Women's Hoops Blog: October 2005

Inane commentary on a game that deserves far better

Monday, October 31, 2005

Lest you missed it, The Onion has an idea for the WNBA.
Jean Van de Velde is the Bill Buckner of golf. Long after he is gone, Van de Velde will be remembered for one and only one thing: the most spectacular collapse in the history of golf. His name has become an adjective - "vandeveldian" - used by golf commentators to describe epic chokery.

To lose all power of self-definition is a piteous fate. No matter how you start the conversation, it always ends the same way. You know your efforts will be futile, and yet you can't help but try. Your ploys inevitably grow more outlandish; madness ensues.

Van de Velde's latest gambit: casting himself as a retrograde gender warrior. In order to protest the British Open's decision to allow women to qualify, he plans to enter the Women's Open.

If a different golfer had made the same argument, he might have drawn some support. Van de Velde draws only derision and laughter.
OSU coach Jim Foster on Rene Portland: "We can all look back and say we have had situations that at the time were unpleasant."

Yes you can.
Wanna see your favorite athletes dressed in ball gowns and sipping crappy California chardonnay? Check the WSF banquet photo album.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Gregory Moore wonders how the black community will respond to Swoopes's announcement.
Via pilight, how Olivia orchestrated the coming out party.
Latasha Byears responds to the Swoopes news. Her lawyer hints that a settlement may be announced soon.

Her accuser won't talk. "It's a subject she would prefer to forget," her agent told the Daily News. "A lot of time has passed since that incident. She doesn't want to say anything about it."

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Keegan has done excellent work projecting the protected lists, West teams here, East teams here.
SwoopesFest Day Four.

Pat Forde has a fascinating column quoting an anonymous gay college athletic administrator on why it's harder for a man to come out.

Michael Rothstein gets reactions from Vivian Stringer, Megan Duffy, and Doug Bruno.

AP columnist Nancy Armour sees progress. So does Levesque. People in Dallas are stupid.

Babcock quotes Martina: “It’s an amazing thing to actually get an endorsement because I’m a lesbian, rather than not get one because I’m a lesbian.”

Philadelphia Will Do psychoanalyzes Screamin' A. Smith and his now-syndicated Swoopes column.

Outsports has a roundup of media reaction here. And in yesterday's Outsports interview, Swoopes responds to charges that her relationship with Scotty was inappropriate because Scotty was her coach.
It wasn’t something I was proud of. But, that’s why, for so many years, we had to hide it. You can’t help who you fall in love with, man or woman. You can’t help those feelings you have. We both knew that it wasn’t right, the fact that I was a player and she was a coach. What were other players going to think? What was the organization going to think? It was a difficult time for both of us because we loved each other. We tried to do both, we tried to be with each other and still go to work and be professional. I think we handled the situation as professionally as possible. That’s why she made the decision that she wasn’t going to coach anymore last year. It had gotten to the point where it was just difficult, having to pretend and hide. People knew, but they also didn’t knew. But, it got to the point where I didn’t want to continue to hide this. So, she made the decision to resign.
She also explains how she reconciles her sexuality with her faith.
That’s probably one of the toughest battles that I deal with on a daily basis... I pray about it every single day and I wake up every morning and I’m happy and I’m OK with who I’m with, I’m okay with my life.
Rutgers picked to win this year's expanded, sixteen-team Big East: Pondexter is the preseason player of the year.

Friday, October 28, 2005

On Monday, the WNBA Competition Committee met to discuss, among other things, the wrinkle regarding unrestricted free agents and the expansion draft. Sun GM Chris Sienko spoke out yesterday to assure the world that he has not started negotiating a new deal with Nykesha Sales.

That may count as protesting too much.

The likelihood that Sales will play on any team but the Sun next year is somewhere between 0% and 1% (inclusive), and probably on the low end of that range. The claim that the Sun and Sales have not had any discussions, formal or informal, about next year's contract simply isn't credible.

And yet the same thing could be said about any number of UFAs and their teams around the league.

Is Connecticut just unlucky because it has the most press coverage? Is the league unfairly picking on the Sun? Fans debate those questions here.
Carnival of the Swoopes, Day Three.

Selena Roberts is still running with the story. "Somewhere, a girl may feel less alone and less of an outcast because someone like Swoopes - an African-American woman - has further diluted the taboo." (Get your bootlegged copy of the behind-the-TimesSelect-wall article right here.)

Kelli Anderson at SI.com hopes this will "chip away at the homophobia that is rampant in some locker rooms and fuels much of the negative recruiting that goes on in women's sports."

Jerry Sullivan calls Swoopes the "bravest pro basketball player in America today." Nancy Goldstein also praises her bravery.

The Boston Herald examines the business implications and concludes that Swoopes may be more marketable now than she was before.

At the Mercury News, Mark Purdy wonders when a man in a major team sport will follow suit. In a KRT-syndicatd article, Tom Reed says we shouldn't hold our breath. SportsFrog agrees. Deadspin is conducting a poll to see who it will be.

Rachel Maddow praised Swoopes yesterday on her show.

AfterEllen runs down the whole story. All Facts has more.

Following Sulu's annoucement, Poetic Learnings wonders if there was a "coming out" memo sent around this week.
Stephen A. Smith is a total fucking jackass (in case you didn't already know that).

"Now, far be it for me to wax eloquent over the sanctimonious arena of professional ethics."

Stephen, you illiterate fool, you've never "waxed eloquent" about anything in your life. All you do is jam polysyllabic words into grammatically incoherent sentences, written in a perpetual scream.

"The appearance of impropriety, of compromising one's position and organization, is flagrant where Scott is concerned."

The appearance is flagrant? Did you even read that sentence before you published it?

Thursday, October 27, 2005

ESPN's Melanie Jackson examines the Longhorns' much-touted first-years.
Arizona State fans wonder if soph Reagan Pariseau can replace last year's starting point guard and team leader Kylan Loney.
Swoopes-o-rama: Her Majesty says coming out has brought her more attention than Comets championships or Olympic gold: "People are more interested in your personal life."

Dallas sports columnist Kevin Blackistone applauds Swoopes' move.

Orlando sports columnist Jemele Hill points out that an active NBA or NFL star's coming out would be a bigger surprise. A Cornell University writer agrees.

Ad exec Bob Dorfman calls coming out net gain for number 22, even if measured in purely financial terms: "I think it will pay off for her. In this day and age, it may open up marketing doors because she's forthright....There are a lot of businesses that cater to the gay community... and this makes her more famous."

National LGBT mag The Advocate promises its own Swoopes story next month.
Texas Tech students react to Swoopes' disclosure. Says one senior: ""I'm surprised [no athlete] from [the University of Texas-Austin] has come out. They're a lot more liberal than us."

Read Texas Tech fan reactions here.
Connecticut papers examine expansion conundrums.

Thibault: "There are a couple of teams in our league, us being one, that have to give up something that they like."

