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Excerpts from recent Wisconsin editorials

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Janesville Gazette, Dec. 18

Chryst, chancellor strike right notes on UW admissions

Humble. Appreciative. Folksy.

That was Paul Chryst as the worst-kept secret in Badger Nation became official Wednesday. Chryst is the new UW football coach.

It has been a chaotic month for the Badgers. First came a clubbing by Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game that raised questions about coach Gary Andersen's abilities to prepare a team for the big stage. Last week, the fickle Andersen surprised fans and Athletic Director Barry Alvarez by bolting for Oregon State, a lateral career move at best.

Alvarez said he'd prefer that his next hire have head coaching experience. Ties to Madison weren't a priority. Perhaps he was bluffing about the latter point. Alvarez now admits he immediately thought of Chryst, Pittsburgh's head coach. Chryst twice served as an assistant for the Badgers. This Madison native's roots run so deep that he recalled a childhood of sneaking into Camp Randall to play on the field and helping clean up after games.

Andersen wouldn't explain his abrupt departure. Reports surfaced that admissions standards rubbed him wrong. A top Sun Prairie recruit switched to conference rival Michigan State because Wisconsin wouldn't admit him. Jesse Temple of FOX Sports Wisconsin reported that academics also cost Andersen two more recruits.

To her credit, Chancellor Rebecca Blank won't apologize for UW's admission standards. Academics, she told The Gazette's editorial board Tuesday, are a strength that should attract coaches. She pointed to Wall Street Journal analyses that include winning percentages, NCAA violations and academics and that rank Wisconsin in the top five nationally the past two years.

Let academics slip, she suggested, and you wind up like the University of North Carolina, accused of placing athletes in sham courses. "That's not a condition any of us want to be in."

Blank knows admissions standards differ among Big Ten schools. As Temple reported, Wisconsin requires 17 "core classes" that include math, English and science, along with electives that can include foreign language. Michigan State requires just 14.

Still, Blank won't relax standards for athletes, nor should she. The admissions office, she says, knows exactly what students must know and courses they must take. As she points out, once athletes are admitted, Big Ten schools offer similar academic help. That's fair given how many classes athletes miss due to practices and travel.

Unlike Andersen, Chryst knows the lay of the UW landscape. It was good to hear him praise the academics.

"I think that's one of the things that gives Wisconsin an edge," he said.

He and assistants will offer recruits not just a chance to play for a great program but a world-class education. With that combination, he said, "you've got a lot to work with."

Alvarez wisely bypassed Chryst in 2012 after encouraging Pitt to hire him a year earlier. Now, after Chryst's three years at the helm in Pittsburgh, the time was right, though Chryst compiled just a 19-19 record. Signs suggested he had a previously moribund program pointed the right way. If the qualities Chryst displayed Wednesday translate into success on the field, this might be a destination job for a 49-year-old Madison boy that rivals the longevity of Alvarez and men's basketball coach Bo Ryan.

Still, he said, "You've got to earn the right to stay that long."

Badger fans are banking on that.


Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, Dec. 18

Walker's Vegas visits illustrate a broken system

"Follow the money" was a phrase made famous during the Watergate scandal in the 1970s that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

Following the money has never been more important and never more difficult, simply because there's so much of it poisoning our political process and the people we elect to represent us.

Gov. Scott Walker, who is seriously considering running for president, recently made his second visit to Las Vegas to meet with billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a staunch supporter of Israel, who has made it clear he is ready, willing and able to pour tens of millions of dollars into the campaign of the person who he believes will best carry out his wishes if elected.

According to published reports, Adelson and his wife put $30 million into groups backing Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in the 2012 general election. Earlier that year, Adelson funneled some $20 million into a super PAC that supported Newt Gingrich's Republican primary run.

Not to be outdone, Haim Saban, another billionaire and strong supporter of Israel, said in remarks last month that he also is ready to unload big money in the 2016 presidential campaign, according to The Washington Post. The newspaper also reported that Saban is a close political ally of Democrat Hillary Clinton, who is expected to get her party's nod for president if she chooses to run.

