Archive for HJ Sports

Fair Pay to Play for College Athletes

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation this past week that will allow collegiate athletes to be paid for the use of their name, likeness and image starting in 2023. Other states are now considering whether they should follow suit or not.

The current rules by the NCAA prohibits student athletes from being paid by the university or by other means. For example, you can’t sell t-shirts that you make with your name on it…. Or you can’t sell your autograph if someone wanted to buy it… Or you can’t endorse a local business and get paid to be a sponsor.  By the way, these are all things a regular college student can do and would even be applauded for doing.

The new law will make it illegal for California universities to revoke an athlete’s scholarship or eligibility for making money in those ways.

It is about freaking time.

The entire system is really a load of, well, you know the phrase. The NCAA is a nonprofit organization that regulates student athletes at participating schools. Guess how much revenue that the NCAA brought in during the 2016/17 school year? Just a shade over $1 billion… Not too bad for unpaid labor.

Where does that revenue go exactly? Mostly to the schools. The athletes do see some benefit in that the revenue helps pay for facilities and other amenities. However, they don’t directly see a dime of any of that revenue.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that scholarships go a long way in helping students pay for college, or attend it entirely for free. There are millions of high-schoolers out there who would love the opportunity to attend college and a scholarship would mean the world to them.

Also, I’m not sure that having players make a salary makes sense either. That is getting into very tricky factors when you think about which teams bring in the most revenue (football and men’s basketball), and how to decide what to pay these players. That’s an entirely different discussion to have.

However, not letting athletes to be able to make money off of their own merits is simply asinine for many reasons. Why should the NCAA control the likeness of a person? You should not lose your rights as an individual because you play a sport. That makes simply no sense! Also, there are many college athletes who did not come from great financial situations and could really use an income.

Let’s think about a local hypothetical. Tyler Johnson is a Minnesota native who is a star receiver for the Gophers. Many residents (and potential consumers) would recognize him and have a very favorable opinion of him. If a local car dealership wanted someone to endorse their business, Tyler might be a great fit. He would be recognized, he is famous in his own right locally and this interaction would benefit the business, the consumer and Tyler.

Why can’t Tyler make that deal and bring in an income to help him pay for rent, groceries or save up for after college? How is that any different than any job any college student has? What power does the NCAA have to tell Tyler he can’t have this type of job while playing for the Gophers? I know that Gophers football fans would think more highly of a dealership that Tyler Johnson was a part of.

Perhaps one of the most influential voices in sports, LeBron James weighed in on the bill and it was spot on. I will quote him below.

Lebron offered the following statement: “If I would have went off to Ohio State… pretty much that ‘23’ jersey would have got sold all over the place without my name on the back, but everyone would have known the likeness. My body would have been on the NCAA basketball game in 2004. The Schottenstein Center would have been sold out every single night if I was there”

He continued: “Me and my mom, we didn’t have anything. We wouldn’t have been able to benefit at all from it. And the university would’ve been able to capitalize on everything.”

He is so right. Ohio State would have profited like crazy on his presence on the team. Ticket prices would soar, there would be thousands of 23 jerseys that represented him in the stands and he would not see a penny from it. Why should LeBron not be able to make some money off the school selling his jersey?

For most student athletes, college will be the peak of their ability to be recognized and make money off of who they are. Why allow the NCAA and the schools be the only ones to profit from these athletes? Why not let these student athletes sell t-shirts, sign autographs or endorse a business or product? You can side with the NCAA and big business if you want, but I’m siding with the college kid just trying to make a few extra bucks.


October Baseball is Back

After beating Ron Gardenhire’s hapless Tigers squad last night 5-1, the Minnesota Twins had to wait in the locker room to know their fate. They waited and watched as they cheered on the Chicago White Sox. When Francisco Lindor of the Cleveland Indians struck out swinging to end the game, sealing a 8-3 victory for the White Sox, Minnesota began it’s celebration.

For the first time since 2010, the Minnesota Twins are the American League Central Champions.

It was a long journey to get here. We witnessed the end of the Ron Gardenhire era in Minnesota in 2014 after 12 years of service. Paul Molitor got a crack at manager and did a pretty good job. He led the Twins to the playoffs after losing 103 games the season prior, the first team in history to do this. That earned him an AL Manager of the Year award.