Will you protect Nykesha Sales, even though (being an unrestricted free agent) she doesn't have to come back to the Sun even if you do? "We have not decided what to do about that." Kool Keesh will play overseas this winter for the first time ever, in the Czech Republic.

Lindsay Whalen hasn't set foot on a court since the season ended: her knee feels fine, but her ankle not so much. Trainer Georgia Fischer says she can expect to play again in December.

Dear New York Times: why does the New Haven Register (not even the Courant) cover the Sun better than you folks cover your Liberty?
Outsports' Jim Buzinski tells the Seattle P-I that Swoopes' coming out will diminish homophobia (and lessen negative recruiting) in the college game. How long will it take?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

ESPN has now put the whole Swoopes interview online.

The paper of record picks up the story. Swoopes tells the Times: "Me coming out does not change what the W.N.B.A. stands for as a basketball league. I don't think there's any secret that the huge support we get comes from the gay and lesbian community. It's unfortunate that people... are not able to feel like they can be who they are. They lose endorsements; they lose friends and family."

Noting Swoopes' earlier financial troubles, the Times puts her Olivia endorsement deal in the six-figure range.

Swoopes says Olivia asked her to become a spokeperson after noticing her on their passenger list: "It's funny, when I booked the cruise I didn't even think about people seeing my name on this list full of lesbians... I guess I didn't care. I just felt like, if I'm going to do the cruise and I'm going to be the face of Olivia, why not just come all out?"

In People magazine, Swoopes talks about her seven-year romance with Alisa Scott, which began after her 1998 divorce.

Academics, advocates and Houston residents offer more support. Comets fan Donna Junker: "Yes! yes! yes!"
Eric says Swoopes will be a "one-day story."

Not so, says Outsports.
It will be hard for sports fans to miss Swoopes in the upcoming days. She appears Thursday on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” and will be featured in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Houston Chronicle, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, ESPN the Magazine, ESPN, MSNBC, Fox Sports Net, Gay.com, Planet Out and Outsports (where she will have a Friday interview).
(Perhaps lots of appearances are part of the Olivia deal.)

Fans at SportsNation react, as do fans at Rebkell, as does Prof Matson, as do hundreds of other bloggers.
Mechelle Voepel writes that Rene Portland's coaching colleagues don't want to talk about something that many of them would like to go away.
The gay coaches for the most part are fearful of discussion of any gay issues in the sport. Many straight coaches absolutely wouldn't want to take a lie-detector test about whether they've used the lesbian issue against another program during recruiting wars. Heck, even some gay coaches use that against each other.
Concerning the recent controversy around Portland, Voepel has been considering for some time what to write.
Portland always has been a puzzling case to me. She has been a trailblazer is so many ways, as both a player and coach. She has said so many smart, snappy, quotable and on-the-money things about the respect women's athletics deserves... And yet, a significant segment of women's basketball observers believes she has undermined all of her accomplishments and her reputation because of her attitude toward homosexuality.
Read more of what Mechelle Voepel has to say about negative recruiting tactics and the allegations against Rene Portland.
A bit of perspective on Swoopes and the long view, as Mechelle Voepel adds her (most valuable) two cents.

My favorite term from the article is "cloak of the vague" as in many Lesbian coaches:
wrapped themselves in the "cloak of the vague" that remains to this day. Publicly, many opt to be seen as sexless schoolmarm-types way too busy figuring out stuff like defensive schemes to have personal lives.
Go read the whole thing.
With Quinn, Willis and Blue back and at least approximately healthy, how good will UCLA be? We'll find out early: the Bruins play their season opener against Baylor.

UCLA's campus paper discusses the Bruins' (lack of) fan support.
Deadspin asks:
How will the WNBA handle this? Remember, the league, when it first started, marketed a married and preggers Swoopes as the “non-gay” face of the league.
Sheryl Swoopes comes out, endorses lesbian cruise line.

The current ESPN magazine has the whole story. ESPN's site provides excerpts: "My reason for coming out isn't to be some sort of hero. I'm just at a point in my life where I'm tired of having to pretend to be somebody I'm not. I'm tired of having to hide my feelings about the person I care about. About the person I love."

Donna Orender and Nike, with whom the three-time MVP has a shoe contract, say they're fine with it. Van Chancellor: “What she does in her personal life is her own decision. I respect everything about Sheryl.”

Me too.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Mechelle Voepel asked Suzie McConnell Serio if getting the no. 1 pick in the college draft changed Minnesota's plans about which 6 players it would protect in the expansion draft.

"We haven't finalized it yet," McConnell Serio said. "We'll have to talk about it to see if anything has changed. But I know our first four or five [protected] players won't change."

McConnell Serio said the Lynx might be a player away. "Is the player we get at No. 1 that player? To not just make the playoffs, but have a viable option of winning the championship? That's what we hope." She nodded to consensus on the draft's top 4 players - LSU's Seimone Augustus, Rutger's Cappie Pondexter, Baylor's Sophia Young and Duke's Monique Currie.

Voepel guessed that most folks expect the Lynx to take Augustus or Pondexter, barring injury, and tossed out the names of some other seniors who could be high on the board when the Lynx cash in their second (no. 7) first-round pick.

Over at Reb's, PUMatty posted a 'Ridiculously Early Mock Draft', assigning Augustus to the Lynx at no. 1, and at no. 7, Texas Tech's Erin Grant.
The Strib profiles scrappy Gopher guard-- and aspiring accountant-- April Calhoun.
DiMauro says Geno handled the Barbara Turner fighting incident well. Geno promised (unspecified) disciplinary action and refused to condone the players' involvement, even though it could be construed as self-defense.

DiMauro: 'When you sign on to play a high-profile sport, you must learn the meaning of two words: accountability and responsibility. You are not like the students you walk among on your way to class every day."
San Antonio coach Dan Hughes puts a brave face on pick #4. (Check out the headline.)

The Charlotte Observer examines the Sting's #3 pick, but can't get a quote from Lacey or Muggsy, both of whom attended the lottery in NYC.
In the subscription-only section of Full Court, Bob Corwin reviews the 2005 WNBA season, including on-court performance, team and league finances, and the food in each team's media room.

Overall, he's surprisingly pessimistic: "NBA owners are businessmen first, do-gooders second. If it can’t be shown to them why they should continue to have patience for a second decade with operations that lose money in six or seven figures, the WNBA may have a shorter life span than most would think."

And yet, as he points out, "For all but Connecticut and now Chicago, the gains and losses are truly meaningless when placed in the context of NBA mega millions. If the individual ownership of each franchise likes the concept of this league or is a loyal follower of David Stern, the team stays." Connecticut, moreover, looks like a clear success.

WNBA owners are businesspeople in the sense that they all have lots of money, but how many entered the business of sports with the primary goal of turning a profit? Some NBA owners have proven willing to take what sports economist Dan Rosenbaum calls "huge losses with the luxury tax," losses much higher than what WNBA teams cost.

