Here's how important national letters of intent are in the recruiting process: you can't just sign one whenever you want.
The NCAA has specific time periods in place for inking such important agreements. They vary by sport, and there are a lot of sports. So it's easy for recruits to commit to a school but really have no idea when they're supposed to sign their letter of intent to make it official.
Here is a breakdown of when national letters of intent are signed for athletes wanting to earn a scholarship for the 2009-10 school year, according to the NCAA website:
Basketball (regular period): April 15-May 20, 2009
Football (mid-year junior college transfers): Dec. 17, 2008-Jan. 15, 2009
Football (regular period): Feb. 4-April 1, 2009
All Other Sports (early period): Nov. 12-19, 2008
All Other Sports (regular period): April 8-Aug. 1, 2009
The coaches of most sports seemed satisfied with the calendar in place, but there are discussions of implementing an early-signing period for high school football recruits. In recent years, football prospects have committed, decommitted, recommitted, decommitted and committed elsewhere, filling all the time they have to make a decision before February.
One Division I coach told me he uses 25 percent of his recruiting budget "babysitting" recruits, or visiting recruits who have already committed to make sure they don't stray.
Nothing is imminent, though, so the dates in place will be a good forecast of years to come.
Day three of a summer travel fastpitch tournament in West Virginia. Must have been some rarefied air that day, because these girls hit FOUR homers in a row, in one inning. Nobody there had ever seen anything like it - may never see it again. Really exciting!
Last weekend marked the 35th anniversary of Title IX, the legislation credited with increasing gender equity in sports. According to the Women���s Sports Foundation, since its enactment in 1972, female athletic participation has increased by a staggering 904 percent in high school and by 456 percent in college.
As someone who has benefited from Title IX, softball star Jennie Finch is quick to share her appreciation for those women that came before her. "I'm truly grateful for people who have paved the way, and have fought the fight," Finch said in the Daily Freeman. "I'm happy they broke down barriers to give women like myself the opportunity to be successful athletes and make a living playing a sport that I love."
I���m no softball star, but I am also thankful for the positive influence of Title IX in my life and the opportunity to play ball in college. Here are some other women who have enjoyed the effects of Title IX and are part of my favorite moments in sports history:
1996 | New Women's Olympic Sports. Women's softball and soccer made their Olympic debut at the Summer Games in Atlanta, and the U.S. dominated, winning the gold in both sports, as well as in basketball, gymnastics and synchronized swimming. The Atlanta Games made stars of Lisa Leslie, Mia Hamm and Lisa Fernandez, giving rise to professional softball and soccer leagues for women in the U.S.
1999 | Women's World Cup. A billion TV viewers and a stadium crowd of 90,000 witness the celebration as the U.S. wins the Women's World Cup in an overtime shoot-out against China. Brandi Chastain ripped off her jersey after scoring the winning goal, giving little girls someone besides a model to look at for a strong, beautiful body. And for the first time, a women's soccer team got as much attention a men's squad usually does.
2007 | Equal Pay at Wimbledon. After 123 years of awarding more prize money to men than women, Wimbledon yielded to public pressure and announced on Feb. 22, that it will offer equal pay through all rounds at this year's tournament.
2006 | Winningest Coach in NCAA History. Pat Summitt, the all-time winningest coach in NCAA basketball historymale or femaleearned her 900th career win as the Tennessee Lady Vols beat Vanderbilt, 80-68. That year, Summitt signed a $1.125 million deal for the 2006-07 season, making her the first women's basketball coach in history to be paid a million dollars or more.
2003 | Annika Plays a PGA Tour Event. Annika Sorenstam became the first woman since Babe Didrikson Zaharias in 1945 to compete in a PGA Tour event. Sorenstam missed the cut at the Colonialin Fort Worth, Texasby four strokes, but walked off the course to a standing ovation.
1997 | The WNBA is Born. The WNBA kicked off its inaugural season with eight teams, but unlike the other women's pro basketball leagues before it, this one has enjoyed longevity, this year celebrating its 10th year of existence.
2001 | Increased Exposure for the Women's Tournament. The NCAA and ESPN announced an 11-year agreement for the cable outlet to televise every game of the women's national championship basketball tournament.
The equipment that accompanies sports such as baseball and softball has come a long way since the first mitts were made of flesh-colored padding with the fingers cut out.
But with technological sophistication comes confusion: How do you know which glove to get? Does a $300 bat really make a difference? And just how do you find the ideal equipment for your son or daughter without taking out a second mortgage on your home?
This Women���s College World Series will be a refreshing change of pace. Only two programs in the eight-team field at the WCWS this year have won NCAA titles since the championship began in 1982.
