Virginia's Redemption; College Admissions Scandal Updates; History Gives Way to Parking Garage

So much for the experts.

Several basketball pundits, expecting a “boring” defensive struggle in last night's NCAA Championship, warned of a "tractor pull masquerading as a basketball showcase" or a "generationally unsexy NCAA title game."

Sorry, fellas.

After a slow start in which Texas Tech didn't make a basket for seven minutes, a great game happened.

Our team lost, but it didn't matter. The national title matchup featured the same intensity, emotion, phenomenal plays, clutch shots, and last-second thrills that marked this year's tournament.

The game went into overtime. Of course, it did. And Virginia pulled out the victory with 12 straight free throws, a smothering defense, and one bad call on a replay review.

For the Red Raiders, it was the end of a remarkable Cinderella run. For the victorious Cavaliers, it was redemption after last year's embarrassment of being the first-ever No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 (University of Maryland-Baltimore County, no less).

Class Act: Kudos to Virginia coach Tony Bennett, who smartly and calmly directed his team to the championship. Such a refreshing change from the stampede of sweaty, red-faced, screaming head coaches that roamed the sidelines throughout the tournament.

Don’t You Have Something Better to Do?: Weekend before last, while his campus was still reeling from the sleazy college admissions scandal, at the same time his struggling football team was engaged in spring practice, and his disappointing basketball team was sitting home watching the NCAA Tournament on TV, USC Athletic Director Lynn Swann was at a sports memorabilia show in Virginia signing autographs for $220.

I kid you not.

Is it any wonder that so many Trojan alums and the Los Angeles Times are calling for his firing?

Former USC and 49ers linebacker Riki Ellison was aghast. "Isn't his salary in the millions? Why does he need to do this? It's just embarrassing," Ellison told the Times.

“With all of the issues going on right now, why would anybody support this brand or donate money to this school or send their child to this school?” Ellison continued. "The program is unraveling. We're losing our culture. We have to try to get that back.”

And that will be very difficult to do with Swann at the helm.

Shifting Sands: Speaking of the admissions scheme, Stanford has not distinguished itself with its PR efforts to date.

Stanford has always been known for having one of the best media relations organizations in the country, dating back to the days of Bob Beyers, Harry Press, Spyros Andreopoulos, and more recently, the incomparable Lisa Lapin (who departed last year).

Their strategy (and mine, when I worked at the medical center and athletic department) was always the same: gather all the facts, tell the truth, and give the media the full story.

Not this time.

Last week Stanford announced it had expelled the female student who “fabricated sailing credentials” in her application to the University.

Initially, Stanford claimed that only two students were involved in the sailing scam (in which parents donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to have their children falsely considered as “recruited athletes”) and neither one ended up coming to Palo Alto.

Then the story changed. Stanford “admitted” that a third student had been admitted after a $500,000 donation to the sailing program was received, but said her admission was made through normal channels, without the recommendation of disgraced sailing coach John Vandemoer, and that the contribution to the sailing program was made several months after the student was admitted.

Then the story changed again. In last week’s press release, the University said it decided to rescind the student’s admission after confirming that some of the material in her application “was false.”

Clearly, Stanford officials want to put this matter behind them as quickly and quietly as possible. Though its involvement pales in comparison to what took place at USC, it still reeks of money, privilege, and gaming the system, and it gives every student denied admission to the University a feeling of personal violation.

Sign of the Times: Last week San Jose State announced that it will convert historic Bud Winter Field, site of some of the greatest college track meets in history, into a parking garage. The University will continue to field a team, but will not host any meets.

Back in the 60s, when San Jose was known as “Speed City,” Spartan sprinters Tommie Smith, John Carlos and Lee Evans routinely left opponents from bigger, more high-profile schools in the dust. The San Jose State program produced 43 world records and 49 American records between 1958 and 1979.

Smith and Carlos, of course, are most remembered for raising their fists on the medal stand at the ’68 Olympic games to protest the unequal treatment of blacks in America.

Unfortunately, in recent times track and field has been relegated to “minor sports” status, only getting noticed every four years when the Olympics take place.

But it’s even more unfortunate that the issues Smith and Carlos were calling attention to more than 50 years ago are still with us today.

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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