Coaching Calamity

[dad2]When I first found out about John L. Smith’s firing on Nov. 1, my eyes lit up and I did a Tiger-esque fist pump. And I’m sure I wasn’t alone. After much displeasure from fans and alumni, and with the faith of the student section crumbling, athletic director Ron Mason and President Lou Anna K. Simon had to let Smith go. However, the timing of the firing, and the decision to let Smith finish out the season, was quite unusual.
Instantly, I thought back to the last Spartan coach, Bobby Williams, who was fired in 2002, also during the middle of the season. When I looked at the stats and stories of the 2002 and 2006 seasons, I found eerily similar results. The win/loss records of the two coaches were both under .500, as were their records when the firing announcements were made (Williams was 3-6, Smith, 4-5) and they were both fired in the first few days of November. Records aside, there was one more disturbing connector between the Williams and Smith eras: problems off the field.
Most loyal Spartan football fans know of the substance abuse problems then-quarterback Jeff Smoker endured during the 2002 season, but running back and fellow captain Dawan Moss was also dismissed from the team following an arrest, and then-freshman Matt Trannon was declared academically ineligible. Flash forward to Oct. 6, 2006, when four Spartans, including starting tight end Kellen Davis, were allegedly involved in a fight and suspended indefinitely, and safety Mike Bell was charged with assault and battery following a fight outside of Demonstration Hall on Sept. 8.
With all of these similarities and problems between the tenures of Williams and Smith, it is easy to see why they were both let go. However, the biggest question is why Smith was able to finish out the season. If Mason and Simon felt Smith was their best chance to win, that speaks volumes of not only Smith’s assistants’ inept coaching abilities but also of the sorry state of this football program. Administrators could not possibly have believed this upheaval would give the players a boost and have them screaming, “Win one for John L.!” Half the players probably tuned him out and just played for their own personal stats. Leaving a sitting duck at the helm of a football team is ludicrous, and the embarrassing streak of losses the Spartans have racked up is more reason for potential recruits to look the other way.
To put the team’s issues in perspective, a few arrests and suspensions aren’t as bad as the national coverage of the Oct. 14 brawl between University of Miami and Florida International that led to the suspensions of 31 players. However, the problems caused by the irresponsibility of certain MSU players are still bad for the university’s image: not just for football recruits, but also for potential students. College football is one of the most popular sports in America, and whether you are the coach at Ohio State University or the University of Louisiana at Monroe, recruits must be good, tough players who also are quality people. In reality, the more football games the team wins, the more noticeable the university becomes. This recognition spreads through the state and also through the nation.
During his tenure, Smith was always ready for an adventure, dedicated to living life on the edge. He went paragliding in Switzerland and ran with the bulls in Spain, but a successful coaching career at MSU was never added to this impressive resume. Students and alumni do not care about the adventurous gleam in Smith’s eyes; they’d rather he pull through and bring a competitive team to the field. The team does not necessarily have to be a dominator in the college football realm, but should be a group of athletes with the skill and heart to play with the best in the nation. Sadly, he failed to do this, and his personality was not fit for a Big Ten college football program where toughness (supposedly) wins.
[football2]Many names were suggested for the head coaching position, from U-M defensive coordinator Ron English to an asinine rumor about Tom Izzo moving from the hardwood to the gridiron. On Nov. 27, Simon announced that Mark Dantonio, former head coach of the Cincinnati Bearcats, would be taking over next season. In his debut at Cincinnati, Dantonio led the Bearcats to their first winning season in 23 years: an admirable accomplishment, and one Spartan fans hope he can replicate. Key players, including junior running back Jehuu Caulcrick, were apparently involved in the selection process. Dantonio touts himself as a recruiting maniac, and he pledged to turn the football team around. He did it at Cincinnati: let’s hope he can do it in East Lansing.
This program is in dire need of a kick in the butt, and the administration is perhaps facing its last chance to put MSU football where the fans feel it should be: among the nation’s elite. Nick Saban (now of Miami Dolphins fame) was the last successful coach here at MSU, and we are now looking at Dantonio, wondering if he can bring MSU to football glory. This might not be baseball, but the new coach and team combination needs to be careful, because MSU might fall off the football map for good with one more strike out.