The Twins brought on new management in 2016. It was out with the old in Terry Ryan and in with the new in Thad LeVine. Ryan represented the old way of thinking – bunts, slap hits, sac flies. LeVine represents the new wave – data, analytics and home runs.

This change ushered Molitor out as manager and brought in a young fresh face. 37 year old Rocco Baldelli took the helm and the team hasn’t looked back.

We as Twins fans suffered through some dark days the past eight seasons. Tallying win totals of 63, 66, 66, 70, 83, 59, 85 and 78, good for a winning percentage of 44%, doesn’t exactly do a lot to drive interest and excitement.

We also witnessed the retirement of a Minnesota legend last season in Joe Mauer. After suffering through all of those losing seasons (to be fair, I absolutely cannot say that anyone making $184 million over eight years playing a game is “suffering”, but in the team sports sense of the world, those were some unenjoyable seasons), it is kind of a shame that Mauer couldn’t have held on one more year to enjoy this ride.

Personally, I was curious about the lineup that the Twins trotted out in 2010 against the Yankees in the ALDS. That lineup was: Denard Span in center, Orland Hudson at second (who???), Joe Mauer at catcher, Delmon Young in left, Jim Thome as the DH, Michael Cuddyer at first, Jason Kubel at right, Danny Valencia at third and JJ Hardy at shortstop. On the mound? None other than Francisco Liriano.

In October of 2010, I was a sophomore in high school. Ke$ha had two number one singles that year (if you don’t know who Ke$ha is, that is probably for the best… although she did have a couple of shredders).

In October of 2010, people still couldn’t believe that their mind was blown during Inception and people were camping out just to see Twilight. We were fools back then. Heck, Avatar had just become a worldwide phenomenon and there were still new Harry Potter movies coming out!

Does 2010 feel like a while ago yet? Just think…. October 6th 2010… A bye week for your Minnesota Vikings. Coming off an emotional and dramatic NFC Championship loss, the Vikings were 1-2 and on their bye week with Brett Favre still at quarterback. The Metrodome collapsing under the snow wasn’t even a thought in our minds yet.

All this is to say, it’s about dang time. The Minnesota Twins are the AL Central Division champions and are heading to a playoff series, likely against the Yankees.

This season will be a memorable one. The 2019 season is 2nd in franchise history in total wins with 99, and there are still three games remaining. The record is 102 wins completed in 1965.

The Twins lead the MLB record in home runs for a season with 301 with the Yankees close behind with 299. With only three games remaining, the Twins are favored to keep that MLB record.

Most importantly, there will finally be playoff baseball in October at Target Field. Rejoice Twins fans, it’s been a long time coming.

PREP VOLLEYBALL: Thibault records 1,000th career dig as Royals sweep NYA

WATERTOWN – What a week it has been for Watertown-Mayer junior Paige Thibault. The University of Virginia commit recorded her 1,000th career kill last week against Dassel-Cokato. She followed that up by recording her 1,000th career dig in a 3-0 (26-24, 25-22, 25-19) sweep of Norwood Young America Tuesday night.

“It feels awesome,” Thibault said. “It’s nice to get recognized for the hard work you put in. I have an awesome team. They’re just so supportive. It means a lot.”

While another milestone reached is nice, Thibault was more happy the Royals got the win. She knew she was close, but her focus was on her team and getting a win.

“She’s stayed focused,” W-M coach Andrea Raser said. “She knew it was coming, but she stayed focused on her team and getting the job done. A 1,000 digs is great, but that was just secondary to her just playing with her team.”

It was an impressive win for the Royals who were just coming off a loss to the Raiders this past weekend at the Class AA Showcase. They came ready to play and with the win, improved to 16-5 on the season.

“They knew they could,” Raser said. “They were very confident stepping onto the court. We were down in every single game in the beginning, and it didn’t seem to faze them. They played through it.”

“I think that we were just very determined,” Paige Thibault added. “We knew we wanted to win tonight. We thought nothing was going to stop us from winning. We were going to do what we had to do to win.”

After rallying in set one to grab the lead, the Royals found themselves needing to rally again in set two. NYA had a 21-17 lead, but four aces (three by Kate Thibault and one from Natalie Ernhart) led the Royals to the comeback win and a 2-0 lead over the Raiders.

“She’s a libero, and the girl can hit a ball,” Raser said about Kate Thibault. “I mean, she’s tiny and she’s mighty. She just gets it done. She plays with no fear. She plays her best games when she plays with no fear. It’s fun to see her out there. She’s the one who gets our team excited.”