Yes, those owners would like to change the system, but that's not the point: the point is that, as Kevin Pelton put it, "there's a value to winning, over and above the revenue it brings."

The WNBA doesn't need to turn a profit anytime soon in order to stick around: it just needs owners who want to stay in the game.
Forwards Ebony Felder and Reicina Russell will not play during the upcoming 2005-06 season, Georgia coach Andy Landers announced today.

The 6'6 Russell, a Penn State transfer who led the 2003-04 Lady Lions in rebounds and blocked shots, was being counted on with 6'5 freshman Angel Robinson to fill for Georgia's top scorer and rebounder, Tasha Humphrey. Humphrey, the SEC freshman of the year, is sliding to power forward to replace the injured Rebecca Rowsey.

Russell left the team for personal reasons, Landers said.

Felder, granted an NCAA sixth season of eligibility last August, is being forced to retire because of chronic knee problems. She was a freshman All-SEC selection in 2002-03, but has played little the last two seasons because of injuries.

Last week, ESPN ranked Georgia fourth in its preseason Top 25.
Roger says he'd rather have the #1 pick than the $300 million Powerball.

Voepel says Ohlde will be getting some help. “We view our post game as really solid, so if you look at where we need help, it’s the perimeter,” coach McConnell Serio said. “It will be interesting and exciting to see which player looks best with our personnel as far as the No. 1 pick.”

Seth Sulka says the Mercury have placed a priority on finding a solid power forward or center. (But probably not with the #2 pick.)

Monday, October 24, 2005

Lynx chief operating officer Roger Griffith gets happy about his team's top pick: "Your heart rate starts increasing when you realize what's happened."

Any chance you'll trade that pick away? "It would have to be somebody or several pieces that make our bigger picture better. We're not going to draw any kind of line to say we won't listen, but first picks don't often get traded in any league. If someone wants it, they'll have to pay a price for it."
Coming to your TV Wednesday Nov. 2: Becky Hammon on Wheel of Fortune.
The Lynx have won the Draft Lottery, reports Matt Wurst. The draft order will be:

1. Minnesota
2. Phoenix
3. Charlotte
4. San Antonio
5. Washington
The balls are out of the hopper, the four digit numbers are assigned. Winners and losers have been determined. MN and PHX beat the odds, Charlotte and SASS did not. DC matched expectations.

(To borrow from baseball a bit) Let the hot stove league begin in earnest! The biggest draft related question may not be who the Lynx will select with the number 1 pick. It's not even who will Charlotte select with their first pick this year. The biggest question is who will be making Charlotte's selection?

I think it's pretty clear from today's lottery that the fates were punishing Charlotte for their previous treatment of draft picks.

Here were the odds
San Antonio 7-27261
The PSU Collegian today published a bunch of letters in support of Rene Portland.

Says Gregory J. Bankos, Class of '66:
It is about time for these “closet” people to quit hiding. If any of the accusations are true, and I doubt they are, it is still Portland's job to protect the other players from them.

Keep up the good work coach Portland, we are very proud of you and your accomplishments for our great university.
Just a reminder: draft lottery today at 3pm Eastern; Charlotte has the best chance at the top spot.

Silver Stars coach Dan Hughes is bringing good-luck charms.
Reason # 312 why the NCAA rules are unfair: after a coaching change, a player can't transfer without sitting out a year, but the new coach can essentially kick a player off the team with impunity.

Amanda Brown found this out the hard way when Kurt Budke showed up at OSU.

According to Brown's father, Budke told him, "She's not going to play for us. I won't let her practice, dress, travel. But I'll pay for her because I have to. She'll never play for me as long as I'm the coach at Oklahoma State."

(Hat tip, Carol Anne.)

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Yesterday we listed some preseason injuries. We should have included Rutgers: the Scarlet Knights have three.

Matee Ajavon has a stress fracture which could keep her off court for up to eight weeks. Reserve Aquisha Kehoe hasn't recovered from last year's ACL surgery. And Essence Carson has left knee tendinitis. Carson may require surgery, too, though coach Stringer says "We obviously need her to play."

Could both Ajavon and Carson miss the entire year? "It's a possibility. That's a horrible scenario."

Stringer also touts Cappie Pondexter, who could have turned pro, but came back: "Cappie, in my opinion, is clearly the best player in America. There is nothing or no one who can stop her."

ESPN's Newmann, apparently unaware of Ajavon's injury, expects greatness from RU, from Cappie, and from frosh center Kia Vaughn.
UConn notebook:

Charde Houston and Brittany Hunter are missing practice with soreness. Houston calls her walking boot "nothing serious."

Nicole Wolff (a.k.a. "Shoot the Ball Nicole") says she's finally confident, though she's missing practice too (turned ankle).

Participants in the October 9 fight (in which Barbara Turner got hit with a bottle) may get disciplined by UConn Res Life.

Much sought-after high school sophomore Elena Delle Donne says she enjoyed her visit to UConn.
Martin McNeal asks: "Will the WNBA also have a dress code instituted next season? And if not, why not?"

Good questions...
A new blog with some Stanford player interviews.

Also, another sports blog to check out: Jerrybear54.
A week later and the golf world is still buzzing about Michelle Wie's disqualification. The guys at The Golf Blog have been all over it. George Solomon at WaPo beats up Bamberger and SI today.

At the Funai this week, both Tiger and Vijay said it was unfair, and Ian Baker-Finch called the ruling a "joke."

Expect new rules.
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review examines anti-gay recruiting tactics.

Lots of interesting quotes from Swin Cash, Jess Strom, Doug Bruno, and others. All coaches who would speak on the record denied that they have any problem with lesbian players.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Much-injured former Lynx post Michele Van Gorp has filed a malpractice suit against (among other defendants) Lynx orthopedic surgeon Joel Boyd.

Known for her height (6'6"), for her fine play at Duke, and for coming out, Van Gorp showed limited mobility, and got limited minutes, in 2004: she told Sara's sister last May that she was still too hurt to play.

Boyd also serves as physician for the NHL's Minnesota Wild; he has worked for USA national men's and women's hockey teams, as well as for USA Basketball.
Update: Adidas says Arkansas State men's player Jerry Nichols doesn't have to wear Adidas shoes. The school, which has a contract with Adidas, earlier threatened to bar Nichols from playing if he refused to wear that brand.
The college season hasn't even started, but the injuries are already piling up.

Duke, which had just eight players available by the end of last year, has four players less than 100% and missing some practice. Mo Currie's left foot (fractured last year) hurts again; she's once again wearing a shell.

Nebraska starter Jelena Spiric has torn her ACL and will miss the year. The Huskers become at least the third major-conference team (after Georgia and Minnesota) to lose a player to a preseason ACL tear.

