Mike Garrett; Jeff Tedford; Baseball Instant Replay; Jon Miller/Ken Korach
THE FIRING of USC athletic director Mike Garrett is both an indication of how college football has changed and how it hasnít.
The change is the fact that the NCAA went after the big dog this time instead of letting USC skate and punishing a lesser school, which has too often been the pattern in the past.
But donít expect USC to significantly change its pattern of behavior in intercollegiate athletics, particularly football, even though Pat Haden has replaced Garrett. Football success means too much to the school.
For decades, USC alumni have contributed significantly to the school because of the success of the football program. The Trojans were No. 1 in the Los Angeles area even when the Rams and, for a relatively brief time, the Raiders, were playing there. Since both pro teams left, the Trojans have been even more important to the area. Only half in jest, people have referred to USC as LAís pro team.
Garrett has been a significant part of that tradition. He was a Heisman Trophy winner as a collegian, and later a top running back in the NFL, and he had been athletic director for the last 17 years.
His stewardship has gotten mixed reviews from alums. Some have disliked him for his arrogance, but he had stayed in place because he had performed the one essential duty of an athletic director: raising money.
The NCAA sanctions have been an embarrassment to school officials, and Garrettís arrogance showed most obviously when he talked to a boosters group in San Francisco and claimed the sanctions were the result of jealousy. ďEverybody wants to be a Trojan,Ē he said.
Garrett certainly knew everything that was going on with Reggie Bush (and O. J. Mayo) as did former coach Pete Carroll, who got out while the getting was good Ė and then denied knowing of any pending trouble. I have lost all respect for Carroll because of that statement.
But, I think it would be naÔve to expect USC to change a pattern of many decades. It has long been a ďtwo-trackĒ school. Those who wanted a good education, especially in the professional schools, could certainly get it, but there also have been courses set up for athletes and the children of big donors among the alumni which were not intellectually challenging. Thus the nickname from students at other schools: University of Spoiled Children.
That doesnít make USC unique among the top football schools and I believe itís a much better school than any of the football powers in the Southeast. The Big 12 schools havenít been academic wonders, either, except for Texas, which has a good reputation.
And my school, Cal, had its problems under Tom Holmoe, landing on NCAA probation because the Bears played two players who were given passing grades in courses where they never attended class. At least, USC has gotten a lot of bang for its buck. Cal got defeat after defeat, and then the embarrassment of NCAA probation.
One of the reasons I like Jeff Tedford is that he keeps a close watch on the players academic lives as well as what theyíre doing on the field.
But Cal is also a symbol of another problem with intercollegiate sports: Football has become much more expensive to maintain. Currently, Memorial Stadium is being retrofitted Ė a necessity because it sits right on the Hayward Fault line Ė and, as part of that project, a new athletic training facility has been built.
Older alumni have questioned the need for that facility because there was nothing like that when they were in school, but itís like the arms race: A school canít compete without modern facilities, and Cal had the worst in the conference. Itís a marvel that Tedford has been able to recruit as well as he has with that handicap. Significantly, he had his best recruiting year (though he lost one prized recruit, linebacker Chris Martin, who transferred this week) this year when he could promise that the new facility would be ready.
The cost of the stadium will have to be financed by alumni donations, including PSLs, and those who canít afford the PSLs will not have a shot at the best seats, no matter how loyal theyíve been in the past. Tht saddens me, but I donít know any other way this could have been done.
Meanwhile, the increasing cost of the football program has changed the old equation, which had football covering costs for the non-revenue sports Ė which is almost everything else. In most programs, menís basketball is the only other sport which makes money.
Thatís why the Pac-10 went hunting for schools that would allow it to grow and get a significantly higher TV contract. Unfortunately, because of the incompetence of new league commissioner Larry Scott, the only schools which were interested were Colorado and Utah, which creates more problems than it solves.
Frankly, I donít see how this pattern of ever escalating football costs can continue indefinitely. There may be some schools, including Cal and Stanford, which have to drop out of the top level in time.
