Written by Roscoe Nance, Special to BlackAmericaWeb.com Friday, 02 March 2012 16:32
Felicia Grinter was a point guard on the Volunteer State Community College women’s basketball team when she enrolled in a basketball officiating class because she needed a credit in health and physical education.
Little did Grinter know that class would launch a career that has seen her become one of the top women’s basketball referees. Grinter’s standing among game officials was confirmed when she was selected to officiate in the 2012 London Olympics, which will be held in London July 27-Aug. 12. She is the only American referee chosen to work the Summer Games.
“It is definitely the highest point of my career,’’ Grinter says. “It’s been a blessing. All I could do was holler when I found out and give blessings to the Lord above for path he has led me on.’’
Grinter started down the officiating path on the recommendation of Charles Watkins, a long-time official who was among the first black referees to work a full schedule in the SEC. Watkins spoke to Grinter’s officiating class at Volunteer State. During his presentation, he had class members come on the floor and go through the mechanics of officiating. He says he noticed that Grinter had a natural knack for officiating, and he recommended that she pursue becoming a referee. He took Grinter under his wing, and has been her mentor ever since.
“I saw something in her that was uniquely different,’’ says Watkins, who retired from college officiating 27 years and now officiates junior varsity and middle school games in Nashville. “The fact that she was so coachable made it a joy working with her. I never had to tell her to do anything more than once.’’
Watkins helped Grinter get work officiating middle schools, but she acknowledges that she was full of trepidation as she headed down the officiating path.
“I said it wasn’t for me,’’ she says. “I didn’t like people hollering at me. I’m a laid back, quiet person.’’
However, because she was an athlete and couldn’t hold a full-time job, and since she needed money, she decided she would try it one more year.
Ultimately, she gave up her playing career, took a job at the local Ford Motor Co. plant inspecting windshields and concentrated on officiating.
Following her third year officiating, she attended OVC referees camp and her career took off from that point.
“If anyone had asked me 10-15 years ago if I would be officiating now, I would have said no way,’’ Grinter says.
Grinter balanced officiating and working at Ford for years before taking a leave of absence to see how officiating full-time would work. She never went back.
“I have no regrets,’’ she says.” It has been a blessing for me and allowed me to see the world. If it weren’t for officiating, I’d be sitting behind a desk in a factory confined.’’
In addition to the MEAC, Grinter currently works in the ACC, ASun, Big East, Big Ten, Big XII, Colonial, C-USA, Horizon, Mid-American, Missouri Valley, OVC, SEC, Sun Belt and SWAC.
“Once she got the exposure it was easy (for her to get work),’’ Watkins says. “They saw the potential that I saw.’’
Grinter has worked the Final Four twice, including in 2011, and numerous conference tournaments. She worked in the NBA Development League for four seasons, and has called games in the WNBA since 2004. In addition, Grinter has been a FIBA/USA Basketball official since 2003.
She says working MEAC and SWAC games is special for her and has made her a better official.
“I enjoy them because it gives me the opportunity to referee HBCUs,’’ she says. “You can see the kids who come out of those universities, how well they play and how athletic they are. That helped me to be able to officiate more athletic players. They like to a fast-paced game.’’
Grinter says that even though the style of play in the college game changes from conference to conference, her officiating standard doesn’t. That has vaulted her to the top.
“A game is a game is a game to me,’’ she says. “Some conferences are more physical than others, but I don’t make don’t make any changes. What teams give me that’s what I officiate whether it’s the top team or the bottom team.’’
She applies the same rule of thumb when she works international and professional games even though the styles are vastly different.
“The difference in collegiate officiating and professional officiating is pro players are taller, bigger, stronger and the game is quicker,’’ she says. “Those players are being paid to do a job. They’re going to challenge us with calls. In the international game the pace is probably the biggest difference. It’s a very fast-paced game.
They play to win on offense. Here in the States its defense. When they shoot the ball and it comes off, they’re gone.
“The challenge is different languages they speak. Some officials speak a little English a language barrier. Coaches don’t say much to the officials. They coaches coach their teams. That’s it. It’s easier (dealing with coaches) than in States – much easier. What they say, I don’t know what they saying, and they don’t know what I’m saying.’’
Even if Grinter could understand what coaches were saying in those situations, it’s unlikely that the situation would escalate because of her calm demeanor and the thick skin she has developed over the years.
“I definitely have thick skin,’’ she says. “You have to. The higher level of officiating you go into, the more you have to respond to coaches. They have a job to do like I have job to do. I let my calm demeanor prevail. That’s just my personality. I give 100 percent. Coaches have a job to do. I understand it’s heat of the moment. Someone has to be the calmer of the two.’’
