Keeping Score: UMass dollars at work

Published: 7/23/2021 8:49:00 PM
Modified: 7/23/2021 8:49:10 PM

Good morning!
The University of Nebraska just hired its fourth athletic director since it joined the Big Ten a decade ago. Trev Alberts, a Husker alumnus and former Butkus Award winner, is tasked with righting a football team that’s 12-20 under third-year coach Scott Frost, and a basketball team that’s 14-45 under second-year coach Fred Hoiberg. Both were hired by Alberts’ predecessor, Bill Moos, who struck a deal to pay Frost $5 million and Hoiberg $3.9 million a year, respectively.

In March, Ryan Bamford marked his sixth year of sitting in the big chair at UMass. Bamford’s had his ups and downs — the Pat Kelsey fiasco, the AyAnna Hickman lawsuit, but his saving grace was hiring Greg Carvel.

Last month, Bamford upped Carvel’s annual pay to $500,000 and extended his contract through 2026, but while all’s well on the ice, the football and basketball programs have issues. Hoops coach Matt McCall is 46-65 in three seasons. According to cthrupayroll.com, the Commonwealth has paid the accidental coach over $3.2 million since he arrived in 2017. His best player, Tre Mitchell, has bolted for Texas, and McCall has transfers from BC, Montana, Albany and Southern Connecticut State coming in to help compensate.

Six weeks from today, the UMass football team kicks off the season at Pitt, and oddsshark.com lists them as 37½ -point underdogs. UMass has learned the hard way that Division I football is a cutthroat business. The Minutemen have played 100 games in the FBS and lost all but 19 of them.

Football coach Walt Bell’s annual rate of pay is $400,000. Bell inherited a god-awful program and improved it to horrible. He is 1-15 at UMass and among the lowest paid coaches in the FBS but honestly, nobody could do much better.

Turning around struggling programs is what good ADs are paid to do. Bamford, who made $364,594 in FY2021, gets an A in hockey but an F in football and basketball. If he were to leave UMass, URI’s Thorr Bjorn could step in without missing a beat. Bjorn’s relationship with UMass feels like a case of unrequited love. He played football for Jim Reid, got his degree in sport management and was named the school’s interim AD in 2003.

Bjorn took the URI job in 2007 and has kept the tiny school competitive. The Rams basketball team has been to four NCAA tourneys under his watch, and the football team shocked the FCS last season by beating No. 6 Villanova and No. 18 Albany.

Another possible candidate is Tim Kenney, whose contract at St. Bonaventure wasn’t renewed this year. During Kenney’s tenure the Bonnies were 121-62 on the hardwood and beat UCLA in the first round of the 2018 NCAA tourney.

UMass fans are eagerly waiting for football season to begin. In September they’ll see Boston College play at McGuirk Stadium for the first time since Doug Flutie played for the Eagles. The Minutemen will need six wins to be bowl eligible, and the basketball team will need to win without Tre Mitchell. Fun for the fans maybe, but those on the payroll will be working their squeeze balls.

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The Red Sox took two Florida Gators in the MLB draft, power hitting outfielder Jud Fabian (40th) and catcher Nathan Hickey (136th). “I saw Fabian hit two home runs off Jack Leiter, make several nice catches in the outfield and throw out runners at home,” writes Gainesville bird dog Crosby Hunt. “Hickey’s a left-handed hitter with good power. He DH’d and caught only because their incoming freshman catcher got hurt. I doubt he’ll stay a catcher as a pro.”

The Yankees took shortstop Trey Sweeney of Tony Romo’s alma mater Eastern Illinois, and the Mets were gifted with Kumar Rocker who fell to 10th. Rocker’s stock fell after he allowed five runs in four innings against Miss. State in the final of the College World Series.

If Rocker had indeed been the top overall pick, he would’ve been slotted for up to $6.6 million in bonus money, but now is eligible for only $148,000.

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Greenfield native Steve Kramer drove from the Cape on Monday to golf at the Country Club and watch Post 81 play Wilbraham at Vets Field.

Kramer’s kinship with the Legion began in 1975 when he rescued it from oblivion. “They didn’t have a team so I decided to start it back up. Bob York did a big column to help get sponsors and I rode Doug Welenc all season, he was my horse.”

Welenc went on to be named Yankee Conference Pitcher of the Year at UMass and pitch in the Houston Astros organization. Today, he works in financial management at Baystate Health.

Kramer’s day wasn’t what he expected. The Country Club was closed by flooding and the baseball game was postponed by wet grounds.

