Month of Milestones

It seems like once or twice each year, we highlight a MIAC coach who reaches a milestone victory, however this January it seems like there is a coach recording a significant victory on a weekly basis. Let's take a closer look at some of these great coaching accomplishments.

The biggest number and the most significant milestone this season belongs to a veteran coach in Collegeville. Now that legendary Johnnie football coach John Gagliardi has retired, Jim Smith is finally the dean of SJU coaches, and he celebrated his new status as the elder statesman by recording win No. 750. That is an incredible number. I started working at the MIAC in late July, 2010, so that means right now I've got about as many days on the job as Coach Smith does coaching victories. Remarkable.

Smith got his milestone win on Jan. 21 with a 73-66 home win over Carleton. Smith is just the 19th coach in NCAA history - all divisions - to record 750 victories. In his 49th season, Smith is the winningest college coach in MIAC and Minnesota collegiate history, and currently ranked No. 2 in Division III and No. 19 among all active coaches.

To hear more from the coach about reaching 750 and his team's season, check out the Jan. 24 episode of the MIAC Media Weekly Podcast with Mike Gallagher, as Smith was last week's featured guest.

Smith wasn't the only men's basketball coach to hit a landmark win this season, as Carleton's Guy Kalland became the third active MIAC men's coach with 400 victories earlier this month. He joins Smith and Gustavus' Mark Hanson in the 400-win club in his 29th season on the Knights' bench. Win No. 400 came in a 63-56 victory over Macalester.

Overall, Kalland is the seventh MIAC men's basketball coach to win 400 games, and he now ranks 30th in career victories among active coaches in Division III. This season, Kalland became the third coach in the division to hit the 400-win plateau.

Kalland's 400 career victories are certainly impressive, and in a way, they help also put a spotlight on just how amazing Smith's achievement is as well. Getting to 400 career victories is certainly a reason for celebration and a tremendous mark of long-sustained success. But stacked next to Smith ... it's a little more than half of the win total of the SJU coach, which simultaneously adds marvel to both accomplishments.

We couldn't talk about milestones in the "State of Hockey" without taking a look down to St. Peter at the No. 2-ranked Gustavus women. Mike Carroll joined the MIAC Milestone club in January as he notched his 300th career victory on Jan. 18 in a 2-1 victory over St. Catherine. Carroll is just the second coach in Division III women's hockey history to reach 300 wins, and he's the eighth to reach that mark in all of women's collegiate hockey. In 13-plus seasons with the Gusties, Carroll was 301-68-22 (.798) at the time of his milestone win, and ranked sixth among all active collegiate women's hockey coaches in career victories.

There are two other aspects that make Carroll's milestone victory even more intriguing. First of all, it's the fact that the significant win came during a remarkable season for his Gustie team. Thus far, Gustavus is 16-0 overall and a perfect 10-0 in the MIAC, and its 20 points lead the conference standings by eight points over the second place team. The second-ranked Gustavus team is the only perfect team in Division III, as top-ranked Plattsburgh has a tie on its record at 18-0-1.

In Division III, it's common to hear about multi-sport athletes, but it's certainly more rare to see a multi-sport head coach. However, Carroll fits that bill, as he also leads the Gustie baseball team in the spring. Carroll also has eclipsed the 300-win plateau on the diamond, giving him more than 610 wins as a head coach in his two sports combined. Incredible.

The first two tickets to the MIAC Playoffs were punched Wednesday night. The St. Thomas men have locked up a spot in the postseason with just one loss this season, and a win Saturday at Augsburg would give the Tommies at least a share of the conference title. Also, the Concordia women locked up their postseason bid with a win over St. Olaf. The Cobbers are now six games ahead of the seventh-place Oles with six to play, and Concordia would hold the tiebreaker thanks to a season sweep of STO.

Bethel's Taylor Hall and Augsburg's Dan Kornbaum are putting together a pair of incredible seasons on the basketball court. They are 1-2 in scoring (22.6 ppg to 18.7 ppg) and rebounding (10.1 rpg to 8.0 rpg) with Hall edging Kornbaum in both categories, and the duo has claimed five of the six MIAC Men's Basketball Athlete-of-the-Week awards.