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Coaching Calamity

[dad]When I first found out about John L. Smith’s firing on Nov. 1, my eyes lit up and I did a Tiger-esque fist pump. And I’m sure I wasn’t alone. After much displeasure from fans and alumni, and with the faith of the student section crumbling, athletic director Ron Mason and President Lou Anna K. Simon had to let Smith go. However, the timing of the firing, and the decision to let Smith finish out the season, was quite unusual.
Instantly, I thought back to the last Spartan coach, Bobby Williams, who was fired in 2002, also during the middle of the season. When I looked at the stats and stories of the 2002 and 2006 seasons, I found eerily similar results. The win/loss records of the two coaches were both under .500, as were their records when the firing announcements were made (Williams was 3-6, Smith, 4-5) and they were both fired in the first few days of November. Records aside, there was one more disturbing connector between the Williams and Smith eras: problems off the field.
Most loyal Spartan football fans know of the substance abuse problems then-quarterback Jeff Smoker endured during the 2002 season, but running back and fellow captain Dawan Moss was also dismissed from the team following an arrest, and then-freshman Matt Trannon was declared academically ineligible. Flash forward to Oct. 6, 2006, when four Spartans, including starting tight end Kellen Davis, were allegedly involved in a fight and suspended indefinitely, and safety Mike Bell was charged with assault and battery following a fight outside of Demonstration Hall on Sept. 8.
With all of these similarities and problems between the tenures of Williams and Smith, it is easy to see why they were both let go. However, the biggest question is why Smith was able to finish out the season. If Mason and Simon felt Smith was their best chance to win, that speaks volumes of not only Smith’s assistants’ inept coaching abilities but also of the sorry state of this football program. Administrators could not possibly have believed this upheaval would give the players a boost and have them screaming, “Win one for John L.!” Half the players probably tuned him out and just played for their own personal stats. Leaving a sitting duck at the helm of a football team is ludicrous, and the embarrassing streak of losses the Spartans have racked up is more reason for potential recruits to look the other way.
To put the team’s issues in perspective, a few arrests and suspensions aren’t as bad as the national coverage of the Oct. 14 brawl between University of Miami and Florida International that led to the suspensions of 31 players. However, the problems caused by the irresponsibility of certain MSU players are still bad for the university’s image: not just for football recruits, but also for potential students. College football is one of the most popular sports in America, and whether you are the coach at Ohio State University or the University of Louisiana at Monroe, recruits must be good, tough players who also are quality people. In reality, the more football games the team wins, the more noticeable the university becomes. This recognition spreads through the state and also through the nation.
During his tenure, Smith was always ready for an adventure, dedicated to living life on the edge. He went paragliding in Switzerland and ran with the bulls in Spain, but a successful coaching career at MSU was never added to this impressive resume. Students and alumni do not care about the adventurous gleam in Smith’s eyes; they’d rather he pull through and bring a competitive team to the field. The team does not necessarily have to be a dominator in the college football realm, but should be a group of athletes with the skill and heart to play with the best in the nation. Sadly, he failed to do this, and his personality was not fit for a Big Ten college football program where toughness (supposedly) wins.
[football]Many names were suggested for the head coaching position, from U-M defensive coordinator Ron English to an asinine rumor about Tom Izzo moving from the hardwood to the gridiron. On Nov. 27, Simon announced that Mark Dantonio, former head coach of the Cincinnati Bearcats, would be taking over next season. In his debut at Cincinnati, Dantonio led the Bearcats to their first winning season in 23 years: an admirable accomplishment, and one Spartan fans hope he can replicate. Key players, including junior running back Jehuu Caulcrick, were apparently involved in the selection process. Dantonio touts himself as a recruiting maniac, and he pledged to turn the football team around. He did it at Cincinnati: let’s hope he can do it in East Lansing.
This program is in dire need of a kick in the butt, and the administration is perhaps facing its last chance to put MSU football where the fans feel it should be: among the nation’s elite. Nick Saban (now of Miami Dolphins fame) was the last successful coach here at MSU, and we are now looking at Dantonio, wondering if he can bring MSU to football glory. This might not be baseball, but the new coach and team combination needs to be careful, because MSU might fall off the football map for good with one more strike out.

