PAC-11; USC PROBATON; WORST TRADE; 49ER STADIUM; RAIDERS WOES
OOPS! Just as we were getting accustomed to the idea of a Pac-16, Texas put a pin in the balloon by announcing it would stay in the Big 12. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M immediately followed with the same announcement.
A bit of advice for Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott: The next time you try this type of thing, make sure the big dog signs up first.
Another bit of advice for the Pac-10 schools: Fire this clown immediately and hire somebody who knows what heís doing.
It had seemed the 16-team conference would work with two divisions, a western division with the original Pac-8 schools and an eastern one with the Arizona schools joining Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Texas A&M.
Now, the Pac-10 is stuck. It seems the best it can do now is to add Utah to make a 12-team conference. That will be the worst of all worlds. It wonít be possible to play a complete round-robin, which has been an admirable feature of the Pac-10, and still schedule intersectional games. And, it will mean more travel, to schools that have no geographical or emotional ties to the existing Pac-10 schools. This is not like Nebraska going to the Big 10. Geographically and emotionally, the Cornhuskers are closer to the Big 10 schools than to the Texas/Oklahoma schools in the Big 12.
And, tell me how adding Utah and Colorado will enable the conference to get a more lucrative television contract, which was the reason for all this turmoil.
Way to go, Larry!
USC PROBATION: The NCAA did two things right when it announced the punishment for the Trojans:
1) Athletes at the school will be allowed to transfer without having to sit out a year before becoming eligible (though the Pac-10 wonít waive that rule for athletes transferring to another school, for no logical reason). Players who had no part in the circumstances which led to the NCAA action should not be penalized.
2) A football powerhouse was punished. Too often, the NCAA has gone after the small fish while letting the big guys slide. The Los Angeles Times last week had a story about Sam Gilbertís constant violations of NCAA rules in getting top basketball players to come to UCLA in the Ď70s and Ď80s. An investigator claimed he was taken off the case in the Ď70s, obviously because the NCAA didnít want to tarnish John Woodenís record. In 1981, when the much less celebrated Larry Brown was the coach, UCLA was put on probation for a year.
The big problem is that coaches involved in recruiting violations skate. Pete Carroll bolted to the pros (his claim he didnít know this was going to happen is the biggest joke Iíve heard in some time) and heís not the worst example. In basketball, John Calipari has been involved with three programs that were sanctioned, all of them after he had left for another good job.
The NCAA should put in a rule that any coach whose school is sanctioned for violations during his time there cannot coach at another college for a year. That wouldnít affect somebody like Carroll because he went to the pros, but it would at least prevent the Caliparia scenario.
And, donít feel sorry for Lane Kiffin. He was heavily involved in recruiting as an USC assistant and has never shown any signs that adherence to NCAA regulations is a priority. And, knowing Kiffin, heís probably already got his resume out at other schools.
The puzzling aspect is that USC didnít make more efforts to clean up the mess, which originated with an agent, because they knew anything involving Reggie Bush would be in the spotlight.
When Tom Holmoe was at Cal, despite his reputation as being squeaky clean (though a terrible coach), Cal was put on suspension for playing two receivers who had been given passing grades in classes they hadnít attended. When I was talking to Jack Citrin, then the faculty advisor for Cal sports, he said itís usually the schools with weaker teams that cheat because itís the only way for them to get quality athletes. Both players had problems in their background which had prevented UCLA from signing them.
But, USC certainly doesnít have that kind of problem. For football (not basketball), the Trojans are in the best possible situation. Top preps look first for two things: 1) The chance to market themselves for the NFL; and 2) Babes. USC has a great football tradition, so players will get great national exposure, and they have many coeds looking for a movie career. Itís heaven for horny 18-year-olds. (Iím probably being redundant there.)
Theoretically, the USC probation makes it easier for Cal and Stanford to get to the Rose Bowl, especially since the Scott screwup on conference expansion means that Texas and the Oklahoma schools wonít be a roadblock.
But, this will be my 55th season of watching Cal football, and Iím resigned to never again seeing Cal in the Rose Bowl in my lifetime.