Watkins, who has mentored a number of men’s and women’s officials, calls Grinter “one of his prized pupils’’ because she doesn’t have an over-sized ego and her eagerness to learn even at this stage of her career. He watches her games every opportunity he gets and critiques her performance.
“There are a lot of egotistical individuals, who are money hungry and glory,’’ he says. “The result is many are in it for the wrong reason.’’
Grinter isn’t in that number, and that enables her to acknowledge the mistakes that she might make during a game.
“For us as officials, we only have a split second to make a decision,’’ she says. “Everybody else gets to see the replay. I know I give it 100%. Every call, every whistle, I’m hoping I’m making the right call. When I miss a call I just say to myself I’m human. If coach asks, I say I missed it. I’ll do better the next time. I’m upfront. I have ownership. That comes with experience and confidence. That’s where I am in my career.’’
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And that’s why Grinter is at the top of her profession.
Written by Jackie Jones, BlackAmericaWeb.com Friday, 24 February 2012 05:09
When Coach Dave Carasco started coming to visit the late Richard "Dickie" Wells, the age of black players being recruited in big numbers for white colleges had not yet dawned. It was just a couple years removed from the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision that outlawed segregation in the public schools in America.Add a comment
Written by Genaro C. Armas, Associated Press Thursday, 10 November 2011 11:29
After nearly a half-century on the job, Joe Paterno says he is still getting used to the idea of not being Penn State's football coach. So is the rest of the shaken campus, after one of the most tumultuous days in its history.
In less than 24 hours Wednesday, the winningest coach in major college football announced his retirement at the end of the season — then was abruptly fired by the board of trustees.
Also ousted was Penn State President Graham Spanier — one of the longest-serving college presidents in the nation — as the university's board of trustees tried to limit the damage to the school's reputation from a child sex abuse scandal involving one of Paterno's former assistant coaches.
Paterno's firing sent angry students into the streets, where they shouted support for the 84-year-old coach and tipped over a news van.
In less than a week since former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was charged with sexually assaulting eight boys over a 15-year period, the scandal has claimed Penn State's storied coach, its president, its athletic director and a vice president.
"Right now, I'm not the football coach. And I've got to get used to that. After 61 years, I've got to get used to it," Paterno said outside his house late Wednesday night. "Let me think it through."
Paterno had wanted to finish out his 46th season — Saturday's game against Nebraska is the last at home — but the board of trustees was clearly fed up with the scandal's fallout.
"In our view, we thought change now was necessary," board vice chairman John Surma said at a packed news conference where he announced the unanimous decision to oust Paterno and Spanier.
Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley will serve as interim coach, and the university scheduled a news conference with him for later Thursday. Provost Rodney Erickson will be the interim school president.
"I take this job with very mixed emotions due to the situation," Bradley said at a news conference Thursday morning. "I have been asked by the board of trustees to handle this. I told them I would do it last night. I will proceed in a matter that Penn State expects."
He also said: "I have no reservations about taking this job."
Bradley said he called Paterno after the firings last night but declined to divulge what was said.
"I think that's personal in nature," he said.
However, when asked, he was clear about his admiration of and devotion to the man he is replacing for the time being.
"Coach Paterno has meant more to me than anybody except my father. I don't want to get emotional talking about that," Bradley said. "Coach Paterno will go down in history as one of the greatest men, who maybe most of you know as a great football coach. I've had the privilege and the honor to work for him, spend time with him. He's had such dynamic impact on so many, so many, I'll say it again, so many people and players' lives."
He added: "It's with great respect that I speak of him and I'm proud to say that I worked for him."
As word of the firings spread, thousands of students flocked to the administration building, shouting, "We want Joe back!" and "One more game!" They then headed downtown to Beaver Avenue, where about 100 police wearing helmets and carrying pepper spray were on standby. Witnesses said some rocks and bottles were thrown, a lamppost was toppled and a news van was knocked over, its windows kicked out.
State College police said early Thursday they were still gathering information on any possible arrests.
Paterno had come under increasing criticism — including from within the community known as Happy Valley — for not doing more to stop the alleged abuse by Sandusky. Some of the assaults took place at the Penn State football complex, including a 2002 incident witnessed by then-graduate assistant and current assistant coach Mike McQueary.
McQueary went to Paterno and reported seeing Sandusky assaulting a young boy in the Penn State showers. Paterno notified the athletic director, Tim Curley, and a vice president, Gary Schultz, who in turn notified Spanier.
Curley and Schultz have been charged with failing to report the incident to authorities. Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly has not ruled out charges against Spanier.
