If the Badgers’ schedule is any indication, the Wisconsin women’s soccer team expects big things in the 2009 season.Wisconsin opened its season Aug. 21 against third-ranked and 2008 NCAA runner-up Notre Dame. Despite a 3-0 loss, the Badgers played well early, holding the Fighting Irish scoreless through the first half of play.“Facing Notre Dame was a great way to be introduced to the season,” head coach Paula Wilkins said. “Holding them until halftime and then giving up three goals that all could have been changed in different ways. … They say defense wins championships, so we want to keep building on that.”The Badgers finish out their nonconference slate over the next three weeks with six games against Northern Illinois, Tennessee, North Dakota State, DePaul, No. 22 Santa Clara and 2008 College Cup participant No. 2 Stanford. Six of UW’s opponents were ranked in the NSCAA preseason top 25.And with the lack of a postseason Big Ten Tournament this season, the Badgers’ have just two main goals.“I’m hoping we get in the top half of the Big Ten, and I hope we earn an NCAA berth,” junior defender Taryn Francel said. “That is a huge goal of ours and, if we make it, that would be amazing.”Following the season-opening loss at Notre Dame, Wisconsin has bounced back with a pair of strong double overtime performances at home with a 0-0 tie against UW-Milwaukee on Aug. 24 and a 1-0 victory Friday night over UW-Green Bay.Wisconsin’s defense was impressive in both games, and it is something that appears to be one of the Badgers’ strongest points this season. UW has more experience defensively than anywhere else on the field with senior Whitney Owusu and juniors Birdie Leibham and Francel leading the way.Behind those three will be a sophomore goaltender, either Michelle Dalton, who started against Notre Dame and UW-Milwaukee, or Lauren Gunderson, who got the start against UW-Green Bay.“Lauren’s been training very well and so has Michelle, so it’s going to be a very good competition,” Wilkins said. “I am very confident with both of them. I think both of them have established themselves as goalkeepers that the team trusts. They communicate well, they have a good presence and they both have done well to get shutouts.”Offensively, the Badgers return 2008 team MVP and leading scorer Laurie Nosbusch as well as fellow Big Ten All-Freshman Team honoree Erin Jacobsen, who combined to tally 11 goals and 11 assists for 33 points last season.However, Nosbusch will need to step into a bigger leadership role this season with the departure of 2008 co-captain Taylor Walsh. With the way she carries herself both on and off the field, Nosbusch appears ready to take on such a position despite being in just her second season.“I feel like after my freshman year, I’ve had a lot of experiences that kind of gave me some insight into the team,” Nosbusch said. “I learned a lot from other leaders on the team, and I think that on the field I can help the team get better. If I can get a goal and make them believe in ourselves, then it’s going to be great.”Nosbusch is not the only young player set to take a major role for the team in 2009. So far, the Badgers have started at least three freshmen in each game alongside several sophomores.Among the freshmen to have started are Alev Kelter, Monica Lam-Feist, Paige Adams and Lindsey Johnson. And with 13 freshman and nine sophomores to just six juniors and two seniors, the Badgers will need their underclassmen to contribute to be successful.“I expect them to keep getting better,” Wilkins said. “Being put into college soccer this fast is always a difficult thing, but I just expect them to get better each practice and each game and learn. What’s amazing is they sometimes actually get better during the game.”Wisconsin will need them to get better before it begins Big Ten play Sept. 25 against the Purdue Boilermakers if the Badgers expect to finish in the top half of the conference. The Big Ten features three teams in the top 25: No. 12 Penn State, No. 17 Illinois and No. 19 Minnesota.The Badgers are fortunate to play two of the three at home — Minnesota on Oct. 1 and Penn State on Oct. 18 –while having to travel to Champaign to face the Fighting Illini on Oct. 11.And while Wisconsin will face a tough opponent in Stanford on Sept. 20, the games against the Gophers, Nittany Lions and Fighting Illini will be the true tests of whether the Badgers are going to finish seventh — where they were picked to finish in the preseason coaches’ poll — or even higher in the conference.Nonetheless, the Badgers are confident in their ability to improve from a 9-9-1 record last season.“I have high expectations for the team, much higher than last year,” Francel said. “I expect to have a winning record. We just need to work on finishing, and I think I see a bright season. I think we have more depth than last year, which will help us tremendously.”
