Kaz’s Korner

Joe Kazmar – For The Record

When the University Interscholastic League for some reason added Navasota to District 10-4A-I last month for 2016-18, it created somewhat of a panic to its regular members—Little Cypress-Mauriceville, Bridge City, Silsbee, Cleveland, Huffman and Livingston.

One of the four teams destined for the playoffs this fall will most likely be an odd-team-out because the Rattlers football team has gone 54-3 in the last four seasons including two state championships.

The move makes no sense because Navasota comes from the other end of the region which is going to cause huge travel woes for most of the members of District 10-4A-I, especially in some of the other sports and UIL events.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel in this scenario, because the person most responsible for the Rattlers’ good fortunes in most of the sports is head coach and athletic director Lee Fedora, who has been directing Navasota’s athletic fortunes for the past 11 years.

About a month ago Fedora was due to have his contract extended as it has routinely been done since he arrived on the scene with an automatic 7-0 approval by the Navasota board of trustees.

But this time the board went into special session and came back without any announcement of Fedora’s contract extension.

According to an article appearing in the Houston Chronicle last week the situation festered and public criticism grew among the ardent Rattler fans and supporters.

Fedora felt like something was in the wind, even though the school board gave Fedora the extension with a 7-0 vote.

“The extension was done every time before in routine fashion, but a football coach who led Navasota to a 54-3 record and two titles the last four years, in addition to an athletic director praised for building the entire program, was left out to dry,” the article stated.

Last Wednesday Fedora told his staff and his athletes that he was leaving Navasota after 11 years.

“What goes on in closed session, I can’t speak about it, but there’s changes coming and I just felt like it was time for a change for my family,” Fedora told the Chronicle. “So that’s the decision I made.”

“Fedora deciding to leave while acknowledging another job isn’t already solidified doesn’t show well for Navasota. The school board made a mistake and did what it could to fix it,” the article pointed out.

“School board member Hollis Hood said he felt last week cleared up any questions either side had. Once out of a 90-minute closed session, the board got a second motion—it didn’t two weeks prior– resulting in the extension not going to a vote, and doled out a unanimous 7-0 vote.

“Taking two weeks was likely the final straw, and now Navasota has to own the fact that it pushed away the best coach it ever had,” the article concluded.

During Fedora’s tenure at the helm of the Rattlers from 2007-15, Navasota averaged 11.4 wins per season and won seven district titles and twice finished 16-0 winning state championships in 2012 and 2014.

“In retrospect, we should have looked at it differently and talked about it differently,” Hood told the Chronicle. “But I don’t think any of the board members really felt that was going to happen, but it just did and there wasn’t anything you could do about it after the fact.

“I’ll tell you this—I’m glad that he stayed here 11 years and he’s gotten the program to a point where I don’t think you can find a better one anywhere,” Hood said.

The LCM Bears and the Bridge City Cardinals, along with the rest of the District 10-4A-I members, will see first-hand this fall if Navasota can continue its winning ways without Head Coach Lee Fedora.

KWICKIES…If the Texas Longhorns (20-12) defeat Northern Iowa (22-12) and the Texas Aggie (26-8) get past Wisconsin-Green Bay (23-12) in Friday’s first round of the NCAA Tourney, it will set up a meeting between the two rivals in the second round on Sunday.

The No. 14 Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks are in their third straight NCAA Tournament under Head Coach Brad Underwood, whose team is 59-1 in Southland Conference play under his guidance. The Lumberjacks (27-5) will play West Virginia 26-8) Friday at 6:10 p.m. in the East Regional. The game will be televised on CBS.

Two Texas teams are in the National Invitational Tournament NIT) field as Texas Southern played at Valparaiso Tuesday night and the University of Houston will go to Georgia Tech today at 8 p.m.  Houston Baptist is playing in the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) and will travel to meet UNC-Greensboro today.

As I speculated in last week’s column, the Denver Broncos didn’t have enough cap money to re-sign Brock Osweiler and that the Houston Texas did and that’s exactly what happened as General Manager Rick Smith opened the purse strings and finally got some quality talent in the free-agent marketplace. Osweiler was signed to a four-year, $72 million contract with $38 million guaranteed. The Texans replaced Arian Foster with 24-year-old Lamar Miller from the Miami Dolphins and signed him to a four-year $26 million contract with a $14 million guarantee. Miller will give the Texans their fastest running back in franchise history. The Texans also signed free agents Jeff Allen (guard) and center Tony Bergstrom. The Broncos replaced Oswelier and Peyton Manning with 29-year-old Mark Sanchez at quarterback.

JUST BETWEEN US…The 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament officially begins tomorrow (Thurs.) with 64 teams competing for the national championship after the four games are completed Tuesday and today. Five teams from the Lone Star State are included in the field—Stephen F. Austin, Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor (22-11) and Texas Tech (19-12). The No. 1 seeds in each of the four regions are not a big surprise with Kansas (30-4) in the South Regional, Oregon (28-6) in the West while the other side of the bracket has North Carolina (28-6) in the East Regional and Virginia (26-7) in the Midwest. I like Kansas to win in the South with No. 5 Maryland (25-8) as the long shot, I’m going with No. 3 Texas A&M in the West as the long shot and winner, North Carolina in the East with No. 7 Wisconsin (20-12) as my long shot and No. 2 Michigan State (29-5) as the winner in the Midwest with No. 5 Purdue (26-8) as the dark horse. This week’s games will be televised on CBS, tru-TV, TBS, and TNT.