Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sports and the Bill of Rights at CMU

Success in UAA athletics often turns on continuity in coaching. Carnegie Mellon has several coaches who have been on staff more than 10 years and a few who have been there more than 20 years.
Under the jacket, Lackner is wearing a Steelers shirt.
Rich Lackner, the head football coach, graduated from CMU in 1979 and never left. He's in his 25th season as head coach (166-74-2), but what's more unusual is the fact that his offensive and defensive coordinators have been with him the entire time.
That's continuity cubed.
Recruiting is key, too, and Lackner is up against the top small colleges in Ohio and Pennsylvania and he's up against the Ivy League, which has some pretty fair schools.
When it gets to the dotted line, Lackner is looking for smart kids who want to compete. As an NCAA Dvision III school, CMU is eligible for the national tournament.
"If a kid doesn't want a chance -- at least a chance -- to go to an NCAA playoff game, I'm not interested in him. I want those kids who have visions of championships and making the NCAA playoffs."
Lackner and his staff are Pittsburgh through and through. When someone asks him what the sports scene is like, he has a ready story. "If you go to a Steelers game, you'll find a guy who's a plumber sitting next to a guy who hangs drywall sitting next to a guy who's a vice president of U.S. Steel. And the guy with his face painted is the guy from U.S. Steel.
"That's just Pittsburgh."

Been here forever
I also dropped in on Dario Donatelli, the cross country and track coach who joined the staff the year the UAA was founded, 1987. Donatelli and Gary Aldrich, associate track head coach and Slippery Rock graduate, were watching film (video) of the big meet held the past weekend at Schenley Park. Film day in cross country? It wasn't what I thought. The reason they go over the video is to make sure each runner's finish was recorded in the right order and with the right time.
Donatelli, right, and Aldrich review cross country video.

Another beauty of D3 sports is the emphasis on academic achievement. If you can't win on the field, you can win in the classroom because most sports honor the teams with the highest grade point average. Last year, the CMU men's golf team won the top honor for their cumulative Grade Point Average. Head coach Rich Erdlyi, who has been on the staff 25 years and graduated from Pitt, received the plaque marking the honor recently but hasn't had time to put it on his office wall yet. Actually, there's barely room for it among the dozens of other plaques already hanging there.
Oh, forgot to mention, Erdyli's teams usually win on the golf course, too.

New kid on the block

Yon Struble got cut from a club soccer team when he was 7. Good thing for Carnegie Mellon University that he didn't give up. Today he is in his first season as the head women's soccer coach at CMU, after coaching at Union College, Western Carolina and Georgia State University. Although he's new to Pittsburgh, it sounds like he likes it here, and he uses CMU's unique urban campus setting as a recruiting tool.
"What we've got here is the best of both worlds," he tells recruits. It is a real college campus in the middle of a big city. "Pittsburgh's clean and green and safe. You can get out and explore, but at the end of the day you come back to a real college campus."
On Sunday, his team got clocked by 4-0 by Washington University, and Struble was not happy. Not because of the loss, but because of a lack of effort in the second half. And he let the girls know it.
"You said one of your goals was to beat Wash U, and you really didn't do it. You didn't show respect for what they can do."
From his first spring practice, he told the girls that their goal was too out work other teams, because they might not have the same level of talent, but they wouldn't lose because they were outworked. Saturday they were outworked, he said, "And they knew it."

Later, I talked to Elsa Wu, a sophomore midfielder from Ellicott City, Md., who summed up her reaction to the game. It's a response that also suits Carnegie Mellon athletics and athletics at every UAA school:  "Good enough just isn't good enough."

Can I See the Bill of Rights?
One of four known first edition copies of the Bill of Rights is in a vault in the middle of the Carnegie Mellon campus. It's kind of rare and valuable, so they don't bring it out that often, usually on Constitution day.
It's kept in the Posner Center and belongs to the Posner Collection, which is housed in a kind of dark-wood paneled, quiet, underground LEED certified building that has fabulous shrubs growing on the roof. There are a lot of things named Posner on campus.
Behind this door ...
I asked Gloriana St. Clair, Dean of University Libraries, and Erika Linke, associate dean, if I could see it. (They are two of the funniest, coolest librarians I have ever met. Wonder why I think of librarians as serious. Maybe it's because of the Bookman episode from "Seinfeld.")
"No" was all they said.
But they did let me see the door to the vault where it is housed. Because I know the Bill of Rights by heart, I wasn't that disappointed.

What's on tap
Today, Oct. 12 (my sister Melanie's birthday), I head for Rochester, N.Y., the fourth stop on the road trip.
I Googled the directions last night, hoping that I would only get lost once.
Weird, but Google Maps came back with this: "Drive north to Erie and turn right."

No comments:

Post a Comment