Paterno is not a target of the criminal investigation, but the state police commissioner called his failure to contact police himself a lapse in "moral responsibility."
Paterno said in his statement earlier Wednesday that he was "absolutely devastated" by the abuse case.
"This is a tragedy," Paterno said. "It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more."
The Penn State trustees had already said they would appoint a committee to investigate the "circumstances" that resulted in the indictment of Sandusky, and of Curley and Schultz. The committee will be appointed Friday at the board's regular meeting, which Gov. Tom Corbett said he plans to attend, and will examine "what failures occurred and who is responsible and what measures are necessary to ensure" similar mistakes aren't made in the future.
In Washington, the U.S. Department of Education said it has launched an investigation into whether Penn State failed to report incidents of sexual abuse on campus, as required by federal law.
Surma said it was "in the best interest of the university to have a change in leadership to deal with the difficult issues that we are facing."
"The past several days have been absolutely terrible for the entire Penn State community. But the outrage that we feel is nothing compared to the physical and psychological suffering that allegedly took place," he added.
Sandusky, who announced his retirement from Penn State in June 1999, maintained his innocence through his lawyer. Curley has taken a temporary leave and Schultz has decided to step down. They also say they are innocent.
Sandusky founded The Second Mile charity in 1977, working with at-risk youths. It now raises and spends several million dollars each year for its programs. Paterno is listed on The Second Mile's website as a member of its honorary board of directors, a group that includes business executives, golfing great Arnold Palmer and several NFL Hall of Famers and coaches, including retired Pittsburgh Steelers stars Jack Ham and Franco Harris.
The ouster of the man affectionately known as "JoePa" brings to an end one of the most storied coaching careers — not just in college football but in all of sports. Paterno has 409 victories — a record for major college football — won two national titles and guided five teams to unbeaten, untied seasons. He reached 300 wins faster than any other coach.
Penn State is 8-1 this year, with its only loss to powerhouse Alabama. The Nittany Lions are No. 12 in The Associated Press poll.
After 19th-ranked Nebraska, Penn State plays at Ohio State and at No. 16 Wisconsin, both Big Ten rivals. It has a chance to play in the Big Ten championship game Dec. 3 in Indianapolis, with a Rose Bowl bid on the line.
Paterno has raised millions of dollars for Penn State in his career, and elevated the stature of what was once a sleepy land-grant school. Asked why he was fired over the phone, Surma said, "We were unable to find a way to do that in person without causing further distraction."
At Paterno's house, his wife, Sue, was teary-eyed as she blew kisses to the 100 or so students who gathered on the lawn in a show of support.
"You're all so sweet. And I guess we have to go beat Nebraska without being there," she said. "We love you all. Go Penn State."Add a comment
Written by Melvin Jones, special to Blackamericaweb.com Tuesday, 04 October 2011 10:47
A normal true freshman quarterback doesn't go to Auburn and burn the defending national champions for two touchdowns.
A normal true freshman quarterback would usually have an interception or three to his credit by the fourth game of the season.
So far, however, Chuckie Keeton has proven to be anything but usual.
Keeton, the starter for Utah State University (USU), and a rookie out of Houston, has been a revelation this year. At 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, Keeton has shredded secondaries with his feet and his arm. He's thrown four touchdowns, hasn't tossed an interception, and has led a resurgent USU program.
Keeton is currently the only African-American starting quarterback in the state of Utah, which includes major college programs at Brigham Young (BYU), the University of Utah, Weber State and Southern Utah.
The Aggies are currently 1-3. But they've let three fourth-quarter leads slip away, yet Keeton is a big reason that Utah State's been in position to win games.
“He has a chance to be special,” USU offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin said. “He's mature, and he has all the tools.”
With Keeton battling junior college transfer Adam Kennedy for the starting spot throughout fall camp, the Utah State coaching staff had every intention of playing both guys in USU’s season-opening 42-38 loss at Auburn. Gary Andersen had every intention of letting the quarterback competition play out in Week 1 against real competition.
Instead, Keeton stole the show and locked up the starting role.
“We have one quarterback,” Andersen said.
Keeton, from Houston, led his offense up and down the field against the Tigers. He ran twice on fourth down, scoring once and gaining a first down on a quarterback keeper. And going against Andersen’s mantra of simply having a “game manager” to direct his offense, Keeton looked like a star.
And for his exploits, Keeton was named the Rivals.com national freshman of the week.
“I really wasn’t too nervous,” Keeton said. “I knew that guys around me had my back. I just came in as focused as I could be and tried to get the ball into the hands of our receivers. Ultimately, we just didn’t do what we needed to do.”
