The “Birdy” Awards
But it's time to revive the Birdy Awards. Trust me, you won't get these anywhere else.
If you have a thin skin, don't read these.
SUN BELT PLAYER OF THE YEAR: VACATED--Sorry. Solomon Bozeman may have hit the game winner against North Texas, but he also found himself on the bench during critical times of games. Neither Sergio Kerusch nor Steffphon Pettigrew were consistent enough. How about this year, no one wins the award.
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR: J. J. THOMAS-LOUISIANA. Augustine Rubit had the better numbers, but Thomas was a second team all-conference performer. And during the Cajuns 11 game winning streak, he played like a senior. We can debate who is Freshman of the Year. There is no debate about who is the most valuable freshman.
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR--JUAN PATILLO--WESTERN KENTUCKY. Patillo added an inside
presence to the Hilltoppers and could take over a game on any given night.
ALL CONFERENCE FIRST TEAM--Tristan Thompson-North Texas, Raymond Taylor-FAU, Solomon Bozeman-UALR, Chase Hallam-Denver, Steffphon Pettigrew-WKU. Can someone please explain to me how Hallam didn't make first team on the "other" conference team??
COACH OF THE YEAR--BOB MARLIN-LOUISIANA. No disrespect to Mike Jarvis and FAU's 21 wins, but Marlin took a team picked fourth in the division from 3-14 to a Western Division Co-Championship. Eleven in a row at crunch time. Any questions?
BEST DEFENDER--TREY FINN-ARKANSAS STATE. Dude can guard. End of story.
MOST USELESS AWARD--DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR--It's almost never given to the best defensive player. It almost always goes to the best shot blocker. Why not call it the "shot-blocking award" if that's all you're going to pay attention to.
BIGGEST OMISSION FROM THE CONFERENCE AWARDS--NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR. A couple of years ago, the conference decided that no one should be recruiting junior college transfers and transfers from four year institutions. They decided it's what's ruining the league. To prove its point, the conference now chooses to treat these players as second class citizens and not recognize them. Petty. Very petty.
BEST STUDENT SECTION--FAU--They're starting to get it at "The Burrow."
MOST OVERRATED PLAYER--SERGIO KERUSCH--WESTERN KENTUCKY. One of the league's leading scorers, most seem to overlook Kerusch's lack of propensity for playing defense. When your coach is taking you out when your team is on defense at crunch time, you aren't a player of the year nominee.
MOST UNDERRATED PLAYER--TREY FINN--ARKANSAS STATE--He doesn't look to score much, although he can (he scored
30 against Western Kentucky--I think Kerusch was guarding him.) But he is the best perimeter defender in the league, he can rebound and if need be, he can score. And nobody notices.
MOST IMPORTANT PRESEASON INJURY--ROB LEWIS--DENVER--Lewis, the teams best rebounder and toughest inside player, didn't play at all this season because of a bad back. Denver probably wins the West if he's healthy.
MOST IMPORTANT POSTSEASON INJURY--TREY FINN--ARKANSAS STATE--The Red Wolves were done when they lost the three time Birdy winner three days before the Conference Tournament.
BEST BAND--MIDDLE TENNESSEE--They can play. Great repetoire of music. And they're loud. Be loud. Be proud. Be Blue.
BEST HAIR--UALR's band director. I'm guessing he used to spend time at Haight-Ashbury.
MOST APATHETIC FANS--SOUTH ALABAMA--Great facility. Freshman of the Year. Lots of talent. And nobody in Mobile seems to care very much.
it. Kids love him, poses for pics with anyone and finds a way to make you smile, even if you don't like blood clots.
BEST LOOKING DANCE TEAM--NORTH TEXAS--Their outfits may not be as skimpy, but this year the real dazzlers were to be found in Denton.
DUMBEST SONG PLAYED BY A BAND--THE ESPN SONG--LOUISIANA. While other bands are incorporating contemporary songs to their list, Louisiana insists on playing a thirty second commercial to a network they haven't appeared on in years. Let's all sing together.....pleeeeeeeeeze, put it to bedddddddddd, da da da, da da da!
BEST TEE SHIRTS--The ULM Warhawk band wears tee shirts touting themselves as the Technical Fowls. Nice.
TOUGHEST PLACE TO PLAY--Well, since they were unbeaten at home this year, Jonesboro's Convocation Center gets the award this year.
