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RAY SWANSON |Keystoner It's been tough year, but hope on horizon



Published: Sat, August 13, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Here it is, mid-August and the scorching, searing temperatures of July have come and gone (hopefully) and it's nearly time for the kids to be checking back into school once again. Where did the summer go?

Already the days are getting shorter and the nights turning cooler. It's time to start bringing in the harvest from the garden, especially since it's been such a great growing season.

Otherwise, it's been a pretty tough year. Terrorist attacks in London and Egypt have scarred the days and the battles in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to take their toll of life.

It's not a pleasant scene no matter how you look at it. The entire world is in turmoil and wedged in a period of total unrest.

But in a less stressful situation, on the American sports scene, some headway was made on the drug-testing front with major league players the focal point. They will now be tested for the use of steroids and self-enhancing drugs. To date, there have been a number of athletes who have tested positive, including several of baseball's top stars.

At last report, however, there are those that say that the penalties of those who have tested positive are too lenient. Now Congress wants to get its foothold in the door. That's just what we need to really destroy the game. I think it's about time that major league baseball stands on its own two feet and delves out a harsher punishment so as to put cleanliness back in the game.

Oh yes. There's going to be a hockey season and Pittsburgh is already looking for bigger and better things now that it has signed several young superstars. Big deal. We'll have to wait and see how they lace up their skates before we make any serious predictions.

Hand takes over

There was a big move in the football program back in May at Westminster College when Jeff Hand, a native of Ellwood City, was named head coach of the Titans. He replaces Jerry Schmitt, who resigned to take over as head coach at Duquesne, a NCAA Division I-AA school.

I chatted with Jim Dafler, director of athletics, and Gene Nicholson, former head coach, who were part of a delegation from Westminster and the Mercer County Hall of Fame golf outing at Tam O'Shanter earlier this year.

Dafler said he was pleased that Hand had become part of the Westminster athletic family.

"As an Ellwood City native, Jeff has an understanding and appreciation for Westminster football," said Dafler. "He is committed to the academic success of his players and his involvement in all phases of student and campus life has been evident."

Hand becomes the 32nd football coach at Westminster but just the fifth full-time coach at the college since 1952. He follows in the footsteps of such legendary figures as Dr. Joseph Fusco, Harold Burry and Nicholson.

The Titans won six NAIA Division II national championships and recorded 11 undefeated regular seasons prior to joining the NCAA in 1998.

Hand spent the last four years at Presidents' Athletic Conference rival Waynesburg, where he posted a 24-18 record. His best season was in 2003 when he led the Yellow Jackets to a 9-1 regular season and the program's first PAC championship.

Prior to taking over at Waynesburg he served for two years as head coach at Benedictine (Ill.) College, posting a 13-7 mark.




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