Did you know?

A year ago, the MIAC switched to a new format for the season previews. Instead of schools submitting write-ups, the conference's sports information directors agreed on a template so each school could equally share the same interesting information about their team heading into the season.

As I compiled the previews for this fall, I particularly enjoyed the "Did you Know?" section for many of the sports and schools. Many of the facts provided were interesting and amusing, and are worthy of highlight in the MIAC Media Blog.

Since football gets a lot of love on the MIAC site and in this space, I thought it would be great to spread the love around to other sports by sharing my favorite "Did you Know?" facts from our other fall sports. There were a lot of great athletically-related facts submitted by the schools, but the ones that caught my eye helped me get to know the student-athletes or coaches a little better, or provided information that I could never get from the standings or statistics.

Without further adieu...

The MIAC Media Blog's favorite fall "Did You Know?" facts

• Concordia senior Ryan Sederquist is also an accomplished musician and is a Music Education major. He has played the trumpet in the Concordia jazz band and is also a board member and newsletter editor for the Bad Medicine Lake Association.
• Gustavus assistant coach Brenden Huber won the men's 10k race at the Ninth Annual Fargo Marathon this past May.  Huber turned in a winning time of 33:41.  Also at the 2013 Fargo Marathon, 2005 Gustavus graduate, Nicole Porath, won the women's marathon with a time of 2:50.49. 
• Macalester Head Coach Matt Haugen is a former MIAC champion.  He won the race as an Ole in 1977.

• Bethel’s top runner for the past two seasons, Mollie Gillberg, will not be with the Royals in 2013 as she is studying with Discipleship Training School (DTS) in Belfast, Ireland from October through February. Gillberg will look to return to the Royals lineup in 2014.
• Concordia junior Becca Asheim grew up singing and performing music with her family.
• Macalester sophomore Sarah Jonathon (Guilford, Conn.) is the great-great granddaughter of former U.S. President (1909-13) and Supreme Court Chief Justice William Howard Taft.

• Concordia junior Sam Christian had three uncles and his grandfather all play on the United States Olympic hockey team. His uncle Dave played on the 1980 “Miracle On Ice” team.    
• Macalester Head Coach Tomas Adalsteinsson is a former golfer for Iceland's national team and in 2000 placed 25th at the European team championship.  In 2001 he was Icelandic Junior champion and Icelandic Junior Tour champion. 

• Cobber freshman Allison Burns is a second degree black belt.
• Gustavus first-year Mallory Drenttel (Inver Grove Heights, Minn.) is the third Drenttel to play for head coach Scott Moe in the last six years.  Mallory follows in the footsteps of sisters Taylor `12 and current captain Jordan `15 in joining the Gustie women's golf team in St. Peter. 
• Saint Benedict Head Coach Daryl Schomer was runner-up at the 2012 State Amateur Tournament, while winning the Mixed Amateur Team Championship.

• At one point in the 2013 season Bethel University’s men’s soccer team will travel 1,157 miles for four games within a seven-day time period. The Royals travel to Saint John’s, Wartburg, Concordia, and Saint Mary’s in the middle of October.
• Concordia freshman Ben Deetz was born in Harrisburg, Pa. but was raised in Harrisburg, S.D.  
• St. Olaf's David Rosenthal played for the Team USA men's open soccer team in the 2013 Maccabiah Games, an event that featured over 9,000 athletes from 77 countries in 38 sporting events, known as the "Jewish Olympics." The US team won the gold medal. 

• Carleton has 13 states represented on their roster—Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin—as well as a player from Canada.
• The Gustavus women's soccer team will host its second annual "Kicking For The Cause" match on Saturday, September 28th against Saint Benedict.  The match will serve as a fundraising event for Yuwa, a nationally-based non-profit organization reaching out to girls in rural India, specifically Jharkland. Through team sports, Yuwa provides a platform for young women to gain confidence and make a change in their world. 
• Macalester coach Michele Cornish helped lead George Mason (Va.) to the 1985 Division I national crown and was head coach at Division I North Carolina-Asheville from 1994 to 2010. 