WORST TRADE EVER: A reader wrote me this week that he considers the Aís 2006 trade of then prospect Andre Ethier for Milton Bradley the worst trade ever in Bay Area history, surpassing his previous choices: Orlando Cepeda for Ray Sadecki, Wilt Chamberlain for three nobodies and Mark McGwire for another three nobodies.
I think you have to consider the circumstances surrounding the trades. The Giants had two very good first basemen, Cepeda and Willie McCovey, who couldnít play another position. They needed pitching and decided McCovey was the better long-term choice at first base, which was correct. Sadecki was a young lefthander who had already had a 20-win season. He didnít live up to expectations for the Giants but the reasoning behind the trade was sound. The Chamberlain and McGwire trades were money deals; in both cases, the teams were trying to dump salaries. You canít get value in situations like that.
In 2006, the Aís had a surfeit of left-handed hitters and needed a right-handed bat, so they traded Ethier for Bradley. The trade looks bad now, but it helped the Aís get to the ALCS, the only time since 2002 that a Bay Area team has gone that far.
My nomination for the worst trade ever in the Bay Area was the 49ersí trade of Y.A. Tittle for Lou Cordileone in 1961. This one stunk from the get-go. It was not a salary dump. Tittle was an established star quarterback, Cordileone a mediocre defensive lineman who, when told of the trade, said in amazement, ďThey traded Tittle for me?Ē It was a great trade for Tittle, who solidified his Hall of Fame credentials with the Giants, but from the time it was made, there was no way it could benefit the Niners.
49ERS STADIUM: Iím not optimistic that there will ever be a new stadium for the Niners, but if it is, it will be in Santa Clara, not San Francisco.
There was a column in the San Francisco Examiner, for whom I contribute columns on Tuesday and Friday, suggesting that the NFL would encourage the 49ers and Raiders to share a stadium in the Hunters Point area.
And when the NFL finishes that task, maybe they can ban earthquakes in California.
The obvious fact is that Al Davis has never cooperated with anybody, and heís not getting more reasonable with age. He wants a new stadium, all right, but he wants Oakland to build it for him. Yeah, theyíll do that, right after they pay policemen and firemen. . . wait a minute. The city doesnít have the money to do that. Sorry, Al, the stadium plan will have to wait.
Davis had a dream deal proposed to him in Los Angeles, put together by Carmen Policy, then the president of the 49ers, because he wanted to keep the Raiders where they were. A stadium would have been built in the Hollywood Park area. Davis wouldnít agree because there was a provision that, if L.A. got an expansion team, it would share the stadium with the Raiders. That wasnít likely and, in fact, L.A. still has no expansion team, but Davis moved his team back to Oakland.
So now, heís going to be willing to share a stadium with the 49ers?
Last spring, I went to a presentation at a San Francisco Chamber of Commerce function by the Lennar people on their proposed retail/housing development of the Bay View/Hunters Point area. Included was a spot for a new 49er stadium in Hunters Point; Lennar wants to tear down the Candlestick stadium because that will be the best area for retail.
The presentation was impressive and the development plan would certainly be good for the area, but the economy has made it much more problematical. Though Policy, now the Lennar spokesman (when he isnít tending to his new winery in the Napa Valley), remains upbeat about the stadium, the glimmer of hope seems extinguished. .
The overwhelming problems remain the same. The EIR on the project will certainly reveal tons of toxic waste Ė the military always leaves this behind when bases are abandoned Ė that will take millions to remove. Whoís going to pay for this? Certainly not San Francisco and, equally certain, not the 49ers. Access roads will have to be built into the area, which is a mile further from the freeway than Candlestick.
San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom has talked repeatedly of the need to keep the Niners in San Francisco, but thatís only because he doesnít want them leaving on his watch. Heís done nothing to keep them there.
Nor should he. The fact is that the 49er fan base has shifted south of Candlestick, to the lower peninsula. Few season tickets are held by San Franciscans, and even some of those with a San Francisco address are corporations. The tickets are actually used by employes and clients who live elsewhere.
I have serious doubts that the 49ers will be able to finance the new stadium, but I have no doubts about the location. Itís in the right spot.