The two each put up an amazing performance last week. Hall had a jaw-dropping stat line Saturday in a one-point win over Carleton with 37 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and three blocks to help earn his third MIAC AOW award in a four-week span. However, Kornbaum was largely responsible for Bethel's only loss of the week, as the Auggie star was a perfect 10-for-10 from the floor in a 27-point, 12-rebound performance to help Augsburg beat Bethel, 69-65, last Monday. Hall also had 27 in the game to go along with nine boards. As the calendar flips to February, it should be fun to see these two continue their season-long battle for MIAC Player-of-the-Year honors, and hopefully for MIAC basketball fans, another head-to-head showdown in the Playoffs.

Make sure to visit the MIAC Media Page to view all our new online content. A new episode of the MIAC Media Podcast with Mike Gallagher went up today, and features a great interview with Saint Benedict Head Women's Basketball Coach Mike Durbin. Also, stay tuned to the MIAC's YouTube channel for new MIAC Media Video Spotlights each week.

We want this to become an interactive thing, so please leave thoughts and feedback in the comments section below, or interact with us via Twitter, Facebook or email. Mike and myself would love to field some questions from MIAC fans on the blog and podcast, so ask away and get involved!
Also, if you like what you've seen on the blog so far, make sure to click the "Subscribe by email" link on the bottom of this post and sign up to receive an update right to your inbox every time I publish a new post. Thanks and stay warm, Minnesota.

Convention in Pictures

Here are a few photos from my phone and camera to give you a closer look at some of the highlights and surroundings at the 2013 NCAA Convention at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, Texas, just outside of Dallas. Some of these were posted on Twitter and Facebook during our time in Texas, and some are making their MIAC Internet debut! Enjoy.

2013 NCAA Convention Photo Blog
Seeing a MIAC school represented on the front door of the convention center was certainly a nice way to be welcomed. Pictured on the sign was St. Thomas alum Ben Sathre after winning the 2011 Division III Cross Country Championship.
 A look at the inside of the Gaylord Texan. The huge center area was made to look like San Antonio's Riverwalk, complete with water, fountains and plenty to do.
I attended a session on Thursday about dealing with the media in various situations. "The Good, the bad and ugly" was the subtitle. Interesting stories and good information.

Gustavus President Jack Ohle (at podium) presided over Friday's Division III issues forum. President Ohle also assumed the role of Presidents Council chair at the convention.

The NCAA Honors Celebration is always a highlight, as current and former NCAA student-athletes are honored in grand fashion.
All the honorees gathered on stage to start the show.
Former Oklahoma and NFL tight end Keith Jackson (a Super Bowl Champion with  Green Bay in 1997) was a recipient of the Silver Anniversary award.
 Heisman winner RGIII (Robert Griffin III) was one of the Today's Top Ten honorees, but you may have heard he recently had knee surgery and was unable to attend.
Tony Dungy accepts the Theodore Roosevelt award from University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler.

As always, Dungy's words were inspiring and uplifting.

I was extremely fortunate to meet and get a photo with Coach Dungy. Such a thrill to meet someone who has long been an inspiration to me, and a fellow Golden Gopher grad!

Coach Dungy meets Carleton's Gerald Young (athletic director) and Heidi Jaynes (associate athletic director, SWA & head volleyball coach.
 The Carleton crew - Gerald and Heidi - pose for a picture with the Super Bowl-winning coach.

MIAC Executive Director Dan McKane speaks on the floor of the  NCAA Division III business session in support of our electronic communications proposal.
Hope you enjoyed that quick look at some of the photo highlights of the 2013 NCAA Convention. For more thoughts and information on the convention, check out this week's MIAC Media Video Spotlight (below). Also, don't forget to check out last week's MIAC Media Podcast. Mike Gallagher's special guest was Saint John's Head Men's Basketball Coach Jim Smith fresh off his 750th career victory! Give it a listen, and feel free to send in questions for either the Podcast or the Blog ... we'd love to hear from you and answer your questions about the MIAC. Stay warm!

2013 Convention recap

I had intended to blog at least once - if not more - from the NCAA Convention, but to say it was busy week in Grapevine, Texas, would be a massive understatement. In addition, the fact that I wasn't staying off-site and my computer battery's lack of cooperation derailed my plan to provide daily updates of our trip to Texas, so here's a recap of the convention.