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Granting Progress

[bld]College graduates-to-be are being bombarded with media statements about the sad state of Michigan’s economy. According to current media coverage, students will have to leave the state to find a decent job, and the November election has only increased the negative coverage. Gov. Jennifer Granholm has racked her brain trying to come up with ideas to boost Michigan’s declining economy and job market, and with the help of MSU and its researchers, she may have finally found one that will work. Granholm’s Jobs Today, Jobs Tomorrow economic plan is a 10-year plan that will hand out $100 million a year through 61 proposals to create jobs in Michigan through the 21st Century Jobs Fund.
The proposals, 505 in all, were cut down to 179 after a review process by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which then made the final recommendations to the Michigan Strategic Economic Investment and Commercialization Board. This board selected the top 61 proposals they felt would benefit Michigan’s economy through interviews with each project team. Of these 61 winning proposals, MSU researchers were the brainwork behind 11 of them, earning $13.1 million. [bus]
The “Development and Demonstration of a Low Coast Hybrid Drive Train for Medium and Heavy Duty Vehicles” was the largest earning project coming from MSU, earning just over $2.4 billion for their proposal. The project, led by Elias Strangas, but also including professors from MSU and Kettering University, focuses on producing hybrid buses for use in large cities. The project concentrates on the “power train,” which is what absorbs the energy from the constant stopping and going in city driving, and how to transfer that idea to larger vehicles, such as city buses. Strangas and his team have already been in contact with Eletra, a leader in the development of hybrid buses.
“Eletra has produced hybrid buses in Brazil, and (they) are interested in expanding to the U.S., but here they will be using our technology,” Strangas said. “First we need to produce the company, but we expect around 60 jobs in about three years… and we are going to first use the buses in the city of Flint.”
Other high earning projects include Lawrence Drzal’s “Low Cost, Multifunctional Nanomaterial Additive for Polymers and Composites” and Harold Schock’s “Advanced Combustion Systems for Ethanol Fueled Engines using Microelectronic Control.” Drzal’s project, which earned just over $2 million, deals with “graphite that you dig out of the ground.” This graphite, when coupled with certain elements, can create a very stable form of plastic material, according to Drzal.
“The value is from the fact that graphite has some very unusual properties which when you add the graphite to a plastic, those properties [are added] to the plastic,” Drzal said. “It’s a very strong and stiff material… that when added to a plastic, air, oxygen and nitrogen cannot go through the plastic. Then also, graphite is very stable in high temperatures, so if you add it to a plastic it will reduce the flammability. Typically plastics do not have any of those properties.”
Several other MSU professors have aided Schock in his research about developing advanced ethanol fuel engines. In essence, Schock’s engines would be much more efficient than today’s engines.
“The idea is that ethanol has particular properties which are different than gasoline…so in order to most efficiently operate an engine in ethanol, the calibrations and geometries of the engine are required that might be different than those required for gasoline,” Schock said. “Our research is aimed at figuring out what are the optimum geometries that one can make use of the properties of ethanol that are different than gasoline to give it the highest efficiency possible.”
The ratings for technical strengths and experience ratings given to Schock’s project were very high, which Schock believes helped set his project above the rest in the eyes of the commercialization board. [life]
“I think they liked the idea that some of the technologies we proposed to develop might also be applicable to gasoline engines,” Schock said. “I think that they felt that along with MSU’s experience in agriculture and biology…that ethanol development was a good area to be working on.”
Even though these researchers received a great amount of money for their ideas, they are just that: ideas. Much of the work for the projects is still in the preliminary stages, and Schock said there is still plenty of work ahead for these researchers.
“The key is that we’ve been doing everything that we’ve done so far with the few grams of material that we create in the laboratory,” Drzal agreed. “In the laboratory, it takes us maybe about half a day to make a little bit of a nano-graphite platelet. So the 21st Century Jobs Fund Proposal will basically help move us along to commercialization.”
The key component in the money was to provide the resources to make more of the nano-graphite material their project is based on, Drzal said. With the money, much more of the material can be created and then used for testing and experimentation.
“If you go to a company that could use this material and you tell them what great properties it has, the next thing they ask you is, ‘Oh we’d like to try it out, and we’d like 10-20 pounds to evaluate,’” Drzal said. “Well, it would take us a few months to make 10-20 pounds of material with the equipment and things that we have now. But with the 21st Century Jobs Fund, it is going to allow us to number one, scale that up and produce maybe 10-20 pounds of material everyday. Number two, it’ll fund more research directed at making these materials compatible with a larger variety of polymers.”
Drzal hopes that his material, which can be added to plastics to give them more desirable properties, will be used in automotive, furniture and aerospace applications industries.
“So, the end result of this is that there would be a company located somewhere in Michigan that would sell it and therefore create jobs and so forth,” Drzal said.
Although the overall objective for Granholm’s plan, which is in its first year, is to create more Michigan jobs, these winning proposals by MSU researchers have been in the works for years. Drzal and his students, including three Ph. D students, have been working on their project since 1999.
“We are very excited about this; we hope to set up a company here in the Lansing area,” Drzal said. “We already got somebody interested in starting the process of setting up a company as well.”
It will still be a few years before Granholm’s plan can be called a success or a failure – she even may not be in office to see it through. But, if the Jobs Today, Jobs Tomorrow pitch becomes successful, the jobs created in Michigan as a result will be due to the development of these projects by MSU researchers. MSU graduates may have more hope of remaining in the state, and they will be able to drive more fuel-efficient cars while doing it.

