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April 09, 2001 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily, 2001-04-09

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The Michigan Daily - SportsMonday - April 9, 2001- 3B

.Celebrating success, former 'M'
stars return wearing new colors

DAVID
DEN HERDER

By Naweed Sikora
Daily Sports Writer
Ifwas a special night for more than just Michigan
and Stanford Saturday evening at Crisler Arena. Two
familiar faces from Michigan's past returned to Ann
Arbor for the women's gymnastics NCAA Northeast
Regional Tournament - Massachusetts coach David
Kuzara and New Hampshire assistant coach Beth
Amelkovich.
Kuzara graduated from Michigan in 1980, only to
return 10 years later to serve as an assistant under
Michigan coach Bev Plocki. After three successful
seasons, he decided to leave Ann Arbor in 1994 to take
over the head coaching position at Massachusetts.
In his three years at Michigan, Kuzara was instru-
*Mental in establishing the program as one of the
nation's elite. Kuzara helped the Wolverines claim two
Big Ten titles - in 1992 and 1993 - and led them to
a ninth-place finish at the 1993 NCAA Championships
- their best national finish at the time. In 1992, he
was named NCAA Central Region Co-Assistant
Coach of the Year after guiding Michigan to a second-
place finish at the regional championships.
"I have been back here a couple times before, but its
ust -more special every time I come back," Kuzara
said. "I owe (Michigan coach) Bev (Plocki) a huge
debt of gratitude for all she has done for me."
"It was awesome seeing Dave again," Plocki said.
"He was such a big part of our program because we
started from nothing and became something. I am real-
ly happy that he has gone off and become so success-
ful at Massachusetts"
Kuzara, who became the all-time winningest coach
in Massachusetts women's gymnastics history earlier
this season, brought new life to the program when he
accepted the head coaching position eight years ago. In
*his first season at the helm, the Minutewomen finished
with a 17-6 season record - their second highest win
total in school history - and qualified for the NCAA
Northeast Regional meet. In his eight seasons with the
program, Kuzara's squad has qualified for the regional

championships seven times, and has compiled an
impressive 82-48 record.
Although it did not perform at its best Saturday,
Kuzara believes that it is just a matter of time before
his team reaches the national finals.
"Three or four years ago, we were on the verge of
making it," Kuzara said. "For a couple of years, we
had some bizarre problems with injury and illness, but
reaching this year's regional competition was a good
stepping stone for us. We're not Michigan, but we're a
great university with a lot of support. And we're going
to make it."
Just as important to Michigan was four-year super-
star gymnast Beth Amelkovich. Amelkovich, who just
completed her first season as an assistant at New
Hampshire, graduated from Michigan in 1999 and is
hailed as one of the Wolverines' finest all-time gym-
nasts. In her senior year, she was an integral part of the
Michigan team that finished second to Georgia at the
NCAA Championships - the closest the Wolverines
have ever come to winning a national championship.
"I'm really excited to come back - it feels like I'm
coming back home," Amelkovich said. "It was fun
because when the girls from New Hampshire had any
questions, I was able to answer them."
Amelkovich, who said that she decided she wanted
to go into coaching after her freshman year of college,
is content with her decision to go to New Hampshire.
"I love the job," she said. "The coaches, gymnasts, and
administration are all wonderful. I have a lot of differ-
ent ideas that I think can help the team, and I hope I
am doing a good job. I'm having lots of fun."
Still, Amelkovich has not ruled out the idea of possi-
bly returning to Michigan if the opportunity arises.
"Bev (Plocki) and (assistant coach) Scott (Sherman)
both know that I'd love to come back here and coach,"
Amelkovich said. "It's a dream of mine, it's something
that I've looked forward to, so maybe a couple years
down the road. If an opening comes up, I'll definitely
apply "
"Whenever I see Beth, I still think that she should be
one of my athletes," Plocki said. "I just think she

NCAA athletes as labor

TOM FELDKAMP/Daily
Despite falling on the beam last Saturday, Elise Ray
helped the Wolverines take home the regional crown.
should be wearing maize and blue. But, I am proud of
her success, the coaches at New Hampshire have raved
about her, and I am happy for her."
Both Kuzara and Amelkovich feel that this year's
Wolverines have an excellent chance to make history
by becoming the first women's team at Michigan to
win a national championship.
"It's a totally different ballgame around here now,"
Kuzara said. "The level of athletes they are able to
recruit is amazing, and they have lots of momentum
right now. One of these years, they will win it all."
"This team has what it takes to win," Amelkovich
said. "They just have to concentrate and not worry
about what kind of meet it is. If they do what they did
tonight, they have an excellent chance to win."

