Stanford 24-peats, Giants and A's Awaken
Another year, another Director’s Cup.
To no one’s surprise, Stanford has claimed its 24th consecutive Director’s Cup, emblematic of the top collegiate sports program in the country, for 2017-18. The award was won by North Carolina in its inaugural year, 1993-94. But since then, Stanford has been No. 1 every season.
That’s a remarkable achievement, and a tribute to the quality of coaches, athletes, and administrators who’ve worked on the Farm.
The Cardinal captured four team titles this year—women’s sports, men’s soccer, women’s swimming and diving, and women’s tennis—increasing its total of NCAA championships to 117, highest of any school in the country.
A lot of people have been responsible for that record. Far too many to recognize here. But we’d like to single out a few people for special mention.
Almost one third of those 117 NCAA championships have come in the sport of tennis. The men’s team, under the legendary Dick Gould, won 17 national titles in a 28-year span. The women’s team, under another icon, Frank Brennan, won 10 championships between 1979 and 2000. Brennan’s former assistant, Lele Forood, has kept up the pace with an additional 9 in the last 18 years.
So that’s 36 out of 117 titles in one sport. Another 34 have come in aquatics—10 in men’s water polo (8 of them coached by Dante Dettamanti), 10 in women’s swimming (7 coached by Richard Quick), 8 in men’s swimming (7 under Skip Kenney), and 6 in women’s water polo (all under John Tanner).
One name you won’t hear mentioned much is Joe Ruetz, who in my mind is the unsung hero of Stanford’s athletic program.
Joe was the Athletic Director at Stanford in 1972 when an obscure piece of legislation known as Title IX was passed. It didn’t mention sports specifically, but it outlawed discrimination on the basis of sex to any educational entity receiving federal funding.
The guidelines for enforcement of Title IX were not issued until 1975, and those very complicated and detailed regulations gave colleges until 1978 to comply. Most schools ran away from Title IX and tried to find loopholes in the law, ways not to comply.
Joe called a meeting of his administrative staff and said, “We’re not going to do that. Our goal is to have the best women’s sports program in the country.”
He quickly got the ball rolling by providing funding and hiring some strong women’s coaches, laying the foundation for a program that has fulfilled his dream of being No. 1.
In those days, I was probably the only Sports Information Director in the country sending out press releases on women’s field hockey.
And I took a lot of abuse from some of my colleagues. When I went to the national SID convention in 1975, one of the old-timers, Jones Ramsey of Texas, pulled me aside to offer some friendly advice.
“Son, you shouldn’t be wasting your time on women’s sports,” Ramsey told me. “At Texas, we focus on our two major sports—football and spring football.”
A few years later, I was privileged to write a press release announcing the hiring of a new football coach at Stanford, Bill Walsh. It was another great hire by Joe Ruetz.
Bay Area Baseball on Upswing: After very slow starts, both the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s are on something of a roll. Back on May 31, the Giants were 26-30 and the A’s were 29-28. Both teams had been decimated by injuries, especially to starting pitchers, and were suffering from inconsistency on offense.
A month later, the Giants are 45-41, having won nine of their last 12 games, and the A’s are 46-29, having won 12 of their last 15.
The main reason? Unheralded, fill-in pitchers have stepped up on both teams.
The Giants have gotten consistent quality starts from a trio of youngsters—Chris Stratton, Dereck Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez. Will Smith has returned from Tommy John surgery to be a stud in the bullpen. With ace Madison Bumgarner back from a hand injury and Johnny Cueto due to return next week, the future looks surprisingly bright for the AT&T Park lads.
I should also mention that things have picked up offensively. Shortstop Brandon Crawford, the Giants best player, has delivered a bunch of clutch hits along with his customary brilliant play in the field. And Gorkys Hernandez has established himself as the regular center fielder with some fine glove work and timely hitting, including an unexpected burst of power. Gorkys didn’t hit a home run last year, but already has 11 in 2018.
The A’s, with most of their starting rotation on the disabled list, have received a boost from journeyman Edwin Jackson, pitching on his 13th major league team. Relievers Blake Treinen (21 of 23 saves, 0.88 ERA) and Lou Trivino (6-1 record, 1.56 ERA) have been lights out.
Offensively, second baseman and Stanford alum Jed Lowrie is making a strong case for All-Star honors. Lowrie is hitting .290 and among the American League leaders in hits (95) and RBIs (56). He’s also belted 14 homers, two shy of his career high.
Hopefully, Billy Beane and co. will surprise everyone by hanging on to Lowrie, the team’s most dependable threat, rather than shipping him out prior to the July 31 trade deadline.