Kramer said the day wasn’t a total loss thanks to Village Pizza. “Still great pizza, but they still never give me enough napkins.”

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The Los Angeles Angels used all 20 draft picks on pitchers, starting with righthander Sam Bachman of Miami-Ohio, but how many of the draftees will ever toe a big-league rubber? In 2014, the Astros took lefthander Brady Aiken with the first overall pick and he’s still in the minors. Two picks later, the White Sox took southpaw Carlos Rodon, who has 36 wins for the Chisox and was named to this year’s All Star team.

MLB NOTES: Sparky Lyle’s bestseller The Bronx Zoo which chronicled the Yankees’ 1978 season had this entry from July 18: “Boston won again and is 61-28, 14 games ahead of us. Forget this season. The rest of the year is just playing out the string.” … A week later in Chicago, Billy Martin uttered his classic line about Reggie Jackson and George Steinbrenner: “One’s a born liar, the other’s convicted.” … Former NESN announcer Don Orsillo called the Red Sox-A’s game for Fox TV on July 3. Orsillo did Springfield Indians hockey play-by-play on 640-AM before the Red Sox beckoned. … Kudos, by the way, to NESN’s Dave O’Brien for setting Ellis Burks straight about Fenway fans who do the wave. “You gotta love it,” said Burks, to which Obie replied, “Really Ellis, gotta love it? Fans pay a lot for those seats.” Obie’s right. Real baseball fans hate the wave. … Baseball writer Joel Sherman included Jackie Bradley Jr. on his ballot for the anti-MVP Award at the break, and put Blake Snell in the running for the anti-Cy Young Award. Bradley Jr. is batting .173 for the Brew Crew and Snell has a 3-3 record with the Padres. … Two years after signing a seven year, $250 million contract with the Angels, Anthony Rendon is batting .240 with six home runs. … Yankees ace Gerrit Cole reportedly told Aaron Boone to “get off my f-ing mound” when the Yankees manager came out for a visit during Cole’s 1-0 masterpiece against Houston on July 10. Cole needed one out and fanned Yordan Alvarez on three pitches. Afterward Fox postgame reporter Ken Rosenthal asked Cole what they said to each other. Cole paused and replied, “Um, a few expletives and (that) it was my last guy.” … San Francisco Giants front office executive Dick Tidrow died last week. Yankee fans remember him as a set-up man who helped the Bombers win two championships. Tidrow’s teammates admired his gritty determination so much they nicknamed him Dirt. … Wander Franco, where art thou? After homering and doubling against Boston in his first big league game, Franco has fanned 19 times in 77 at-bats and is batting .208 with two home runs and eight RBIs. … David Price scored the first big league run of his career on Sunday against the Rockies. … Former Yankees hurler Masahiro Tanaka is on Japan’s Olympic team. Team USA’s roster includes manager Mike Scioscia and MLB veterans Todd Frazier, Edwin Jackson and Scott Kazmir.

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SQUIBBERS: Madness at the British Open where Golf Digest reported Tyrrell Hatton pointed his putter at a loudmouth in the gallery, gave him the finger and muttered “absolute f****** bollocks.” …. Meanwhile king baby Bryson DeChambeau told the world his driver “sucked” which delighted Brooks Koepka who smiled and said, “Love my driver.”…. Williams SID Dick Quinn informs us that three Ephs are in the Tokyo Olympics. Joey Lye is on Canada’s softball team, Tala Abujbara rows single skull for Qatar, and Kristi Krishe is on the USA’s seven-member rugby team. … Sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson colors her hair bright orange to mimic running with hair on fire. Her talent and personality will be absent from the Olympics because of an archaic rule about pot smoking. … Earlier this spring, Texas hoops coach Shaka Smart left for Marquette and was replaced by Chris Beard, who’s making $5.2 million to get players like UMass transfer Tre Mitchell. His latest coup was landing guard Marcus Carr from Minnesota, who’s considered the best of this year’s transfer crop. … Game 6 of Tuesday’s NBA final started shortly after 9 p.m. and ended at 11:45 p.m. Three hours to play a 48-minute game, have a few commercials why don’cha. … The tennis world misses Bud Collins, a brilliant columnist who’d help put today’s sideshows into perspective. … Former New England Patriot Jake Bequette on the impact of sports in America: “When you play sports, color doesn’t matter. Race doesn’t matter. Ethnicity, background, class doesn’t matter. You’re working together. Those are the values that make sports such a prized institution in this country.” …. NFL training camp opens next week, a good time for a Vince Lombardi quote: “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can achieve excellence.”

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley. He can be reached at chipjet95@yahoo.com


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