New NIU coach Rod Carey front-and-center before Orange Bowl

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New NIU coach Rod Carey front-and-center before Orange Bowl

A day before the 2013 Orange Bowl, Northern Illinois' Rod Carey, a man who had never been on center stage before, took to it.

Carey was named the Huskies head coach 30 days ago, and he admitted this past week that everything has been going at "Mach 10" since that point.

Now, a day before the game, Carey said that he has come to grips with the speed.

Such was apparent Monday, as the personality and comfortability that Carey had only exuded in close groups was on display for the world to see.

But despite the calmer demeanor in the spotlight, Carey didn't follow the script read by seemingly all other BCS coaches. The gist: say a lot without saying a lot.

No, that wouldn't be Rod Carey he's a bit more literal, and playful, than that.

When asked if he was aware of the magnitude of his first game, Carey's response was simple:

"Sure."

When asked about if he's going to move the Huskies to a new hotel the night before the game:

"Yep."

Is it necessary?

"Yep."

Was it decided before he came to Miami?

"Yep."

World, meet Rod Carey. Oh, and never mind the TV cameras, Rod, they're just here to hear you talk.

You'll have to excuse Carey if he isn't yet versed in coach speak, but don't mistake his inexperience for ignorance or naivety. He just doesn't doesn't much care for the ruckus that comes with the BCS.

"I'm happy to do it for NIU and for our football program," Carey said. "But other than that...Listen, I'm more comfortable with a whistle around my neck and coaching than I am with a mic in front of me in a suit, I can tell you that. My wife likes it when I dress up in a suit. I hate it."

No, Carey much prefers his sweat-stained and sun-bleached NIU hat, the same one he wore when he was the offensive line coach.

Carey's steadfastness which can come across as stubbornness to some has allowed him to manage the rapid changes of his career and keep track of the players and responsibilities that have come with them. Two seasons ago, Carey was the offensive line coach for a three-win North Dakota team. Until Dec. 3, you couldn't find him on Wikipedia.

Now Carey is the head of a football program that is one win away from becoming next-level.

Given the pressures and temptations the trip has provided, Carey said Monday that he has been impressed with the restraint his players have displayed in a situation that is less-than-ideal for a first-time head coach.

"You know, you come down to South Beach with a bunch of 18 to 22 year olds, we were all 18 to 22 at one point, can remember what that was like," Carey said. "We haven't had one single incident with bad decision making. I give them all the credit for that. Yeah, we helped them, but you know, kids can always find a way if they really want to. These guys did, and I'm proud of them."

Carey's players have in turn, have been impressed in Carey, who has prepared for his first game as a head coach not as if it's the most important game in NIU and MAC history, but as if it was just another game at North Dakota.

"We don't look at the big picture a whole lot, football is about the little things and about the details," Carey said. "That's what we've been focusing on. But when you talk about those two things, we're excited for NIU and excited for the MAC."

What Carey does want to focus on is the game plan it's nice to have the pen last, he said Monday and getting the details ingrained in his players before they take the field Tuesday night.

But in the end, Carey said, it's just one game.

"Isn't that good that way?" Carey said. "Can't screw it up too much, right?"

Pat Summitt used the sport to empower women at Tennessee and beyond

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Pat Summitt used the sport to empower women at Tennessee and beyond

Needing yet another men's basketball coach, Tennessee officials turned to the one person they thought would be perfect to take over the Volunteers program.

Pat Summitt said no.

She wasn't interested in the job in 1994 after Wade Houston was forced out, and she turned it down again when Jerry Green quit in March 2001. A Tennessee governor once joked he wouldn't have his job if Summitt ever wanted to run her home state.

Breaking the glass ceiling in the men's game, political office, that wasn't Summitt's motivation. She had the only job she ever really wanted.

"I want to keep doing the right things for women all the time," Summitt said in June 2011 after being inducted into her fifth Hall of Fame.

Summitt died Tuesday morning at age 64.

The woman who grew up playing basketball in a Tennessee barn loft against her brothers, and started coaching only a couple years after Title IX was invoked, spent her life working to make women's basketball the equal of the men's game. In the process, Patricia Sue Head

Summitt stood amongst the best coaches in any sport when she retired in April 2012 with more victories (1,098) than any other NCAA coach and second only to John Wooden with eight national championships.

Summitt used the sport and her demand for excellence to empower women and help them believe they can achieve anything, taking no backseat to anyone.

When I moved to Tennessee in 1976, girls played six-on-six, half-court basketball designed to protect them from getting hurt. Summitt, who took her Lady Vols to four AIAW Final Fours, refused to recruit Tennessee players. Tennessee high schools switched to five-on-five rules starting with the 1979-80 season.

The NCAA finally started running a national postseason tournament for the women in 1982. At the time, Summitt was known for having "corn-fed chicks" on her roster, big and strong but not talented enough to win national titles. After she won her first national title in 1987 in her eighth Final Four either in the AIAW or NCAA, she said, "Well, the monkey's off my back."

