Friday, February 14, 2014

A-Sun Commissioner Ted Gumbart Takes Five to Share Thoughts On............

As A-Sun basketball eagerly marches toward its newly formatted championships, men's and women's basketball aren't the only sports seemingly positioned to bring success and recognition to the conference during the winter and spring seasons.
Anticipating that success along with taking a moment to enjoy what the A-Sun has already achieved in 2013-14, the A-Sun Insider sat down with Commissioner Ted Gumbart to get his thoughts on the following topics. Below are Commissioner Gumbart's thoughts on.......

......ESPN3 Video Initiative

TG: This whole project has been awesome. The schools have totally embraced it – our CEO’s strongly supported the investment in equipment to launch, the AD’s supported the expanded teamwork to add the productions, the coaches and players love the ESPN coverage, and the production teams are creating live ESPN programming! The quality and sophistication of the content our campus teams are outputting boggles my mind. To know our schools serve as production units for ESPN, that’s a great position for everyone in the A-Sun. 

We jumped in head first last year, before we even knew some of the answers to how we’d transmit and what equipment was needed to meet television standards. Now we’re well ahead of the curve; we’ve set standards that many others will be following – hopefully while we’re still moving forward ahead of them on the front end of the creative and technical wave! Matt Wilson has been the driving force from our office, and the campus producers need to get maximum credit here – Chad Pothoff at USC Upstate, Trevor Garrett at Lipscomb, Lisa Cherry at Kennesaw State, and Jeff Mayer at FGCU are carrying the load here – in championship fashion.

By year’s end we will have provided regular season and championship action to ESPN at a level quadrupling what we did before this initiative; including ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN3, ESPN Fullcourt and the WatchESPN app, we’re getting coverage that would have been impossible just a few years ago. This year we’ll reach record levels of television quality game distribution in volleyball, basketball, baseball and softball – all standards that we’ll smash next year as we provide unprecedented exposure for our student-athletes, teams, and the A-Sun member schools. As I said – awesome.

......Men’s and Women’s Basketball

TG: Conference play and following the races towards tournament time is the most exciting time of year for us. And with changes made to our tournament format, regular season play carries added importance. There’s no doubt that our “Bringing the Madness to You” approach has increased interest around the league, and that it will also bring record-setting attendance for the A-Sun basketball championships.

First-round games will all be played at the home site of the higher seeded teams. Fans will be rewarded for helping their teams succeed, and we’ll have the greatest level of fan involvement for every tournament game. The women’s semifinals and finals will be at one site – the highest seed remaining after quarterfinal play; on the men’s side we’ll play at the highest seeded home site through all rounds. That will guarantee maximum interest and attendance and coverage – and it rewards the teams that do well throughout the season. We’re approaching tournament time and the A-Sun is going to have a great two weeks of “madness.”

......Indoor Track and Field

TG: Indoor is our next A-Sun Championship, set for next week, and we are really excited about running at the JDL Fast Track, a state-of-the-art facility in Winston-Salem. We’ll see if a change in venue does anything to affect the juggernaut of the JU Dolphin women’s team. Coach Ron Grigg leads the most dominant dynasty in the history of the A-Sun – they’ve won eight straight championships. We’ve never given the Indoor Trophy to anyone else!

On the men’s side we’ll have a great competition and I think the setting will lead to conference records in many events. We have a number of student-athletes who we expect to compete in nationals, including Lipscomb's Tucker Peabody in track and Andre Dorsey from Kennesaw State in field. For the women, Jacksonville has 11 of the top performances out of the 17 events, along with North Florida (4), ETSU (1) and Lipscomb (1). Our championship is a great showcase for these and all of our talented track and field performers.


TG: A-Sun golf teams continue to make their mark nationally. We’re extremely proud of our recent success.  Last year was an historic season, including North Florida’s men claiming the NCAA Regional title in Tallahassee, Fla. This season A-Sun teams have already claimed eight different team titles and six teams – Mercer, Kennesaw State, ETSU, North Florida, FGCU and USC Upstate – rank in Golfweek’s current Top 100. Austin Padova (UNF), Edward Figueroa (FGCU) and Mercer's Emmanuel Kountakis and Hans Reimers have also won individual medalist honors this season.