As Clay put it (albeit behind the Full Court subscription wall): "Losses happen, and are inevitable, but injuries are unjust."
Lauren Jackson's newly-aggravated stress fracture will keep her off the court for most, if not all, of the Australian WNBL season... but she's such a big draw that WNBL managers want her to travel with her team nevertheless. Townsville Manager Mark McGregor says fans "would still love to see her even if she doesn't play."
Barbara Turner has apologized for her role in a fight two weeks ago, in which the girlfriend of a UConn football player allegedly attacked Turner with a glass bottle.

Geno says he'll take disciplinary measures: "All the players that were involved - Brittany [Hunter], Barbara, Mel [Thomas] and Renee [Montgomery] - all four of them, believe me, have experienced something that they never want to experience again."

The police say the case is closed. UConn fans say lots of things.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Oh my god... this blows my mind.
A few questions about the Expansion Draft and UFAs have been answered.

Also, Joe Smith at Full Court reports that the 2006 WNBA season will start and end about two weeks earlier to accommodate the FIBA World Championships.
Meanwhile in the Happy Valley...

Bill Mahon said Wednesday that Penn State couldn't start its investigation until the NCLR provided it with more information.

Yesterday, the school issued a press release and said that regardless of NCLR's cooperation, "the University will continue to investigate the allegations."

And the war of words continued about whether Penn State is really doing anything at all. Responding to students' protests, spokesman Tysen Kendig (filling in for our friend Mahon?) said "The university is in the midst of the investigation, and we are going to base that investigation on fact."

The student paper, which has done an admirable job covering the story (unlike some other local papers), today says that the NCLR has lost credibility because it hasn't filed suit quickly enough. That opinion is probably less a function of bias than naivete about the legal process.

More fun tidbits on the case from Blue.
A bunch more articles have been added to the Wheelock archive at WB Online.

Helen and Kim have also posted this addendum to Helen's Deafening Silence article about sexual misconduct by coaches in women's sports.

The addendum includes links to a bunch of articles and also outline proposals for sexual harassment policies. The proposals are drawn from Silent Edge, an organization dedicated to preventing "sexual abuse and exploitation in figure skating (and in all sports)."
Everyone (perhaps including the league itself) is still trying to figure out what the rules are for Unrestricted Free Agents and the Expansion Draft.

Existing teams get to protect six players, and then Chicago chooses from what remains. UFAs as an initial matter aren't part of that system, because it would violate the CBA to have them drafted and assigned to a team, and in any event, Chicago should just be able to enter the free agent market like anyone else. If it wants a UFA, it (like anyone else) can offer her the best deal.

But it gets complicated because existing teams can "core" a UFA and keep her around. Moreover, an existing team can also reach under-the-table agreements with UFAs like: we know you want to come back, and we want you back, so let's agree that you'll re-sign next year, but don't tell anyone for now.

(It's not unusual for pro teams to have wink-wink deals like that to subvert league rules. Cf. Joe Smith and the Timberwolves.)

By doing something like that, a team could effectively protect more than six players from the Expansion Draft. The league has been trying to figure out what to do about it.

Voepel touched on this a couple weeks ago:
The league expects teams to abide by both the spirit and the letter of the collective-bargaining agreement. I was told by league sources that if a team has an unrestricted free agent and protect her because they already it has a "deal" with her to sign her next year, that team is essentially getting away with "protecting" more than six players. Which is something the league will frown upon -- although what it will do besides frown, I'm not sure.
Matt Wurst shed a little more light yesterday when he said that "if a team has any intention of designating one of their free agents a core player, they must be kept on the protected list."

I suspect that the league will do something broader than that to make sure that existing teams don't also re-sign non-cored UFAs without competition. The league has threatened "severe penalties" for teams that try to subvert the Expansion Draft system... but it's unclear exactly what that will mean in practice.

The competition committee meets on Monday prior to the Draft Lottery, and it's likely that this will be one of the issues discussed.

Folks at Rebkell have been debating what this all means. If you are confused, welcome to the club.
Make of this what you will.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The long-awaited press release on the Draft Lottery.

At the offseason blog, Matt Wurst explains the announcement delay.
The late announcement is the result of several factors. Primarily, the league's competition committee will be meeting on Monday to discuss potential rule changes, the schedule and other factors, so many league team executives will already be in on that date. Second, the date announcement was held off as long as possible to determine availability for potential television coverage.
Matt also confirms that Expansion Draft protected lists are due November 1, and that Chicago then has two weeks to pick.

And another important note: "Further, if a team has any intention of designating one of their free agents a core player, they must be kept on the protected list."
Helen Wheelock's highlights from the WSF gala:

* Penny Marshall, comparing Hollywood events to the WSF, saying "This is an awards show and there is no collagen, no Botox. It's just women simply being who they are." For those who wonder about WNBA add campaigns that focus on the "feminine side" the dinner was a conundrum. Black tie (which, considering the population, was a slight oxymoron) meant athletes dressed-to-the-nines. It was so wonderful to see athletes of all different shapes looking so confident.

* L.L. Cool J saying, "There are amazing genetics in this room." That's the quote that's getting a lot of play, but it was amazing to see him facing a room of powerful women and acknowledging the fact that his industry, music, so often portrays women in a disrespectful manner. He seemed humbled -- and, in a way, shaken -- and it didn't feel like he was playin'.

* The Robin Roberts retrospective. Yeah, she looked stunning in her dress (the only fashion comment of the night) but you could tell how moved she was -- not just for the recognition she received from WSF, but because friends had joined together to donate money to the Go Girl Go initiative to help the children within her home town -- one of the many in Mississippi devastated by Hurrican Katrina. And did you know that her dad flew with the Tuskeegee Airmen of WWII? Talk about great genetics.

* Remember A League of Their Own? http://www.aagpbl.org/ A couple of members of the teams were there, lookin' fit as a fiddle and ready to play. Quite a sight to watch Tiny the shortstop (apologies, my actual knowledge of the players is sorely lacking) walking around after the dinner with an AAGBL t-shirt getting the autographs of other fabulous athletes. Brandi Chastain and Julie Foudy were particularily gracious and careful with their signatures and their respect for all the AAGPBL had done. (ps Penny Marshall mentioned she's looking at doing a film about the Gallaudet team (http://athletics.gallaudet.edu/) that made it to the Sweet Sixteen. Couldn't convince her to do a League of their Own on the AAU teams of the 40's and 50's. sigh. )

* Best line (video) moment: Yuliana Perez was awarded with the Wilma Rudolph Courage Award. A triple jumper, she was going to compete for Cuba in the Olympics, but when it was discovered she was a US citizen, she was removed from the team becaue she wouldn't renounce her US citizenship. Arriving in Arizona, she was waitressing when she encountered a track coach. On the video tape honoring Yuliana, the coach recalls asking her how far she could jump. "(insert large number here) in meters," was her response. "That was," said the coach, "seven feet further than our school record." Needless to say, Yuliana was enrolled in school and competed in the Athens Olympics.

