Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Weaver Fan Forum

I had a chance to spend a few minutes with Wayne Weaver yesterday. He wanted to talk about the upcoming Fan Forum at the stadium. An event where he and other Jaguars executives (I wonder if Tom Coughlin will be there) will meet with Jaguars fans at the Stadium to hear about what’s right and what’s wrong with the Jaguars game experience.

Weaver seems genuinely committed to listening to what the fans have to say, and implementing some of their ideas. He said he’d lower prices, freeze some seat prices, and offer “branded” food at the Stadium as well as other small things that need to be fixed.

“This is something new for you guys,” I commented to Weaver. “You’ve been cloistered at the Stadium for seven years and now you’re everywhere.”

“I’d be disingenuous if I didn’t tell you it was too easy early for us,” was Weaver’s answer. ” We saw a drop off in attendance a few years ago but that had to do with wins and losses. This drop off isn’t about wins, it’s about what it’s like to come to a Jaguars game.”

Weaver can certainly turn on the charm, but you wonder sometimes if his ideas actually trickle down through his organization and get implemented the way he wants them to. One thing’s for sure; Weaver has his hand on the controls right now. The team and the whole organization are on his radar screen. He’s a businessman who likes research and consultants and focus groups. They’ve told him what’s wrong, and he’s trying to figure out how to change things and not cost himself a fortune.

He’s not giving any guarantees about the football team, but does think they can be competitive. “I’m not waiting until 2003. We’ll have a good competitive team this year.”

When I asked him about the restructuring of Tony Brackens’ and Kyle Brady’s contracts, he said, “In the past we restructured everybody, now we’re selective. We’re restructuring guys who are long term players for this team.”

When I asked about other players Weaver demurred, “We have some tough decisions in front of us, but I can’t talk about them.” It’s pretty obvious Keenan McCardell and Hardy Nickerson will be released after June 1st in order to save cap money over the next two years. They’re obviously not long term players for the Jaguars. And Weaver reiterated that Mark Brunell and Fred Taylor are not available to other teams in a trade. “They’re not on the block,” is how the Jaguars owner put it.

What all this means is they’re putting on a show of effort to be responsive to the fans about their concerns. Whether they’ll do anything about it we’ll find out soon enough.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

NCAA Tourney

I remember watching the NCAA selection show one year when JU was going to get a bid. They drew Temple in the first round in Dayton. Not bad I thought, until then-coach Bob Wenzel came on the news and complained loud and hard about being the 8th seed. He talked about how hard the 8-9 game was and how unfair the committee had been to the Dolphins. And he was right. But the Sun Belt Conference got no respect and the committee was making it tough on JU. Just an early example of how things can either go your way or not in the bracket.

This year’s 65-team field isn’t the best 65 teams in the country, but rather a cross section of representatives from different regions and conferences. Three-quarters of the teams are from east of the Mississippi. Duke seems to have the easiest road to the final four, with Alabama looking like their only obstacle to get to Atlanta.

Cincinnati’s road looks hardest. Nine of the 16 teams in the West probably have a legitimate shot at winning that region. It’s also where the most unfair seeding happened, with Gonzaga being placed at #6.

How is that important?

In the second round, they’ll face Arizona, a game that should be somewhere closer to the Final Four instead of the second round. Florida will have a tough time. Playing Creighton in Chicago, and then facing Illinois in the United Center, right in the Illini’s backyard. If they get by that, either Stanford or Kansas will be waiting.

Georgia’s road could be a little smoother with Texas Tech, NC State and U Conn looming on the horizon. There will be upsets but I’ll stick with the four teams who should have been the #1 seeds: Maryland, Duke, Kansas and Oklahoma to get to the Four.

Duke and Kansas will be there, I’m taking Oklahoma because they’re hot, and Maryland, because I went there. I think that’s the same kind of logic the committee used anyway. I’ve only got one suggestion that people come up with every year. Put everybody in the tournament. That’s right, all 200+ teams get a chance. I know the conference championship tournaments give teams a shot, but just extend the NCAA’ s by two rounds, give a few teams a bye to even the number of teams out and let it be a free-for-all. The ultimate outcome won’t change. Parts of the current tournament format are unfair, but one thing never changes; to win it all, you have to beat everybody who’s put in front of you. Do that, and you deserve to be called a champion.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Cole Field House

I laughed out loud when I heard University of Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams talk about his fondest memory at Cole Field House. “Sitting in section Q and taking two exams to get out of here,” is how Williams said he’d remember the 47-year home to Maryland basketball.

Yesterday, the Terps finished the regular season unbeaten at home, beating Virginia in the last college basketball game to be played there. They also beat Virginia in the opener the Field House in 1955. Williams made me laugh because that’s exactly what I remember about the place. As a junior, I think I had 5 exams there, and 3 more as a senior. It’s a multi-purpose building with offices and classrooms, a short cut through part of campus. Where students gather, many not realizing the history inside.

It’s where Texas Western took the first all-black starting five and won the NCAA championship beating Kentucky in the final. A watershed game in the history of college basketball. And it’s where JU made their only appearance in the championship game, losing to UCLA.

It has history, just no luxury boxes. But unlike many modern day arenas, there’s not a bad seat in the house. And the place could absolutely rock, with the sound bouncing all over the big barn-like interior. Elvis played there, but he wasn’t any bigger star than former coach Lefty Drisell. When he walked onto the court, they played “Hail to the Chief.” Even the designation, “field house” is old school. They can all say they’ll miss it, but they don’t have to. They’ll still give exams there.