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Dear Sam

Editor\’s Note: The Big Green decided to continue the Dear Lou Anna series with a letter to East Lansing’s mayor, Sam Singh. We will continue to write the president, as well as the mayor, on issues that affect students on campus and in the city.
Dear Sam,
[dad] On fall weekend nights, before the cold really sets in, there\’s a predictable scene: jam-packed sidewalks, car horns honking angrily at pedestrians and students arriving back at their dormitories in the wee hours of the morning. Each weekend, more MSU students become another Minor in Possession (MIP) statistic in the East Lansing Police Department report. Police from the E.L.P.D. were kept busy with the abundance of raging house parties, unlimited kegs and many intoxicated students roaming the streets. The E.L.P.D. did the duties that come with serving a big-time college town rather well – over Welcome Weekend, the most boisterious party weekend of all, police handed out 96 MIPs and 119 open intoxication citations, as well as 37 tickets for disorderly conduct.
The cops are easily recognizable as their official uniforms stand out in stark contrast to the tank tops and button-down shirts of traditional party-hoppers. This year, however, some of the police officers were a little less distinguishable as self-proclaimed ‘plain clothes officers.’ Marketing senior Scott Lachman, who lives off campus, said he did not encounter any undercover police officers during his welcome week this year. “I personally didn’t see (plain-clothes officers), but I heard rumors, and there were rumors coming out of my fraternity,” Lachman said. [lieutenant]
In this case, the rumors proved to be true, according to Lt. Kim Johnson of the E.L.P.D. Undercover cops can stealthily infiltrate crowds of party-goers; students usually do not give older people walking around campus a second glance. “We had some plain-clothes officers out working and they were (working) with illegal behavior,” Johnson said. \”We’re trying to keep a lid on things.”
Everyone knows that underage drinking and handing out alcohol to minors is illegal. Younger students take their own risks when attending parties where alcohol is present, and they take an even greater risk trying to get as much as they can out of that precious five-dollar cup that is glued to one hand all night. But Sam, it seems like a bit of a stretch for the E.L.P.D. to go as far as using plain-clothes officers to bust kids for an MIP. The community should have much more to worry about than handing out as many MIPs as possible.
There are students who think the plain-clothes cops are a good idea, like zoology sophomore Ryan Wilson. “(It is) a really good way to crack down on (under-age drinking),” Wilson said. “(Drinking) is wrong in my book if it’s under-age…I disagree with breaking the law in the first place.”
Lt. Johnson took full responsibility for implementing the idea of plain-clothes officers, putting to rest assumptions by students who were quick to blame the university. Those opposed to the sneak tactics could also say the policy came about from concerns of East Lansing residents. Students and residents are at a seemingly constant war; it is no stretch to think that residents were tired of the frequent wild parties. This is a common assumption to make, although hard statistics were not created to prove it, Johnson said.
“Our people in East Lansing want a police presence,” she said. “They want illegal behaviors to be stopped and we’re doing the best we can do.”
The permanent residents of East Lansing and thousands of semi-permanent MSU students are linked by the Community Relations Coalition (CRC), an organization that strives to create and maintain trusting and solid relationships between the two groups. In an atmosphere where students can throw a house party any night of the week and working adults have to wake up at sunrise for a day of work, conflict is bound to arise. The CRC tries to mediate and establish support and open lines of communication before the involvement of uniformed or plain-clothes officers. Chris Marshall, a Neighborhood Resource Coordinator in the organization, stated in an e-mail that his organization has never had discussions about the plain-clothes officers.
[bikes] “In fact, the topic has never come up in our meeting agendas; very few people, including myself, know about their use,” said Marshall, a social relations senior. “I do door-to-door conversations with my student neighbors, and they haven\’t brought it to my attention. Perhaps they\’re so well hidden that no one seems to notice. In that regard, they must be effective.”
Congratulations to the police for being vigilant and active in the community, but this all still seems a bit extreme. Why use these officers when it’s easy enough to find drunk, stumbling students walking down the road? Inebriated students often forget to avoid drawing attention to themselves, whether or not they are of legal age. [community]
While it seems ridiculous the E.L.P.D. went this far, it is understandable that they want to try to limit underage drinking. The police must recognize East Lansing is a college town, and students are still going to party hard, no matter what new policies are developed. Maybe this will cut down on some of the large parties as intended, but it could very well add to the number of illegal behaviors that are dealt with each weekend.
“We want to enforce the law,” Johnson said. “We don’t make the rules, we don’t make the laws – we just enforce them. (Using plain-clothes officers) is effective, and we’ll be doing whatever we feel is effective to be dealing with illegal behavior.”
Now, thanks to the plain-clothes officers, students are going to have to be even more on their toes when they’re out on the town after the football team’s big win (provided we get another one…) or going to quench their thirst on Thursdays. Even those of legal age are not completely safe: officers can hand out citations for being a 21-year-old drunken nuisance just as easily, in typical blue uniform or dusty street clothes. Just be aware when walking down the streets to the biggest party on the block and you see an “older” kid scuffing his shoes discreetly on the sidewalk: is that a flask in his pocket, or a badge and a pair of handcuffs? I don’t think he’s just happy to see you…

Sincerely,
Minor N. Possession

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