Some of the big news was covered yesterday in a press release, including the MIAC's role in the passing of new Division III legislation as well as two big national appointments for conference administrators. Gustavus President Jack Ohle kicked off his one-year term as chair of the Division III Presidents' Council - one of the highest-ranking positions in the entire division - and MIAC Exec. Director Dan McKane was elected the vice president of the Division III Commissioners Association.

The details of Jack and Dan's new positions are in yesterday's release, but to add some brief commentary here, it's great to see the MIAC so heavily involved on the national landscape, and that goes beyond these two important appointments. The MIAC is extremely well-represented on committees and leadership groups throughout the division, and that makes our interactions with other conferences fun at events like the convention. At Friday's Division III issues forum, my table went through a brief round of introductions, and after identifying my position, the elder statesman at the table nodded and said, "Prestigious conference." That was pretty cool.

The legislation we passed will now allow Division III coaches to use all electronic means to recruit - including social media - as long as the communication is private and one-on-one. Previously, Division I and II coaches could use social media to recruit, as can admissions offices from all divisions, so Division III coaches were the only group being shut out to this increasingly important method of interaction. Not anymore, and we're proud to have helped change that, along with our co-sponsors and friends at the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC).

The legislation came about because it was presented - and tabled - a year ago, and seeing a few ways we could improve the proposal, we took it on. Over my two-plus years here, it seems to be most common request/complaint from coaches throughout the conference. There are some who were against including this in recruiting practices, and we certainly understand why and respect that, but we're confident most of the coaches and administrators in the MIAC (and hopefully, all of D-III) will be pleased with this change to the recruiting landscape.

Shortly after Christmas I went and saw the movie Lincoln, and was enthralled with the detail and politics behind the passing of the 13th amendment to abolish slavery. The scale of the legislation isn't even remotely comparable, but our four days in the Dallas area certainly reminded me of aspects of that movie. Prior to the convention, we developed a position paper to clarify some of our intents and goals with the proposal. Throughout the convention we were gauging interest, trying to get a feel for concerns or negatives, and developing talking points for the floor that we hoped would help get our legislation passed. Now, it clearly wasn't even in the same ballpark as the movie I referenced - although an armed James Spader as a "negotiator" certainly would have helped - but we certainly did our due diligence and put forth a lot of effort to present our legislation in the best possible way, and it was a combination of exciting and nerve-wracking.

Our efforts paid off, and the proposal passed by about the slimmest of margins: 246-227-4, or roughly 52 percent to 48 percent. The difference of just 19 votes was the closest vote of the day, and a pretty tense moment on the convention floor. After the fact, we heard through the grapevine that at least six votes flipped during the debate on the floor in our favor, so that validated our efforts and its possible our preparation ultimately made the different between passing and failing.

Here are some other convention highlights:

-My next blog installment will be a photo blog with some shots from the convention. I posted a few here and there on Twitter and Facebook, but have some other good ones to share to show more of the experience.

-I almost didn't attend this year's honors banquet, but am glad I did, especially as a University of Minnesota alum. Former Gopher Tony Dungy received the NCAA's top honor - The Theodore Roosevelt Award - for his contributions to both football and society as a whole. I was recently asked that old standard, "If you could invite five people to dinner, who would they be," and Coach Dungy was seated at my table. In addition to being the most famous football alum from my college, he's proven to be a man of great character and morals. I've read his first book - Quiet Strength, which had a huge personal impact on me - and am about to start his second book - Uncommon. My parents were both in school at the U when Dungy was the  Gophers' QB, so our family has followed him for a long time, and we bumped into saw him after leaving a play on Broadway a few summers ago.

After the banquet, attendees have a chance to meet the honorees, so it was a huge thrill to meet Dungy and get a photo. I told him I really enjoyed his talk at Bethel last year (details here) and was a fellow Gopher. He said he really enjoyed his trip to Bethel and chance to speak to their campus and especially the student-athletes, and we traded a "Ski-U-Mah." I wasn't sure I could top my first convention, when I got to tell Bo Jackson I loved running over people with him on Tecmo Bowl, but this definitely did.