Unlike many who talk about this, I spend a lot of time in that area, because the proposed location is right across the street from the 49er training facility. And, of course, Iíve been going to games at Candlestick since 1960.
From my experience, I would say that the only fans who would find it more difficult to get to a Santa Clara stadium are San Franciscans and Marin residents, and thatís a small minority.
Fans on the Peninsula would be slightly closer or slightly further, but the access will be much better than at Candlestick. For Sacramento or East Bay fans, it will probably be easier because they wonít have to cross the Bay Bridge. I have FasTrak, so I can get across fairly easily on game days, but thereís a huge backup at the toll booth by those who donít have it.
From my Oakland home, near the 24/13 crossing, it takes me 45 minutes in non-commute time to reach the 49er facility. Because I know some shortcuts (sorry, Iím not sharing), I can make it to 49er games in 40 minutes. It takes longer if they have a true sellout.
There is train service from San Francisco to Santa Clara, and Sacramento fans could take the ďCapitol CorridorĒ train to Santa Clara; neither option is available for Candlestick or the proposed Hunterís Point area.
Despite Newsomís talk, there is no reason the 49ers have to play in San Francisco. There is ample precedent in the NFL for teams playing elsewhere than the names on their uniforms. The Dallas Cowboys new stadium is in Arlington, and they were in Irving before that. The New York Giants and Jets play in New Jersey.
The 49ers could have moved out of San Francisco much earlier When Lou Spadia, then the president of the 49ers, was looking for a new site because the team had outgrown Kezar Stadium, a site for a new stadium on the peninsula was presented to him. But Spadia had promised the Morabito widows he would not move the team out of San Francisco, so he moved the team to Candlestick, after it was renovated to accommodate football.
WORLD CUP: Nothing these guys should amaze me any ore but the right wing commentators are taking shots at the World Cup and even linking it with their attacks on the President. I think it was Glenn Beck who said, ďThe rest of the world loves soccer and the rest of the world loves Obama. Well, we donít like Obama and we donít like soccer.Ē So there!
Apparently, Beck and Rush Limbaugh think itís un-American to like soccer because it didnít start in this country. Good grief. Letís all take a deep breath and start over.
The fact is, thereís no intrinsic worth in any sport. What you like depends on factors largely beyond your control.
My first experience with a sport was hockey. Thatís because my family was living in northern Minnesota, where there are two seasons: winter and the Fourth of July. The schoolyard would be flooded in September and freeze over. Most of it would be used for recreational skating, but there was an area closed off for hockey. When I was in first and second grade, weíd get out of school an hour early and play hockey before the bigger kids got out and chased us away.
NHL players were big stars to us, especially a goalie, Frankie Brimsek, who came from our little town of Virginia.
Meanwhile, my dad, growing up in Iowa, was a huge baseball fan. His dad was a railroad engineer so he could ride free until his 18th birthday. So, he used to ride to Chicago and watch the White Sox.
In October, 1945, he introduced me to baseball via the radio broadcast of the World Series. The next June, we moved to San Diego Ė for which I have been eternally grateful Ė and my conversion to baseball was complete. I rarely even gave hockey another thought. I became a member of the Knothole Gang to get into the then minor league Padres games, and I played baseball on playgrounds, in the streets, wherever I could.
Obviously, if Iíd grown up in, say, Argentina, I would have been kicking a soccer ball, not swinging a baseball bat. Would it have made any difference to me as a person. Not one iota.
As it happened, I never saw a soccer game until I was well into my adult years. Because of that, I never developed a passion for the game.
But around the world, many people grew up with soccer and developed a passion for it. The World Cup means more to them than the Olympics. Good for them. It doesnít make them better or worse than us because their passion is for a different sport.
PARTING SHOT: For the second time, the Raiders have lost days for their OTAs (Organized Team Activities) because they went longer in practice sessions than the allowed two hours.
These sessions are not monitored by the NFL. The only way the league learns about violations is if players call the Players Association. If a player thinks his team has a chance to be good, he doesnít call to complain. If he thinks his team will not be good, he thinks, ďI donít need this,Ē and heads to the telephone.
A word of advice to Raiders fans: If the players donít think the team will be good, you should temper your own optimism.
What do YOU think? Let me know!
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