Saturday, August 30, 2008

Final Four a financial boon for Tampa

This is an Associated Press story from two days ago:

INDIANAPOLIS -- An NCAA study found this year's Women's Final Four produced more than $19.1 million in economic benefits to the Tampa metropolitan area.

According to the survey, more than 21,000 people visited the host city in April because of the tournament. During the average stay, 4.2 days, visitors spent $16,655,769 and another $1.8 million in taxes and other charges. Local organizations spent nearly $2.4 million, for a total of $19,114,228.

Spending figures from the city's local organizing committee were not included in the tally. Ticket sales and spending by local residents also were excluded.

The study surveyed fans who attended NCAA tournament games, an outdoor festival and Hoop City, the indoor, interactive basketball experience that is now a prominent attraction at the men's and women's tournaments.

"The Women's Final Four has once again shown it is a proven winner on and off the court," said Sue Donohoe, NCAA vice president of Division I women's basketball. "Our corporate champions and corporate partners enjoy the strong outreach provided by our championship, and our loyal fans continue to support our game."

The survey found 91 percent of the fans who attended games and 87 percent of those who went to Hoop City were from out of town.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Delaware's press release

Text and photos courtesy of the University of Delaware

NEWARK, Del. – Elena DelleDonne, one of the most prolific high school
student-athletes in state history and the all-time leading scorer in
girls’ basketball during her career at Ursuline Academy in Wilmington,
has joined the University of Delaware volleyball program and is eligible
to compete for the Blue Hens in that sport this coming season.

The announcement was made in a press conference on Monday, Aug. 25, at
the Bob Carpenter Center.

DelleDonne, a high school All-American, had originally signed to play
basketball at the University of Connecticut and attended UConn for
several days in June before deciding to return home for personal
reasons. She made the decision in early August to apply to the
University of Delaware and was accepted as a full-time student on August
18. She will major in early childhood education at UD. The fall semester
begins Sept. 3.

“I would like to thank Coach Auriemma and the entire UConn family,” said
DelleDonne. “As I have said before, they deserve a 100 percent
commitment and I was unable to give that to them in the sport of
basketball. I have been open and honest with Coach Auriemma for the past
several months and there is nothing he was unaware of about my final
decision. I wish them nothing but success. He and his program are a
first-class operation. If I was going to play basketball, it would be at
UConn. It would be ridiculous for me to say I’ll never play again. I am
18 years old, so never would be an eternity. Basketball is just not part
of my life right now. I am at ease with my decision to attend the
University of Delaware and I am looking forward to starting classes and
following my mom’s path since she is a Blue Hen alum. I would also like
to thank the Delaware volleyball program. They have been so supportive
and over the last few days. It is comforting to know that I have been
welcomed into an extended family in such a short amount of time.”

DelleDonne has been practicing with the UD volleyball team since
Thursday, August 21 in preparation for the team’s opener Aug. 29 at the
University of California Fullerton Tournament. Since she joined the team
after August 1, she will attend UD as a non-scholarship member of the team.

Connecticut released DelleDonne from her scholarship earlier this month,
allowing her to play any sport at Delaware. NCAA rules prohibit her from
playing basketball due to transfer regulations. She has not decided
whether she will play basketball at Delaware.

“I would like to thank the University of Connecticut and coach Geno
Auriemma for granting Elena a release,” said Delaware women’s volleyball
head coach Bonnie Kenny, who enters her seventh season at Delaware this
fall. “No one in this room other than Elena and her family can
understand the magnitude of emotions and feelings that have occurred
over the past few months. The University of Delaware and its volleyball
program are the beneficiaries of her decision. I applaud Elena for being
mature and brave enough to come to the conclusion that this is where she
wants to be and this is what she wants to do. If I had any inclination
that Elena was going to play volleyball in college I would have been
recruiting her from day one. When I first talked to her mom and dad and
asked what do you want from us as a staff. They said ‘nothing we just
want her to be happy.’ We are aware that we have an elite
student-athlete in our gym and we are honored and humbled she has joined
us. From day one she has embraced us, and we have embraced her. She has
done everything we have asked with a smile on her face except when we do
triangle. My hope is that the entire state of Delaware will jump on the
train and support such a gifted student-athlete and the volleyball team
she is on.”

DelleDonne enjoyed one of the finest careers of any athlete in Delaware
high school history, starring for the Ursuline varsity squad since the
eighth grade and leading the volleyball team to the state title last
fall playing along with current UD teammate Megan Bonk. DelleDonne led
Ursuline to four state basketball titles and set the all-time state high
school girls scoring record with 2,818 points. A five-time All-State
basketball player, she was named the 2007-08 National Player of the Year
by the Naismith, McDonald’s, and Gatorade foundations. She was also a
National Honor Society student.