s the saying goes, there are
experts and then there are
xperts. Both have filled books
with their viewpoints on this modem
issue. No, college sports are not modem.
Labor disputes are not modern, either.
The issue, plainly, is labor in college
sports. Specifically, do college athletes act
as a labor force for the NCAA, and are
they being exploited?
It is contentious, contentious, and only
becoming more so. Twenty column inch-
es in a newspaper will do nothing to alter
that. But there are dollars, so many more
dollars every year, being channeled
through college athletics. And as this issue
continues to divide, viewpoints on either
side will become more clouded with the
superfluous noise of debate.
We might attempt, before it's too late;
to somehow capture, frame, the issue -
to step back and ponder.
First off, what is the NCAA? A corpo-
ration ? Not technically. It is an association
-the National Collegiate Athletic Asso-
ciation. It was originally formed in 1906
(according to its autobiography) as a
response to "the flying wedge," a football
formation that was maiming and killing
college football players. Today, the orga-
nization "strives to maintain intercolle-
giate athletics as an integral part of the
educational program" - its words. In
essence, the NCAA sets the rules across
the board and organizes championships
for a number of sports. It is a very large
committee. Several questions follow.
It seems true that the NCAA is not a
corporation. It has no shareholders and no
dividends to be paid off the bottom line.
Presumably, whatever revenue is accrued
by the Association goes toward support-
ing its infrastructure - employee salaries,
the overhead cost associated with tourna-
ments, etc. If that's the case, can the ath-
letes really be considered a "work force?"
For whom, or to what end, are they work-
ing? Is the NCAA not more like a forum,
a tool by which these athletes can display
their talents nationally?
Sound, but probably not that simple -
because the NCAA does not function as a
wholly independent not-for-profit agency.
Even if it's true that the NCAA seeks to
turn no profit, the same cannot be said for
outside parties that contribute money.
Presumably in an effort to increase cash
flow, to provide a larger stage for its ath-
letes, the NCAA has adopted "corporate
partners." American Express, General
Motors, Holiday Inn, Penzoil, Pepsi, Ver-
izon, Taco Bell -each homepage is just
a click away via the NCAA's website.
These are companies with real share-
holders and real bottom lines. Does it
make sense for a company that's sole pur-
pose is selling tacos to give money to the
NCAA? "The corporate partners," states
the NCAA, "provide the commitment of
dollars, personnel and expertise..."
In return, they get theirlogo on the
NCAA website, get mentioned on NCAA

airtime, etc. It may be true that thephilan-
thropic twinge of the CEO or morale of
shareholders can play a factor in the deci-
sion to become a corporate partner.'"Giv-
ing back" to the community, society,
whatever, seems intrinsically good. But
isn't it equally good PR? Would these
companies still fork over capital if they
were not getting exposure in return? Can
you quantify the value of such benefits?
We should presume that corporate part-
ners would not be involved if they
weren't tuming a profit. And for that spe-
cific profit, they are relying on the NCAA
- which relies on its athletes.
Does that turn the athletes into a, labor
force for the corporate partners? They are
certainly not getting paid, either way.
Some are receiving scholarships, but that
is on a university's tab.
And then there is the topic of licensing.
The NCAA contracts a giant list of com-
panies, from Action Images to Zweigle
Advertising, Inc., to manufacture its 'prod-
ucts and labels. How many more basket-
balls does Rawlings sell because it has the
right to say "Official ball of the NCAA?"
The NCAA; with athletes as its work
force, is providing endorsements. Is it,
exploitation if the athletes are cut out of
that money loop?
Then consider this: The revenue the
NCAA accrues from advertising and
licensing through major sports can be put
toward financing tournaments and devel-
opment for minor sports. For the first time
this year, the NCAA is sponsoring a
women's water polo championship.
Could that have been possible without
corporate partners like General Motors? It
seems like the labor of basketball players
is providing opportunity for water polo
players. But it also seems, indirectly, like
the labor of basketball players is provid-
ing revenue for General Motors.
Consider, as a friend once framedtIis
issue for me, an art museum. The muse-
um provides a stage for artists to display
their talents. Maybe the popular artists
keep the place open, so the not-as-popular
artists still have a stage.
What if corporations decide to support
this museum, make it better, in exchange
for advertisements? A better museum is
better for the artists, no? At the same time,
has the museum contracted these artists'
abilities out to corporations that might
profit from advertising beside them?
Sure, the artists are better off than if
there was no advertising at all. But is their
labor being exploited at the same time?
Some say yes. Some say no. People
are already choosing their sides, based on
numbers, based on details made to fit,
their argument. There are experts and
then there are experts. And then there are
college athletes, who simply do what
they do - exploited or not, assisted or
not, debated or not.
David Den Herder can be reached at
dden(umich.edu

