people building ice rinks in their back yard before. What have I got to lose?

So a day after the snow fell, I went into the back yard, and stomped down a patch of snow for a base, and shoveled some snow around the area for a frame.  First problem, the hose was froze solid.  So my backup plan was buckets of water hauled from the kitchen sink.  Which actually worked fairly well, because it poured evenly and slowly built up an ice surface.  A few buckets of water in the morning, a few more when I got home from work, and a few more  just before going to bed.  And slowly but surely, a rudimentary ice rink formed.

Very rudimentary, mind you.  The back yard slopes, and the drift at the low end leaked.  Most of the rink was an ice-covered snow crust with all of the bumps and ridges you'd expect.  Yes it sucked.

Didn't matter...the kids loved it.  So much so that after the first snowfall in November, my son asked if I could build him a rink.  Nevermind it was only about a half-inch in grassy areas, he wanted to skate again.

More importantly, I had been planning on "Rink 2.0" anyway, and it wasn't going to be dependent on snow.  (At least, that was my plan.)  Last year's snow base was barely functional; the leaves and grass burned through the ice and created a pathway for water to leak out.  So I ordered a white rink liner (essentially a big white tarp) from Blue Lake Plastics in Minnesota to be the base.  On Thanksgiving weekend, after the final yard mowing, I set out to frame the rink.  Surplus shelving from Menards became the boards at the "low end", held in place by garden spikes pounded into the ground. And then, I waited for cold weather, which arrived a week ago.  With snow in the forecast, I knew I had to act fast, so the rink liner went down the first Saturday of December.  And in went the water.

Because the temperature was hovering near 0, I couldn't get the outside faucet to work, so I had to run the hose from the bathroom to fill the rink.  (I'm sure my wife loved having the patio door gapping open two inches all afternoon for the hose.)  And the rink slowly filled in.  And then I found my first mistake: folding the excess tarp on top of the rink instead of underneath.  As the water poured in, the second layer of tarp floated up on top of the water.  Whoops.

Moving a cold tarp full of water in single degree weather is not a lot of fun, so I managed to fold the excess tarp underneath so I could resume the fill.  And voila, the rink slowly filled.  Until I found the next issue:  I didn't set the tarp high high enough on the boards or attach them.  I didn't want to put holes in the liner, so I didn't nail it in place, so it sagged and gapped...which let water spill over the sides.  So I stopped the pour and decided to think of alternatives.
Started out with a decent rink, though.  Three inches of snow overnight ensured that the rink was fairly well frozen in place, and gave me a solution to the water leaking over the edge of the tarp.  A combination of saran wrap along the boards to cover the opening between the boards and the tarp, then packed in place with snow, and then a little water to freeze it in place.  Not wanting to risk more leaks by resorting to the hose, I reverted back to last year's tried and true method of filling the rink: two three-gallon buckets.  While one fills in the kitchen sink, I take the other out to the rink and pour it out over the ice.  A very slow and painstaking process over the last week, but it's functional.  By this weekend, only two high spots remain on my rink.

To solve those, I take what snow is left and mix it with some water to create a slush mix that I packed into those high spots to protect the liner and allow some sort of skating to take place.  After that freezes, I can then pour water on those areas and build up some ice there as well.

And voila...by Monday afternoon, the rink appears to be finally ready.  Except Mother Nature has graced us with some 45 degree weather...which is bad for a rink.  Fortunately, it held pretty solid the first day.  I've cut back on adding water, because it's not going to freeze.  Over the weekend, I was dumping about 30 gallons of water 3-4 times a day, which built up a nice surface.  Now, I'm just hoping it stays fairly solid, and more importantly, doesn't leak out all over the backyard.

The forecast for the next couple of days is for temps in the 40's, dipping back below freezing at night.  That should mitigate any melting.  By later this week, and next week, colder weather should be back and allow me to finish pouring enough water to smooth out that rough area at the high point of the yard.  At the other end, the ice is a foot deep at that point, and the kids have already skated on it.

