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Leadership Matters: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly; CFP Rankings Begin

The 49ers' brain trust was celebrating in the press box during yesterday's victory over the Rams, and with good reason. Their acquisition of Christian McCaffrey was looking more and more brilliant by the minute.

McCaffrey threw a touchdown pass, caught a touchdown pass and ran for a score, something no 49er player had ever done and something no NFL player had done since LaDainian Tomlinson accomplished the feat in 2005. He rushed for 94 yards, caught 8 passes for 55 yards, and threw the 34-yard TD pass.

The 49ers traded four high draft picks to get McCaffrey and, unlike the package they gave up for quarterback Trey Lance, this one looks like a steal.

Christian is under contract for three more years after this season, and he will flourish in coach Kyle Shanahan's offense. He also will make Jimmy Garoppolo a much better quarterback by giving him an extremely dangerous check-down option on every play.

On the touchdown reception, which he described as “a backyard play,” McCaffrey wasn't even one of the receivers in the pattern. He was a safety valve, the “fifth option” according to Garoppolo, saw his QB couldn't find anyone open, ran into the end zone and made a fantastic leaping grab.

Jimmy G’s ever-present smile got even bigger yesterday. And owner Jed York, GM John Lynch and chief negotiator Paraag Marathe were repeatedly high-fiving each other.

Building a Dynasty: Forbes Magazine last week released its annual valuation of professional sports teams and our Golden State Warriors are now listed as the most valuable NBA franchise at $7 billion.

The ownership group led by Joe Lacob purchased the team 12 years ago for what was then an NBA record $450 million. Which means their investment has increased in value 14 fold.

Lacob is a master of business strategy, management, and the ability to judge personnel. He hired a coach and a GM with no previous experience—Steve Kerr and Bob Myers—and both turned out to be brilliant hires.

In addition to winning four championships in the last eight years, the Warriors are now a diversified media, technology and entertainment company. They built a beautiful, privately financed arena, Chase Center, that's now a premier event and concert venue.

Lacob dipped his toe in the ownership water when he was the lead investor in the American Basketball League (ABL) and owner of the San Jose Lasers team. He later was a part owner of the Boston Celtics before taking over the Warriors.

I worked with Joe on a daily basis for almost three years in the late 1990s when I was CEO of the ABL. He bailed me out more times than I can remember, offered shrewd advice, and even helped recruit personnel. Our league ultimately lost out to the WNBA, but it wasn't for any lack of effort or commitment on Lacob's part.

He's also a good guy. Fair and honest. Thoughtful, approachable and responsive. He has a healthy ego, yes, but not to the point of arrogance or assholery. When he was bidding for the Warriors back in 2010, everyone assumed Larry Ellison's group would win out. I told people back then, 'never bet against Joe Lacob.'

That's still true today.

Chasing the Bag: Yesterday the Big 12 Conference announced it had reached agreement with ESPN and Fox on an extension of their media rights through the 2030-31 season. Commissioner Brett Yormark, whose last job was working for rapper Jay Z’s Roc Nation agency, is getting kudos for increasing the conference payout.

I’m not impressed.

It wasn't that long ago that the five major college sports conferences were run by commissioners who were men of character and substance.

Men who acted in the best interest of college athletics. Men who respected each other and dealt with each other in an open, transparent, and collegial manner. Men who spent time on campuses and understood the needs of school presidents, athletic directors and coaches. Men who believed that sports was part of the educational experience and stressed the primacy of academics.

I knew all five commissioners well—Jim Delany (Big Ten), the late Mike Slive (SEC), Tom Hansen (Pac-10), John Swofford (ACC) and Bob Bowlsby (Big 12)—and I remain friends with three of them.

The guys in charge now bear little resemblance to their predecessors. To put it bluntly, they more closely resemble back-stabbers and used car salesmen. They have all sold out to television. They’re almost totally consumed by the pursuit of media dollars. Education, loyalty, and tradition be damned. They poach each other's schools, create false narratives, and give lip service to academic concerns.

From this corner, the sad state of major college sports can be laid at the feet of these men, along with the inept "leaders" of the NCAA.

Shame on all of them.

What Is This Guy Smoking? At Pac-12 basketball media day, one of the new generation of commissioners, George Kliafkoff, made some rather outlandish claims.

Kliavkoff, the man who was blindsided by the departure of USC and UCLA for greener pastures in the Big Ten, characterized the difference between Pac-12 and Big Ten media rights as a "small delta" and said "we'll catch those guys," referring to the Big Ten and SEC.

He also continued to insist that UCLA will lose money by moving to the Big Ten because additional travel and administrative costs will more than eat up the revenue increase.

Well, no.

First off, the Big Ten just signed a media rights deal that will pay them $1.2 billion per year. The Pac-12 is hoping to land $400-$500 million.

That ain't a small delta, George.

Second, as for Pac-12 "catching" the Big Ten and SEC in media rights, that will never, ever happen, unless Ohio State and Michigan, or Alabama and Georgia, move to the Pac-12. In other words, when hell freezes over.

Finally, we've crunched the real numbers and there's no way UCLA loses money by going to the Big Ten. They will net at least an additional $25-35 million per year after expenses, and probably much more when you factor in the Big Ten's advantages over the Pac-12 in College Football Playoff and March Madness appearances. Not to mention the differences between the Big Ten network, which prints money, and the failed Pac-12 network.

I thought Kliavkoff was an improvement over Larry Scott, but I'm beginning to wonder. He's either incredibly naive or a tad dishonest, or he’s desperately trying to put lipstick on a pig.

That never works.

CFP Rankings: The first College Football Playoff Selection Committee rankings, the only rankings that mean anything anymore, come out tomorrow afternoon. We have six unbeaten teams and a couple of high-profile one-loss teams, so there’s likely to be some disagreement.

We don’t have a vote, but if we did, here’s how we’d rank the teams at this point in the season.

1) Tennessee. The Volunteers have an awesome offense and have beaten Alabama, LSU and Kentucky. Quarterback Hendon Hooker and wide receiver Jalin Hyatt are two of the nation’s top players.

2) Georgia. The Bulldogs are the defending national champs and have the year’s most impressive win, a 49-3 annihilation of Oregon. Next Saturday they host Tennessee in the game of the year.

3) Ohio State. Quarterback C.J. Stroud and a stable of top wide receivers lead the usual Buckeye offensive juggernaut. Defensive tackle J.T. Tuimoloau turned in one of the best performances I’ve ever seen Saturday against Penn State.

4) Michigan. Jim Harbaugh’s boys toasted Penn State and Michigan State. They have the nation’s best running game and a stout defense. The Nov. 19 battle with Ohio State will be a barnburner.

The rest of my top 10: 5) Clemson; 6) Alabama; 7) TCU; 8) Oregon; 9) Ole Miss, and 10) USC.

Let the debates begin.


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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