-Another honors banquet highlight. Former Oklahoma tight end Keith Jackson walked by me on his way out of the reception, and I asked him the only question I could think to ask a member of the Green Bay Packers 1997 championship team (I grew up in Wisconsin) in such a quick moment. "Hey Keith, you got your Super Bowl ring on?" He turned around, said, "Yep," and showed me the huge gold ring with a diamond "G." I just smiled and said, "Go Pack," and he responded, "Go Pack," and that was it. And frankly, I wouldn't change a thing about that interaction.

-There's a trade show that lets people like me meet with vendors to try to find new products and ideas and strengthen business connections on the athletics landscape. I had a pair of great meetings with the two companies we currently work with for our web site and our stats/scoreboard site, and I'm increasingly excited about the future of the MIAC's presence on the web.

-The MIAC Meeting on Friday afternoon was well-attended. We had to call up for more chairs more than once to accommodate all who attended the convention and the meeting, and had a great mix of athletics, faculty, vice presidents and presidents from around the conference. Our meeting ended with an educational session on integration - which is integrating athletics into the fabric of the campus - and after working at a small private college, it opened my eyes to a lot of new ideas and perspectives in regards to how athletics should interact with academics and student life. Lots of food for thought going forward.

-Hands-down my favorite part of the convention each year is the opportunity to connect with people from the MIAC and Division III at some of the receptions and free time between sessions. We're fortunately to have so many great people in our league, and the convention gives us a chance to interact in a more relaxed and informal setting than we're accustomed to at conference meetings and events. It's also one of the few times a year I can connect with some friends from other conferences and institutions around the nation, so it's almost more like a reunion than a convention.
-This was my first time at one of the Gaylord Hotels properties - the Gaylord Texan - and wow. That's quite the complex. I think the people who stayed there might have gone four days without going outside.

As you can see from the previous 1,300 words, there was a lot going on last week in Texas. I could've probably kept going for another 1,000 words, but I'll pump the breaks here and just say that it was a great experience. The only thing that could make it better? Warmer weather and a beach. Wait? The 2014 NCAA Convention is in San Diego? Let the countdown begin...

Look for that photo blog in the next day or two, and then more of a current MIAC sports-centric post this weekend. Also, tomorrow's newest MIAC Media video will have a very convention feel to it as well. You've been warned!

Six Degrees of MIAC Intern Separation

For those of you who didn't see the link on our site or on social media, the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder did a great feature on Augsburg's Jennifer Jacobs, who is working as the school's assistant compliance director and an assistant volleyball coach. Part of the article focuses on her opportunity at Augsburg, which was made possible through a fully funded two-year NCAA Grant - the NCAA Division III Women's and Ethnic Minority Internship Grant.

This grant is clearly a huge benefit for any conference or institution that is lucky enough to receive it, and the selected recipients for each position get a great experience along with something that is becoming more and more of a rarity - a paid internship. My first internship out of college was writing feature stories for an online basketball magazine that focused mostly on Division I college recruiting, and though I'm not a numbers person, I can easily recall how much bank I made doing that ... $0.00.

However, this grant seems to have an especially unique and cool connection throughout the MIAC, and I feel like our office and our schools who have utilized it can serve as a perfect example for how the grant is supposed to play out. During the life of the grant, women and ethnic minorities receive great, high-level experience in college athletics administration that really helps their employer while preparing them for a career. This grant has been prevalent in the league over the past decade, with some interesting connections, so let's play the a version of "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" with the MIAC Women's and Ethnic Minority Internship Grant.

Jacobs' supervisor at Augsburg is Assistant Athletic Director Kelly Anderson Diercks. After graduating from Gustavus, Anderson Diercks was the MIAC's first recipient of the grant, and worked under MIAC Executive Director Dan McKane for two years. Also, Anderson Diercks currently serves as the "mentor" (a stipulation of the grant) for the MIAC's current two-year grant, so she mentored former MIAC Assistant Director NatalieArians, and now mentors current Assistant Director Afton Goebel, who was hired in August to fill out the grant after Arians took a full-time Assistant Commissioner position with the neighboring Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (UMAC).