Through no fault of Keeton’s, USU blew a 10-point lead in the final stages of what would’ve been one of the biggest wins in school history. Still, while not many saw Keeton bursting onto the college football platform the way he did, the signs were there.
In July, at the Western Athletic Conference media day, Robert Turbin named Keeton when he was asked which quarterback had stood out over the summer between Keeton, Kennedy and Alex Hart.
Before July, the talk among the Aggies centered on how quickly Keeton came in and successfully learned the playbook.
Learning the playbook quickly and effectively, when it was thought he would need time to grasp the system, put Keeton in position to compete from the outset of preseason practice. Being physical in scrimmages and practice threw the spotlight on how aggressive, confident and competitive Keeton has turned out to be.
Indeed, his best trait thus far has turned out to be his calm in the face of pressure. Against the Tigers, Keeton consistently made the right reads for first downs in the face of the Auburn blitz. He showed the ability to escape the pocket, to find the hot route and to make throws on the run.
During one preseason practice, Andersen had his defense blitz Keeton on 22 consecutive plays, just to test the rookie. Baldwin was harsh with Keeton in public, but privately gushed about his freshman, saying that he was going to be “special.””
As it turns out, Keeton may have arrived, sooner rather than later.
“We kept waiting for Chuckie to hit a wall, but he never did,” Andersen said. “While most freshmen plateau a bit as camp goes on, Chuckie just got better.”Add a comment
Written by Melvin Jones, special to Blackamericaweb.com Tuesday, 04 October 2011 10:43
Robert Turbin took the hand-off, turned the corner on the sidelines and went to work on BYU.
The star running back from Utah State eluded a defender. He juked a safety then he outran the secondary for 80 yards and a touchdown.
Through four games, Turbin is third in the country in rushing touchdowns. And in Logan Utah, he's reached the status of a folk-hero with his love for the Incredible Hulk, his engaging personality and his being the face of a resurgent USU program.
Turbin came to the Aggies in 2007 from Fremont Calif. He chose Utah State because Brent Guy, then the Aggies head coach, was the only coach to promise Turbin the shot at playing running back.
Four years later, Turbin is a star on a national level.
Before the start of the 2011 season, it had been 622 days since Robert Turbin actively engaged in his first love. Almost a lifetime, if you ask him.
He had last run on a football field on Nov. 28, 2009. He remembers the 52-49 shootout win against Idaho at the Kibbie Dome. He remembers the details of his performance: five total touchdowns, 113 rushing yards, 70 more yards through the air. He knows the number of days because he marks it on the calendar each and every day he wakes up. Then he reflects on how long it’s taken for him to get back. Then he goes out and works a little bit harder.
Turbin, of course, missed the entire 2010 season after suffering a major knee injury. It was a freak accident, really. There was no contact. It was a simple drill in winter workouts. It was a cut that he’s made thousands of times. And it tore his anterior cruciate ligament.
"It was hard," the junior said. "It was difficult because it let me know that football isn’t promised. It can be taken away from you at any time. And it was taken away from me. I appreciate the game much more than I used to."
Turbin appears to be back. The knee, he and his teammates say, is better than ever. The explosiveness, judging by the first week of Utah State’s practice, has returned. And on Friday, he was tackled for the first time in almost two years.
"I wouldn’t want to be the guy trying to tackle him in the open field," USU linebacker Tavaris McMillian said. "He’s going to be a problem this year."
Turbin still has the star power. He’s on the preseason Doak Walker watch list, one of 52 running backs across the nation to hold that honor. He’s tabbed as a preseason first team All-Western Athletic Conference pick, and, if he stays healthy, he will surely be the
engine that makes Utah State’s offense go.
But these are the good times. Not many saw what Turbin had to go through to get back. There were days when he felt good and days when he questioned what he was doing.
"You have a good day, maybe two good days, then don’t feel as good," Turbin said. "There were times when I questioned the whole thing. Is the rehab really working? Are we doing the right thing with the knee? What I had to do was stay the course."
He did so by immersing himself in the game. He served as a de facto assistant coach last season. He stayed on the sidelines. He went to meetings. He became one with the weight room, and he’s emerged with biceps befitting of his childhood hero, the Incredible Hulk.
When asked if his knee was fully functional again, he didn’t hesitate with his answer: Positively. Absolutely.
"We worked first on getting the swelling down and the range of motion back in the knee," said USU physical therapist Lori Olsen. "We worked on strengthening the knee. A lot of pool treadmills. He was an amazing athlete before the injury. I’ve never seen anyone work harder to get back to where he was. He just never took a break."
As a result, opponents may actually see a bigger and better Robert Turbin.
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