REGIONALS
Continued from Page 18
knew I just had to go out and do the rou-
*tine like I know how."
That attitude proved successful as
Peterson quickly righted the ship with a
9.825kscore.
After Knaeble, Shannon MacKenzie
and Elise Ray all followed Peterson by
completing their routines without any
major problems, the Wolverines
breathed a collective sigh of relief as
they wrapped up the title.
"I was very nervous," Michigan coach
ev-Plocki said. "When your second kid
falls and you know your next four up
have to hit, that's about as much pres-

sure as it gets."
Knaeble's clutch routine on the beam
was the norm for her throughout the
evening, as she came up with one of the
best performances of her career in an
important venue.
Competing in the all-around for the
first time since February 23, at Utah,
Knaeble tied Stanford's Lindsay Wing
for the individual title with a 39.525.
Knaeble, the Wolverines' senior tri-
captain, began her night with an impres-
sive 9.925 on the floor - good enough
for a second-place finish on that event.
Add a co-title on the bars with teammate
Elise Ray, a fifth-place finish on the
beam along with a solid vault, and the
result was Knaeble's first individual all-

around title of the year.
"I just went out and tried to do my
best," Knaeble said. "It was exciting to
be in the beam lineup and get in the all-
around, but I was just glad to pull it out."
Knaeble's performance came as no
surprise to Plocki.
"Bridget has been very solid in prac-
tice on beam, and she earned her spot,"
Plocki said. "She epitomizes toughness
and competitiveness. She's incredible."
Throughout the competition, the
Wolverines were able to show some
toughness and pick up for teammates
who struggled.
Ray was working on a nearly-flawless
floor performance until a slip on her
final tumbling pass.

Similarly, Cami Singer put together
what appeared to be a mistake-free rou-
tine on the uneven bars. But a stumble
on the dismount dropped her to a 9.400
score. At that point, Amy Kuczera led
off a string of four straight Wolverines
who were able to pick up the slack, can-
celing out Singer's fall.
And finally, when Ryals - who has
been rock solid all season on the beam
- lost her footing, the Wolverines fin-
ished the night by proving they could
handle a pressure situation.
When Ray closed the beam rotation
for Michigan by nailing her landing, she
set off a jubilant celebration as the
Wolverines realized that their season
would live to see another day.

Depth increase in 2002 proves hopeful for men

By Swapnil Patel
Daily Sports Writer

"We'll get them next year," junior
Brad Kenna said.
The Michigan men's gymnastics
team, fresh off it's disappointing
fourth place finish at the NCAA
Championships, has clearly shifted
its focus now that its season is over.
Not only did Michigan fail in its
efforts to bring back the NCAA
Championship banner to Ann Arbor
4nd to retain its claim on the Big Ten
title, but it did so losing to archrival
Ohio State.
"I'm a true-blue Michigan guy,"
Michigan coach Kurt Golder said. "I
have a lot of respect for Ohio State,
but I also hate them."
But the Wolverines battled through
an injury-filled season in which they
lost senior tri-captain Kevin Roulston
o a torn ACL. Lack of depth, cou-
pled with instances of unfortunate
injuries, forced several of the
younger gymnasts, mainly sopho-
mores Jamie Hertza and Conan

Parzuchowski, to assume bigger roles
and to contribute higher scores on a
consistent basis.
Juniors Scott Vetere, Daniel Diaz-
Luong and Kenna performed well
throughout this season but seemed to
run out of steam towards the end.
Michigan struggled when all three
gymnasts did not simultaneously per-
form up to their potential.
But as far as many of the gymnasts
are concerned, this season is over.
The team is hoping that "next year"
will be better.
"We have several guys coming

back from injuries and a great incom-
ing freshman," Kenna said. "We're
going to have an amazing team next
year."
Roulston will be back next season
since his petition to redshirt was
approved by the Big Ten. Senior tri-
captain and U.S. national team mem-
ber Justin Toman, who suffered a
knee injury two seasons ago, should
also be fully recovered by December.
With Vetere, Diaz-Luong, and Kenna
all having an extra year under their
belt, the Wolverines expect to field a
fully experienced team.

"We'll be a stronger contender
next year," Golder said. "Justin
Toman and Kevin Rouston will 'be
back, we'll get Jeff Corrigan from
Colorado Springs and we may get a
couple more additional people in the
next month or so of recruiting.
"We'll be a lot deeper and a lot
stronger next year."

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