* Perez follow-up moment. After conquering her nerves and accepting her award with a wonderful speech, she exited the stage. Leaving her award on the podium. Lights start to fade to black, you catch a glimpse of Yuliana leaning in from off-stage to snag the glass statue and say, with a grin into the mike, "This is mine."

* Wow moments: Alana Beard and her new haircut. Chantelle Anderson...she is TALL. How is it that I forget that?. Those soccer players... clearly I must think they're larger than life, because as I looked at them I kept thinking, how is it possible that they're so small. Teresa Edwards. Class, class and more class. Martina Navratilova. Talk about getting the last laugh on all those who were so cruel to her early in her career. It's hard to think of an active athlete who is more respected or admired.

* The Imedla Marcos award goes to Martina (something in an ankle cut boot with silvery mosaic-like appliques), Penny Marshal (mirrored sneakers) and Diana Taurasi (post dinner practical) - tan sneakers (I'm sure the fashionistas will know the brand) to color coordinate with her elegant brown dress.

* Hobnobbing. I'm sorry, but walking through the lobby post-dinner was like... like nothing else I can imagine. There was Ann Meyers (not in Dodger blue?!) talking to Diana Nyad, and behind her was Mia Hamm talking to Brandi Chastain, Billie Jean King talking to Martina Navratilova, Sue Wicks talking to... well, you get the picture. It was a great chance to talk - actually talk - with some of your heroines. Or, simply say thank you. Just think, YOU could be there next year. Just volunteer!!
Peter Newmann continues his preseason series with a look at Georgia.
How stacked is Georgia? Even after suffering the unfortunate loss of Rebecca Rowsey last month to a torn ACL, the Lady Bulldogs still return four of five starters from last season's Sweet 16 team.
Penn State says it hasn't been able to begin its investigation because the NCLR hasn't given it enough information yet. Says Bill "Ari" Mahon:
Right now we have headlines; we can't investigate headlines very well. She has told you all in the press that they have a wealth of information. We have said we'd like to see that information, but they have not provided us with that information. We can't start an investigation based on their press releases.
The NCLR is now getting ready to make good on its threat of a lawsuit.

Jen Harris's mother Pearl says it's not about the money. "But I also don't believe in idle threats. If you say you are going to do something, then you have to go ahead and do it. Something needs to happen here. If this gets a player or parent to open their eyes to what can happen if they go to Penn State, then this will be worth it."

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The 24th Ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers lost first year post player Ashley Ellis-Milan for the season. Ellis-Milan, a graduate of St. Paul Central high school, injured her ACL during the Gopher's first practice of the season last Saturday (Thanks to gopherfan on rebkell for the news). Ellis-Milan joins another first year player, Katie Ohm, on the injured list. Ohm has a stress fracture. She was last seen in Williams Arena sporting a stylish blue walking cast.

Let's hope that both Ms. Ellis-Milan and Ms. Ohm have speedy recoveries. I know this isn't how they envisioned their first experience with gopher basketball.

The Ellis-Milan story has been picked up by ESPN.com.

Just some food for thought here (especially for the gopher frosh), but how many ESPN stories featured the gophers four years ago at this time?
Michael Cooper and Bill Laimbeer argue that the NBDL will succeed by likening it to the WNBA.
Litigation on the way: "We were trying to resolve this without litigation but we think they are not interested in resolving this in good faith," said NCLR Regional Counsel Karen Doering.
ESPN looks for more female viewers.
Via DTS, Taj McWilliams-Franklin appears to confirm that she will return for the Sun in 2006. (Connecticut fans breathe a sigh of thanks and relief.)
Charley Walters reports that Suzie McConnell-Serio will represent the Lynx at the Draft Lottery on Monday. Though the lottery date has been known since Sue Short reported it almost two weeks ago, there still hasn't been any official announcement.

What gives? Is there a reason for secrecy, or is this just another publicity ball dropped?

(UPDATE: dwalk notes that the Lottery is listed on the calendar on the right bar of WNBA.com.)

At the offseason blog, WNBA.com editor Matt Wurst reported yesterday on the WSF gala.

Matt also pointed out this excellent article from Sunday's Philly Inquirer headlined "The Future of Pro Sports."

In it, David Stern explains again his vision for the WNBA.
We think we're in the process of creating additional strong interest in basketball fans, who will then spill over to becoming an audience for the NBA as well as the WNBA. And that is a huge additional opportunity for us.
Frustrated by her recurring injuries, Lauren Jackson says she might not return to the Storm.

"The WNBA, at the moment it seems I go over there and get injured, and come back here and have to face the music," she said. "Obviously I'll re-evaluate what my long-term goals are, but the Australian basketball team is my priority."
Sam Donnellon connects the Rene Portland situation to the larger problem of parental fears of "lesbian conversion."

A smallish group of students rallied yesterday at PSU and demanded Portland's dismissal.

Penn State spokesman Bill Mahon continues to insist that this whole thing appeared out of the blue. "Until less than a week ago, this wasn't an issue," he said.

Mahon added that the 1991 addition of sexual orientation to the school's antidiscrimination policy had nothing to do with Portland. "I know newspapers have speculated [why the clause was added], but it's all part of someone's imagination," he said. "We did it because we thought it was right."

Mahon is either a liar or a complete moron. The former is more likely.

Just to recap the history:

Longman's article on Portland was published on March 10, 1991. Protests began on campus immediately demanding action.

The Penn State Faculty Senate met on March 20 and voted 93-12 to add orientation to the antidiscrimination policy. The AP and the Philly Inquirer reported that the Senate's debate included discussion of Portland's policy and Longman's article.

The Senate's action was recommended by a policy committee chaired by math professor Donald Rung. After the Senate's vote, Rung said: "It's not clear what impact this would have on [Portland]. Clearly, all people need to be judged on their merits and not on some irrelevant issue."

And here's what Athletic Director Jim Tarman said after the policy was adopted: "Because of recent media attention, it is especially important that we make it clear beyond question that discrimination against any group is contrary to the mandate of this institution."

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Nov. 26, 1991:
Yet curiously, this champion of women's rights was challenged by gay rights groups in the spring. [Portland] had refused to recruit and vowed to rescind scholarships to lesbian players. The unwritten rule was no secret to players and coaches, but did not become an issue until mentioned in March by the Philadelphia Inquirer. Protesters picketed outside Rec Hall as the top-ranked Lady Lions were stunned, 73-71, by unranked James Madison.

"Rene Portland is a great coach and a terrific fighter for women's equal rights in sports ... (but) she forces me to choose between being a woman and a lesbian," Theresa Sumner, co-director of the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Student Alliance, told the New York Times.

The alliance produced a 450-page report on gay-bashing on campus and, in June, the school's board of trustees added sexual orientation to its anti-discrimination rules. The athletic department announced it was "committed to fully adhering to state and federal laws and the policies of the institution."