• Augsburg head coach Jane Becker will be inducted into the University of St. Thomas Athletic Hall of Fame in a ceremony on Sept. 19. A 2004 St. Thomas alumnae, Becker (nee Gibbs) was a two-time All-America and four-time All-MIAC honoree as a setter for the Tommies, as part of teams that won MIAC titles in 2002 and 2003. She was named MIAC Volleyball Player of the Year in 2003.
• Concordia senior Angie Waller is very proficient at walking on her hands. She can walk on her hands for a very long time. 
• Hamline first year head coach Becky Egan has some familiar faces to work with. Assistant coach Karlee Lursen and soph transfer Micki Green played for her at Eastview High School.
• Head Coach Annie Doman played Division I competition as a collegian.  Doman was a standout setter at Austin Peay State (Tenn.) and finished with just under 5,000 assists.

Johnnie football leftovers

Last week's MIAC Friday Feature took an in-depth look at Saint John's University football as it enters the post-John Gagliardi era. As a former journalist, I really enjoyed this assignment because it let me get back to my reporter roots. I spent a day at Saint John's this summer speaking to players, coaches and Athletic Director Tom Stock. I attended the Johnnies' practice that day, and collected photos and videos as well.

The feature had a lot of substance, thanks to all the great stuff I got from everyone I spoke with at SJU. It's a pretty detailed report about the dawning of a new era at SJU. Amazingly, I had a lot of material that I didn't use so the blog was a perfect spot to share some unused items of particular interest.

Because of the nature of the story, one aspect I didn't delve into was the much-publicized coaching search to hire Gagliardi's replacement. New Head Coach Gary Fasching and new Associate Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator Kurt Ramler were two of the finalists along with Saint John's alum Mike Grant, who has a built a prep dynasty at Eden Prairie High School, in addition to his famous football lineage as the son of legendary Minnesota Vikings former coach Bud Grant.

Mike Grant decided to stay at EPHS, and Gary Fasching and
Kurt Ramler (center) took over the Johnnie football program.

Grant had a lot of supporters throughout his interview process, and when he withdrew from consideration, there were a lot of different things written and said as to why. During my interview with Stock, he gave me some great information regarding the search process and specifically, how things played out with Grant. I was fascinated by some of the details and grateful for Stock 's transparency. I hadn't seen some of this information in other reports, and I immediately knew that many MIAC football and Johnnie fans would share my interest in the AD's assessment of the process.

"It's one of those things with an open search," Stock said, "a lot of people were happy with an open search, some were unhappy. Many were very happy with Gary because he's recruited our student-athletes here the last 18 years and they're really happy with him. But I think when your football team is 5-5 and the bar is where it is at Saint John's in football, others have felt like it was time to go outside the organization and have a change.

"It came down - and it's no secret - Mike Grant was a finalist; Gary was a finalist. Finally, Mike Grant withdrew his name and it had nothing to do with Saint John's not honoring his wishes. His demands were very reasonable. He just loves where he's at and what he's built. He's built a wonderful program at Eden Prairie and I think in his career he's looking to spend more time at the cabin, more time with his father, more time with his family. He's looking to unwind rather than wind it up, which is what it would have been. Here he'd have to recruit and start rebuilding our program. By hiring somebody on the inside I think we've really made great strides and made them in a hurry under Gary."

With Grant out of the process, things worked out quite well for Saint John's. Fasching got the head job, and Ramler was also brought into the mix as the Associate Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator. Fasching also gave me some great material on the start of his tenure and how crucial it is at Saint John's to connect with the very large, incredibly passionate community of alums, fans and former players.

