College Sports; Peyton Manning/Alex Smith; Al Davis/Reggie McKenzie/Dennis Allen/Greg Knapp
EVER SINCE Title IX came into existence, coaches of menís college sports have blamed it for problems with the overall program. I have a different view: I think Title IX is not only the best things thatís happened to high school and collegiate sports, itís just about the only good thing that has happened to collegiate sports in the last 40 years.
It took an epiphany of sorts for me to come to that opinion. I grew into adulthood as a typical MCP, thinking that boys and men played sports and the role of girls and women was to cheer them on. Soon after we were married in 1967, Nancy started working on raising my consciousness. She had been a star basketball player at a small high school in Tennessee and had always resented the fact that only boys got athletic scholarships to college, even though Tennessee has always been in the forefront of womenís basketball; Pat Summit, the long-time coach of the lady Vols, is the winningest coach in womenís basketball history.
I had always believed that playing sports was valuable to young boys because they teach teamwork and how to deal with both success and failure (mostly failure in my case). If they were good for boys, why wouldnít girls benefit in the same fashion.
So, when I got a full-time column for The Chronicle, I started writing on the need for womenís sports. You probably wonít be surprised to know that I was the only male columnist in the area who ever approached that subject.
Now, girls and womenís sports are well established, despite the grumbling of coaches of menís sports, and I think about that when, for instance, Iím walking down the halls of Haas Pavilion, looking at the pictures of all the athletes there. I am always particularly struck by the confident air of the women. Sports have obviously given them an outlet, and they have gained from that, just as I hoped. Thereís another thing I notice: Many of them are quite attractive young women, going against another stereotype of my youth, that any girl who was interested in playing sports was a brutish, tomboy type, unsure of her femininity.
I was brought to these musings yesterday when I was interviewed for the second time by John Cummins, former chief of staff for Robert Berdahl, when he was Calís chancellor. Cummins has an ambitious project, studying Cal sports over a long period of time, and we talked about the problems the program faced. My answer was simple: The chief problem is the rapidly escalating costs of football, from huge increases in coaches salary to all the special facilities that have been deemed necessary, such as the high performance facility just opened at Cal. It was at least 25 years ago that Andy Geiger, then athletic director at Stanford, compared what was happening with football programs to the arms race. Neither of us could know at that time how much worse it would get.
Once, a successful football program paid for the other sports. Now, even successful programs often have trouble paying for themselves. Forget about the rest of the program.
So, colleges are seeking more and more ways of getting money, and we know the biggest source of new money: TV. So, we have the abomination known as the Pac-12, one-third of whose members are in landlocked states, hundreds, even thousands of miles from the Pacific Ocean. I remember fondly when it was the Pacific-8, with all the schools in states bordering the Pacific. Iíd be quite willing to argue that that was much better than what we have now.
It was also better when collegiate fans could look at the season schedule and make their plans to get together with friends at tailgates before the games. Fans of pro teams can still do that because schedules come out in the spring with all the game times. In contrast, college schedules come out with most games marked TBA (to be announced) before the time of the game. They really should be ďWhenever a TV network wants usĒ. Those times can be anywhere from 12:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., which makes it impossible for fans to play their season schedule. Iíd like to know how that can be an improvement.
Once, college seasons were 10 games, which allowed athletes to actually have time to go to class, radical thought that that is. Now, theyíre at least 12 games, sometimes 13. With a 10-game season, it was easy to have the rivalry games as the natural end to the season. This year, the Big Game is being played in October. Yeah, thatís a big improvement, I just hope some network doesnít wan it on at 1 in the morning, because thatís when it will be played.
As if that isnít enough, the couch potatoes and media idiots are pushing for a playoff to extend the season so we can all know exactly which team is the best in the land. Yeah, Iíll sure sleep better when I know that.
The womenís programs donít include football.
They donít know how lucky they are.
HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Because concussions have become so prominent in football, there are many experts who think high school football should be dropped, because growing boys are at much more risk than collegiate or pro players.
Can you imagine the uproar in Texas if high school football were dropped. Governor Rick Perry might even follow through on his earlier promise to have Texas secede from the union. Go for it, Governor!
THE SILLY SEASON for pro football, when all kinds of ridiculous ideas are proposed, has already started.
In Sundayís Chronicle, the paperís sports editor proposed a 49ers trade for Peyton Manning, then wrote that it was a bad idea. This is a familiar stratagem for poor writers: Set up a straw man and then knock him down.
Manning should retire, period. Heís had three neck surgeries, the last one sidelining him for a season. What further message does he need? Another neck injury could put him in a wheelchair. Heís had a great career which will certainly put in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, probably the first time heís eligible. He can make an easy transition into the TV booth, if he chooses. The last thing he needs to do is go back on the football field, but he said again yesterday that he plans to.
The subtext here, of course, is that not all the media and 49ers fans have been won over by Alex Smith, despite the teamís success and Smithís excellent season.
One of those unconvinced fans wrote me last week that he thought Smith had peripheral vision problems because he never went to a secondary receiver, even when one was open.
This is typical of what I often get from readers who are convinced they really know whatís happening just from watching, whether in the stands or in front of a TV set. They donít.