With that kind of influence, it would make sense to invite Adelson and Saban to the political debates in 2016. Then, when a panelist asks the presidential candidates their views on the Mideast, those candidates could simply turn the microphone over to Adelson and Saban, respectively, to answer the question.

Incidentally, in October of this year Adelson gave $650,000 to the Republican Party of Wisconsin, which on the same day gave Walker $450,000 for his re-election bid.

You'd think with that kind of money, the candidates would buy ads stating to voters how they would support Israel if elected. But a recent column by Bill Lueders of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism illustrates that's not how it usually happens.

Lueders noted that a group pushing school choice funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into Wisconsin legislative races in the November election.

Yet, Lueders pointed out, that money wasn't used in ads to advocate for school choice, but rather for negative advertising to discredit those Democrats who would be expected to oppose expanded school choice legislation.

Scott Jensen, one of three former Republican state Assembly speakers lobbying for school choice (itself a joke), was up front about the strategy.

"We usually campaign on the issues that are most likely to move voters," Jensen told Lueders.

Translation: Negative advertising is the most effective. Issue ads that convey a positive message aren't even a close second.

Multiply that strategy times tens of millions of dollars, and you get an idea of what's coming in 2016, if not much earlier.

This system is more than messed up. It's scary.


Green Bay Press-Gazette, Dec. 18

Time to require ice rinks to have CO detectors

More than 80 people were taken to hospitals on Saturday after they were sickened by carbon monoxide poisoning at a Lake Delton ice rink.

Officials discovered the culprits to be a propane-fueled ice-resurfacing machine and the lack of any carbon monoxide detectors in the ice rink.

Those sickened exhibited the normal symptoms of headache, nausea, dizziness, and one player was placed in a hyperbaric chamber at a Milwaukee hospital. Luckily, it appears everyone has recovered.

The outcome could have been worse. But it also could have been better. Much better.

The carbon monoxide leak could have been detected if Wisconsin had a law requiring detectors at ice rinks.

Michael Fatis, president of the Rochester, Minnesota, Ice Hawks, one of the teams sickened on Saturday, told the Rochester Post-Bulletin that the incident makes a good case for Wisconsin to adopt a law similar to Minnesota's, which states: "Owners or operators of indoor ice arenas must measure carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide air concentrations in each arena when internal combustion engine-powered ice maintenance equipment is used."

We couldn't agree more.

When you operate the combustion engine of an ice-resurfacing machine in an enclosed area, it seems a no-brainer to have device that detects carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide leaks.

Many of us heard of carbon monoxide poisoning, but nitrogen dioxide is also a danger.

Nitrogen dioxide, a gas produced when fuel is burned, was blamed when members of the Green Bay Notre Dame boys hockey team were sickened about a year ago at the De Pere Ice Arena.

Don Chilson, manager of the De Pere Ice Arena and Cornerstone Community Center in Ashwaubenon, said both rinks have detectors for carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide.

At the time, the De Pere rink had detectors for both. It tested continuously for carbon monoxide but not nitrogen dioxide. That has since changed.

After that incident, several organizations came together to raise money for an electric-powered ice resurfacer at the De Pere rink. That alleviates the gas problem, but electric machines are more expensive than gas-powered ones, so they're not economically feasible for all facilities.

Since the incident on Saturday, the Lake Delton ice rink has installed eight carbon monoxide detectors.

It shouldn't take an incident like this, or one with fatal results, for ice rinks to take action, but if such facilities won't install detectors, we call on the Legislature to compel them to do so.

We don't like legislating common sense, but as we saw Saturday night, dozens of people at one of these events can be sickened, or worse.

Legislators should pass a law requiring detectors that will continuously monitor carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide levels.

It might not prevent all incidents, but the possible consequences of no action are chilling.

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