"I think any time there's a change there are going to be people that have a favorite candidate or stuff like that," Fasching said. "But really once the decision was made, the alumni have been very, very supportive. I couldn't have asked for more. They've reached out to me in a lot of different ways and I couldn't be more grateful for our alumni here. I think it's what makes us unique in all of college football is that we do have a passionate alumni here; it's evidenced by the crowds that we get. They're connected, they're engaged to what's going on here. It's been really good. I've been really pleased with the outpouring I've gotten from the alumni."

Another interesting nugget I didn't work into the feature was regarding Saint John's foreign trip to Canada, which no doubt helped the team acclimate to the coaching change. It also led to the Johnnies hosting a spring football game, which was a thrill for the tradition-rich program, and likely an important step in moving on after bidding adieu to college football's all-time wins leader.

"It was one of the things - when I got hired - we talked about it right away," Fasching said of the trip to Canada. "And then with Kurt coming on and implementing his stuff on offense, I brought it up to the staff. I said, 'What do you guys think about making an international trip to Canada?' We were all in favor of it. It made a huge difference - having those 10 extra practices. We didn't use all 10; I think we used eight of them. Having those practices really helped our kids out a lot. Just from a terminology standpoint and knowing where to line up and things like that. It was very beneficial, it was one of the better things we've done so far."

Finally, the reverence everyone in Collegeville holds for Gagliardi is still palpable. It certainly isn't surprising after six decades of excellence, but it certainly was made clear in each of my interviews.

"I want to start by saying I want to thank John Gagliardi to Saint John's University," Stock began our conversation. "He leaves as the winningest coach in college football. He coached 64 years as a head coach, 60 of those right here at our great University. He won 75 percent of his games over that time span. he cannot be replaced. Thank you John. Nobody's gonna come in here and win 75 percent of them for the next 60 years, and if we think that's going to happen, Gary's going to be something like 115 or 120 years old. It's not going to happen. John's an aberration and we're so grateful for him."

"I think No. 1 - people will come into a program after they're named the head coach and they'll decide that they're going to change everything and do it their way," said Fasching. "That's certainly not something that we needed to do here. I think the situation I came into was a lot different than other people. A lot of people come into a place and it's probably because the coach got fired and the program's in shambles, that certainly is not the case here."

Perhaps Johnnie senior Kevin Battis said it best. "[Gagliardi is] a great, great figure and he's still definitely - you can feel him around here - and that's great," said the All-MIAC lineman.

He's right ... Gagliardi's presence is still everywhere, and after six decades of stability and success, moving forward is quite a task. That task resulted in a fun story for me to report, and all these leftover tidbits that didn't make the final cut, but couldn't stay on the cutting room floor.

Tweet of the Week
Wednesday was a fun Twitter day in the MIAC. With ESPN College GameDay coming to nearby Fargo, N.D., to broadcast from the North Dakota State campus, Concordia SID Jim Cella (@CobberSID) sent a tweet to host Chris Fowler to let him know that the Cobbers and St. Olaf would play their annual game for "The Troll" in the vicinity of the broadcast Saturday. Fowler responded, and is interested in giving the unusual trophy some air time on Saturday. We followed with a tweet this afternoon to Fowler to offer our support, so I'll have my DVR set Saturday to see what transpires. The power of social media just continues to amaze me, and kudos to Jim for his enterprising nature to get Concordia and the MIAC a few seconds in the national spotlight!

Extra Points
-Congrats to Bethel's J.D. Mehlhorn on his selection tothe Allstate AFCA Good Works Team. J.D. is one of just 22 players selected for the incredible honor in all of college football. It seems like it's become pretty trendy to bash on college athletics, specifically college football, so kudos to J.D. for reminding us about everything that's right with college athletics.

-We've publicized the MIAC's 7-0 and 12-1 start to the 2013 football season, but it's really been an amazing fall thus far for all MIAC team sports. In addition to football's 12-1 collective record, volleyball entered MIAC play a combined 94-50, men's soccer started the conference slate with a 32-19-8 combined record, and women's soccer started its MIAC season a collective 26-22-8. Combined, the MIAC's four team sports are 164-92-16. MIAC teams have won 64 percent of games against nonconference competitions. 33 of the MIAC's 44 football, volleyball and soccer teams are .500 or better in nonconference play. We couldn't be prouder of our teams' accomplishments on the field thus far this fall. Thanks for representing our league in such outstanding fashion.