Portland has refused to comment on the controversy except to say she is aware of and "will adhere" to the school's policies. This is one fight she concedes, if only publicly.
New York Times, Dec. 20, 1991:
Two weeks ago, Portland said that she would abide by a new Penn State University policy prohibiting discrimination because of sexual preference. It was reports of her own long-term promise to keep lesbians off her team that stoked the campus debate and demonstrations led by the Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Student Alliance. That pressure, following overt bias incidents among the overall student population, eventually resulted in the board of trustees revising the university's list of protected categories.
The claim that the 1991 action had nothing to do with Portland is ludicrous.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

News flash: the WNBA has more opportunities for women than other pro sports leagues.

Actual news flash: it also has more opportunities for racial minorities.

For the details, see this PDF (WNBA report beginning at page 52).
Check out TNT's new ads for the upcoming NBA season.

(Wouldn't it be nice of the W and its broadcasters occasionally displayed a sense of humor in their marketing?)
Earlier this year we covered the issue of shoe contracts in college sports.

Now Arkansas State has pushed the issue to absurd new heights. After the school's Nike contract ran out, it signed a new deal with Adidas. Jerry Nichols tore his ACL while wearing Adidas in high school and doesn't want to wear them.

So Arkansas State won't let him play.

The school should relent. Adidas should recognize the bad publicity and relax the contract. If neither of those things happens, either the NCAA or the state of Arkansas should step in.

I won't hold my breath waiting for any of those sensible actions.
Not much word yet on how the WSF banquet went last night -- presumably everyone is still in bed working off their hangovers.

Tamika Catchings was there. Erin Popovich won individial Sportswoman of the Year, and Cat Osterman won team Sportswoman of the Year.

Star Jones was also in the house, because she represents everything that is great about women's sports.
Tracy Schultz at SI.com has a preseason power ranking with the Vols on top.

At ESPN, Peter Newmann has more on Tennessee.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Attorneys representing former basketball player Jennifer Harris want Penn State to retract comments made by women's basketball coach Rene Portland, or face new claims in litigation.

NCLR's Karen Doering said "Our original intent was to work with and cooperate with the university and assist them in their investigation. However, now that the university has put out statements making false and defamatory remarks about our client, we can no longer sit back and wait to begin the legal process that will enable us to produce evidence to prove that the allegations Jen Harris made are true."

Penn State spokesman Bill Mahon told the Digital Collegian that it was "ridiculous" to ask the university to retract Portland's statement. "The coach has every constitutional right to respond. I think the center ought to step back if they're interested in finding out what happened here," he said.

Vice President for University Relations Steve MacCarthy told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "There is nothing for us to respond to. That statement was Rene Portland's response, not that of the university."

"There is no First Amendment right to make false and malicious allegations," Doering countered. "It doesn't take a lot of investigation by the university to see that coach Portland's statement contains false information. There is no question about it, the release was from Penn State, not Rene Portland as an individual."

"These are serious allegations," the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review quoted Doering, "and we have mountains of evidence against Portland. If we have to file a lawsuit, we will ask for (money) for pain and suffering. Jen was on track to go to the WNBA and now has to sit out one season, which will be a year of lost wages. We are in the process of beefing up our list of people."
Last week, Penn State spokesman Bill Mahon said that Jennifer Harris' allegations against Rene Portland were a surprise because Harris never raised the issue while at Penn State.

Today, the Associated Press reported that Mahon was unaware of any accusations like Harris' in Coach Portland's 25 years at Penn State.

Mahon is quoted in tomorrow's Tribune-Review, "The university can't tell Rene to be quiet. She is guaranteed the right of free speech. We have said we will look into this. I can't believe they are threatening a lawsuit."

Since Mahon has been busy handling the fallout from an ABC News 'Primetime' investigation of Penn State's reactor ("We're not taking about 3 mile island," he said), we wonder if he had time to bone up on accusations against its women's basketball coach.

He told the Digital Collegian, "I haven't followed the (Harris) case very closely."

If Mahon finds time, we recommend Ted's 'Brief History...' and today's NCLR press release, for starters.
Time is running out to bid on the basketball items available at the WSF auction.

The banquet is tonight. Look for tons of juicy gossip on Page Six tomorrow morning.
The New York Times looks at Division III recruiting.

Academically selective D3 schools are now experiencing in athletics the problems that have affected other parts of their admissions systems for years: young athletes from privileged backgrounds feel pressure to apply early-decision, and their knowledge of the process perhaps makes it harder for others to get a fair chance.

Talented athletes from less privileged backgrounds, however, don't necessarily look at D3 schools. By the time a selective D3 school notices them, it may be too late for such kids to obtain the academic help they might need to get in. (These schools by definition don't offer athletic scholarships, but the richest ones can give plenty of need-based aid.)

That's an especially painful irony since these same schools are often tearing their hair out trying to get more kids of color on campus.

Perhaps some D3 college with lots of money, a strong historical commitment to sports, and a historically low minority presence should look at the problem. (Perhaps some colleges already have.)
Via Stever, Time Magazine's profile on Candace Parker.
Attorneys from both sides of the Penn State matter will meet via teleconference tomorrow afternoon to discuss the case. A student group is planning a rally around the same time.
Michelle Wie played her first tournament as a professional this weekend. It ended badly.

Despite poor putting and erratic fairway wood play, Wie scored an -8, which would have been good enough for fourth in the elite Samsung field. But after her final round yesterday, she was disqualified after rules officials determined that she took an illegal drop on Saturday.

Michael Bamberger, a Sports Illustrated writer, noticed the infraction and turned her in. "I just felt she was hasty," Bamberger said. "She wasn't trying to cheat. I was unsure of the right thing to do, but the more I thought about it, the more I'd be upset with myself if I didn't say anything."

NBC commentator Mark Rolfing called the ruling a travesty. "I really don't think this is the way the rules of golf ought to be policed," he said.

Mulligan at the Golf Blog agrees that Wie got a raw deal.

Wie was emotional but gracious. "I learned a great lesson," Wie said. "From now on, I'll call a rules official no matter where it is, whether its 3 inches or 100 yards. I respect that."

Annika won in a landslide.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Former Penn State player Amber Bland spoke softly when coach Rene Portland (a) dismissed her from the team (b) declared her status to be in limbo, (c) refused to grant a release until Bland petitioned the university president, (d) expressed disappointment when Bland secured a release, and (e) all of the above.

Bland spoke up yesterday, however, when Portland blasted former teammate Jennifer Harris.

"The coaches talked about kicking (Harris) off the team because of her attitude," Bland told the Patriot-News. . "I think (Harris) had a little bit of an attitude because she was constantly harassed by Rene."

Portland wanted Harris off the team, Bland said, but "the seniors wanted (Harris) to stay because she wasn't a problem to anyone. I never saw her give a bad performance in practice, a game or in the classroom."
It was business as usual as the Penn State women's basketball team held its second practice of a season that opens November 18th against top-ranked Duke.

