Bowls, 49ers Stadium, Shell and Zito
by Glenn Dickey
Jan 03, 2007

COLLEGE FOOTBALL is different, as we’ve seen in the bowl games.

Two of the winners, Boise State and Oregon State, went for two-point conversions which won the game, but which could have cost them the game if they hadn’t been converted. That noise you hear is Mike Nolan choking himself.

In the Holiday Bowl, when Cal had the ball on the Texas A&M three in the closing seconds, coach Jeff Tedford told quarterback Steve Levy to take a knee. But in the huddle, the offensive lineman lobbied Levy to give reserve tailback Bryan Schutte a chance to score a touchdown, so Levy handed the ball off and Schutte scored.

Can you imagine that happening in an NFL game?

Finally, there was a great moment after the emotional end to Boise State’s win when the star player knelt on the sideline and proposed to his girl friend, the head cheerleader. My wife thinks it was chicken, because the girl couldn’t have refused him, but I thought it was a touching moment.

These incidents just highlight how different college football is from the pros. College players are very young and very emotional; the scene on the Boise State sidelines when they converted that two-pointer was sheer bedlam.

College football is not just a watered-down version of the NFL. The pros need the playoffs and the Super Bowl to decide who’s No. 1. Colleges do not, and it would be doing a disservice to the players to establish the playoff system that so many in sports journalism push.

Despite all the cynicism about college football because of the schools which make little or no attempt to give the athletes an education, it should still be about the players. Adding playoff games to the pro schedule doesn’t bother NFL players. If they get injured in those extra games, well, they’re getting paid for it.

But adding extra games to the college schedule just so some couch potatoes can know who’s No. 1? Well, I wouldn’t want to be the one who advocated that if a young man who never had a shot at the pros gets an injury that lasts his lifetime in an additional game, or a young man who did have a shot at the pros suffers an injury that eliminates his chances.

The BCS system is an imperfect one, but it’s better than a playoff system.

PAC-10 ROLLS: After losing the first three bowls involving Pac-10 teams, the conference rallied with Cal’s lopsided win in the Holiday Bowl, Oregon State’s dramatic win and USC’s trouncing of Michigan in the Rose Bowl.

USC’s season was very interesting. The Trojans’ only two losses came to conference foes UCLA and Oregon State, and they had other close games within the conference. Outside the conference, though, they breezed with lopsided wins over Arkansas, Nebraska, Notre Dame and Michigan. All four teams were ranked, and Michigan was No. 2 for most of the season. Good thing the Wolverines didn’t have to play in the Pac-10.

49ERS STADIUM: San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom came out with a “new” site for a 49er stadium this week, at the Hunter’s Point Naval Shipyard, but that’s actually an old site which had been dismissed earlier.

When I was still with The Chronicle, I talked frequently to John York about the stadium project. Probably 2 ½ years ago, in one of our discussions, he said they had analyzed all the available sites and decided that Candlestick Point was the best available one.

The shipyard site has serious problems, primarily because of toxic waste which would take years to eliminate. Access would be even worse than Candlestick, which is no picnic, because it’s further from 101. The site is accessible only through city streets.

With all these drawbacks, it’s hard to see York agreeing to this site now. The Santa Clara site is better in all respects.

For political reasons, Newsom wants the new stadium to be within the city limits. When political reasons are the primary motivation, the decisions will always be bad ones, and this is no exception. I’ve twice written in the Examiner about a better site, the city-owned property just on the other side of 101 from the airport, but, of course, that’s not inside the San Francisco city limits.

Frankly, I don’t think any new stadium will be built, in San Francisco, on the airport site or in Santa Clara, until both sides stop posturing and work on a specific plan. Don’t hold your breath.

SHELL’S FUTURE: I had assumed earlier that Art Shell would be fired as Raiders coach after this dismal season, but I forgot that there’s logic and then, there’s Al Davis logic.

Shell should be fired. Since I started covering the Raiders as a beat reporter in 1967, Shell has done the worst job of coaching I’ve seen, not excluding Joe Bugel in his one year and Bill (“We must be the dumbest team in the league”) Callahan in his meltdown season.

Shell’s main problem is that he’s living in the past. That was first shown when he brought back his friend, Tom Walsh, as offensive coordinator, though Walsh had been out of football for years. It was further shown in his mishandling of the Jerry Porter situation; because he and Porter got into a snarling match in their first meeting, Shell got nothing out of the receiver who had led the Raiders in receptions the previous two years. He and Jackie Slater then tried to teach blocking techniques to the offensive linemen that worked in Shell's day but don’t now because defenses have changed so dramatically.

So, by any reasonable standards, he should be fired. But Davis’s logic is different for two reasons:

1) Money. Davis doesn’t want to pay Shell $2 million for not coaching because the Raiders are financially strapped. Along with the 49ers, they’re at the bottom of the league in revenues. They bought up tickets to produce “sellouts” so they could get most of their home games on local TV – only their opener and the Denver game were legitimate sellouts – and paying Shell not to coach would be a strain.

2) Davis would have to admit he made a mistake, and he does that. . . well, basically never. And finding a replacement would be difficult. Shell was hired because better choices wanted no part of this job.

So, Shell probably stays. Nothing succeeds like failure.

ZITO TALK: It’s often embarrassing to see how athletes think they can tell outright lies to those of us in the sports media. You’d think we were political reporters.

At Barry Zito’s news conference yesterday, Zito claimed he told agent Scott Boras to pursue a contract with the Giants without even knowing what the numbers were. Suuuure. He was just captivated by the idea of playing for a team in a city which has little cable cars that go halfway to the stars. The fact that the Giants offer was half again what anybody else offered was inconsequential.

Zito said he had always liked to pitch in PacBell because it was a good park for pitchers. Others have said the same thing, but in fact, righthanded hitters don’t have a problem hitting the ball out. And Zito may wish that he had the A’s trio of Jay Payton, Mark Kotsay and Milton Bradley chasing down the flyballs he gives up. All three are better than any outfielder the Giants will put out there in the 2007 season – and markedly better than Barry Bonds.

RADIO: I’ll be a guest on Marty Lurie’s first of the year “Inside Baseball” show on KYCY, 1550 AM, which starts at 5:30 p.m. today. My spot will be about 6:15. Marty will be doing these shows weekly through the end of baseball season.

LETTERS: I’ve gotten some very interesting e-mails on my Tuesday column on Zito in the Examiner, so I’ll update this tomorrow.

What do YOU think? Let me know!

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