Not USC, though. As soon as the NCAA suspension is over, the Trojans will continue their winning ways and stay in the top level of football schools, even if they have to go independent or join the Big 12 to do it.
INSTANT REPLAY: The blown call that cost the Giants a win, and four-game sweep of the Mets, is still another example of why baseball needs Instant Replay.
And, please, donít talk about ďhuman errorĒ as if itís a good thing. The goal should be to get it right, not to just continuing to act as if nothing has changed since 1880.
John Shea wrote an interestig column in The Chronicle on Tuesday advocating changes in umpiring instead of adding Instant Replay. I agree with some of his suggestions, particularly having umpires confer more on close plays and waiting to make the call. Football officials always wait to make a touchdown call if itís not clear cut. If itís a touchdown, it will still be a touchdown 10 seconds later. Same with a close play on the bases.
Thereís no question umpiring has deteriorated in the last 25 years. That decline coincides with the gain in power of their union, and that is not coincidental. More confident of their jobs, umpires have often become arrogant. The slightest challenge can get a player or manager thrown out of the game, and behind the plate, they make decisions on what the strike zone should be. The rules book is not a factor here.
So, there are ways umpiring can be improved, but that doesnít mean Instant Replay canít be used, in a limited way. No rulings on balls and strikes, because that could cause unreasonable delays. Just on close plays on the bases. A retired umpire could be stationed by a monitor in a press box and make the call off the replays.
Both Sundayís missed call and the one that cost Armando Galarraga a perfect game would be easy over-rules. Jim Joyce, the umpire who blew the perfect game call, admitted his mistake as soon as he saw the television replay. Henry Blanco, the Metsí catcher, said he knew he didnít tag Travis Ishikawa before he slid into home.
Galarraga handles his lost perfect game with grace, and Joyce also reacted well, apologizing profusely. Heís actually one of the best umpires in the game, not one of the arrogant ones.
Still, Iím sure both Joyce and Galarraga would have welcomed the opportunity to get it right. Certainly, the Giants would like to have a win they deserved, especially in a tight race for a playoff berth.
Do we really need to keep pretending that tradition is more important than justice?
JON MILLERíS election to the Baseball Hall of Fame is clearly a result of his work on ESPN, partnered with Joe Morgan, than as the radio voice of the Giants. Te
I think thatís a mistake. Baseball is a radio game because itís possible to listen to it while driving a car, washing the dishes, whatever. Itís almost background because you can tell from the pitch of the announcrís voice when something is happening.
And, I donít think Miller is a good radio announcer. Itís too much about him, not enough about the game. Everything is a performance, very studied. And, heís constantly critiquing an umpireís strike zone and whether a hitter should have swung at a pitch or let it go.
Thatís not the way it was done by Lon Simmons, the best local baseball announcer Iíve heard, or by Vin Scully, the best ever, period. Famously, when Sandy Koufax threw a perfect game, Scully didnít say a word after the final pitch, just walking to the back of the announcerís booth and letting the roar from the crowd tell the story.
Can you imagine Miler doing that?
Overall, I like the Giants broadcasters, especially Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow, who are fun to listen to because they work so well together. Kuiper is a true professional who has improved greatly by working at it. People who arenít Giants fans often think Krukow is too much of a homer, but if they ever listened to announcers from the Midwest, theyíd think he was quite restrained.
But, I think the best play-by-play announcer in the Bay Area now is Ken Korach with the Aís. Heís not flashy. He doesnít do impersonations or critique players, but he gives listeners the complete story, telling them whatís happening, always keeping them up on the score.
Heíll never make the Hall of Fame because he doesnít have the type of persona that attracts the TV producers. But he does the job the way it should be done. Miller doesnít.
SCHEDULE CHANGE: Iíll probably write on Tuesday next week and not at all the following week because weíre going back to Tennessee to see my wifeís family. Ah, Memphis in August. Songs have been written about thatÖ.Well, maybe not.