Asked about Joe Paterno's longevity as men's football coach, Rene Portland talked about what she characterized 'in good times or in bad' as Penn State's 'family spirit'.

"I think those of us that have been here," Portland said, "especially those of us who have been here for a long time, know we can count on that. That's what I'm counting on."

Friday, October 14, 2005

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's 'Sports Weekend' edition led with the headline 'Portland's Ways Questioned' and a feature also printed here. In April, a PP-G reporter e-mailed Jennifer Harris to ask if sexual orientation was an issue in getting her kicked off the team. Harris responded, "This is only a rumor or an assumption for the reason for my dismissal," according to the story.

Harris reiterated yesterday that she is not a lesbian, but said that Rene Portland repeatedly asked if she was. Harris alleged that during some of these meetings, assistant coach Annie Troyan and another player were present.

"We have spoken to a number of people who are former and current Penn State athletes and also people who have worked or are working in the Penn State athletic department," Harris counsel Karen Doering said. "At this time, they are choosing not to make their identity public. But, many of them have agreed that they will speak in a court of law if it comes to that."
Addressing the allegations against Penn State Coach Rene Portland, the Harrisburg Patriot-News noted that athletic grants-in-aid are not four-year contracts, but one-year renewable grants. In the case of Harris and two others, Portland "simply decided not to renew". However, if sexual orientation "was in fact the basis of Portland's decision to boot Harris from the team last spring, she has violated (university) policy and should be relieved of her duties as coach".
Penn State coach Rene Portland responded to accusations from former player Jennifer Harris. "This is completely and utterly untrue. It is unfortunate that she has chosen to attack me for her lack of success at Penn State. However, her lack of success had everything to do with her lack of commitment to basketball."

Harris' NCLR counsel Karen Doering countered, "Jen's athletic and academic records speak for themselves... This is an obvious attempt by Coach Portland to divert attention from her own unlawful and discriminatory behavior. Her response only compounds the harm she has already caused to Jen Harris and dozens of other student athletes through the years."
Duke reached the ACC finals last year despite using just an eight-woman roster by season's end. This year they've got thirteen players available, including a non-suspended Lindsey Harding. Voepel examines the Blue Devils' rosy outlook.
LSU gets ready to play; without Temeka Johnson, it will be (you guessed it) point guard "by committee."
Penn State's lawyers will meet with the NCLR's regarding Jen Harris' claim of anti-gay bias.

Embattled coach Portland keeps mum as practice begins.
USA Today's college season preview tells us to look out for Maryland.
The West Coast Huskies expect to improve on last season's .500 performance, thanks to returning leadership (three fifth-year players): their "great offseason" included workouts with Sue Bird.

The East Coast Huskies prepare for their public debut.
The Gophers get ready for a McCarville-less season. Prized recruit Katie Ohm has a stress fracture and may redshirt.

Injuries and foul trouble meant that last year's team got experience playing without Shaq-- but who will pull down all those boards?
Via Stever, a profile of Andrea Congreaves, perhaps the top women's baller in the history of the U.K.

Congreaves has now joined the Rhondda Rebels, where she'll play alongside Laurie Koehn.
The Mercury-News catches up with Jennifer Azzi, who says her 2003 retirement "was a hard decision... But I don't miss it."

The former Starzz and Stanford player now promotes adult fitness through speaking engagements and via an organization with the frightening, though well-intentioned, name PE4Life.
Liberty reserve and onetime University of Georgia star La'Keshia Frett will return to Georgia as an assistant coach.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

In lighter news on a fairly heavy news day, SportsPage profiles Scott and Angie Engelhardt, who run the Stormfans site and its popular discussion board. (Check out the debate about Foam Finger Guy, whose super-fan antics have KeyArena divided.)
Kristi Harrower has decided to emulate Ted and create her own blog. This is different from Kristi's official website (thanks to PS).

Harrower has undergone successful gall-bladder and hernia surgery, but will be out of action for her French team for up to four weeks.

Get well soon Kristi!
Deadspin asks: Does Joe Pa Hate Lesbians Too?
From Kim's indespensible daily news page, one, two, three more stories about sexual misconduct by girls basketball coaches.

Maybe if we get to the point where we have 30 stories a day then someone will finally do something about it.

I'm going to go throw up now.
The expansion draft will be held on November 15.

Protected lists are reportedly due two weeks earlier, on November 1. For understandable reasons, the lists won't be made public. So after the 15th, all the teams can go to all 10 remaining players individually and say "Oh, of course we protected you! You're the best, baby!"
More details of the Penn State matter from Inside Higher Ed, Patriot-News, and the student paper today. There are a several different claims reported in the papers today. NCLR isn't simply alleging a discrete incident involving Jen Harris -- it is alleging a systematic practice of discrimination.

After the story made national news yesterday, Governor Ed Rendell said he'd call the school to make sure it is proceeding appropriately.

Jen Harris said yesterday that Rene questioned her about her orientation several times over the course of her career. When Portland dismissed her at the end of last season, Harris accused her of doing so based on her perceptions of Harris's orientation.

"[Portland] said that I know her feelings and that they’re not going to change, and that she’ll still be the coach at Penn State and I’m still going to be gone," Harris said yesterday.

Reicina Russell, who left the program after the '03-'04 season, says Rene's feelings are no secret. "She doesn’t like lesbians, flat out."

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

A Brief History of Rene Portland and the L Word.

Rene Portland played on the famed Immaculata teams of the early 70s. After her playing days were done, she went into coaching. In 1980, Joe Paterno, who was both football coach and Athletic Director at the time, brought her in to take over the Penn State women's basketball program.

It wasn't long before rumors circulated that Rene had a "no lesbians" policy.

Shortly after Portland arrived, three players left due to what Rene called "principle differences." Later in the 80s, a student filed an internal complaint alleging that she had been kicked off the team because she was a lesbian, but after investigating the matter, the school took no action.

In 1986, Portland told the Chicago Sun-Times about her no-lesbians policy, and how she brought it up with parents on recruiting trips. "I will not have it in my program," she said. "I bring it up and the kids are so relieved and the parents are so relieved."

That public statement merely confirmed what was common knowledge among many close to the program. And yet there was little response from the school, the athletic department, or anyone else.

The watershed moment for this story came on March 10, 1991, when Jere Longman (then with the Philly Inquirer, now with the New York Times) published an article exposing Portland's policy. Longman interviewed several players.

"She does make it known when she's recruiting that she doesn't put up with homosexuality," Suzie McConnell (now Serio) said.

"She tells you, flat out, 'I don't have any appreciation for the homosexual lifestyle. I won't have that on my team,'" said Patti Longenecker.