When Anderson Diercks was in her term at the MIAC, her mentor was Macalester Associate Director of Athletics Vanessa Seljeskog. The MIAC received the grant again after Anderson Diercks moved on to Augsburg, and hired Brittany (Feser) Heinz, who was also mentored by Seljeskog. Now, Heinz works with Seljeskog as Macalester's Leonard Center Manager.

In between Heinz and Arians, the MIAC was required to take one year off from applying the grant, so we hired Sara Eisenhauer for a one-year internship position in 2010-11. Following that season, Macalester was awarded the grant, and Seljeskog earned another MIAC connection when she hired Eisenhauer and served as her supervisor. This summer, Eisenhauer (a Saint Mary's grad) kept her MIAC ties alive when she was hired as the new Sports Information Director at St. Catherine, and now Madeline Greene is fulfilling the second year of Macalester's two-year opportunity.

That's a lot to digest, but a complicated way to say that this internship opportunity has manifested itself in the conference in a very positive way. Seljeskog has served as both a mentor and a supervisor, while Anderson Diercks has been in all three capacities (intern, mentor, supervisor). Former grant recipients Anderson Diercks, Heinz and Eisenhauer are now all employed within the MIAC, while Arians is just up the road in a similar position. Which all bodes well for current interns Goebel, Jacobs and Greene. It's not quite as easy to follow as Six Degrees of Bacon, but the way all these paths have intersected is much more than coincidental.

Several of these connections came full circle exactly a year ago at the NCAA Convention in Indianapolis, when Anderson Diercks, Arians, Eisenhauer, McKane, myself and former MIAC Executive Director Carlyle Carter all found ourselves at the same table for an NCAA Keynote Luncheon. For a small Division III conference, it was pretty amazing to have that many current and former MIAC employees all in one spot, and all enjoying fulfilling careers in college athletics.

MIAC staff past and present at the 2012 NCAA Convention.
(L to R: Matt Higgins, Sara Eisenhauer, Dan McKane, Natalie Arians, Carlyle Carter, Kelly Anderson Diercks)

Hopefully the resulting photo serves as a lasting image of the grant's effectiveness. The intent is to increase the gender and ethnic diversity throughout college athletic administration, and at least throughout the MIAC, the NCAA would take one look at all the past and present connections and say, "Mission Accomplished."

We leave tomorrow for the 2013 NCAA Convention in the Dallas area (Grapevine, Texas, to be exact) and there is plenty to look forward to. There are numerous educational sessions, social events, and opportunities to meet and connect with colleagues throughout the NCAA. However, the chance for MIAC staffers past and present should present itself again, and I think we're all looking forward to reconnecting and looking at where we've been, where we are, and where we're headed.

I'll be checking in from the convention on this blog, and also on Facebook and Twitter, so stay tuned for updates as we take the MIAC show on the road for the rest of the week! (And check out our new look on Twitter while you're there!) Stay warm, Minnesota.

Almost tennis time
The MIAC released the 2013 MIAC Men's and Women's Tennis Previews and Preseason Coaches Polls last week. The Gustavus men were picked as the unanimous favorites to win their 25th-straight conference title. Take a second and digest that. That's a quarter-century of being on top. Wow.
Interesting to see a name other than Gustavus on top of the women's poll, but Carleton is a deserving choice after winning both the MIAC regular season and Playoff championships a year ago. It will be fun to see how the Knights respond to being the favorite, and how the Gusties respond to being the hunter, rather than the hunted, after 20 years on top.
CLICK HERE for the men's preview. CLICK HERE for the women's preview.

In case you missed it...
MIAC Media enjoyed a great week with the first-ever Podcast and a new video  that accompanied Afton's fascinating Friday Feature about Concordia women's basketball star Tricia Sorensen and her no-longer hidden talent - juggling. On the podcast debut, Mike Gallagher conducted a great interview with St. Thomas Head Football Coach Glenn Caruso and looked at some interesting trends in the MIAC Men's Hockey standings, in addition to his update on the MIAC winter standings.

To check out the podcast, click here, and click here to see the Friday Feature and video.