The teams still standing are: Arizona, Texas A&M, Northwestern, Washington, DePaul, Arizona State, Tennessee and Baylor. Arizona, the defending NCAA champions, is historically the most dominant team as they have won seven titles, including five trophies in the 1990s. Baylor, on the other hand, will step onto the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City for the first time in program history.
Surprisingly, for the first time in the 26-year history of the WCWS, a team from California did not advance to the eight-team field. However, this will be the first time two teams from the Chicago area (Northwestern and DePaul) will be making the trip to Oklahoma City. The two squads have combined for nine WCWS appearances -- never at the same time.
Tennessee senior Monica Abbott is a player to keep your eye on as she tries to surpass the Division I single-season strikeout record of 663 set by Southern Miss��� Courtney Blades in 2000. Abbott needs just 14 K���s to accomplish the task and add it to the long list of records she holds, including career wins, shutouts, and games played.
This year���s WCWS is shaping up to be an interesting one. Stay tuned for further news and commentary on this exciting tournament.
Divison I softball* playoff format has the Sweet 16 teams meet in best-of-three super regionals. Those super regionals begin today. The eight survivors advance to the women's College World Series, which starts May 31, in Oklahoma City.
I read something a couple weeks ago that made me happy: ESPN and ESPN2 will have more NCAA softball championship coverage this year than ever before. They���ve covered three regional games already from the UCLA site, and will air every game of the women's College World Series game.
Softball may have gotten the boot as an Olympic sport, but it is certainly thriving here in the U.S. Gone are the days of waiting until midnight or later to watch a tape delay of a handful of College World Series games. I look forward to catching as many games as I can. As of now I���m rooting for the other Chicago teams: Northwestern and DePaul (which, I have to sneak in here, my alma mater defeated this year.)
(Jon Doyle is a former NCAA All-American baseball player who now works as a strength and conditioning specialist. His web site, www.milliondollarhitter.com, continues to be the worldwide leader in developing hitting techniques for all ages.)
Softball* season seemed never ending when in the middle of an eight-game stretch in the span of a week or less. However, it never failed to go by in the blink of an eye. Now that I take in the sport of softball via box scores and the occasional home game, this first season of being in the stands instead of on the field flew by. Certain players and teams have made the most of it ��� Tennessee���s Monica Abbott is one of them.
Abbott became the NCAA's career strikeouts leader Sunday, overtaking Olympian and former Texas star, Cat Osterman. Abbott tied Osterman last weekend at 2,265 strikeouts. She struck out 11 in a doubleheader Sunday against Alabama, giving her the all-division NCAA record of 2,276.
Abbott broke Osterman's record in a 9-2 win in the first game of the doubleheader, victories that helped Tennessee earn its first Southeastern Conference regular-season title.
I know and have seen elite softball pitchers toss a lot of innings during their collegiate careers, but 2,276 strikeouts? That���s just plain absurdity.
The senior from Salinas, Calif., also broke the NCAA career victory record this season in March when she won her 152nd game, passing the mark set by Southern Mississippi's Courtney Blades in 2000. With a 40-2 record this season, Abbott has 179 victories.
Congratulations to Monica on a phenomenal career at Tennessee.
The Chicago Urban Initiative Little League Committee (CUILLC) and the Chicago Bandits of the National Professional Fastpitch Softball League have forged a partnership aimed at bringing the benefits of Little League Softball to the children of Chicago.
In Chicago, five local Little Leagues have coordinated their efforts to form the CUILLC intent on providing awareness, education and opportunity through affiliation in the Little League Softball program. The Bandits franchise has also recognized this working partnership will offer possibilities for growth in Little League Softball participation on the south side of Chicago and throughout the Chicagoland area.
Among the immediate benefits for local leagues will be the coordination of fund-raising projects designed to draw focus to their Little League programs, equipment acquisition, capital improvement cash grants, field improvement and renovation, access to Little League education and training programs, advocacy, and networking, all while creating interest among potential Little League softball players.
My college softball team worked in cooperation with the Chicago Bandits for a fund-raiser and I know a few of the Bandits players from playing ball with or against them. They are an all-around impressive organization, on and off the field. I���m excited about the prospect of softball participation on the south side of Chicago being on the rise soon.
Hitting* is more than smashing the ball; it's approaching an at-bat with an understanding of the game situation -- and what a hitter's specific role should be. Here are three areas any hitter can focus on to prepare successfully at the plate and become more valuable to their team.
Study the pitcher to gain an edge:
Anything you can pick up about the pitcher prior to going into the box can help give you an advantage. Ask yourself the following questions: Does she always throw the first pitch as a strike? What pitch does she like to throw when she's ahead in the count? Does she move the ball mostly in and out, or up and down? What's her "bread and butter" pitch? Does she have a tendency to throw inside or outside? Up in the zone or down in the zone? Does she tip off any of her pitches by how she delivers or prepares to deliver?