SPORTS STADIUMS: Itís always been difficult to get public money to help build football stadiums and baseball parks in California because there are so many teams here. States with no more than one or two professional teams can be convinced to cough up money for new stadiums, or use it to lure teams from other states, but thatís not possible in California, which has five major league baseball teams and three NFL teams.
Lately, itís been tough to get local money, too. San Diego has a relatively new baseball park but has had no luck in building a new football stadium. In Los Angeles, the Dodgers play in the park they built when they moved west and the Angels stadium in Anaheim is just a little newer. There hasnít been an NFL team in Los Angeles since the Raiders moved back, but both the Raiders and the Rams before them played in the L. A. Coliseum, which was built in 1923.
The Aís have played in the Oakland Coliseum since 1968; it was remodeled when the Raiders returned but itís showing its age. The 49ers play in Candlestick, built in 1960 as a baseball park and expanded for football in 1971.
So, thereís a lot of history in the baseball/football stadiums in California but not many modern conveniences.
The one obvious exception in the Bay Area is AT&T Park, and when the Giants privately financed the park, they made it certain that there would never again be a park or stadium in the area built with substantial public money.
/That something to remember with the talk about a new stadium for the 49ers and a new park for the Aís. Both are needed urgently, but financing them will be difficult.
The 49ers plan for a stadium in Santa Clara, across the street from their practice facility is a sound one. The location is well served by both freeways and public transportation. The 49ers got approval from Santa Clara voters to use urban renewal money and an increased tax on visitors to hotels in the area as Santa Claraís contribution to the project, so it would then qualify as a public-private operation, so the 49ers could tap into the NFLís G-3 program.
But, that might amount to 20 per cent of the total cost, so the 49ers have a lot more money to raise. Iíve always thought they were overly optimistic with their projections on what they can raise, through PSLs, naming rights to the stadium, private investments, but theyíre working hard to get it done.
Lew Wolffís idea of a ballpark in San Jose has always been nothing more than a figment of his imagination, and when he tried to transfer the idea to Fremont, it flopped at two locations.
A new park in Oakland is more feasible if the new mayor is receptive; Jerry Brown was openly opposed to the idea and Ron Dellums has been MIA on everything.
There are possible sites in Oakland where urban renewal money could be used to partially finance the new park. That would also require new owners, though. Wolff clearly does not want to own a team in Oakland and John Fisher, who could pay the entire cost of a park without seriously denting his fortune, leaves all the decisions to Wolff.
COLUMN RENEWAL: A reader pointed out to me that those wishing to re-up through PayPal Ė or start a new subscription Ė can make contact by hitting the elongated ďSubscribeĒ button about two-thirds of the way down my Home Page.
I should have known that, but Iím very low on the technology curve. I sympathized with a reader who had computer problems and asked a 13-year-old neighbor to help him. The teenager, of course, fixed the problem in about seven seconds. Buster asked what the problem was, so he could perhaps fix it himself the next time. The teenager said it was an ďI-D-Ten-T problem.Ē When Buster asked what the was, he said, ďSpell it out.Ē So: IDIOT.
MY APOLOGIES to those who enjoy watching TV while dining. Obviously, a difference of opinion. Iíve always enjoyed conversation at the dinner table. Itís now just my wife and I, except on Sunday nights, when our son and daughter-in-law come over for dinner, but even after 43 years, Nancy and I always have plenty to talk about.
After dinner, we watch television, usually entertainment but sometimes heavier stuff. Earlier this year, we caught up with ďBand of BrothersĒ and are now going through ďThe Pacific.Ē Great work by Tom Hanks and Steve Spielberg, but agonizing. Games I watch by myself because theyíre informational, not recreational. The only team I have emotional ties to are the Cal Bears, who have been breaking my heart for more than 50 years.
HELLO, IíM Larry Ellison, the sixth-richest man in the world, and I just got outbid for the Warriors. Ooooh, that smarts.
What do YOU think? Let me know!
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