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From The Mailbag!

From the Mailbag a clarification about fracturing
spleens...

 

How do you fracture an organ? It helps if the organ is an encapsulated
internal organ, rather than the kind of organ that you can--ahem--easily hold in
your hands. To fracture just means to break, and so a fractured spleen means to
break the spleen's protective capsule. While pleasant to have around, spleens
are relatively dispensable, and a fractured spleen is--I think--removed. Not a paired organ (like the kidneys), where the loss of one is
no big deal but the loss of both is catastrophic, the spleen filters blood
cells, a function that can be taken over elsewhere in a pinch.

By the way, a spinal fracture can be no big deal, since a broken spinal bone
does not necessarily do any damage to the spinal cord. In the girlfriend's case,
partial paralysis certainly sounds bad but does not necessarily mean that she'll
have permanent limitations. Same goes for a "head injury." Hence, the
jury remains out as to who got the worst end of the stick among the three
victims. Hopefully, they'll all be okay. 

...And An Opinion On UNC Soccer! This is in
response to our earlier comments, as quoted

But you are basketball guys, not soccer guys, so here is the real scoop from
a soccer guy:

You said: "Nonetheless, we've always had immense admiration for what
Dorrance has done - it's virtually impossible, even in the early stages of a
sport's development, to win championships the way UNC has won them."

My reply:  It would be virtually impossible for UNC not to have won
soccer championships the way UNC has won them over the years, given the unique 
soccer recruiting situation which existed during UNC's recent domination of the
college sport.  Things will certainly be different in the future. 

Informed players in every state who want to play at the highest level
collegiately and nationally first try to make their State Olympic Development
Program (ODP) Teams.  Players on the State ODP Teams are then invited to
tryouts for Regional ODP Teams.  Finally, Regional Team members from the
four national Regions established by the U.S. Youth Soccer Ass'n then get to
tryout for the National Team and National team player pool. 

For  years, the National Team Coach was Anson Dorrance. 
Consequently, players who wanted to be on the U.S. Women's National Team (or in
the National Pool from which replacement players are chosen) were selected by
and for Anson Dorrance.  UNC always had first choice of National Team
players and prospects and a tremendous recruiting advantage.  There is no
analogous situation in college sports where one coach was established as the
coach with the most power and influence over elite players in the sport. 
Dorrance is a great coach, but he had a recruiting advantage for more than a
decade that would have been considered outrageous in any developed sport. 
Women's college soccer, however, has benefited immensely from (and grown to more
than 700 NCAA DI-III Teams) because of what Dorrance did with UNC and the "Booters
With Hooters" National Team.  (Quoting National Team Midfielder Julie
Foudy).  

Once its soccer program became established as clearly the best, UNC's
recruiting advantage continued despite Dorrance stepping down from his National
Team duties.  In the future, it will be much more difficult for UNC to win
national collegiate women's soccer titles due to  the increased pool of
player talent and the rise of other programs and coaches.  

In 1999, the consensus women's collegiate soccer favorite to finish first is
Santa Clara and, as you know, Florida won the title in 1998 with a program that
was only several years old.  UNC will probably always be
among the teams with a shot at the title, but its days of total dominance of the
sport are in the past.  One of the nicest things about the emergence of
women's soccer is that the more elite players are quite frequently also the more
elite students.  Lower academic standards do not make for a more
competitive side.  In fact, Stanford, Harvard, Duke, Dartmouth and
Princeton, among other top academic institutions, had Top 25 Division I
recruiting classes this past spring in a field of 264 D-I programs which will
have teams in 1999.  (See www.soccerbuzz.com
and read about the Stanford and Harvard recruits).  What a refreshing
difference!  JAG, Duke B.A. '72