Women’s teams have claimed four team titles and five standouts (Sami Khan and Miriam Parker – Lipscomb; Katy Harris and Mary Alice Murphy – Mercer; Briana Carlson - FGCU)  recorded first-place finishes in the fall of 2013. The most exciting shot in golf is no doubt the hole-in-one, and here, the A-Sun is tops. Freshman Allea Hawkins got it started in the fall, opening her collegiate career with aces in her first two tournaments. Reigning A-Sun Player and Scholar-Athlete of the Year Ines Lescudier (KSU) added one along with Jacksonville's Carlie Gelhausen. ETSU, Mercer and Stetson currently rank in the Top 100.


TG: When we talk lacrosse – it has to be about the continued growth. We debut men’s lacrosse this year, adding to the launch of women’s lacrosse last year. Both compete for NCAA automatic bids. We’ve formed a partnership with the Southern Conference for the future growth of the sport, and we continue to add new teams to the mix. Eventually we expect that both the SoCon and the A-Sun will sponsor both men’s and women’s lacrosse.

Jacksonville’s women claimed the inaugural title last year and started this year as  preseason favorites. The Dolphins have earned well-deserved recognition by receiving votes in the first Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association poll of the season. Additionally, Inside Lacrosse Magazine has named the Dolphins as one of the “sleeper teams” for the 2014 season.

An upcoming highlight in our debut men’s season also involves the JU Dolphins. Jacksonville hosts the upcoming Moe’s Southwest Grill Classic and faces No. 5 Notre Dame at 7 p.m. on Sunday on NBCSN.


TG: We couldn’t have asked for or scripted a much better beginning to the 2014 season. Through the first weekend of play were 32-12-1 (.722), posted an undefeated mark of 10-0-1 last Sunday, knocked off an NCAA participant and got a perfect game from USC Upstate’s Hannah Alexander. Four teams are still undefeated and nine of the 10 are .500 or better, that is a great start. 

Last year I thought we could have gotten two teams in, and with this type of success early, particularly against this level of non-conference opponents, I’m confident we can make this year a breakthrough season with multiple bids into the NCAA Championship. I am also excited about the inclusion of eight softball games into our ever-expanding ESPN3 schedule. We are rightfully proud of A-Sun softball, and it exciting to bring our top level teams more deserved attention and exposure.


TG: We get started tonight with six games and all 10 teams will begin play this weekend. Of course our openers will include ranked or NCAA Tournament teams. The A-Sun has a rich tradition of success in baseball and this season should bring more of the same national achievement. In fact, that achievement extends into professional play, as at the conclusion of the 2013 Major League Baseball season, 12 former student-athletes from Atlantic Sun teams saw playing time on a MLB roster with four reaching postseason play. 

Over the past 10 years we have had seven different champions. Plus we have had at least two teams in the NCAA Championship twice in the last three years, including three in 2011. Several of our players received Preseason All-America recognition, and our coaches are nationally recognized. In fact, Stetson Head Coach Pete Dunn was recently inducted into the ABCA Hall of Fame. I am eager to see how baseball wraps up the success that the A-Sun has already enjoyed this year and what is yet to come.


TG: Perennially we have teams and individuals that face many of the top teams and players in the nation. We have already seen that early in this season as well, with some of our own earning national rankings. ETSU's men’s squad holds steady in the national ranks at No. 67 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) rankings. The Bucs have claimed seven straight A-Sun Championships dating back to 2007.
Individually, FGCU's Jordi Vives is currently ranked 93rd in singles play and North Florida's doubles team of Yannick Zuern and Caio Gomes are 43rd according to the ITA.

......Sand Volleyball

The A-Sun continues to be a pioneer in the sport, as in 2012 the A-Sun was the first Division I conference to award a conference championship in the sport. The A-Sun was also the first conference to receive an automatic bid to the AVCA National Championship. North Florida has back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013, but the competition is getting stronger as along with champ UNF, the A-Sun also placed two pairs in the AVCA National Championship.

......Outdoor Track and Field

TG: We are just a couple of weeks away from the beginning of the outdoor season, and just as with outdoor, discussions are dominated by the Kennesaw State men and the Jacksonville women. The Owls have won four of the last men’s titles, and of course Jacksonville’s women have been phenomenal in their eight-year run. Again we are fortunate to host the championship at the first-class Hodges Stadium on the North Florida campus, a facility that truly showcases the A-Sun and its very talented student-athletes.

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