top of page

CFP Championship Musings; The Saga of Jim Tressel; Stanford Basketball (Men's) Hits Bottom

My favorite part of this college football season is the rags to riches stories of the two quarterbacks in tonight's CFP championship game. Georgia's Stetson Bennett started on the bench last year, then led the Bulldogs to the national title. TCU's Max Duggan started on the bench this year, then became runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. There's a lesson here. Sometimes it's better to stick around, rather than entering the transfer portal in pursuit of greener pastures.

Crystal Ball: Call me a crazy romantic, but I think TCU has a chance to upset Georgia tonight. I don't bet, but if I did, I'd take TCU and the 13 points. Here's why. The Georgia secondary has been vulnerable of late, and the Bulldogs have had trouble with running quarterbacks this year. TCU's overall speed, big, rangy wide receivers, and mobile QB Duggan will cause some problems. Call it 41-38 Georgia on yet another last minute drive by Stetson Bennett. Tressel Revisited: On CFP Championship Monday, and in a year dominated by NIL payments and the transfer portal, it might be instructive to take a trip back in time to consider the case of Jim Tressel, who coached five national championship teams at Youngstown State and Ohio State. Tressel was the fall guy after an NCAA investigation determined that several of his Ohio State players--including star quarterback Terrell Pryor--were selling personal football-related merchandise for cash and services, such as free tattoos. When interviewed by the NCAA, Tressel attempted to protect his players from Draconian penalties for harmless misdemeanors, He was less than forthcoming about his understanding of the rules and what his players were doing. The story became a national scandal. The players were suspended for five games and Tressel was forced to resign. His phenomenal 10-year tenure at Ohio State, which included a 106-22 record, nine wins over Michigan, and eight Top Ten finishes, was forever stained by "tattoogate". At the time, the Ohio State violations seemed trivial to most of us in college sports. But to the NCAA, it was a capital offense to sell some jerseys for a little spending money or a few tattoos. Now, of course, all the things that led to Tressel's banishment are legal. Not only are players selling merchandise, they're appearing in TV ads, signing autographs for cash, making appearances for local businesses, and accepting huge NIL payments as recruiting inducements. Tressel was beloved by his players and the entire community. In fact, he's so respected that he eventually became the President of Youngstown State University, a position he holds to this day. While Tressel's reputation has been rehabbed, the NCAA is a shadow of its former self, its phony amateurism model blown to smithereens by NIL and the transfer portal. We've entered a new era when everyone is for sale and everyone is on the take. Funny how things can change in 11 years.

Moving on to Basketball: Stanford basketball hit bottom Friday night. The Cardinal was humiliated 92-70 by a Cal team that many thought was the worst in the country, a team that opened the season with 12 straight losses.

Afterward, Stanford coach Jerod Haase had this to say: “For the most part, I thought the guys executed the game plan that I laid out for them. And, obviously, it was ineffective. I need to go back and look and find out if it was the wrong game plan. There’s a big difference between wrong and ineffective, and I need to decide what it is.”

I thought Haase should've been sent packing after the 2020-21 season, his fifth straight without an NCAA appearance. This year will make it seven straight. It's clear that his game plans, at least from an offensive standpoint, are both wrong and ineffective.

The man can recruit. Stanford consistently ranks in the top 20 nationally in recruiting, and the last several years have seen a number of five-star recruits come to Palo Alto.

But the man can't win. And he can't coach offense. His players consistently commit silly and unforced turnovers. And for some reason, they can't shoot.

In all likelihood, Stanford Athletic Director Bernard Muir will have the unique opportunity this year to name new head coaches in both football and basketball.

He made an excellent choice in football. Let's hope he can do the same in basketball.

Question of the Day: Who is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander? Shaivonte Aician Gilgeous-Alexander, also known by his initials SGA, is a professional basketball player for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

he may be the only player in NBA history averaging 30 points a game that no one ever heard of.


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//

bottom of page