Others later confirmed that Portland announced her "no drinking, no drugs, no lesbians" policy each year. As one lesbian and former Lions player told the LA Times (April 6, 1992):
She said it the first day of practice in my first year. I remember at the team meeting in my second year I was so afraid that it was going to be like the first. She made the point very strongly. It was a very negative statement. No one said anything. I just remember it affected me. Of the meeting, all I remember is that one moment. That sticks in my mind. It will be in my mind forever.
As another player told the NCLR much later:
I'm not a lesbian, but when I played for her I was afraid she might think I was and take away my scholarship. I started changing the way I dressed, started going out with a guy I didn't like, just to stay on the team. It meant my academic career, that scholarship.
Liz McGovern, a graduate assistant under Portland, later confirmed that Rene's recruiting letters told parents that she had no lesbians on her squad.

At the time of Longman's article, many supported Portland's rules. "I like that she took that stance," Meggan Yedsena, who went to Nebraska after being recruited by PSU, told Longman. Yedsena explained that Rene was just trying to erase the stigma of lesbianism from women's sports.

Portland herself would neither confirm nor deny the policy. All she said to Longman was: "I have training rules. And I will never have to say what my training rules are."

After Longman's article, the story blew up on Penn State's campus and elsewhere. Students picketed when PSU hosted an NCAA tournament game the following week (the Lions lost to James Madison in an upset). Protesters later occupied the administration building and jammed the phone lines.

Rene still said nothing. The athletic department took no action, just as it had taken no action for the previous decade. Times columnist Robert Lipsyte, who picked up and pursued the story, called Paterno. Joe Pa, then and now the most beloved and powerful figure at the school, refused to disavow Rene's policy and refused to say whether he'd kick a gay player off his football team.

Students and faculty demanded that the school take action to override Rene's policy and to protect gay and lesbian students.

Embattled school president Joab Thomas would not support a specific policy banning orientation discrimination. The Faculty Senate went over Thomas's head and voted 93-12 to recommend adding a sexual orientation provision to the school's existing antidiscrimination policy. The Trustees accepted the recommendation.

Portland and Paterno both apparently opposed the efforts to ban orientation discrimination. Lipsyte reported in June of '91: "In recent interviews on the subject, Penn State staff and faculty members are guarded, seemingly fearful of incurring the athletic department's wrath."

Pat Griffin was brought in to run a mandatory workshop on homophobia for all PSU coaches. (Pause for a moment to appreciate the visual: Rene, Joe Pa, and the rest of the athletic department forced to sit in a room while famous lesbian activist Pat Griffin lectures them on the evils of homophobia. Oh... my kingdom for a photo.)

When asked later how the workshop went, Griffin responded flatly: "Not so good."

Rene finally broke her silence (sort of) in an December '91 interview with Lipsyte. She refused to say whether she agreed with the policy or what she would do to comply.
That is a policy I have to work under as an employee of the university. That's all I'll say about it.
You didn't have to be particularly skilled at reading between the lines to understand the gist of Portland's feelings.

Given Portland's history and her thinly-veiled disdain for the antidiscrimination policy, you have to wonder: If you were a lesbian basketball player, would you consider going to Penn State? If you were a player on Portland's team, would you feel comfortable coming out of the closet?

If the answers to those questions are no, then it's hard to avoid the conclusion that Portland was allowed to keep a straight-only program, de facto, even if she was no longer allowed to say so out loud. In short, Penn State passed a policy, but it's unclear whether the school took any action to give the policy teeth or to ensure that lesbians felt welcome on the basketball team.

The usual defense of Portland goes like this: That was a long time ago, things were different back then; she, like lots of us, has probably changed her mind.

But there's no evidence to support that defense. In fact, when the Washington Post's Greg Sandoval called her for comment in 2003, she basically gave the same line that she had given in 1991.
In a recent interview, Portland didn't sound as if she has changed her mind about not wanting lesbians on her team.

"I'm going to be honest with you: Penn State has rules and to stay the basketball coach. I follow those rules," said Portland.
Whatever rumors have circulated in the last decade, there has been no real way for any of us on the outside to know what happens in the Happy Valley.

Now Jen Harris has come forward and alleged that Rene still discriminates against lesbians despite school policy. What remains hidden — both at Penn State and elsewhere in the world of women's college basketball — may finally be exposed.

Longman's 1991 article began: "Want a fight? Rene Portland will give you one."

Time will tell whether she's finally picked a fight that she'll lose.

Related Posts:

1. March 2005: Harris kicked off the team for reasons unclear.
2. May 2005: Still weird.
3. October 2005: Harris files suit, and Portland responds.
4. December 2005: Outside the Lines covers the case.
5. December 2005: An overview of Harris's legal claims.
6. December 2005: document archive.
7. February 2006: An overview of the defendants' motions to dismiss.
8. March 2006: Case update.
9. April 2006: PSU completes its investigation, reprimands Portland.
Deadspin: "Joe Paterno might be kind of old and crotchety, but at least, unlike some Penn State coaches, he’s not a ranting homophobe."

Ahh... but Joe Pa is a central figure in this drama. More on that later...
New Merc coach Paul Westhead: "I'm accustomed to coaching professional athletes in the NBA, but I'm equally excited that I'm coaching the best women athletes in the world, Diana Taurasi as an example of that."

Diana is pumped. "I think the style fits the type of players we have," she said. "It's fun to play, aggressive and fun for the fans. Just to have a coach like him with all the background he has, I think people are going to come in and just respect that automatically."

Says Eric at Off Wing: "I'm interested to see just how "Paul Ball" -- last seen in action at George Mason University in Northern Virginia -- translates to the women's game."
Barry writes up the Full Court picks for All-WNBA teams and other awards, including Worst General Manager Move (guess who won).
The other shoe has finally dropped.

Jennifer Harris, kicked off Penn State by coach Rene Portland last year amid bizarre circumstances, is alleging anti-gay discrimination.

"Because Portland thought I was gay, I was treated in a very demeaning manner," Harris said yesterday. "Whether I'm gay or not shouldn't matter."

The National Center for Lesbian Rights is handling Harris's case. "Coach Portland's anti-gay recruiting methods and infamous 'no lesbians' policy has continued for nearly three decades. Coach Portland's behavior not only violates the school's anti-discrimination policy, it is illegal. It is time for Penn State to step up and put an end to this overtly illegal activity," said NCLR Regional Counsel Karen Doering in yesterday's press release.

Harris also claims that Portland used anti-gay recruiting tactics to discourage her from going to Virginia.

Portland and the school have so far denied comment, but PSU spokesman Bill Mahon expressed "surprise that a half-year later suddenly a lawyer's contacting the university making such a claim." The NCLR has asked for a meeting with the school; if it doesn't get results, it will sue.

The story has already been picked up by papers around the country this morning.

Said Harris, who now plays for GMU:
My departure from Penn State was very painful. I struggled with whether I should just walk away and try to forget what happened. I finally realized that I could never put this incident behind me as long as other students were being subjected to the same sort of humiliation and discrimination I experienced from Coach Portland. In the end, I knew I had to speak out. Coach Portland very nearly destroyed not only my athletic career, but also my dream of completing my education and becoming a doctor. I do not want to see a single other student damaged in this way.