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CFP, Alabama, Early Departures, Coaching Carousel, A Little Politics

Georgia had it won.

And, like the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl last year, they blew it.

This is not to take anything away from Alabama. All the credit in the world goes to head coach Nick Saban, for making the move to an untested freshman quarterback to start the second half. And kudos to that young quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, for his poise and his performance under pressure.

But the fact remains Georgia had the game in hand midway through the third quarter with a 20-7 lead and the ball on the Alabama 39-yard line after an interception. A touchdown, or probably even a field goal, would have put the game away. Instead, Georgia’s own freshman quarterback, Jake Fromm, threw an interception that bounced off the helmet of one of his linemen. The game turned on that play.

The Bulldogs were also victimized by some questionable officiating and some bad luck. A blocked Alabama punt early in the third quarter was overturned by an offside penalty called against Georgia; replays showed it should’ve been a motion penalty on Alabama. And Tagovailoa’s touchdown pass to Adam Ridley that tied the game 20-20 was actually intended for a different receiver.

As the saying goes, “it’s better to be lucky than good.” In this case, Alabama was both lucky and good.

So make it three years in a row that the Crimson Tide has played in a great title game, beating Clemson 45-40 in 2016, losing to Clemson 35-31 last year, and now beating Georgia 26-23. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Trivia Question: Some are calling Saban the best coach in the history of college football. He’s certainly in the discussion. One of Saban’s worst days as a head coach came in the 1996 Sun Bowl, when his Michigan State team was shut out 38-0. Who did the Spartans lose to that day? Who was the quarterback of the winning team, and who was the head coach? Answers below.

Early Departures: Stanford’s three best defensive players—lineman Harrison Phillips and backs Justin Reid and Quenton Meeks—have opted to leave early and turn pro. The Cardinal defense was below par this season, ranking 94th nationally, and without this trio of stalwarts could be in for some rough sledding next year. The bigger question is, what is All-America running back Bryce Love planning to do? He must decide by Monday.

Coaching Carousel: According to several reports, Arizona is planning to hire Navy coach Ken Niumatololo as its new head coach. In our opinion, a better choice could not be made. Given the allegations of sexual impropriety that led to the dismissal of former Wildcat head man Rich Rodriguez, it’s critical that the Wildcats hire an individual with impeccable character. If their choice is Niumatolo, they nailed it.

We had the pleasure of hosting Ken and his Navy team at the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in 2012. He’s a terrific coach. More importantly, Ken is a first-class guy.

This prospective Arizona hire looks even more impressive given the recent travesty at Arizona State, where Todd Graham was fired and replaced by Herm Edwards.

Trivia Answer: Stanford beat Michigan State 38-0 in the ’96 Sun Bowl. The quarterback was Chad Hutchinson. The head coach was Tyrone Willingham.

Spoiler Alert—A Little Politics:

This is not a political blog.

But the fact is, the intersection between sports and real-world social issues grows more common every day.

I taught a seminar on sports management at the Nueva School in San Mateo earlier this week, and those gifted teenagers wanted to discuss issues like whether college athletes should be paid, whether the game of football was becoming too violent, and whether players should be required to stand for the national anthem.

So—spoiler alert—Monday is Martin Luther King Day, and we’re going to get political here for a moment.

I grew up in a very conservative family. My dad was a huge fan of Richard Nixon, Barry Goldwater, and Rush Limbaugh.

Like most dutiful, Italian, Catholic sons, I followed my parents’ lead and hewed the family party line.

Until I went away to college.

When I grew a mustache and became a Democrat, it was cause for real consternation in my family.

But I wasn’t a knee-jerk liberal. I often voted Republican. For me, party wasn’t the determining factor. Who was the best candidate? Who had integrity? Who would serve America?

And that was the way it was in Congress and the White House for many years. President Reagan and Tip O’Neill worked together. Representatives and Senators and Presidents worked together in our country’s best interest.

Now all that is gone. For eight years, Republicans were determined to sabotage anything Barack Obama wanted to accomplish. They challenged his birth certificate. Their goal was to keep him from getting re-elected, to block any legislation he proposed.

Democrats weren’t much better. They forgot the middle class, the union members, the uneducated. Hillary Clinton was a horrible candidate. She thought she was entitled to the presidency.

But Donald Trump is an embarrassment. He is a liar, a racist and a bully. He has the maturity of an eight-year old. He admires dictators and disparages those who disagree with him. He threatens our free speech, our judicial institutions, our intelligence community.

He supported a Senate candidate who preyed on little girls and had to be banned from shopping malls.

He doesn’t want immigrants from “shithole countries.”

So this is what the party of Abraham Lincoln has become. Instead of “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” these Republicans and their president prefer white-skinned, “stable geniuses” from Norway.

God help us.

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//

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