Ask away
Do you have a question about the MIAC you'd like me to answer on the blog, or you'd like Mike to address on the Podcast? Do you have any feedback or ideas of things you'd like to see us write about or discuss? We'd love for this to become as interactive as possible, so please utilize the "comments" section on the blog or CLICK HERE to send me an email and let's make this more of a conversation. I'd rather talk with you than at you!

Behind the scenes: processing a forfeit

The start of a new year brought a rare occurrence in the MIAC. After an incident involving the Hamline men's basketball program, the disciplinary aftermath left the Pipers without enough players to compete in Saturday's scheduled MIAC contest at Gustavus, meaning Hamline would have to forfeit. That kick-started a process we don't use often, with some confusing twists and turns.

The forfeit thing is a little trickier than the general public realizes, because the NCAA doesn't technically recognize a forfeit. Don't ask me why, but if the game isn't played, in the eyes of the NCAA - including stats, standings, record, strength of schedule, etc. - it simply isn't a game and no result is attached. So when the season ends, Gustavus will have one less win and Hamline will have one less loss in the official NCAA records than on the MIAC Web site.

However, conferences do have the power to award wins and losses in the conference standings. In the MIAC, that means conducting a vote regarding each individual forfeit by the conference's management council. In this instance, the management council voted - correctly, in my opinion - to award a win to Gustavus and a loss to Hamline, so the official MIAC record shows a 2-0 win by Forfeit for Gustavus, and the conference standings reflect that ruling.

This also led to some fun hoops to jump through on our stats and scoreboard site - - because we want our standings to accurately reflect how we assessed the forfeit without it registering on the national level. That technology is still developing for a process that just isn't seen that often.

Does that all make sense? In my nearly three years in the MIAC office, this is only the second forfeit I've encountered, and the first in a conference game, and hopefully we won't see another for a long time. Regardless of the reasons, it's always best to settle things on the court.

Quick hits
-The first round of MIAC Athlete-of-the-Week awards were handed out today in basketball and hockey, with swimming and diving set to return next week. We had co-winners in women's basketball today, which doesn't happen very often in our league, but the conference SID vote was even for both players, and it would have been impossible to pick one of these young women over the other. Both incredible performances, especially considering the circumstances. The MIAC sends our best to St. Thomas' Kellie Ring and her family, and are amazed by the courage she displayed last week by not only playing after the passing of her father, but playing at such a high level.

-Speaking of St. Thomas - winners of nine in a row after dropping the season-opener - is anyone sensing a similar season to last year? The Tommies dropped their first game of the year in 2011-12, then didn't lose again until the Final Four - a winning streak of 30 games. That would be almost too remarkable to repeat, but with nine straight wins and a 9-1 record since the 2012-13 opener, the parallel at least deserves a thought. UST (7-0 MIAC) faces Gustavus (7-0 MIAC) Wednesday, in what could be a matchup of teams who are both 8-0 in the league. St. Thomas plays Bethel tonight, while the Gusties take on Macalester.

-How about this for a tale of two halves in MIAC women's basketball last week ... Concordia trailed St. Olaf 41-18 at the half, then won the second half 43-18 to claim a remarkable 61-49 victory. Not only did Emily Thesing - who shared the MIAC WBB AOW honor with Ring - lead the way throughout the comeback, she got a block and two defensive rebounds on the Oles' final two possessions, and drilled the game-winner at the buzzer.

-Concordia also got an Athlete-of-the-Week honor for men's hockey freshman Tucker Coborn, who knows how to score in style. His first collegiate goal beat UW-Eau Claire - the No. 3-ranked team in the country - in overtime Saturday night.

-St. Thomas and Bethel are tied atop the men's hockey standings, so it was fitting the two met in a nonconference game over the weekend. The Tommies won. 6-4, with a hat trick and an assist from star Riley Horgan. Bethel scored two in the final 3:15 of the second to tie the game at 4-4, but UST had a two-goal answer in the final period.

-Are they going to re-name the Liberty Mutual Division III Football Coach-of-the-Year award to the "Glenn Caruso award?" TheSt. Thomas coach won it for the third-straight season Monday - and is the first coach at any level to capture the honor three times - in Miami. He'll attend tonight's NCAA FBS Championship game between Notre Dame and Alabama. Irish Head Coach Brian Kelly claimed the same honor for the FBS division Monday.