WERE THEY AT THE TOURNAMENT?--By Saturday night, both TROY teams were eliminated and the few fans they brought were on their way home.
JERRY JONES AWARD--GARY RANDSELL--WESTERN KENTUCKY--How's that hand-picked coach working out for you there, Mr. Prez? We suggest you raise some money for your library and let your AD hire your coaches.
BEST OLD TRADITION THAT COULD COME BACK AND I WOULDN'T COMPLAIN--THE TROJANS IN MOTION--UALR. Tight outfits, bleached hair, fake tans. Ah, the good old days.
MOST INSPIRATIONAL PLAYER--LA'RYAN GARY-LOUISIANA--By now you've heard his story. Dude will need a knee replacement before he's 35, but that didn't stop him from putting up All-Conference numbers during the Cajuns' winning streak.
MOST INSPIRATIONAL NON-PLAYER--LACEY HENDERSON--DENVER. The senior cheerleader lost a leg all the way to the hip at a young age because of cancer. It didn't stop her from being a cheerleader for four years, doing virtually all the same stunts as her two legged compatriots.
MOST HEARTBREAKING MOMENT--After an emotional week, Middle Tennessee's women had nothing left and fell to Arkansas State in the quarterfinals. That day, we were all, in fact, 20gether.
RIP VAN WINKLE AWARD--Three FIU players, including starters Eric Frederick and Marvin Roberts, showed up for their game against Louisiana during the national anthem. Said they overslept. This, of course, has nothing to do with why this talented bunch lost 19 games.
MAYBE IT'S NOT GOOD TO HAVE A DAY OFF, AFTER ALL--Of the eight teams who received byes in the first round of the men's and women's tournament, only three advanced to the semifinals.
MOST EMBARASSING PERFORMANCE--DENVER. The Pioneers missed their first fifteen three-point attempts and scored only 12 points in the first half against FIU. The Fighting Isiah's celebrated by failing to score 40 points the next night against Middle Tennessee.
WIN AND THEY WILL COME AWARD--LOUISIANA. The Cajuns had 8066 fans in the Cajundome for their home finale, which is more than the seating capacity of seven arenas in the Sun Belt.
BEST ROAD TRIP: FIU/FAU--Good food, the Dazzlers, the FAU dance team, the beach, good weather. What's not to like??
NOW THIS IS A RIVALRY: After losing in the quarterfinals to UALR, a 40ish Arkansas State woman was heard to say "I'm not walking out past those sluts," referring to the UALR dance team/cheerleaders. Imagine what she would have said about the Trojans in Motion. Wow.
MOST DISAPPOINTING CROWD IN HOT SPRINGS--WESTERN KENTUCKY--Now, I know that the men and women underperformed during the regular season, but I didn't think Topper fans were fair weather fans. Evidently a lot of them are.
WORST HIJACKING OF A MESSAGE BOARD THREAD--The ongoing spat between some league fans concerning the use of Louisiana by Ragin' Cajun fans. Cajun fans know the official name of the school. They don't care. They aren't going to change. Why not accept it and stay on subject, eh?
ATHLETIC DIRECTOR WHO GOT HARASSED THE MOST BY YOURS TRULY AT THE TOURNAMENT: RICK VILLAREAL-NORTH TEXAS. Every time I saw him, I said "Baseball, Rick, baseball!!" He was a good sport. Even bought me a beer. Now, add baseball, Rick.
past you if you guard him too closely. One tough cookie.
NICE GUYS DON'T ALWAYS FINISH LAST AWARD: STEVE SHIELDS-UALR--Congratulations to one of the good guys in this league.
I'M HAPPY AS CAN BE AWARD: JOHN BRADY-ARKANSAS STATE. Brady's radio show is well attended every week. Jonesborians (is that a word?) love him and he loves them back. Just signed a three year extension. Smiles a lot. Yep. It's John Brady. Honest.
COME ON TO THE DARK SIDE: In eleven games in the Men's tournament, the team wearing white lost eight times, the last winner being MTSU in the quarterfinals.
TEAMS THAT WILL BE PICKED TO WIN THEIR DIVISIONS NEXT YEAR---FAU loses Brett Royster but has virtually everyone else back. If Denver's Rob Lewis returns for a fifth year, DU will be the favorite in the West in their final season in the Belt.
STRANGEST REQUEST: That people actually wanted me to revive "The Birdy's"