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December 20, 2009

The Cougar Lounge - Narrated By Elves




"I love the fact that the shot clock was going off. We really try to pride ourselves on having a defensive identity. It was good to see that pay off for our team."

- Wazzu women's hoop head coach June Daugherty, after the Cougars forced USF into multiple shot-clock violations in their win over the Dons in Kennewick.




"I am in Johannesburg, South Africa, finalizing a major business deal [more on this later] but the internet is very expensive to use and I had meetings scheduled all week with no time to check the internet."

- Santa Monica businessman Scott Schenter, who is being investigated for alleged NCAA violations involving USC running back Joe McKnight, denying that he had a chance to respond to questions from the Los Angeles Times. Schenter also admits to being miffed about the Times helping to bring down his beloved Huskies in the 1990s. The Lounge's warning to those South African companies about to finalize that "major business deal" with Schenter - run away while you still can!




"You can't start looking forward to Christmas break too early."

- Arizona head women's hoop coach, Niya Butts after her Wildcats lost to New Mexico last week.




"Remaining sedentary is generally associated with a low jolly quotient."

- Canadian researchers who think - through the clever use of satire - the belly of Santa Claus is associated not with joviality but with obesity and sloth.








The elves are working overtime in Santa's workshop this week while the Lounge goes about the week in a perfunctory manner. Why? Because the bowl game season has begun and one look at that Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg ought to tell one all one needs to know about college football bowl games in mid-December and why there are too many of them. Fortunately, though, the Pac-10 came to the rescue and livened things up a bit. First, Arizona State made some spicy nog last week when the baseball program came under investigation by the NCAA with a detailed list of improprieties that do not even include an alleged side housing deal benefiting current and former players under former head coach Pat Murphy. In addition to the upcoming penalization of the Sun Devil baseball program, the entire ASU athletic department - which, ironically enough, is currently being overseen by a former USC athletic department employee - will likely be subject to more severe penalties down the line since ASU was most recently penalized in 2005 for NCAA violations within its football program. Two major violations in five years is a gift wrapped with a big red [or maroon and gold] bow to the NCAA infractions committee, because it now means the NCAA can release the dreaded "lack of institutional control" hounds upon Tempe.


While all that is indeed interesting, it pales in comparison to the ongoing drama at USC. At Trojanville, Episode 14 in the Trojans' NCAA violation soap opera was released last week and it was a doozy that would put even the best soap operas on those Spanish channels to shame. In the latest episode, we current USC running back Joe McKnight found to be driving an expensive vehicle belonging to his girlfriend's boss who also happens to own a website promoting McKnight. That is some good NCAA violation nog right there but then some extra rum is tossed into the nog when it is learned that McKnight's benefactor claims to be a closet Husky fan who harbors a deep hatred for the Los Angeles Times because they dissed his beloved Dawgs back in the glorious cheating days of the 1990s. But just when it appears it cannot get more humorous than that, the closet Husky fan goes a step farther by admitting he is the proud owner of a Husky Marching Band van that he has parked in Santa Monica. Since ASU has currently taken charge of the Pac-10 Cheating Standings with their eight case of NCAA infraction investigation - although USC, with five, may make a surge in the future - we are certain the Washington fan would like his Huskies - currently tied with USC at five - to re-claim the title and is doing everything in hi spower to make that happen.

As if that was not enough, three more chortle-inducing nuggets of disbelief have the Husky fan lying about communications with the Times about the story, complaints about his personal life being mentioned in the Times article while detailing his personal love of the Huskies and other elements of his personal life in a subsequent e-mail to the Times and his disclosure that the internet is too expensive to use while he is on a business trip to South Africa closing a "major business deal". Hollywood script writers were too lazy to come up with their own ideas for a new sports comedy flick, so they will use this latest USC soap opera episode as their inspiration - and they will have plenty of time to work on it since the NCAA will not get around to penalizing USC until the Earth dies an ugly death - which is expected to be in a few million years.

Good thing Roy E. Disney got the jump on that. The Lounge has long maintained that the best thing to ever come out of Missouri was Roy's uncle, Walt. Oh sure, there were some good Missourians - Burt Bacharach, Samuel Clemens [otherwise known as Mark Twain], Walter Cronkite, T.S. Eliot, Redd Foxx, Edwin Hubble, Vincent Price and Dick Van Dyke - and we know Walt was not born in Missouri, but he spent his boyhood there and those boyhood images are what eventually became Disneyland. Roy made sure animation interests remained central to Disney's success over the years and for that, the Lounge - and everybody who has ever been to Disneyland and enjoyed it - should be grateful. We know we are. Roy E. Disney died last week. Roy E. Disney is responsible for two gigantic aspects of the Disney legacy. When he was first employed at Disney studios, he was heavily involved in Disney's True-Life Adventure Series of nature films - one of which, White Wilderness - is credited with perpetuating the myth that lemmings commit mass suicide by leaping off cliffs. But Disney's more influential mark was left in the 1980s when he revived a floundering Disney animation studio first by ousting the board of directors and then by re-invigorating the Disney name by being the driving force behind a succession of successful Disney classics such as The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King that set the stage for the success of animation movies in the last 15 years. Hakuna matata.

