Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Norman North looking good for next year

Norman North football fans won't be let down this year, according to head coach Lance Manning. Photo by Taylor Bullard.

Norman North football lost what most people would consider a very talented graduating class after the 2009 football season. But although many think North will have a down year, those involved in Timberwolves football will tell you they're looking solid.

Last year, seniors like Beau Blankership, Nathan Badger, Bryce Easley, Cody Hughes, and Tyler Tettleton led a Norman North football team that was top-heavy with senior talent. Next year those players will be gone.

The Timberwolves went (9-3) last season and the Norman community is buzzing with whispers that the team's fortunes will change with the upcoming season.

"It's hard to try and replace players like Beau, as a leader as well as a player," Head Coach Lance Manning said.

Norman North will kick their season off against inner-city rival Norman High School next year, a game that will be a measuring stick for the Timberwolves, as well as the Tigers.

Click here to hear what Coach Manning had to say about next year's team.

Coaches Turning a blind eye to steroids?

Steroids have always played a role in high school athletics, especially in states that are as deeply rooted in high schools football tradition as Oklahoma and Texas.

Ever since steroids were first introduced to athletics, high school athletes have been using performance-enhancing substances to rapidly build speed, strength, and overall athletic ability.

The pressure to win in these so called "football states" has become so great over the years that even high school coaches have been thought to have blood on their hands. Speculation has led to full scale investigations, as many in the football community are now concerned that coaches are partially responsible for neglecting the steroid problem.

"The pressure absolutely pushes kids to steroids. Parents and coaches push kids to get bigger, faster, and stronger," Donald M. Hooton, founder of the Taylor Hooten foundation said.

In May of 2005, Scott Wayne Moody of Broken Arrow Oklahoma was arrested for selling steroids. Moody, a coach as Tulsa's Webster High School was arrested in a sting operation after police suspected Moody of selling drugs, specifically to high school students. According to documents obtained from the Oklahoma Supreme Court Network, Moody had been selling steroids to Tulsa area athletes and body builders for long enough for police to become very aware of his actions.

"I had no idea how bad it was in Tulsa until my daughter told me," Barry Trammel of NewsOK said. "And I'm a sports writer,"

Moody is part of the minority, having been caught, or even accused of supplying high school athletes with steroids. But many coaches have been accused of applying indirect pressure to athletes by simply encouraging their players to become bigger and stronger.

"Sports are king in this area, especially high school football. Teams play in 20 million dollar stadiums, and coaches can earn in excess of 100 thousand dollars per year if they are successful. The pressure is on everyone involved to win," Hooton said.

Hooton, who believes that his son, Taylor Hooton, committed suicide in July of 2003 due to steroid related causes, said that one of Taylor's baseball coaches encouraged him to get bigger.

"Most [parents and coaches] are unaware how many of the child's peer group is using, and don't realize they are unknowingly pushing their kid or player to use drugs," Hooton said.

The Majority of high school coaches are also not trained to recognize a steroid user or to know what to do with a problem if they find it.

"I'm not trained to be able to tell if a kid is on steroids or not, and I don't think a lot of coaches would be able to tell you either," Norman North Head Football Coach Lance Manning said.

Some high school coaches are less concerned about their athletes having a problem with steroids, and instead are more concerned about other extra curricular activities their players might be involved in.

In an interview with the Dallas Morning News, Plano West Head Football Coach and Athletic Director Mike Hughes stated that he had no knowledge of any Plano West athlete using steroids, and he was much more concerned with high school athletes using recreational drugs and alcohol.

Another factor in the fight against high school steroids is the inability of high schools to perform and afford steroid tests. In fact, the cost of testing is the biggest reason that most Oklahoma high schools do not regularly test their athletes.

When asked about why Norman high schools do not have a system for testing high school athletes for performance enhancing drugs, Manning simply said, "Money."

According to an article from the Tulsa World, certain high schools in Oklahoma actually have methods of testing, but are actually afraid to test students because of the likelihood of a lawsuit.

In February of 2005, 9 football players from Colleyville-Heritage High School in Colleyville, Texas openly admitted to using banned steroids after one boy's mother found steroids hidden in a closet, according to an article from the Associated Press.

Chris Cunningham, Heritage head football coach, denied that his players had ever used steroids. One month later, Cunningham acknowledged a problem with steroids on his football team.

"Nobody's afraid of getting tested because they know the school can't afford it right now," a Colleyville athlete told reporters.

With no easy way to fight the high school steroid problem it is difficult for high schools to investigate and put a stop to athletes that choose to use banned substances. And with advances in technology, students are finding it easier than ever to get their hands on performance enhancing drugs. 

"Go to the Yahoo search engine and put in three search words: buy, steroids, online. That's how easy it is to buy steroids on the internet," Hooton said.

Parents, players and fans are forced to leave the problem up to the coaches and high school administrators to be watchdogs over their respective programs.

"I think there's coaches out there that think it equates to wins. I just try to let these kids know that [coaches] don't need that and players don't need it either. I think that's not why most [coaches] are in this," Manning said. "There's no place for that here."

"The problem is not going away," Dallas Morning News sportswriter Gary Jacobson said.

Although stories often emerge about rings of steroid users in prominent high school football towns, coaches are never found doing wrong, and the majority of the athletes who choose to use steroids never get caught.

Click play to hear Gary Jacobson talk about Dallas coaches addressing steroid issues.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Bradford and Horton nominated for Sullivan Award

University of Oklahoma athletes Sam Bradford and Johathan Horton have been nominated for the 2008 Sullivan Award, given to the nations top amateur athlete.