-How 'bout the St. Thomas women's golf team? The Tommies have three first-place finishes in three tournament appearances, and star Doyle O'Brien (two) and Erin Dingmann (one) have claimed the conference's first three Athlete-of-the-Week awards. Outstanding.

-Will any of our schools have a cooler special event than Saint Mary's getting a visit from the Stanley Cup? Chicago Blackhawks President/CEO John McDonough is an alum of SMU, and he brought the cup to his alma mater to share its glory with the school and Winona. Read more and see photos here. Just awesome. Congrats to John on his immense success, thanks for representing Saint Mary's and the MIAC with such distinction, and thanks especially for giving one of our campuses a day they'll never forget.

-If you have any questions for the blog or the MIACWeekly Podcast, email me! I'd love to make this more interactive. Chances are, I might not be able to answer all questions, but I know people.

-MIAC play started yesterday for volleyball and soccer and continues today with full slates for those sports. Football's MIAC season starts Saturday. This is when it REALLY gets fun! If you're at a game this week or this weekend, email me your pics, or send to the MIAC on Facebook and Twitter. Let's see that school spirit! Good luck to all the athletes this week, and we're excited to see the conference standings start to shake up.

MIAC mini camp tour

So I was watching the Big Ten Network's football preview series, which involves the network's football crew visiting each team's preseason training camp for a day an discussing the team's prospects for the upcoming season, interviews with players and coaches and highlights from that day's practice.

The MIAC doesn't have our own network, but we do have MIAC Media, so I got the idea to try and recreate the same concept, on a smaller scale. Since it was a late-blooming idea, I wasn't able to get around to visit all nine MIAC teams. However, I did cram in five campus visits into one weekend and gathered a ton of video, and some initial impressions of the teams I visited.

I stopped by the first full-pads practice for Augsburg, then headed up to catch a half-squad workout at Saint John's, as its massive freshman class was attending orientation for first-year students. The following day I hit the latter part of a Bethel practice in the morning, a St. Thomas scrimmage against Rochester Technical  and Community College (RCTC) and a spirited late-afternoon practice at Hamline.

The first of the video series debuted on Thursday - along with the MIAC Football Preview and Preseason Coaches' Poll - and the rest of the footage will be used in the MIAC Media video series throughout the season.

All-in-all, it was a gorgeous three days to be outside and I came away with football fever a week or two earlier than usual. I loved the chance to visit our teams and talk with the coaches and players during their preparation. Preseason training camp truly is a time of optimism. For the moment, everyone is tied for first place at 0-0 (except 1-0 SJU), and excitement and expectations are never higher.

Next year, I hope to make this more of a full-blown preseason tour. My lofty aspiration at this time is to visit all nine teams and file both a video and blog from each stop. (Whether or not that will actually happen with our hefty preseason workload will remain to be seen.) However, here is an abbreviated report from my trip around (half of) the conference, with 10 observations from my travels (in no particular order) mixed with some thoughts and questions about the upcoming season. Thanks a ton to the coaches, SIDs and student-athletes that allowed me to look into their preseason preparations, and my apologies to those I missed this time around.

No. 1 - Crank it up
NFL fans have undoubtedly heard about Seattle Head Coach Pete Carroll's tendency to pump music - crank the volume to 11 - throughout practice. It's been reported he does this to prepare his teams to perform in deafening situations on the road later in the season, and to help the energy and spirits run high. MIAC teams aren't reaching the Seahawks' decibel level, but many employ the same tactic.

