Joe Avento. (Lee Talbert/Johnson Citry Press)
2015 season can’t get here soon enough
Today at 6:05 PM
The second Saturday of the college football season has come and gone, and the East Tennessee State campus was a quiet place once again.Other than a football clinic for women on Saturday morning, nothing athletically was happening on campus.It was a beautiful afternoon, the kind made for football, and tailgate parties were going on all over the country. It’s difficult to believe that kind of excitement has been absent from Johnson City for almost 10 years.The work is well under way to bring it back, but ETSU’s reborn football team is still almost two full seasons away from playing a game.Maybe when a site for the new stadium is chosen and construction begins, it will start to seem closer to reality.The 2015 football season can’t get here soon enough.———That “other” football is still being played on campus, and it was great to see more than 1,000 fans in the stands at Summers-Taylor Stadium for ETSU’s 1-0 soccer victory over Kentucky on Thursday night.ETSU has done a remarkable job of creating an exciting atmosphere at its soccer games. Of course, it helps when the home team upholds its end of the bargain, and the Bucs are 19-4-4 at home over the last four seasons.———When Kentucky paid its visit to ETSU, it brought to mind a big question: What is the deal with soccer in the Southeastern Conference?As far as the men’s game goes, it doesn’t exist.The SEC, the country’s most powerful conference, will have nothing to do with it, even though a recent ESPN study claimed soccer is the second-most popular sport in the United States among those under 25.Kentucky and South Carolina play varsity men’s soccer. The rest of the league does not. Those two schools are forced to play in Conference USA.Vanderbilt once had a team, but it was disbanded in 2006.It really can’t be a money issue. A recent study pointed out that SEC schools spend more than $163,000 per athlete — in all sports. That’s about $70,000 more per athlete than the average major-college conference.Some blame Title IX, saying they’d have to add more women’s sports to remain compliant. That’s no excuse because the money is there. The league’s athletic departments split $289 million in SEC-generated revenues last year.Tennessee’s athletic budget is more than $100 million, yet it can’t find a few bucks for a men’s soccer team.The SEC isn’t alone in ignoring the world’s most popular sport. Other leagues not sponsoring men’s soccer include the Ohio Valley Conference, Big 12, Mountain West, Sun Belt, Big Sky and Southland.———Johnson City native Will Little recently returned home from his first stint in the big leagues.Little spent much of his summer umpiring in the majors. He served as a rover, filling in for full-time regulars when they went on vacation.Along the way, Little threw two players and a manager out of games.In his first game behind the plate, he tossed Orioles third baseman Manny Machado. He also got probable American League Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, who was barking from the dugout.In Little’s last series, he tossed Royals manager Ned Yost.Little is hoping to get a contract as one of the 68 full-time major-league umpires sometime in the future.———ETSU’s Rhys Pugh is playing for the Great Britain & Ireland team in the Walker Cup this weekend, and his partner on Saturday was a familiar name to local golf fans.Pugh teamed with former Tennessee golfer Garrick Porteous, who won the British Amateur earlier this year. Porteous played for the Vols when they participated in the Bank of Tennessee Intercollegiate at Blackthorn Club.Pugh and Porteous beat Michael Weaver and Todd White 3 and 1 in foursomes, also known as alternate-shot.White played at Furman, where he won the Southern Conference championship and was All-American in 1989, the same year as ETSU’s Rex Kuramoto and Bobby Gage. Pugh sat out Saturday afternoon’s singles matches, but will be back in action today as the GB&I team tries to keep its hold on the Walker Cup at National Golf Links of America in Southampton, N.Y.Pugh was a star at the last Walker Cup, going 3-0 as the youngest payer on either team at 17. His victims included Patrick Cantlay, U.S. Amateur champion Kelly Kraft and Patrick Rodgers.———Peyton Manning told Jim Rome he might never be 100 percent again after undergoing neck surgery a couple of years ago.Of course, that was before he threw seven touchdown passes against the defending Super Bowl champions.“I’m not sure that I can ever get to 100 percent of where I was before my injury,” he said on Rome’s show last week.Whatever percentage Manning rates his health these days, when he starts doing things that only Y.A. Tittle has done before — seven TDs and no interceptions in a game — it’s quite an accomplishment.It seems like Broncos’ opponents might be in more pain this year than Manning.