Since neither ASU, USC nor UW are located in Wisconsin, there is little chance of having a microbe named after them as they have done in Wisconsin by naming the Lactococcus lactis as the state microbe. That is, of course, the microbe that helps to convert milk into cheese. ASU, USC and UW might be prone to cheat to try and get their own microbes named after them so the Lounge is going to beat them to the punch and give them their Delta Tau Delta microbe names - a very exclusive fraternity. From now on, USC, your Delta microbe name shall be Deinococcus radiodurans - a bacterium that can withstand blasts of radiation 1000 times greater than that which would kill a human being. UW, your Delta microbe name shall be E. Coli. ASU, your Delta microbe name shall be Slime Mold.

Then again, maybe Wisconsin should not bother with microbes and just do what Florida and Pepsi did and make some canned frog. It does not sell well in Florida and they cannot take out the bones because it wouldn't be crunchy now, would it? But with no market for "raw unboned real dead frog" immediately leaping into view and Pepsi deciding not to advertise this quirky new product on the Super Bowl this year, the Lounge is afraid it could just be a fad - like not cheating in college athletics.

"The wins are adding up and I like how they look," says Horst P. Horst, Lounge Aficionado, who is speaking of how the men's hoop season is progressing.

Three wins in a row has the consensus of the Lounge clientele dreaming of post-season sugar plum fairies dancing in their heads. Wazzu sits atop the Pac-10 standings with a 9-2 overall record after three consecutive wins over Idaho, Air Force and Portland State after 11 games of the 2009-10 season. But yet another big test emerges this week when Wazzu plays LSU in Seattle on Tuesday. The Cougars did not pass two earlier tests against potential Big Dance teams Gonzaga and Kansas State. Against Gonzaga, the Cougars looked like they were going to pass the test - but then apparently ate too much ice cream at halftime and suffered a brain freeze midway through the second half that allowed the Bulldogs to steal a win from Wazzu. Against Kansas State, the Cougars were out of it in the first few minutes of the game and never recovered. With LSU, Wazzu will have a golden opportunity for retribution for those previous two games as well as giving themselves a sizable momentum push going into the first Pac-10 games of the year against the Oregons. If the Cougars can enter the Pac-10 season at 10-2 and win at least half of their conference games, there should be little doubt that they will be in some kind of post-season dance at the end of the year. If the Cougars enter conference play at 10-2 and sweep the Oregons, there have been whispers about Wazzu winning the Pac-10 title. That could be the big present under the tree that says "Don't Open 'til March."

"How much improvement is reasonable to expect?" asks Lounge newcomer Severe Heather Storm Warning about the women's hoop team and their 5-5 record.

That is a good question, Heather. Three years into her tenure as head coach June Daugherty would tell you - if she could in a candid fashion - that she expected results in her first year. Daugherty is an optimistic person and that optimism knows no bounds. However, the stark reality of the situation is that the women's basketball program has never enjoyed sustained success in its history since joining the Pac-10 and has not even sniffed a winning record in the last decade. In the 24 years since the Pac-10 began for women's hoop, there have only been four winning seasons total - all under former head coach Harold Rhodes - and only one season [1990-91] when the Cougars were able to win more games than they lost in Pac-10 play - they were 10-8. The Cougars' last winning season was in 1996. A succession of four coaches - Rhodes, Jenny Przekwas, Sherri Murrell and now, Daugherty have been unable to get the program over the hump. Rhodes was the most successful so far but his "success" was defined was four winning seasons in 17 as head coach [13 in Pac-10 play]. Przekwas took the program to depths never before seen with an 0-18 conference mark in 2002. Murrell improved the team athleticism and morale but was unable to get enough talented depth to translate into enough wins before resigning and taking Portland State to a record winning season last year. Daugherty used her massive connection base to make improvements in recruiting talent but has, so far, not produced the holy grail of the winning season in two tries. This year - the third year - was supposed to be that charm. Wazzu is 5-5 after their first 10 games of the year and still has a shot to achieve an overall record over the magical .500 mark, but the Cougars have been inconsistent this year, sometimes frighteningly so - as in losses to Nebraska, Saint Mary's and Portland - before looking more like a team that can get a winning record in wins over Montana State, Wyoming and San Francisco. With the talent returning from last year, the record should probably be more like 8-2 or 7-3, but there is still time for Daugherty and the Cougars to get above .500.


The 12 days of Christmas is getting a lot of play this week and while the Lounge likes that song - especially the Bob and Doug version - we thought we would throw a curve ball into the mix. Down Under, it is Christmas but it is warm, summery weather and the Lounge likes warm, summery weather. We also like 12 Canoes an impressive storytelling of the Australian Aboriginal history. Although it might not be better than five maids a-milkin', it is definitely better than a partridge in a pear tree.

Meanwhile, the Lounge Scientists have discovered that when the Cougars play LSU in Seattle on Tuesday, what they will be dealing with are some very happy people. A recent study concluded that - despite what they tell you at Disneyland - the state of Louisiana is the happiest place on Earth. Well, at least in the USA. The unhappiest people in the land? No surprise there - New Yorkers.

"[It's] very expensive with lots of congestion, long commuting times, pollution and noise," says Lounge Scientist #51, Andrew Oswald the study's co-author from the University of Warwick in the UK, and who is reportedly very happy that he does not live in New York.

California was 46th, Washington was 36th and Arizona was fifth - numbers we expect will be dropping as NCAA investigations proceed over the next year.




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