Bowl Games, Raiders to L.A., Jason Giambi, Ted Robinson
by Glenn Dickey
Jan 07, 2009

THE PAC-10 was supposed to be down this year, but the conference is 5-0 in bowl play, while the reputation of the Big 10 has taken another hit and the Big 12 isn’t looking too good, either.

What’s going on here?

For openers, the Pac-10 has always suffered because of its location in the west. The overwhelming majority of media is located east of the Mississippi. The natural bias is for writers and broadcasters to be more impressed by teams closer to home, and they probably also see more of their games. This works especially to the advantage of the Southeastern Conference, though I agree with the consensus that, year in and year out, SEC football is the best in the country.

In the case of the Big 10, teams records are often enhanced because they play weak nonconference schedules against small colleges in the midwest that do not have high level programs. Then, they go into conference play against each other and nobody realizes how weak the top teams are until they play in the bowl games.

The latest example was in the Rose Bowl, where USC absolutely demolished Penn State. The halftime score of 31-7 was much more reflective of the game than the final score of 38-24.

Nobody who had been paying attention should have been surprised. The Trojans under Pete Carroll have started slowly because, annually, they lose important players to the NFL. But their recruiting brings in equally talented players. After they’ve been assimilated into the system, the Trojans once again become awesome; check their November record under Carroll.

By the end of the season, USC may have been the best team in the country. But because they lost to Oregon State early – and the Pac-10 was regarded as weak – there was no way the Trojans could climb up to one of the top two spots in the BCS standings.

Meanwhile, the Big 12 teams played mostly within the conference, and the top teams bragged about their great offenses. But in the bowl season, Oklahoma State gave up 565 yards in losing to Oregon and Texas Tech gave up 515 yards in its loss to Mississippi.

Sounds like those great offensive shows in the Big 12 came against bad defenses.

Meanwhile, Texas barely squeaked by Ohio State, the No. 2 team in the weakest major conference in the country, and coach Mack Brown and his players immediately said they should move up to No. 1. Huh? If I were voting, I’d move them down after that unimpressive showing.

The Big 12 gets one more chance at redemption in the BCS title game as Oklahoma faces Florida. If it loses that one, I hope the media will turn a deaf ear to the bragging from the Big 12 next season.

SPEAKING OF WHICH….Users of at least one Internet service, www.Prospecto.com, think Florida will win that game, by a margin of 64-36. Apparently, they’re not convinced by Big 12 propaganda. The service is used by more than a million viewers who send text messages on sports and political questions.

RAIDERS TO LA? As an Oakland resident, I knew the story about the Raiders being sold and moved to Los Angeles was too good to be true. We should be so lucky.

In retrospect, both the moves Al Davis made with his team have been disastrous, to the franchise and to its East Bay fans. The first move, to Los Angeles, broke the cord of local loyalty. The Raiders had been selling out on a seasonal basis for years. When they moved, they not only lost the allegiance of those who had been buying season tickets but also of their sons and daughters. There was no continuity in the fan base when they returned, and nobody who saw the Raiders in their first Oakland run would confuse those fans with the largely unruly group coming to games now.

And, of course, the games are far from sellouts. Since they took over the sale of tickets, the Raiders have bought up tickets for several games so they could put them on local TV (as the 49ers have routinely done for years, as well) but true sellouts have been rare.

Although it wasn’t so obvious at the time of their return to Oakland as it is now, Davis’s ability to put together a winning team was already in decline. Except for the Jon Gruden run, the Raiders have been either mediocre or worse, much worse now, since their return.

If the Raiders were to leave now, Oakland and Alameda County would stop bleeding money over their presence, and the A’s could remodel the Coliseum, as the Angels did in Anaheim when the Rams left for St. Louis, and make it a real baseball setting, so they could abandon their impossible dream in Fremont.

As I said, too good to be true.

BROADCAST NEWS: Two positive stories broke this week, with the A’s signing a one-year contract with KTRB, and the 49ers signing Ted Robinson to be their play-by-play announcer.

KTRB’s 50,000-watt signal will enable many A’s fans who were out of range of the broadcasts to finally receiver them. It will also give Ken Korach, the Bay Area’s best baseball play-by-play announcer, the audience he deserves.

In June, 2007, I reported that KRTB had an interest in carrying the A’s, after talking to the station’s general manager and program director, and that it made sense for both parties. Subsequently, I reported that the A’s wouldn’t be free to negotiate until after the 2008 season.

Near the end of the season, I was riding in the press box elevator with Ken Pries, who is in charge of the A’s broadcasting division. I asked Ken, “How are the negotiations with KTRB going?” He said, “Don’t believe everything you read in the newspapers,” to which I replied, “Even when I write it?”

Robinson will replace Joe Starkey, whose resignation I believe was forced after Starkey came up with laryngitis for two late-season games, which most likely had its roots in the impossible travel schedule he faced doing both Cal and the 49ers.

I’ve known Ted for nearly 30 years, going back to the time when he was the sports director for KCBS, and have always found him to be a complete professional. Forty-Niner fans will be pleased to find that they now will be told little things like who caught a pass, whether it’s a first down, etc. – and they’ll always be kept up with the score, which should be a priority for announcers in any sport.

Robinson will also be helped by Gary Plummer, who has grown considerably as an analyst since he first got the job. Plummer stepped up big time to help Joe Fonzi, when he had to take over for Starkey on very short notice. Fonzi did a commendable job but only because Plummer supplied so much information that the play-by-play announcer would usually have.

I’d also recommend that Raider fans tune in for a short time, just to see how a broadcast crew can do a game without cheerleading.

GIAMBI RETURN: The signing of Jason Giambi, expected today, will require some shuffling of the roster. One media projection has been that Jack Cust will become a full-time outfielder. I’d much rather see him released.

Cust has been an interesting story in his two season with the A’s because of his towering home runs, but his frequent strikeouts make it difficult to use him in the middle of the lineup because he can short circuit so many rallies. And to call him adequate defensively is probably too generous.

The A’s have Matt Holliday, obtained in a trade with the Colorado Rockies, set for one outfield spot, and Ryan Sweeney set in centerfield. They have other young outfielders, most notably Travis Buck, who need playing time to develop. With Giambi, Holliday and, perhaps, a healthy Eric Chavez, the A’s offense should be much improved this season. They don’t need Cust.

BAD NEWS 49ERS: The media is usually the victim of “blaming the messenger” but the 49ers took it to another level this week by firing public relations director Aaron Salkin, apparently for not producing enough positive news for a team which hasn’t had a winning season since Steve Mariucci was fired after the 2002 season.

The 49ers have had a series of PR directors who have been complete professionals in dealing with the media, in stark contrast to the team across the bay, and Salkin was in that category. I hope the 49ers at least have the sense to promote their No. 2 man, Jason Jenkins, but I don’t have a lot of confidence in their decision-making right now.

E-MAIL: When I go on vacation, it’s to get away from everything, so on our recent 10-day stay in the Caribbean, I did not read newspapers, watch TV or check the Internet. Since I returned home, I’ve been trying to catch up and I simply didn’t have time to answer all the e-mails sent in my absence. Starting two days ago, though, I’m back to answering e-mail, so fire away!


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