Jonathan Horton was for the Sullivan Award after competing with the U.S. men's team in the Olympics and taking home the bronze medal. Horton stepped up big for the national team in a year year that it seemed the American's had little chance without veterans Paul and Morgan Hamm.

Bradford was brilliant for the Sooners in the '08-'09 football season. Bradford set NCAA sophomore quarterback records for yards and touchdowns and became only the second sophomore in the history of college football to take home the Heisman.

"That's amazing," said Sophomore communications major Andrew Travis. "I knew [Bradford] had already received a bunch of awards but I'm glad people are paying attention to Jonathan Horton."

Fans can go to the Sullivan Award homepage http://aausullivan.org/ to vote for their favorite amateur athlete.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sooners ward off Wolverines for a trip to the Sweet 16

The Oklahoma Sooners outlasted Michigan Sunday night defeating the 10th seeded Wolverines (73-63) and secure a bid to the Sweet 16.

Michigan came out firing early and at the half Oklahoma led by just one point (30-29).

The Sooners got it rolling late in the second half and put Michigan away easily by the end of the game. Blake Griffin led with 33 points, 17 rebounds, and three assists.

"It got real physical out there today but our guys worked hard and came out with a win," Griffin said. Blake also played an important role in calming older brother Taylor Griffin down when the game got heated. "Yeah I just talked him down and the Michigan bench ended up getting the foul."

Oklahoma will move on to play the winner of (6)Arizona State and (3)Syracuse in Memphis for the Regional Sweet 16.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Push play to see what Big Event exec member Melissa Foy has to say about gearing up for March 28th.

Sooners earn two seed for NCAA

Just hours ago it was announced that the Oklahoma Sooners earned a two seed into the NCAA basketball tournament and will be playing in the South bracket.

Oklahoma was an early season favorite to receive a one seed, but instead those honors were taken by North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Connecticut, and Louisville.

After a late season slide and an early loss in the Big 12 tournament fans seem to feel that the two seed is exactly what the Sooners deserve. It also seems that OU lucked out and will be playing it's first two games at the tournament's closest venue, Kansas City, an opportunity that Oklahoma might not have received if it would have stayed a one.

"It's disappointing we didn't get a one seed, but after the bad games we had closing out the season it seems like what we should get," said Senior Economics major Clay Kennard. "Besides, we got our pick of the two seeds and get to play in Kansas City now."

It seems that Oklahoma's biggest competition will be the team that took the one seed in the South bracket, North Carolina. The South bracket will also include big name teams like Syracuse, Clemson, Illinois, and LSU.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Bob Stoops

Click on the audio clip to hear what Coach Stoops had to say about Mack Brown lobbying for the BCS.

Stoops talks NFL to journalism class

Bob Stoops spoke openly last Wednesday to a group of students in Al Eschbech's Sports in Media class. Students expected Stoops to talk football, but instead he chose to talk about his players.

Months ago Oklahoma star football players Sam Bradford, Gerald McCoy, Trent Williams, and Germaine Gresham chose to come back to OU for one last season and many were surprised, but Stoops said they came back for a reason.

Stoops spoke at large about the NFL and players choosing to come out of college early in order to secure big NFL salaries. Stoops said that most players don't understand how staying just one more year can help their draft status.

"These kids have agents talking in their ears telling them how much money they can make," said Stoops. "But those agents aren't looking out for these kids, they're looking out for themselves."

Coach Stoops did say that he once had a player that he actually told to enter the NFL draft early. He will tell you that Roy Williams was so good that Stoops told Williams it would not be fair to him or any other players in college football if he came back.

One seed not out of reach for the Sooners

Photo by Taylor Bullard.

The University of Oklahoma men's basketball team finished their season Saturday by defeating the Oklahoma State cowboys 82-78.

The Sooners are now headed for Kansas City for the Big 12 tournament, where they have earned the second seating and a first round bye. This puts OU in great position to make a run at the championship, as well as a number one seed in the NCAA tournament.

Currently, there are a number of teams vying for the four top seeds in the tournament and Oklahoma is certainly one of them. Joining OU as a candidate for the top seed are Pittsburgh, North Carolina, Connecticut, Memphis, and Louisville.

"I think the only lock for a one seed in the tournament is Pittsburgh," University of Oklahoma senior Chad Kennard said. "OU could have been another if they hadn't dropped those three straight games."

If the Sooners win the NCAA tournament they would surely secure another of the four top seeds. This would earn OU a first round bye in the tournament, as well as a much easier schedule.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

OU Basketball has small chance of Big 12 regular season title

After the loss of Blake Griffin the Sooners dropped two straight to rival Texas as well as defending national champions Kansas, and are no longer sitting in the driver's seat for the Big 12 title.

Currently Oklahoma sits in second place in the race for the Big 12 and has only a slim chance at winning the title outright.

The Sooners have only Missouri and Oklahoma State left on their schedule, two teams they collected wins against earlier in the season. Ironically, at this point Oklahoma must put faith in their hated rival Texas in hopes of knocking off the Jayhawks, who seem to be heating up right before tournament time.

"He hated the fact we struggled without him but he's going to come back ready," said Taylor Griffin speaking about his younger brother.

In the end the Sooners might not care about the title anyway. Oklahoma native Blake Griffin is back in the lineup after suffering a concussion against Texas, which greatly increases the Sooners odds of finishing this season without another blemish. Oklahoma is still looking for a number one seed in the NCAA tournament and a trip to the Final Four would make OU fans forget about their regular season follies.