(Getty Images) https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/f0/6b/bill-polian-ftr_n7yfz0t1qbau1pg6ycf97f26m.png?t=1371977275&w=500&quality=80 A lot of the information has already been made public, in some fashion. But there are other details that show why it was amazing this league even existed at all. The entire report is worth reading, but we’ll provide some thoughts on a few notable excerpts.MORE: The 8 best moments from the AAF’s brief existenceAAF chairman Tom Dundon wanted out immediatelyFrom ESPN:Dundon had watched the AAF’s opening weekend and liked its potential — and the potential of spring football. (Potential investor Erik) Anderson connected Dundon and (AAF co-founder Charlie) Ebersol, and a deal came together over the phone. Dundon told Ebersol that he was in for $250 million — the amount both men believed it would take to get the league to profitability. But over the next hour, Dundon started digging into the business and was livid at what he found: The financial prospectus the AAF provided him was outdated and inaccurate.”I’m out,” Dundon told Ebersol.Ebersol was able to keep Dundon and his investment, but it’s pretty shocking to see Dundon agree to a deal before really doing his research. ESPN notes just days after becoming an investor, Dundon “was already having buyer’s remorse.” Many AAF fans blamed Dundon for ruining the league, as it was his decision to shut it down, but it’s clear from reading this story he was misled from the beginning.Dundon was just being realistic and knew there was no way to make the finances work the way Ebersol and fellow AAF co-founder Bill Polian set it up. Dundon provided a quote to ESPN that perfectly summed up his investment: “I did zero due diligence. It was really stupid.” The AAF was nearly over before it started The AAF had a quarterback draft, but opted to have players go to teams based on territorial rights rather than have an actual draft. But league executives did discuss the possibility of a draft, and former UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel had an interesting idea on how to do it. But Polian was really against it, apparently.Essentially, Neuheisel and Ebersol wanted the players to pick which teams they wanted to play for. And that’s where the story gets hilarious. From ESPN:Polian didn’t understand the concept. Neuheisel and Ebersol explained that it was like The Voice.”What?” Polian said.”It’s the greatest show!” Neuheisel replied.Neuheisel explained the TV contest in which four celebrity vocal coaches spin around in their red chairs when they hear a singer they want on their team, then the singer chooses the coach, and so …”What does this have to do with anything?” Polian said.Rick Schaeffer, the AAF’s senior counsel to the co-founders, jokingly told ESPN, “steam started coming out of (Polian’s) ears.”The idea of players saying where they want to go sounds interesting on the surface. If nothing else, it would have been something entertaining to watch on television, which would have driven some additional interest into the league. But Polian was having none of it, so the idea unfortunately never developed.MORE: Marshawn Lynch demanded to be paid with 20,000 quarters for AAF interviewBill Polian promised NFL no players would get seriously hurt in AAFA lot of ESPN’s reporting details the growing rift between Dundon and Polian. The two clearly weren’t fans of one another, which was pretty evident at the end the league when Polian released a strongly worded public statement blaming Dundon for the league’s failure.If you know anything about the AAF, you know the league wanted to partner with the NFL to become an official developmental league. The two leagues had several talks, and Dundon knew near the end that getting a deal was pretty much the only way to keep the AAF afloat. (Getty Images) https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/91/e5/iron-vs-legends-aaf_19dzeh13bna8w1sz58qxzuf2d5.png?t=1371875723&w=500&quality=80 The Alliance was founded on March 20, 2018 and didn’t start playing football until February the next year. But by December 2018 the league was already facing financial issues. The AAF’s initial investor Reggie Fowler, who was later arrested on bank fraud charges, wasn’t providing the money like he said he would.The league was about to miss payroll, falling $13 million short. Ebersol met with Fowler saying, via ESPN, “This is not f—ing acceptable! If you don’t start properly funding us, I will shut the company down! I don’t f—ing miss payroll!” Even Ebersol’s fellow co-founder was ready to give up.”Look, Charlie,” Polian said, via ESPN. “There’s no dishonor in saying that we can’t make this work. We gave it an honest shot.”Employees had to work out of McDonald’s and shipping containersAccording to ESPN’s report, “The Salt Lake Stallions would move into their offices only after executives briefly worked out of a McDonald’s and the conference room of the team’s ticket broker.” And later in the story: “The Stallions still didn’t have football offices, so Fowler offered to purchase shipping containers that could be outfitted with cubicles. Fowler flew to Salt Lake City and scouted available land. Fewer containers arrived than Fowler had promised, but the team made do.”While the AAF clearly had much larger problems than this, it just goes to show how dire the situation really was. The league got off to too fast a start in a race to beat the XFL, resulting in rampant mismanagement.AAF TIMELINE: Recapping the league’s short first seasonBill Polian really hated the idea of a football draft in the style of ‘The Voice’ You may have already forgotton about the Alliance of American Football. The now-defunct football league began play on Feb. 9 2019 and ceased football operations on April 2 the same year. The AAF only played eight of its scheduled 10 weeks of football before shutting down.Much has been said about why the league folded, but an in-depth report published Thursday from ESPN details everything that led to the AAF’s demise. ESPN reporters Seth Wickersham and Michael Rothstein spoke with 40 senior AAF executives, lawyers, consultants, team presidents, coaches, players and other sources to find out what went wrong. One interesting note from one of these meetings, which happened one day before the league suspended its football operations, is just how desperate Polian was to get a deal done.From ESPN: On the call, Polian was diplomatic. He suggested that Smith decide which NFL players could participate in the AAF. The idea went nowhere. Polian then offered his assurance that any NFL players in the AAF wouldn’t be forced into the league or seriously injured.”You have my word,” Polian said.Dundon found that statement absurd. It was football — how could the AAF promise nobody would get hurt? He felt that AAF executives weren’t leveling with the union, so he took it upon himself. Citing the likelihood of injuries, he said, “I understand why you’re not going to do the deal.”Dundon was right in finding Polian’s promise absurd. Because players in the AAF did get seriously hurt. Linebacker Gionni Paul suffered a broken arm just a few days before the league shut down. Linebacker Ryan Davis had to be stretchered off the field after a neck injury early in the season.