Notes from Air Force athletic programs:
National honor for pole vault coach
Air Force pole vault coach Scott Steffan was stunned last week in Reno, Nev., when he was named National Collegiate Pole Vault Coach of the Year.
Steffan said he was texting when the announcement came out and had no idea his name would be called.
He should have had some idea.
Since his arrival in 2008 from New Mexico, Steffan’s vaulters have earned six All-America citations, four Mountain West titles, 17 all-MW selections and occupy half of the top 10 marks in school history.
His current group of vaulters have improved their personal records anywhere from 2 inches to 2 feet under his guidance.
“We all do the same thing, teach it the same way for the most part,” Steffan said when asked what separates his methods from other coaches. “It’s the chemistry that works well. We’re in a groove, we’re clicking. They all get along really well.”
When looking at Air Force from afar while at New Mexico, he said the Falcons seemed too workman-like and didn’t seemed to have fun. He set out to change that and also brought high standards to recruiting.
“He realizes that in Olympic sports, we can go after the best athletes in the country,” head track coach Ralph Lindeman said. “We can offer them as much as the Stanfords or Oregons or Nebraskas can offer them. He’s had some success in recruiting some of the best, and he’s inspired the rest of our coaching staff.”
Crunch time on the ice
On the strength of a 6-2-2 mark over its past 10 games, Air Force has moved into a tie for fourth place in the Atlantic Hockey Association.
The Falcons are just one point from second place and two points from ninth place.
A finish in the top four means a first-round bye in the conference tournament and the right to host a second-round series with a final four spot on the line.
“How you position yourself for the playoffs is pretty much everything,” coach Frank Serratore said. “Especially in our league where all we’re going to get it is a (automatic qualifier), we’re not going to get any at large bids. So, for our league, it’s high-stakes poker right now.”
The regular season doesn't conclude until the first week of March.
Faster by design
It’s no accident that Air Force scored 91 points in Saturday’s men’s basketball victory over Boise State – the program’s most points in a Mountain West game.
The Falcons have intentionally tried to up the tempo this season for a number of reasons. Such an offense allows players to react instinctively rather than thinking too much, it prevents the team from settling for poor shots late in the shot clock by passing up quality shots early in possessions and it allows the Falcons to utilize their depth, particularly at home where other teams might struggle to maintain such a pace at 7,000 feet.
In the past, Air Force had deliberately slowed games out of fear it didn’t have the scorers to keep pace.
“We still run the Princeton offense, we just run it a little faster,” coach Dave Pilipovich said.
BYU coming back to town
It’s not major conference news, at least not yet, but BYU will return to Air Force to participate in an indoor track meet this weekend.
“We’ve all had this rivalry going for a long, long, long time, and we want to keep it going whether they’re in our conference or not,” Air Force track coach Ralph Lindeman said. “I’ll leave it to people at a higher pay grade than me to decide whether they ever come back in our conference or not.”
BYU would seem to be a perfect fit to return to the Mountain West in sports other than football. The MW has 11 teams in those sports – Hawaii is a football-only member. BYU’s football team is now an independent, meaning its return to the conference would mean the Mountain West's football number would stay at 12 and the other sports could then reach that number, which is ideal for scheduling.
Air Force superintendent Lt. Gen. Michael Gould told The Gazette last week that he had a planned trip to BYU that was cancelled for budgetary reasons.
Was that trip part of a wooing process to bring BYU back? It remains to be seen.