Back then only a student ID was needed to attend a women's game. And there was no demand for the results of those games. After graduating from Tennessee, I helped the sports writers by bringing notes from an NCAA Tournament game back to the office for someone else to write up. There was no urgency since there was no reader demand.

So Summitt worked to make it impossible to ignore her team or the women's game.

By January 1993, so many people wanted to watch then-No. 2 Tennessee visit top-ranked Vanderbilt that the contest became the first Southeastern Conference women's game to sell out in advance. With children under 6 allowed in free, having a ticket didn't guarantee getting through the door; at least 1,000 were turned away at the door - including Vanderbilt's chancellor.

The Lady Vols won 73-68, a game I covered in my first year as a sports writer for The Associated Press in Nashville.

"This was the biggest game in women's basketball, and that's what I've been waiting 19 years to see," Summitt said. "I'm glad I stayed around to see it."

Summitt scheduled opponents anywhere and everywhere, barnstorming the country to introduce people to women's basketball. Tennessee played Arizona State in 2000 in the first women's outdoor game played at then-Bank One Ballpark, drew the largest crowd ever to a regional championship in March 1998 when 14,848 packed Memorial Gym in Nashville with Tennessee trying to finish off the NCAA's first three-peat and helped Louisville set a Big East record christening the KFC Yum! Center in 2010.

The Lady Vols became must-see TV in the sport as Summitt put the women's game on the national stage with six national titles in the span of 12 years.

I remember when I got real up-close look at what drove Summitt.

Assigned to cover Summitt as part of AP's annual college basketball preview package in the fall of 1998, I spent nearly 30 minutes with the coach in her office.

Door closed, Summitt gave a glimpse of that famous stay-away stare. With undivided attention now on me, she wanted to know if I had talked with her mother, Hazel, for the story. She then showed me the engaging side, laughing when asked about a stretch of play during the 1998 title game that resembled the Showtime Lakers, beaming while reflecting on how well her Lady Vols showed women could play the game.

The Lady Vols lost 69-63 to Duke that season in the East Regional. The next day I left a message at Summitt's house and late that afternoon, she called back to talk about more life lessons and basketball.

"It's a game, and winning and losing both can be great ways to teach kids how to get ready for the real world," said Summitt, who had to stop the interview because her mother had given son, Tyler, a gift. She explained he would have to save some of that cash before buying something for himself. Then she resumed the conversation about the game.

That was Pat Summitt: Hoops and family.

She held everyone to the exacting standards she learned from her father cutting tobacco and helping bale hay on the family farm. Tennessee and Connecticut was the biggest draw in women's basketball with Geno Auriemma and his Huskies handing Summitt her lone title game loss in 1995. But Summitt canceled the series in 2007 and refused to say why other than, "Geno knows."

Summitt ended a nine-year championship drought with her seventh national title in 2007 followed by the eighth in 2008. She became the first NCAA coach to win 1,000 games Feb. 5, 2009, and received a new contract that boosted her annual salary to $1.4 million - far removed from the $8,900 of her first season.

She never got to the 40th season in that contract, her career cruelly and prematurely ended by early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type. She finished 1,098-208 with 18 Final Fours, at the time tying the men of UCLA and North Carolina for the most by any college basketball program.

Not that numbers define Summitt, who once said, "Records are made to be broken."

Yes, all marks fade, but no one will eclipse Summitt's contributions to women's basketball.

Illini starting pitcher Cody Sedlock named Big Ten Pitcher of the Year

Illini starting pitcher Cody Sedlock named Big Ten Pitcher of the Year

University of Illinois starting pitcher Cody Sedlock was named the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year on Tuesday.

The junior from Sherrard, Ill., led the conference in strikeouts (116) and innings pitched (101.1).

He is the fifth Illini pitcher to take home the award, following Tyler Jay who was given the honor last year — and later went on to be picked No. 6 overall by the Minnesota Twins in the 2015 MLB draft. It's the second time in program history that an Illini pitcher has won the award in back-to-back seasons.

The right-hander Sedlock is projected by many to be a first-round selection in the upcoming MLB draft on June 9.

Sheryl Swoopes under investigation for coaching practices at Loyola

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Sheryl Swoopes under investigation for coaching practices at Loyola

Loyola women's basketball coach Sheryl Swoopes is under investigation for coaching practices at the university.

The investigation was sparked after 10 of the team's 12 players have transferred or have requested releases — nine having been recruited by Swoopes. Loyola began an "independent and comprehensive university investigation" on April 15.

According to Shannon Ryan of the Chicago Tribune, five former players have stated that Swoopes' "unusual coaching style" was the reason behind their exits.

Swoopes has declined to comment on any allegations, according to Ryan. Loyola released the following statement on Thursday:

"Until the investigation is completed, the athletics department and women's basketball coaching staff are conducting business as usual as we prepare for the 2016-2017 season."

Swoopes is listed as one of the greatest WNBA players of all-time. She was hired to coach Loyola's women's basketball team in 2013.

Click here to read the full story from the Chicago Tribune.