Football’s One-and-Done, Curry’s Ankle, Stanford Sports Icons

The contrast was striking.

College football's perpetual man in motion, Oregon coach Willie Taggart, blew town after one year in Eugene, leaving behind an embarrassed athletic director, a disillusioned group of current players, and lots of broken promises to recruits. Taggart has now qualified for four bowl games in the last six years, but managed to stick around long enough for only one of them. Even Nike's war chest wasn't enough to keep him from bolting for Florida State.

Meanwhile, over in Berkeley, an entirely different saga unfolded. Cal coach Justin Wilcox, with one year under his belt, reportedly pulled his name from consideration to replace Taggart at his alma mater, choosing instead to fulfill his commitment and continue building a first class program at Cal.

We’ve written often about the character and class of Stanford coach David Shaw. The Bay Area is fortunate to have two high-quality men leading its local college programs.

Question: Speaking of one-and-done, my old friend and colleague Doug Kelly, director of communications for the Football Bowl Association and analyst for UC Davis football radio broadcasts, raises an interesting point. If a head coach leaves after one year for greener pastures, shouldn't the players he recruited be able to transfer to another school without having to sit out a year? Just sayin’.

Curry’s Ankle: Steph Curry’s sprained ankle may be the best thing that could’ve happened to the Golden State Warriors. When it’s clicking, coach Steve Kerr’s unselfish, pass-first, find-the-best-shot, all-flow offense is a beautiful thing to behold. But the Warriors have been far from invincible so far this year, and the main culprit could very well be boredom. The 82-game regular season can seem like a tedious hors d’oeuvre for a team expected to win its third NBA championship in the last four years. Thus, the occasional blown 20-point lead, carelessness with the basketball, and defensive lapses. Last year, the Warriors endured similar speed bumps until Kevin Durant was sidelined for 19 games, and suddenly a freshly-motivated team found its rhythm. The same thing could happen this season, as the Warriors learn how to win without Curry.

Ratings Decline: The NFL isn’t the only sports entity suffering from a decline in TV ratings. College football apparently has the same problem. According to Sports Business Journal, four of the six main networks airing college football experienced lower ratings in 2017. The average viewership for ESPN was down 6% (from 2.3 million to 2.155), while ABC was down 18% (from 5.097 to 4.203), CBS down 10% (from 5.489 to 4.951), and NBC down 3% (from 2.814 to 2.742). On the plus side, Fox was up 23% (from 2.951 to 3.625) and FS1 was up 4% (from 743,000 to 819,000). ESPN’s numbers were hurt by chord cutting, but two other factors likely at play here are over-saturation and the propensity of Millenials to focus on highlight packages or watch games on their devices.

Shameless Self Promotion: When not enjoying retirement or writing this blog, your humble reporter teaches courses on sports and sports media for the Stanford Continuing Studies Program. Those of you who reside near Palo Alto (and didn’t attend that school on the other side of the Bay), may be interested in the course we’re doing this winter—Stanford Sports Icons: the Greatest Players and Coaches in Stanford Sports History. The course description follows.

Stanford has one of the richest traditions in all of college athletics. Dating back to the first Big Game in 1892, when student manager Herbert Hoover forgot to bring the football, the University’s sports history has been marked by championships, innovation, and brilliant individual stars. Stanford has won the Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup (given to the nation’s most successful college sports program) for 23 consecutive years. The university has won 115 NCAA team championships, most of any school in the country.

Perhaps no other school has had as many iconic athletes and coaches. Stanford’s Hank Luisetti is credited with inventing the one-handed shot in basketball in the 1930s, and innovative football coaches Pop Warner, Clark Shaughnessy and Bill Walsh introduced everything from the team huddle to the T-formation and the West Coast offense. Stanford has been blessed with an inordinate number of premier quarterbacks and No. 1 NFL draft picks, Olympic medalists, coaches who claimed multiple national championships, and signature athletes who led their teams to NCAA titles in basketball, volleyball, baseball, swimming, water polo, golf, soccer and beyond.

This eight-week course will provide an entertaining, informative, and in-depth look at some of the greatest names in Stanford sports, exploring what made them tick and what made them great. The course will include an examination of past legends and a series of “Inside the Actor’s Studio” type interviews with more recent icons.

Guest speakers will include Stanford Heisman Trophy winner and two-time Super Bowl champion Jim Plunkett, college basketball Player of the Year and Olympic gold medalist Jennifer Azzi, Stanford baseball star and College World Series championship coach Mark Marquess, legendary NCAA championship tennis coaches Dick Gould and Frank Brennan, Hall of Fame running back and NFL veteran Darrin Nelson, and famed basketball coach Mike Montgomery, who led Stanford to the Final Four and Elite Eight. The course will also include a field trip to the Athletic Department’s new Hall of Champions for a private guided tour with a special guest.

For further information check the Stanford Continuing Studies website, https://continuingstudies.stanford.edu/

Bowl preview: Coming later this week, our annual "Bowl Viewing Guide."

Gary Cavalli - Bowl and League co-founder, author, speaker 

Gary Cavalli, the former Sports Information Director and Associate Athletic Director at Stanford University, was co-founder and executive director of the college football bowl game played in the Bay Area, and previously was co-founder and President of the American Basketball League.

Get in touch//@cavalli49//gacavalli49@gmail.com

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