Other sports are much easier to diagnose. Basketball is the easiest, especially the NBA brand, which is all about shooting. There is baseball information available to managers that is not easily accessible by fans, but somebody who grew up with the game knows probably 75 per cent of what the manager knows, and second-guessers can be right. (Not those who call for more stealing and sacrifice bunts, though. Thatís almost always a losing strategy.)
Football is totally different because only the coaches and players know what the offensive and defensive game plans are Ė for both teams Ė and without that knowledge, a fan is simply guessing.
I donít have access to the game plans, either, but Iíve spent a lot of time talking to coaches who really know the game. Most of those Iíve talked to have been offensive coaches, although I learned a lot about defensive strategy from George Seifert, when he was the defensive coordinator for the 49ers.
I had a long relationship with Bill Walsh, of course, and I learned even more working with Bill and Guy Benjamin on ďBuilding a Champion.Ē After Sid Gillman, known as ďthe father of the passing gameĒ, retired, we had long telephone conversations about the passing game; Gillman usually had to leave a perusal of game films to come to the phone. Steve Mariucci, when he was head coach of the 49ers, sometimes let me look at videos of the last game, taken from behind the quarterback, to illustrate how much harder it had become to play the position in the NFL because of all the blitzing. When Norv Turner and Mike Martz were offensive coordinators for the 49ers, we talked about offense. Turner loved Alex Smith. Martz liked what he saw on videos but never got the chance to work with Alex because that was the year he was sidelined by shoulder surgery.
I havenít had any one-on-one talks with Jim Harbaugh since he became head coach, but itís easy to see that he values a quarterback who doesnít throw interceptions, and Alex threw only five, against 17 touchdowns, in the regular season. He didnít throw any in the postseason, either, and had four touchdown passes.
In the case of the reader cited above, he wasnít seeing the same game that Smith was. Alex knew that, though a secondary receiver might appear open, a safety would come over to help cover Ė and perhaps intercept the ball Ė if he threw in that direction. Anybody watching the 49ers this year knows how many times that happened with their defense.
Overall, both Harbaugh and Smith know what theyíre doing. Fans donít.
RAIDERS KOOL-AID: The one thing Al Davis was most successful at was creating an outlaw imagr, which some Raiders fans continued to worship even after the team started setting negative records.
Every time I write on the Raiders in the Examiner, Iím certain to get some responses from readers who talk about my hatred of Davis. In fact, the only thing I hated Davis about was moving the Raiders to Los Angeles, especially in the deceptive fashion he used. Maybe I should have hated him for the overpaid, underproductive team he brought back!
Otherwise, Iíve tried to be realistic and, inevitably, thatís meant Iím critical. How could I be otherwise when the team set NFL records for the most consecutive double-digit loss seasons and season records in 2011 for the most penalties and penalty yards. I guess the Kool-Aid drinkers havenít noticed that.
Davis also left a mess behind because he was making all the decisions, so new general manager Reggie McKenzie has to hire front office people, now that heís got a new coach. He also has to figure out how to find talent in the lower rounds of the draft because, except for supplemental picks, the Raiders wonít have any in the first four rounds. He also needs a salary cap expert to help him make his way around the bad contracts Davis gave average-to-poor players, especially Stanford Routt. His Rolando McClain problem may be solved by an Alabama court, which could put McClain in jail after a May trial.
All of this mess is why McKenzie gave new coach Dennis Allen a four-year contract. It would have been unfair to make Allen prove his worth in one season or even two. By the time the Raiders make the playoffs again, the roster should look more like a legitimate NFL team than the dream/nightmare Davis was building.
I was at the news conference where Allen was introduced to the media. There are always a couple of media people who make fools of themselves with their questions, and this one was no exception.
Knucklehead No. 1: A writer was irate because the Raiders hadnít had this news conference earlier. McKenzie explained patiently that everybody was in Mobile, Alabama, scouting Senior Bowl players last week. He didnít add, ďWe had more important things to do, you little twit,Ē but he could have.
The story had been well known for days, of course. The Raiders hadnít officially confirmed it but theyíd posted Michael Lombardiís piece from NFL.com on their website, which was effectively the same thing. Lombardi worked for the Raiders just a few years ago and still has excellent contacts. There had been numerous stories and columns, plus TV and radio reports, since then; I had written on the subject Friday.
I appreciate cooperation from teams, coaches and players Ė and I anticipate much more cooperation from the Raiders with Davis gone Ė but I also understand that they all have their priorities, and for McKenzie and Allen last week, it was scouting the players who will be available for the draft.
Knuckelhead No. 2: After Allen had talked of competition for jobs, a TV type asked if Jason Campbell would be competing with Carson Palmer for the starting quarterback job. Apparently, this guy doesnít know that Campbellís contract is expiring, and he certainly wonít be back. Allen didnít bother to point that out, just made a meaningless statement about hoping all their quarterbacks will do their best in practice.
GREG KNAPP, who has been the offensive coordinator for both the 49ers and Raiders, has been hired for the same job by Allen, and he should be free to do his job this time. Tom Cable decided to take the playcalling duties away from Knapp Ė Cable has great confidence in himself, though he can barely tie his shoes without help Ė but Allen made the obvious comment: ďI donít feel a head coach can do his job if heís calling plays, either offensively or defensively.Ē Exactly. Even a deeply-involved head coach like Jim Harbaugh doesnít make that mistake. He establishes his philosophy but leaves play calling to assistants on game day.
What do YOU think? Let me know!
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