Some pitchers look at the location of where they'll throw their pitch after picking up the signal from the catcher. If you can pick up the movement of their eyes from the catcher's signal to their target, you may be able to tell where the pitch will be thrown.
Just because you���re rivals on the field doesn���t mean you have to be at odds off the field as well. The Alabama-Huntsville and North Alabamasoftball teams are a perfect example of this.
The two teams recently shared a bus on a road trip to Florida for weekend doubleheaders. The coaches discovered that both of their programs were headed in the same direction at the same time and decided to save their institutions some money.
I think this was a heads-up move by the coaches regarding fiscal responsibility, and for showing their players that it���s okay to communicate, be reasonable, and even share seats with your rivals.
During my four years of college softball, we did our fair share of fund-raising and dollar-stretching. I wouldn���t have minded sharing a bus with our cross-town conference rivals to save our program time and money ��� we only used half of the charter bus anyway and most of us were sleeping at any given moment. I believe the biggest issue we would have encountered is agreeing on what movie to watch.
I���m trying to envision what it would be like if the Yankees and Red Sox were in a similar situation���
Little League Baseball and Softball will be teaming up with several college softball programs throughout the U. S. this season to provide local Little League softball teams a special experience ��� Little League Softball Days.
On Little League Softball Day, Little Leaguers, their parents and local league volunteers may attend the hosting institution���s regular-season game free of charge, or in some cases at a discounted rate. The players will come dressed in their Little League uniform jerseys, and following the games will be permitted onto the field to meet the collegiate players and coaches.
This is such a great initiative. I would have loved a chance to meet college softball players after one of their games when I was young as I looked up to the older softball players a great deal. Now, more than 364,000 Little League Softball players are welcome to take part in this unique experience that will benefit all of those involved. For as excited as the youngsters will be to meet the college ballplayers, hopefully the student-athletes will be reminded of why they fell in love with and play the game of softball.
Tomorrow, Major League Soccer���s 2007 season kicks off with a match between D.C. United and the Colorado Rapids. It���s true, David Beckham has brought a lot of attention with him to MLS, but there are other noteworthy developments this season that will also attract new eyes to the league. Not only will every game be televised for the first time in league history, but there will be a tournament featuring four MLS teams and four Mexican clubs that debuts in July with a $1 million prize.
I was saddened to hear that Cobi Jones announced that he will retire at the end of the season. Growing up very involved in the soccer community, and with heightened exposure around the 1994 World Cup in the United States, Cobi quickly became my favorite player. We shared a jersey number and, I liked to think back then, a similar, spunky style of play. He is the only player who has remained with the same MLS team since the league���s debut in 1996, playing 281 games for the Los Angeles Galaxy. Part of me expected him to always be on the field.
Cobi���s involvement with the same team for so many years brings up an interesting point regarding player loyalty. It the rare professional athlete who remains with just one team, especially if doing so means turning down more money elsewhere. Similarly, in youth sports, there is a fine line between staying loyal to your team and putting yourself in a position to reach a future goal -- such as getting an athletic scholarship.
I personally observed what seemed like a lack of loyalty in the sport community growing up. I played on the same competitive fastpitch softball team for eight years. We were like a second family. I was crushed to learn after one of those years that half of our starting lineup was quitting to create a new team more attractive to college scouts.
I understand that you have to lookout for yourself and do what is in your best interest. However, I couldn���t and didn���t want to switch teams and leave my teammates and coaches of so many years���we had our fair share of exposure, too. Is breaking away from a close-knit team worth a bit more college exposure?
A woman's work is never done. Or, in the case of umpiring a big-league baseball game, rarely done. I picked up a Chicago Sun-Times before work this morning and came across an article about how minor league umpire, Ria Cortesio, is scheduled to be on the bases for tomorrow's Cubs-Diamondbacks game in Mesa, Arizona. She will be the first female ump in a major-league game since spring training games in 1989.
Cortesio is the only female umpire in pro ball. She will be in her fifth season at Class AA and ninth overall. "I was kind of expecting it," she said. "Umpires with my seniority usually get picked. I'm looking forward to it. There will be a lot more people in the stands than I'm used to."
Cubs first baseman, Derek Lee, commented, "It's awesome. I think it's about time. Female eyes are as good as male eyes. Why can't they be umpires? Good for her."
I think it's good for baseball, too. It is about time. I hope this story reaches girls who have thought that they might want to be an umpire but thought it wasn't their place. I wonder how long it will be until a female umpire gets to work a regular season MLB game.
During my college softball years I would hear comments, many times from other females, about how female umps were all terrible. Generalizations and stereotypes such as this are unfair, in my opinion. There are some terrible female and male umpires. There are also outstanding female and male umpires.
What are your experiences with female umpires? Do you support women as umpires in the major leagues?