Raiders Stadium, Nolan/Kiffin, Tedford Talks
by Glenn Dickey
Sep 10, 2008

RAIDERS CEO Amy Trask has floated a good idea for a new football-only stadium within a retail and entertainment district in the area of the current stadium, but it won’t fly because of surrounding circumstances, several of them created by the Raiders.

“We need to find a way to revitalize the area,” Trask told Matier & Ross in an interview for The Chronicle. “What we have suggested is not just a stadium, but something to bring business enterprise and activity to a part of the community that needs it."

The project will be still-born, though, because it requires a significant outlay of money by the city of Oakland, which is already facing a huge shortffall – and which is on the hook for $22 million a year for the next three years of the Raiders lease, for the 1995 rebuild of the Coliseum. Not incidentally, that deal was sold to taxpayers as a risk-free deal. Good luck in trying to get more from Oakland taxpayers now.

The relationship between the team and city hasn’t exactly been warm and fuzzy, either. The Raiders even sued the city four years ago, with Al Davis claiming he’d been misled by city and county officials. A Sacramento jury ruled against the Raiders, but then, almost whimsically, awarded them $38 million in damages. The money award was overturned on appeal.

A few years back, there was concern among Raider fans that Davis might move the team again when the lease was up, but a five-year record which is the worst in the NFL has erased that fear. Who would have them? Though there’s still a loyal group of fans in Los Angeles, Davis wore out his welcome with the decision-makers there; they want no part of him. There’s a developer in the L. A. area who says he’s ready to build a stadium on land he owns, but he’d want the team to pay a substantial amount – and if there’s a team that would do that, it’s much more likely to be the San Diego Chargers.

And at this point, with Davis taking even more power for himself while making incomprehensible decisions, if the Raiders threatened to move when their lease was up, all but the hardiest fans would say, “Here’s the door. Don’t let it hit you in the rear on the way out. ”

As we in the Bay Area know very well, it’s extraordinarily difficult to build a new park or stadium in California. The Giants tried for 16 years before getting their new park in China Basin, and that was possible, as they admit, only because the booming economic times of the ‘90s enabled them to raise the money to build it privately.

The A’s plans to build a park in Fremont are still-born; that was always little more than a real estate deal for managing partner Lew Wolff, who has made his money with such deals. The 49ers insist their plans for a stadium in Santa Clara are on track, but it will not be on the ballot in November. There are still multiple problems with it, and it would require the largest amount of money ever paid by an NFL owner. Lisa Lang, who’s in charge of the project, has told me she’s certain the Yorks will put that money out. I’m not.

Another idea that’s been proposed by the Raiders – a shared stadium – makes sense, but it would require Davis and York to work together, which may not be possible. The Santa Clara site would work well for a combined stadium because there is excellent freeway access and even Cal Train lines on the west side. Since almost all games are on Sundays, traffic congestion would not be a problem. History has shown us that it’s important to have baseball parks in a city because fans who come to the 81 home games patronize restaurants and even hotels around the park. It’s totally different for football stadiums. Most fans drive to the games, tailgate before and after, and then drive home. They do not patronize restaurants and hotels around the stadium.

Ah, well, I’ve been writing about the difficulty of building new parks/stadiums for a quarter-century now, and there’s no end in sight.

COACHES CORNER: When I was at the Cal football lunch yesterday, the media debate was over which coach will be fired first: Mike Nolan or Lane Kiffin. The consensus: Neither will last past midseason, but Kiffin is likely to be the first to go. Davis has already tried to get him to resign and he has numerous replacement possibilities in the organization now: James Lofton, Rob Ryan, Paul Hackett.

WASHINGTON PENALTY: In last Saturday’s Washington-BYU game, Huskies quarterback Jake Locker was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct after throwing the ball into the aid after a touchdown which brought the Huskies to within one point. The 15-yard penalty pushed Washington back far enough to cause the PAT kick to be blocked.

“I thought it was a ticky-tack call,” said Cal coach Jeff Tedford. “I think the intent of the rule is not to call attention to yourself and separate yourself from the team. I don’t think that Jake Locker was calling attention to himself whatsoever. I think he was excited to make a big play. He jumped up immediately and celebrated with his teammates. I would have been very upset if they would have called it against us.”

But, said Tedford, he showed the play to his team and warned them about getting caught that way. “I want them to understand, don’t put it in the officials’ hands. Just don’t do that.”

For myself, having watched Pac-10 officials in both football and basketball consistently screw up calls for years, it was just more of the same.

HEISMAN TALK: Jahvid Best’s impressive showing in his first two games inspired at least one columnist to declare that he was now in the Heisman Trophy race.

Not really. For Best to be there, he has to have great games against quality opponents, which are watched by national voters. The Washington State game was probably seen only by supporters of the teams, and it wasn’t even available to Bay Area viewers who don’t have digital cable.

I’m a great admirer of Best and I’ve been writing for some time that he can be a great back, but on his two touchdown runs, 80 and 86 yards, against Washington State, he ran through big holes, made one move and then sprinted the rest of the way.

Somehow, I don’t think it will be that easy against USC.

TREE SITTERS: With the tree sitters finally down and the trees cut down, work on the new athletic training center adjacent to Memorial Stadium can finally begin.

For Tedford, that will be a big help in his recruiting. “We’ll finally be able to tell recruits that it’s underway, so anybody we bring in will see it while they’re here.”

Tedford has always made his commitment to Cal contingent on the training center being built, but he has remained patient in the face of delays because he knew that athletic director Sandy Barbour and the university were doing every thing they could. He has also realized the difficulty of getting anything done in the Berkeley environment. “It’s kind of a circus out there,” he said, after seeing it first-hand from his office, which overlooks the area where the trees stood. “Every day there’s an event out there. Somebody’s chanting something, or somebody’s beating a drum, so you kind of stop paying attention to it.”

The delay has cost the university millions of dollars and, in the end, meant nothing. The university had pledged at the start of the process to plan three trees for every one cut down, and it will still do that.

But the protestors reached their goal: Two years of local and national attention. Pitiful.

LETTERS: I’ve updated this section. I got behind last weekend because I had to go out of town for a couple of days.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL is here and tickets are available for hot matchups like USC-Ohio State, Michigan-Notre Dame and Arkansas-Texas, as well as Cal and Stanford games on TICKETS! TICKETS! TICKETS! On the concert stage, Tony Bennett will be at the San Francisco Symphony on Sept. 14, Madonna is back in the spotlight with her October tour, Kenny Chesney concludes his tour on Sept. 13, Jimmy Buffet is touring through October and the classic rock icons, the Eagles, will be in Dallas, Chicago, Houston and Little Rock. Just click on the Bay Area or national links and everything will come up.

What do YOU think? Let me know!

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