Will there be a Christmas backyard hockey game at my house?  That's the hope.  Stay tuned for more updates on the backyard ice rink project. So far, so good.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Ballot

In the interests of full disclosure, I'm posting my ballot for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year, as sponsored by the Football Writers Association of America.  And yes, this is not a misprint, or a joke:
  1. Gary Pinkel, Missouri
  2. David Cutcliffe, Duke
  3. Art Briles, Baylor
  4. Gus Malzahn, Auburn
  5. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State
  6. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
  7. David Shaw, Stanford
  8. George O'Leary, Central Florida
Why Pinkel? No, I'm not trolling AJ the Huskerh8er. But let's be honest. Nobody, other than the most die-hard black and gold Tiger fan thought Missouri was going to play in Atlanta. Well, maybe, just maybe, if everything goes perfectly, maybe the Chick-fil-A Bowl on New Years Eve. 

They made it to the effin' SEC title game.  Yeah, Missouri.  Heck, even SB Nation's own Mizzou guy, Bill Connelly was hoping for a top 20 team, but predicting a 7 win team. And fearing that Pinkel's seat was going to smolder this season.

Cutcliffe took Duke to the ACC title game.  Yes, Duke.  Granted, they got blasted by Florida State, but still...it's Duke.  Art Briles would win a coach of the decade for making Baylor relevant, but I'm not so sure they just didn't emerge from a rather weak Big XII. 

Monday, December 09, 2013

Creighton Admits Doc Sadler Was Right

When he was still Nebraska's basketball coach, Doc Sadler always found one way to get under the skin of a Creighton basketball fan...and that's by pointing out that, historically, the Creighton/Nebraska basketball game wasn't worth that much to Nebraska.
"A loss to Creighton hurts us. A win over Creighton, the only thing it does is make our fans happy. It doesn't help you come Selection Sunday. That's just the way it is."
Of course, there is a bit of "that was then, this is now" to consider about that statement. Back then, Creighton was playing in the Missouri Valley Conference, and frequently needing to win out in St. Louis to assure themselves of an NCAA tournament berth. Creighton needed that game against Nebraska to boost their RPI to improve their chances of an at-large berth. And when Sadler (or Barry Collier prior to that) talked about not wanting to play the game in Omaha, that riled up Bluejay fans to no end.

And that was then.  Creighton now finds themselves in a major conference with their own national television network. They'll have all of the RPI-enhancing games they need on their conference schedule. But now there's a new twist on the debate over whether Nebraska's division 1 basketball teams should play.

It's UNO.  UNO has quietly put together an impressive start this season, beating opponents in common with both Nebraska and Creighton by comparable margins in the early part of this season.  The Mavericks' basketball team isn't eligible to play in the NCAA tournament yet, and won't for a couple more seasons.  But the RPI is there, and it's a more-than-respectable 157.  Not bad for a Summit League team playing their third season out of of division 2.

Nebraska played UNO last year in Lincoln.  Creighton hasn't scheduled UNO ever since the Mavs left division 2.  Why not?  It's a question Tom Shatel asked Creighton head coach Greg McDermott.  McDermott's answer essentially backed up what Doc Sadler said years before:
“We evaluate our schedule every year and we're going to schedule what fits Creighton best. If UNO fits that, it's something we would consider.”
In other words... don't look for it, especially on a UNO home court. Nevermind that it would be good for the local sports scene.  UNO's RPI will never be good enough (as a Summit League team) to help the RPI of a team like Nebraska or Creighton with a victory. And the risk of losing to the "little brother" is far too great to take that chance. That's why Creighton hasn't played UNO since 2009...and probably won't again.  Creighton is "going to schedule what fits Creighton best."

Five years ago, Creighton fans were miffed when Doc Sadler talked about scheduling what would fit Nebraska the best. Turns out Doc was right after all...otherwise, Creighton would gladly be looking to schedule UNO in basketball.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Bo Pelini May Underperform to Fan Standards, But May Outperform His Peers

Zach Tegler of the Daily Nebraskan took a peek at Bo Pelini's record in his first six years as a head coach, and compared it to the records of other first-time head coaches.  The numbers jump out at you:
Of the 2,053 men who have ever coached major college football, 107 – about 5 percent – had winning percentages of .706 or better through five seasons.
Of those 107 coaches, 43 are in the College Football Hall of Fame. Sixty-two worked before World War II. And eight – much less than 1 percent – won nine games in each of their first five seasons as a head coach.

