Welcome to this week's investiture of the Dean's List where, for the first time in modern history, Georgia is both a Eurasian country recovering from an armed invasion and the No. 1 college football team in the U.S.
• Before he was a Hall of Fame college basketball coach, Jim Calhoun was a scrapyard worker, granite cutter, headstone engraver, shampoo factory worker and gravedigger. Now add to that list three-time cancer survivor. The UConn basketball coach has spent this summer undergoing radiation treatment after having a mass removed from his neck (he's been diagnosed with skin cancer twice and also had prostate cancer surgery). He's lost almost 20 lbs. from treatment, but that won't stop the determined coach from patrolling the sidelines when the Huskies return to the court later this fall. You see, above all else, Calhoun is a fighter, which is common knowledge for anyone who has ever attended his press conferences. So what makes a man? How about two national titles, three battles with cancer and being able to honestly say that you were once a gravedigger.
• To be a top-notch college football coach, you must possess a wide variety of traits -- strength, decisiveness, discipline and of course, flexibility. For the third straight year, Georgia football coach Mark Richt took his team to the pool and performed two back flips from the 10-meter high dive. That's a back flip from 33 feet above the water for a 48-year-old! The preseason ritual started back in 2006 as a way to break up the monotony of two-a-days and has become a Bulldog tradition. This year, a few of Richt's players ventured up to the high-dive and peered down but none were able to replicate their coach's exploits, which is probably a good thing since the last thing the No. 1 ranked team in the country needs is a player breaking his neck going off the high dive.
• When it comes to big-time scandals, we always seem to focus on the losers. Their pain and indiscretions are so much more dramatic. But with any conflict, there are always winners. Even the Duke lacrosse scandal had a winner. It's not the Duke lacrosse players (although, they were granted an extra year of eligibility to make up for their lost season), the accuser or the North Carolina justice system, but rather Bryant University. The Rhode Island school, which is currently making the transition to Division I, not only hired former Duke lacrosse coach Mike Pressler, but has also recruited former Blue Devil attackman Zack Greer for the 2009 season. Greer, the NCAA all-time goals leader with 206, graduated from Duke this spring but was granted one more year of eligibility by the NCAA. Suddenly, lacrosse games in Smithfield just got a whole lot more exciting.
• My freshman year, I tried to walk on to my college basketball team. The squad was the worst team in a bad conference, but I still couldn't make it. The odds were too great and I quit before the coach could cut me. That's what makes Jamie Vanartsdalen's story so special. She never quit, not even when quitting made complete sense. The senior field hockey player at Bloomsburg University, which has won 11 national championships in Division II, wasn't recruited out of high school. She had to walk onto the team as a freshman. But that didn't phase Vanartsdalen. She survived pre-season cuts and now, three seasons later, the former walk-on is the the 2007 Division II Player of the Year. She enters this season with 80 goals and 36 assists and is on pace to break the D-II scoring record. Not to jump to conclusions, but does this mean that if I had kept trying out for my college basketball team, I'd be playing in the NBA right now? Probably not.
• OK, by now you've probably already heard about Paul Donahoe and Kenny Jordan, the two Nebraska wrestlers who were kicked off the team after school officials discovered nude photos and videos of them on a gay porn website. The sports blogs love the story not only because gay porn and Nebraska wrestling go together like eggplant and ice cream, but because one of the wrestlers was a Big 12 and NCAA champion. But here's the big question no one is asking: Is this such a big story simply because the photos and videos were posted on a Web site that caters to gay men? If Donahoe and Jordan had posed for a heterosexual female site, would we care as much? The UCLA golf team posed with their pants down for Golf Digest back in 2004 and no one really cared. Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner got off easy when a naked picture of him surfaced on the internet. Of course, the big difference here -- other than the display of onanism in the Nebraska wrestlers' videos -- is that the Cornhuskers were paid to pose and that makes this act not only scandalous, but a violation of NCAA rules.
• Preseason is a dangerous time for college football programs. Your typical potpourri of garden-variety football Injuries -- ankle sprains, torn ACLs, broken bones and dislocations -- can sidetrack a season before it's even started. But USC has got a more unique set of injuries to deal with. Last weekend, defensive end Wes Horton and defensive tackle Christian Tupou got food poisoning from salmon they ate at a campus dining facility. On Wednesday night, running back Joe McKnight slammed his fingers in a dorm room door and had to go to the hospital. Offensive lineman Jeff Byers was recently diagnosed with Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which he got from a tick bite at his sister's wedding. And, most jarringly, a quarter of the Trojans have contracted tinea cruris, better known as "jock itch," a fungus that causes severe itching and burning and general discomfort in the genital area. But there's good news for the Trojans. A culprit has been identified, at least for the jock itch. Compression shorts worn underneath players' football pants helped spread the rash and will be washed in hotter water to reduce further outbreak. Glad to hear that's been taken care of.
• Student-athletes are under a lot of pressure. Kids not old enough to rent cars must dedicate themselves entirely to a sport if they hope to succeed. That leaves little time for sanity and sometimes an athlete, not matter how talented, just snaps. Elena Delle Donne, voted the nation's top female high school baller last season, has decided to quit playing basketball. Last season, Delle Donne averaged 30 points and 11 rebounds for Ursuline Academy in Delaware and was selected as the Naismeith National High School Player of the Year. The 18-year-old committed to play for Geno Auriemma at Connecticut and enrolled in summer school but left after just two days. Now she has decided not only to walk away from UConn but basketball too. And can you blame her? Running the three-man weave every day just isn't fun.
• There are a lot of things you can fake -- happiness, orgasms, sunglasses -- but money isn't one of them. Arnika Brown learned that the hard way. The Western Kentucky forward, who was the Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year last season, was arrested for using counterfeit money at drive-thrus in her hometown of Hopkinsville, Kentucky. She now faces 16 charges that range from possession of a forged instrument to theft by deception. In her defense, Brown claims that she didn't initially know that the $100 bills her friend was handing her were fake and when she realized she was paying with Monopoly money she returned the food to the cashier. Here's a little piece of advice for all those up-and-coming basketball players out there: When your pal suggests you pay for fast food with crisp new Franklins, you're probably in trouble.
Agree? Disagree? Agree to disagree? Contact the Dean's List at Jacob.Osterhout@gmail.com.