No, I didn't go shooting or running last night. I went instead to the SIU-Carbondale Saluki Caravan. It was a chance to hear from the football and basketball coaches about their recruiting endeavors, mingle with fellow Carbondale graduates, and basically pack a downtown bar with alumni who are all looking for one networking opportunity after another. I also got to see an old classmate who's working with the Alumni Association.
For the football season, the Salukis have a new coach, Dale Lennon. He's a former Division II NCAA football coach from North Dakota State, and they tended to do very well in their division. Division I-A isn't a prestigious division, but it is competitive when you've got teams like SIU, Northern Iowa and Delaware. It's good football. Also, there's a chance (improbable, but not impossible) that someday you could see a Harvard-SIUC game for the I-A Championship. He's picking up where Jerry Kill left off so Coach Lennon has some huge shoes to fill. While we might not get perfect seasons like he did in Division II, it looks like the Dawgs are still going to be competitive this year.
Next up was Dana Eikenberg, the head coach for the women's basketball team. It sounds like her overall program deals with creating good players as well as good students. I'll be the first to admit that I don't get the appeal of women's basketball, but I'm willing to give it a shot.
Finally, Chris Lowery, the SIUC basketball coach took the stage and went over the program, his latest recruits from within in Illinois and his plans to get back into the NCAA tournament this coming season. He was right when he said that going to the NIT is no reason to hang your head in shame. If television revenues weren't so important to athletic programs these days, the NIT would likely still be the place to crown a national champion. The NCAA has more teams, so there's likely to be more eyes glued to sets. The only men's basketball that I watch is during the tournaments and once my teams are out, I don't bother with the rest of the games. Still, it will be nice to see the Salukis get back into the NCAA tournament next year.
That's really about the total of my previous evening. It was worth attending to see how each coach was handling the situations caused by last year's highs and lows.