-The 13 goals scored by the Augsburg women's hockey team Saturday vs. Finlandia is a new school record. The seven point tallied by Rachel Hennessy - three goals and four assists - are not a school record for points in a single game, which is eight, but it is still pretty impressive, and good enough to help her claim the MIAC Women's Hockey Athlete-of-the-Week honor.

-Will any MIAC men's basketball player turn in a better performance than Bethel's Taylor Hall did on Saturday? If so, I hope I'm in attendance. The All-MIAC forward had 35 points and 18 rebounds. That's a good week for a lot of players. The league's leader in scoring and rebounding was named the Athlete-of-the-Week for his Superman-like exploits.

-Want to watch MIAC basketball this weekend, but don't want to leave your couch? You're in luck. Channel 45 will be broadcasting the Saint John's @ St. Thomas men's basketball game in the metro area Saturday at 3 p.m.

Mail time
-Do you have a question about MIAC sports that you'd like to see answered in this blog, or by Mike Gallagher on our MIAC Media Podcast? Write us on Facebook or Twitter or e-mail me at: I'd love to make this more interactive, and see what's on the minds of the great people throughout the MIAC community.

Leading off...

Hello MIAC fans and friends,

First of all, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy 2013! With the start of the new year, we're excited to announce a few new online initiatives for the tremendous fans of our league.

This blog venture has been a long time coming, but it's finally getting off the ground as part of a new venture we're starting called MIAC Media. In addition to this blog, we're also planning a weekly podcast thanks to the help of Augsburg alum Mike Gallagher, and MIAC Assitant Director Afton Goebel will have a new video series as part of MIAC Media as well, focused on getting to know the student-athletes, coaches and administrators that make our conference so great. Since I'm a writer by trade, this blog is my contribution to MIAC Media.

A little about me and what this blog will hopefully be. My name is Matt Higgins, and I'm the MIAC's Assistant to the Executive Director (insert Dwight Schrute reference here), which is our fancy way of saying that I'm the conference SID, or sports information director. I handle our Web site including most of the writing, schedule and stat maintenance and more. I'm a writer by trade, so that helps explain some of the new content and feautres that have sprouted up on the league's site over the past year. However, I'm hoping this blog does three things...

No. 1: Gives me another outlet for my writing fix. In addition, it will give a more conversational way to talk about the league and all the people and events that make it so great. I want this to be a real departure from the professional and AP-style writing you can find on our site, with hopefully a little humor, "behind-the-scenes" stuff and more.

No. 2: Expands the MIAC's growing presence on the Web. In 2010, the MIAC took its first steps into the ever-popular realm of social media with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and more. While those endeavors are admittedly still a work in progress, this blog is another step in that direction, along with the other MIAC Media ventures. (By the way, don't hesitate to click those links and "like" or "friend" the MIAC if you haven't already. Shameless, I know.)

No. 3: Offers our conference's passionate fan base more content. Often times, there are stories or expereiences or thoughts that just don't fit into a press release or one of our online feautres. This blog will be a home to those previously cast-off observations. I hope it also gives the fan base another solid way to connect to the conference office, and I encourage everyone to comment on my blog posts, ask questions and suggest blog topics or things you'd like me to write about. We're all about the fans at the MIAC, and this space will be a spot where we can all interact and get together and celebrate what I feel - with admitted bias - is the best darn Division III conference in the country.

Now, as part of this introduction, I would like to make one request for those of you who do want to get involved and comment and ask questions. Let's keep it civil. Everyone knows the MIAC has some serious storied rivalries, and this is absolutely a place where we can celebrate those time-honored clashes, but for the most part I really encouarge everyone to keep it clean, respectful and civil. I will be moderating comments and will likely post almost everything submitted, but not if I feel the intent or the content is outside of the MIAC's ongoing commitment to excellent sportsmanship. Please share your thoughts and opinions, and though it can be hard sometime on the information superhighway, let's all be adults.

Now that that's out of the way, I'm real excited for this chance to provide more content in a new way for the MIAC. I plan to blog at least once a week - hopefully sometimes more - with occasional video blogs, photos updates and more included. So let's get this party started. Check back soon for a post that's much less introductory, and hopefully much more insightful.