“We certainly respect Elena's decision and wish her well here at the
University of Delaware,” said Delaware women’s basketball head coach
Tina Martin. “The door to our basketball program will always be open to

At Delaware, she will battle for playing time at the middle hitter
position in volleyball and joins a team that is the favorite to win its
second straight Colonial Athletic Association title this fall. The Blue
Hens enjoyed one of their finest seasons in school history last season
when Kenny led her squad to a 31-5 record, the CAA regular season and
tournament titles, and the school’s first-ever NCAA Tournament berth.
Delaware defeated Princeton in the first round before falling to host
St. John’s in the second round of the tournament.

According the University of Delaware Office of Admissions, this year the
University received 2,073 applications for transfer admission and will
enroll approximately 450 transfer students when classes start on Sept. 3.

DelleDonne is the daughter of Ernie and Joanie DelleDonne of Wilmington,
Del. Ernie is a 1979 graduate of Columbia University and Joanie is a
1980 graduate of the University of Delaware with a degree in special
education. She has an older sister, Elizabeth, and an older brother,
Gene, who plays tight end for the Middle Tennessee State University
football team.

Elena's burned out

Elena Delle Donne said today at the University of Delaware that she's been burned out on basketball since she was 15 or 16 years old. Delle Donne, who had originally committed to UConn, decided to transfer to Delaware and was subsequently released by Huskies coach Geno Auriemma. She was introduced today as she joined the Delaware volleyball team.

"Basketball is not part of my life right now," she told the Delaware News Journal.

Delle Donne played volleyball during her senior season in high school and decided that she "wanted to get back to that."

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Geno lets go

Geno Auriemma released Elena Delle Donne from her letter of intent with UConn under one provision: it has to be to enroll at Delaware.

This may seem odd, maybe even a bit paranoid, but this is Geno covering his bases. You'd have to imagine there's a little bit of bitterness on his part. He opened up his home, his school, his program to Delle Donne and they wound up having a public divorce. I'm sure Geno's been given a reason the 6-foot-5 standout changed her mind, but part of him wants to make sure she doesn't end up at Maryland or Tennessee or anywhere else where he'd have a decent chance of seeing her in March.

By requiring Delle Donne to enroll at Delaware or needing to request another waiver (which I doubt he'd sign unless he felt she'd be a non-factor), he forces her to commit to Delaware.

I text messaged Elena Wednesday night and, like every other scribe in the world, I'm still waiting.

I expect she will play for Delaware; I'm not sure when, though. If you recall, Jarrell Miller (who recently left the UConn football team and school) enrolled for summer school and took classes at North Carolina before deciding he wanted to leave. He had to sit out a year. Delle Donne's situation is a bit different -- just two days. It's a fair argument she and Delaware can make to the NCAA. My guess is they will make her sit.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Elena's Statement

"I have decided that in the best interest of both UConn and myself that I will not play college basketball this year. Both UConn and I require a 100% dedication to the sport, and as of now I feel I can not give that level of commitment. It therefore would be unfair to the excellent program, Coach Geno Auriemma, the team, and UConn fans for me to play.

Coach Auriemma and the team have been extremely understanding during this time of my transition from high school to college, and I thank them for that. I am especially grateful to Coach Auriemma whose kind wisdom has shown me why UConn is such a class program.

I intend to enroll at the University of Delaware for my freshman year this fall."

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Delle DONE

The news of Elena Delle Donne deciding to not only pass on the opportunity to play for UConn wasn't all too shocking. I actually thought the news wouldn't break until the end of this week. My guess is UConn and Delle Donne knew for sometime. That's why the story breaks on a Saturday -- it's harder to find people to talk about what happened.

Everyone had their take on how this saga, if you will, would play out. My gut feeling had been that she would not return after leaving in June. Speaking to Delle Donne's close friend, Caroline Doty, last month made me more convinced of the outcome.

That is all irrelevant.

What matters is the part that blindsided so many: The shocking news that the talented player has apparently given up on basketball. Was it the pressure of being the latest great thing? Maybe Elena couldn't bear to be away from her sister, Lizzie, who has special needs.

I spoke to Elena and her father, Ernie, about this relationship in January. At the time, both said being close to home was important. Maybe Storrs wasn't close enough.

She's a nice, sweet girl who was at a tough juncture. It's unlike anything you or I have had to deal with. Sure, college can be scary. But what about when you have the weight of he world on your shoulders before you ever take a class and you are expected to carry that weight over your head with extended arms?

This is all a guessing game until Elena or her family speak publicly. As loquacious as Geno Auriemma is, I doubt he'll have much to say until his former prized recruit opens up.

How much does this hurt UConn? Not much. Anyone who thinks this is a blow to its prestige or is related to the whole Tennessee controversy is looking to make up tall tales.

What Delle Donne meant to this year's Huskies team is what it would have been like to add LaDanian Tomlinson to the New England Patriots.

Right now, I hope that Delle Donne is OK. She needs to be for this decision to stick. Don't be surprised in a year she pops up at Villanova. If that happens, she will be vilified, unfortunately. To walk away from basketball, something you've given most of your life for, just seems like a drastic measure.

But, if this is truly a young woman ready to take charge of her life and understands that no matter how good you are at something, that skill doesn't define you, then whatever angst is out there towards her should vanish. After all, she's showing a maturity well beyond her years.