Augsburg rocked a good variety throughout its drills, seven-on-seven work and full-squad scrimmage, highlighted by B.I.G.'s "Hypnotize." The blaring, upbeat country music coming from Bethel's sound system easily guided me to their practice like the pied piper. Speaking of Pipers, Hamline's practice started with Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" and some dance-fueled warm-up exercises.

No. 2 - Tommie defense in midseason form
Though it was just a preseason scrimmage, the St. Thomas defense looked to be in midseason form in their scrimmage against RCTC. Second-ranked UST didn't lose much from last year's D-III runner-up squad, but the most significant losses were on that side of the ball in Ayo Idowu (DL) and Chinni Oji (CB). However, the Tommies were their usual fast, aggressive, swarming selves in my look at them. Anytime RCTC tried to find some space - screen passes, a flare to a back, tosses ... the Tommies were there in tandem to shut it down, often behind the line of scrimmage.

On that day - at least the 90 minutes I saw - St. Thomas' offense was solid but perhaps lacked a little explosiveness. A lot of that could be vanilla preseason play calls and winds that affected the vertical passing game, but the Tommies are loaded with returning talent on that side of the ball and are expected to put up big numbers. But on this day, my biggest takeaway was that the defense will survive graduation and continue to thrive.

No. 3 - Gary Fasching is having fun
Saint John's has received a ton of attention for its coaching change - the first in 60 years in Collegeville - so I was excited to get a look at a Johnne practice. My number one takeaway was that new Head Coach Gary Fasching, his assistants and his players are having a ton of fun.

Practice was upbeat and uptempo on the final two-a-day of the season. From calisthenics through drills and eventually scrimmaging, there was a lot of energy and a lot of smiles. I'm guessing the Johnnies had a fun bus ride home after their season-opening win last night over UW-River Falls. The Fasching era got off to an unforgettable start as his team scored 10 points in the final minute for a 17-14 win. However, SJU will need to show continued improvement for the good times to continue in Collegeville as they start conference play with UST, and most of the conference's contenders over the first half of the season.

No. 4 - The message at Bethel
The Royals enter 2013 ranked as high as No. 6 and optimism was high at their Saturday-morning workout. My biggest takeaways were the talk of taking the offense to the air more than usual. Bethel has built its reputation with a strong ground game over the years, but this year's team is blessed with talented junior QB Erik Peterson and a strong class of upperclassmen wideouts, so the Royals could take to the air more in 2013. The defense - led by All-American LB Seth Mathis - should still be the heart of the team, but it will be interesting to see if a more explosive offense changes up tradition at Bethel.

However, the No. 1 thing I took away was the way Head Coach Steve Johnson and his coaches navigate their players through the process that is the season. Johnson assured his players in a post-practice talk that everything they're doing and all the work they're putting in are for very specific reasons, and the tough times on the practice field will build their mettle and resolve for those tough Saturday afternoons that require players to dig a littler deeper.

No. 5 - Augsburg's ascent
Since I started in the MIAC office in 2010, Augsburg's football team seems to take  step forward each year. That process appeared to accelerate last season with the emergence of freshman QB Ayrton Scott, who played well beyond his years and racked up mind-boggling offensive numbers. Now, with a lot of talent back around their star sophomore under center, the Auggies are optimistic their rise can continue, and I heard the world "Playoffs" more than once from players when discussing the upcoming season.

A lot of that hinges on Scott's development, and how MIAC defenses will prepare for his combination of speed, strength and savvy in year two. However, he's got All-America TE Adam Carl back as his favorite target and RB Jerise Washington to team with Scott on the ground. The defense is led by Hakeem Bourne-McFarlane, and if it can progress alongside the offense, the Auggies could join the conference title conversation with Bethel and St. Thomas.

No. 6 - Hands-on at Hamline
The Pipers clearly have a lot of work ahead of them after going 1-9 and 0-8 in the MIAC a season ago, and at their practice it was clear first-year Head Coach and Hamline alum Chad Rogosheske is working to improve the Pipers' fortunes by building from the ground up. I saw a lot of enthusiasm and hands-on teaching from Rogosheske as his staff, with a focus on fundamentals and doing the little things right.