 For the complete story and more HJ sports coverage, check out the Friday, September 27 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information.

HLWW’s Decker signs with Mayville State University

HOWARD LAKE – There’s a lot of ways Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted’s CJ Decker draws inspiration. Whether it’s family or friends, Decker uses that as motivation out on the basketball court.

It’s worked so far for Decker, who’s already surpassed 1,000 career points at HLWW. She added another milestone and goal to her resumé this month, as she made her college choice official by signing with Mayville State University to play college basketball.

“To continue my athletic career in college, it means that every bit of hard work and dedication to my schooling and my athletics has paid off,” Decker said.

While there’s no doubt Decker has put the work in over the years, there’s another reason why Decker is where she is at today – her family. Throughout her life and career on the basketball court, Decker’s family has been there. It’s the support from her parents (Leon and Jeannie), and also from her grandfather, that taught her one of the biggest lessons she’s learned.

“I am able to continue my athletic career because of the support of my family,” Decker said. “My parents and grandparents have made it possible to give me the best opportunities I could possibly have. My grandpa made me realize how much more I could fight for what I wanted. He showed me this by his example of beating cancer.”

Decker’s family has been the mainstay in her career at HLWW. A head coach, on the other hand, has not. As Decker enters her senior year this season, she does so with a third different head coach, as Ryan Petersen takes over the program this year. While it may offer struggles playing for different coaches leading the way, Decker knows how much each of them and her teammates along the way have helped her reach her goal of playing college basketball.

“A few teammates that have been with me for the majority of my career and helped me reach where I am today are Alexa Schumann, Cozy Eastman, Lily Tennyson, and Lydia Haack,” Decker said. “The coaches I would like to thank are Kyle Ague, Troy Guentzel, Craig Geyen, Eddie Kutz, Rick Baumann, and Ryan Petersen.”

Despite all the changes around Decker in her high school career, one thing has stayed constant. Her love for the game.

“I love basketball because it is the place I can go to clear my mind and be happy, no matter what else is going on,” Decker said. “To me, it separates itself from other sports because I can never get sick of being in a gym playing or watching basketball.”

Decker’s love for the game and skill set has opened many doors for her. A member of the varsity squad since her freshman year, she had multiple options for where should could continue her basketball career. In the end, Mayville State University stood apart.

“I was considering St. Cloud State University, Southwest Minnesota State University, and Jamestown as my other options,” Decker said. “Mayville State was the fit for me because of the traditions the girls and coach Dennis Hutter have built over the last few years. I know it will be the place for me to thrive and be the best person and player I can be.”

While Decker is certainly excited to have her college choice official, she knows there’s work left to do at HLWW.  This will be the final season of her high school career, and she’s ready to make more relationships and memories before becoming a Comet.

“My goal for this basketball season is to build new relationships with teammates and some of our new coaching staff,” Decker said. “In the basketball aspect, I am excited to enjoy my last year and have the best season I can possibly have. I may be looking forward to my future as a Comet, but I am not done here as a Laker.”

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter.

Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports 

PREP BOYS SOCCER: Crusaders frustrate Trojans to push winning streak to 11 games

WATERTOWN  – The Mayer Lutheran/Watertown-Mayer boys soccer team has something special going. They’ll be the first to tell you.

Taking on New Prague on their home field for Watertown-Mayer’s homecoming Tuesday night, the Crusaders’ aggressive style of play had the Trojans frustrated all game long. The end result was a 3-0 victory, which was their 11th-straight win of the season.

“It’s just tremendous,” Crusaders head coach Matt Polding said. “It’s a testament to the kids. They’re amazing. They are amazing kids who are just dedicated to each other. It’s family. That’s the best way to describe it. It’s family. It’s just guys caring about each other and not wanting to let each other down. It’s all them. It’s all them. It’s a beautiful thing.”

“It’s one that’s a lot of fun,” senior goalie Brady Harnung said about the run the Crusaders are on. “We’re looking to bring it all the way state. We just try as hard as we can. It was a big win.”

The Crusaders were physical and aggressive from the start, and they took advantage of a frustrated New Prague team. Just 12 minutes into the game, Sawyer Ritter gave the Crusaders a 1-0 lead after finding the back of the net on a penalty kick.