Of those eight, only one inherited a team with a losing record.
His name is Bo Pelini. CornNation's Paul Dalen did some other research that shows that it takes time and experience for most national championship coaches to reach that level.  Is that a case that Tom Osborne should not have hired Bo Pelini back in 2007?  You could definitely argue that, though that point is moot  now.

It reminds me of another coach out there that many argue is the new standard.  What were his records his first six seasons?  9-2, 6-5-1, 6-6, 7-5, 6-6, 9-2.  Grand total: 43-26-1.  "Four L" Pelini's record in comparison? 57-24.

Who is that other coach?  You may have heard of him.  He's Nick Saban.  And yes, Pelini's record far exceeds Saban's over the first six seasons.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Huskerland: Bo Pelini, Through a Parent's Eyes

Over the year's, I've periodically heard from the extended family of a few players over Bo Pelini, and the type of man Bo Pelini is away from the podium and off the sideline. It's just one more reason I believe that Bo Pelini is a special coach, who's trying to do things the right way.  Today, I received a link to this story about what Joe Johns, parent of a Nebraska reserve defensive tackle, had to say about Pelini:

Earlier this year, Joe and his son Garret attended a Football team dinner, where Joe had talked with several other parents and they all felt the same way about Bo. They all felt that Bo had their child’s best intentions in mind with everything he did, he pushed them in the classroom and on the field. They believed in Bo as well.
Joe had also attended a few practices this year and said that they were tough practices, the guys were really “popping” the pads he said and going full throttle. Joe was reminded of the Bob Devaney days and in some ways compared Bo to Bob Devaney, in how much he expected out of his players and how he wanted nothing but 110% effort from them during practice. He couldn’t stress enough how good the practices were.
Joe talked about the academics portion of the football team, and its expectations, he said that almost 80% of the team is on the B1G honor roll list. He stated that Bo is a big stickler for classroom attendance and participation. He really puts the Student before the Athlete, as it should be.
Read the rest of the article at Huskerland.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Dirk Chatelain Considers the AP Poll an "Objective" Measurement

On Monday, Dirk Chatelain continued his ongoing series of analyzing Nebraska football under Bo Pelini. Based on his tweet, I thought this one would be different.
As objectively as possible?  Well, I'm intrigued, despite the source, so I click the link.
Since that moment, this is where the Huskers have started in the AP poll and finished in the AP poll.
2010: Started 8th, finished 20th
2011: Started 10th, finished 23rd
2012: Started 17th, finished 25th
2013: Started 18th, currently tied for 36th (only 35 teams received a vote)
So each of the past three years, the preseason expectation has been lower than the year before. And each of the past four years, NU has finished at least eight spots lower than where it started.
Those are facts.

Yep... That's right. Chatelain's "as objectively as possible" is the AP poll.  That's right:  an opinion poll.

What's the definition of "objective"?
not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts.
In other words, Chatelain's best shot at "as objectively as possible" is not objective by any definition.  The "facts" that Chatelain use are completely opinion based.

If you like Pelini (like I do), you consider Chatelain to be leading a group of media members who have been laying the case for Pelini to be fired.  Those media members take issue to that:
They are technically correct.  Chatelain, Severe, and John Bishop have not specifically called for Pelini to be fired. But that doesn't mean that the complaint isn't valid either. I played that same game in the early years of this blog. When it was Bill Callahan who was the Nebraska coach, I stated my case why Callahan was failing.  I never actually called for Callahan to be fired, though.  I knew that wasn't going to happen as long as Steve Pederson was athletic director.  And once Pederson was fired, the case for dismissing Callahan was so blatantly obvious that I still didn't need to make that call.

All I did was keep adding more and more reasons why Callahan wasn't working out at Nebraska.

Same thing Chatelain is doing now.  The only difference is that I wouldn't  deny that I wanted Callahan out of Lincoln.

The critics who try to make the "objective" case that Pelini is failing won't be that honest with you.