I like that approach a lot. I saw some innovative drills that really focused on the key fundamentals at each position. The players were learning, working hard and having fun. For Hamline fans, that should be good news as Rogosheske and his staff works on rebuilding.

No. 7 - Hitting someone else
All the players and teams I visited last month have been waiting for this weekend for a long time. It seemed each team was about to the point in camp where they were ready to hit someone wearing a different colored uniform. This weekend offers that first opportunity in real game action, so this weekend I'll be watching for which teams enter the season sharp and focused and can channel that aggressiveness into positive results on the field. Sometimes, the desire to move from preseason camp to that first game is so great, it can result in almost too much aggression, which can stray from fundamentals and game plans.

No. 8 - Star watch
Which MIAC stars will continue to shine, and which stars will become familiar names by the end of the season? Last year, there was a new wave of QB talent with sophomores Matt O'Connell (UST) and Peterson (BU) and freshman Ayrton Scott (AUG). All three of those are back, and looked impressive in my visits to their camps.

But who are some of the players that aren't on the MIAC radar yet that will emerge throughout the season? That' s always part of the fun of a new season, and I'll be combing the box scores the first few weeks to look for standout performances from the conference's new faces.

No. 9 - Coaching carousel
In a conference that was recognized nationally for coaching stability, led by John Gagliardi's 60 years at SJU and NCAA record 489 wins. However, a third of the MIAC will debut new head coaches this season, with Carleton's Bob Pagel entering his first year as the full-time head coach after having the interim tag a year ago. Which new head coach will have the best debut and the biggest impact? I liked what I saw in camp from both Fasching and Rogosheske, and St. Olaf's Craig Stern has been a big part of the Oles' success as the assistant head coach, so it should be a comfortable transition in Northfield.

It will be fun to learn the identity of those teams under their new leadership. Will we see any drastic stylistic changes, as we did with Hamline's last hire and John Pate running the option with the Pipers? Will any of those teams take a significant step forward under its new coach? How will the players respond to new leadership? It all adds to the intrigue of a new seaosn.

No. 10 - Excited about the rest
It was great to get a look at five of the MIAC's nine teams, and I'm excited to get a look at the rest of the league as the season kicks off. I'll have seen seven teams in person after today, as I'm heading to Northfield to catch some of both Carleton's and St. Olaf's home openers. Some of the things I'm looking forward to learning about the league's other teams ...

What will be the bigger transition at St. Olaf - the coaching change with Stern taking over, or the change under center with the graduation of star QB Dan Dobson? Speaking of QBs, is Concordia junior Griffin Neal ready to take on more command of the offense with MIAC MVP Brett Baune no longer there to ground things out for the Cobber offense? How will Carleton progress in the second season under Head Coach Bob Pagel, and how will the Knights rebuild their secondary after the graduation of talented defensive backs Mike Elder and Paul Hoffer? And just how big a load can Jeffrey Dubose carry at Gustavus? The star RB has been tremendous as an underclassmen, so how will he write the final chapter of his collegiate career, and what kind of success will follow for the Gusties?

Let's kick it off
 The MIAC couldn't have scripted a better start than Saint John's amazing comeback win over UW-River Falls last night. I had planned to finish this blog then, but I was glued to the web cast and couldn't break away to do any writing. Today, we'll see if he MIAC's amazing stretch of nonconference success can continue (16-2 last season, 13-0 over the first two weeks in 2012) and we'll start to answer some of those pressing questions about the league's teams and players.

If you're craving more MIAC previews, check out the most recent MIAC Media Podcast with Mike Gallagher, which is preview heavy and features an interview with Bethel's Steve Johnson, and check out the MIACFootball Preview & Preseason Coaches' Poll.

Enough speculation. Enough practices. Enough scrimmages. Let's kick it off.