“It’s a huge momentum shift to be able to get them off their game right away,” Polding said. “That’s a good team. They’ve pressed other teams in our section. They’ve pressed them hard. Our guys just kept their composure and kept playing. It’s just who they are. They just keep fighting no matter what. I’m proud as heck of them.”

After taking a 1-0 lead into the half, the Crusaders took advantage of another mental mistake by the Trojans to extend their lead. After a foul by the Trojans, Brady Wachholz found the back of the net through traffic on a free kick, putting the Royals up 2-0 with 37 minutes left to play.

With a 2-0 lead in the second half, the Crusaders got a little sloppy with their passing once playing with a two-goal lead. Despite hanging on for the win, Polding know how important is to play a complete game from start to finish, especially with the postseason on the horizon.

“When you go up against the top competition, those little things count,” Polding said. “We preach the little things all the time. Little things matter. Little things make the difference in big games. Yeah, we have some stuff to clean up, but I think we’re all hungry and just trying to keep getting better every day.”

New Prague had multiple chances in the second half to cut into the deficit, but the Crusaders defense stood firm. They failed to allow a goal once again, making it three-straight shutouts for Harnung and the Crusaders.

“It’s massive for us,” Polding said. “Brady is an absolute difference maker. Our whole defensive unit and Brady, they communicate well and play well off each other. Brady’s able to get good reads on the ball because our defense steps up. It’s a total team effort, and Brady’s a huge piece of that. He’s really worked hard to get where he is, and it’s paying off.”

Harnung made every save he needed to in the win over New Prague, but knows how important the guys are in front of him.

“They get the job done,” Harnung said. “They’re a solid back four. When they get though, then it’s me. It works pretty well.”

For the complete story and more HJ sports coverage, check out the Friday, September 27 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information.


PREP FOOTBALL: Rebels score 18 unanswered to avoid upset from LP/HT

WINSTED – The first half was about to end in a perfect way for the Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity football team. At least it seemed that way.

After LP/HT tied the game at 14 with 39 seconds to go in the first half, disaster struck for the Bulldogs as United South Central showed just how dangerous their offense can be. The Rebels, the No. 4 ranked team in Class A, scored with six seconds left, and that was just the start of the turning point as USC scored 18 unanswered in a 32-14 victory over LP/HT Friday night at Weinbeck Field.

“Everything that we coached them on offense and defense was there,” LP/HT coach Joe Scoblic said. “It’s just a matter of us performing at our positions. Right now, we are just not performing in our positions. Too many missed tackles. Too many missed blocks. Until we do that, this is the result we’re going to have.”

Despite LP/HT coming up short in the end, they couldn’t have asked for a better start. The LP/HT defense held the Rebels in check on their first two possessions, and on LP/HT’s second possession, they grabbed the early lead.

After pounding things inside with Jason Zimprich and Tanner Scheevel, LP/HT caught USC inside as quarterback Zach Jackson got the edge and scampered down the sideline for a 45-yard touchdown run to put the Bulldogs up 6-0. Scheevel added the two-point conversion, giving LP/HT an 8-0 lead with just over four minutes left in the first quarter.

LP/HT was looking for another big stop defensively on USC’s ensuing drive. Instead, Zach Niebuhr broke free on 4th and 2 for a 19-yard touchdown run. The Rebels added a two-points conversion, tying the game early in the second quarter.

After USC answered to tie the game, LP/HT got just what they needed to get the momentum back. A fumble by USC recovered by Carter Serna, gave the Bulldogs the ball at USC 18, and in prime position to retake the lead. The momentum lasted just two plays as LP/HT would fumble it right back.

“They’re a senior dominated team,” Scoblic said. “When you don’t take advantage of the situation you have, they’re going to beat you. They’ve been through it. We get a fumble down here, and then we fumble it back. We cannot do that.”

The Bulldogs finished with three turnovers (one fumble and two interceptions), all of which came in USC territory.

Despite failing to turn the USC turnover into points, LP/HT managed to tie things up before the half. With 39 seconds left, Jackson found Zach Zebell for a 50-yard touchdown to tie the game at 14.

“Zach has made himself a football player,” Scoblic said. “He’s lifted his butt off for a year, and he’s gotten thicker. He’s smart and he runs good routes. He’s got a good future. He’s going to be good for us.”

For the complete story and more HJ sports coverage, check out the Friday, September 27 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information.