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Must-See Documentary; Change Needed; Wrestler’s Revenge; Tara Speaks; NFL In$anity

By all means, check out the new Netflix Documentary, "Operation Varsity Blues" on the national college admissions scandal. This expertly produced film, which re-enacts actual conversations and meetings using transcripts from FBI tapes, is riveting, compelling, and in many cases, sickening.

Actor Matthew Modine does a terrific job playing Rick Singer, the mastermind behind the scheme, who helped wealthy parents get their kids into elite universities through a "side door" by creating phony high school sports resumes or getting proctors to alter test scores.

Stanford sailing coach John Vandemoer, featured extensively in the film, was fired by the University after accepting a payment from Singer. Vandemoer owned up to his mistake of getting involved with Singer, although he did not take one cent for himself or push for any unjustified admissions. He was described by the district judge in the case as the "least culpable of all the defendants" and comes across as a sympathetic figure.

Stanford...not so much. The portrait of the administration, and the athletic director, are quite unflattering. Deservedly so. The University, which portrays itself as a "victim" in this scam, took $770,000 in donations for the sailing program and claims it didn't admit any unqualified students, but only after being publicly embarrassed did it offer to donate the money to college access programs in marginalized Bay Area communities.

In the film Vandemoer claims that the "head athletic director" (Bernard Muir, who is not named in the film but portrayed by an actor with his general appearance) admitted he knew Singer and, when offered a check for $1M, noted that it "wasn't enough" to impact admissions.

Stanford has issued a statement denying these claims. (I should note that it was crucial that Vandemoer specifically identify the "head" athletic director, since Stanford has 37 people with 'athletic director' in their titles).

Time for a Change: Five years ago, when Stanford introduced Jarod Haase as its new men's basketball coach, if a reporter had asked whether the coach should be retained if he didn't reach the NCAA tournament in his first five years on the job, both Haase and Athletic Director Bernard Muir would've answered "no." They couldn't have fathomed five years of unrelenting, disappointing mediocrity.

But here we are. Haase has compiled an 82-73 record and his teams have never been among the 68 schools invited to participate in March Madness.

Here’s some perspective. Stanford leads the nation in NCAA championships, yet it's men's basketball team hasn't even been among the top 68 schools for the past five years. Actually, Stanford has sat home 13 of the last 14 years.

A remarkable fall from grace since the incredible heights of the Mike Montgomery era.

Haase has recruited well. He has talent. His teams play hard. They play stout defense. But they're inept offensively. They can't shoot. They lead the universe in silly, unforced turnovers. They can't make foul shots down the stretch. They can't close out games. They start every season with a bang and end with a whimper.

Haase has had enough time. Women's coach Tara VanDerveer won an NCAA title in her fifth year. In his year five, Haase was beaten in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament by a Cal team that went 3-17 in league.

Time to reload.

In Your Face: Stanford wrestler Shane Griffith won the NCAA championship in the 166-pound division Saturday night in what is likely to be the last event in the 104 year history of Stanford wrestling. The University cut wrestling and 10 other sports in a completely indefensible move back in May.

Despite the fact that the wrestlers—and some of the other sports—have raised enough pledges to support their program indefinitely, the University has refused to budge.

Griffith wrestled in a black singlet without a Stanford logo, then, after his win, switched to a "Keep Stanford Wrestling" shirt as the crowd chanted " bring back Stanford."

Tara Speaks: Stanford women’s basketball coach Tara VanDerveer, the most respected voice in the country in her sport, issued a statement yesterday addressing the embarrassing disparity in training facilities and testing regimens at the men’s and women’s NCAA Championships.

“A lot of what we’ve seen this week is evidence of blatant sexism,” VanDerveer wrote. This is purposeful and hurtful. I feel betrayed by the NCAA…Women athletes and coaches are done waiting, not just for upgrades of a weight room, but for equality in every facet of life. Seeing men’s health valued at a higher level than that of women, as evidenced by different testing protocols at both tournaments, is disheartening.

“This cannot continue to be business as usual. There are necessary changes that need to be made. With the obvious disparity between the women’s and men’s tournaments, the message that is being sent to our female athletes, and women across the world, is that you are not valued at the same level as your male counterparts. That is wrong and unacceptable…Let’s fix this once and for all.”

Hear! Hear!

Funny Money: In case you missed it, the NFL announced Friday that it had signed new 11-year television deals with virtually every network on the planet commencing in 2023. The new agreements will bring in...are you sitting down?...a little over $10 billion per year. That's not a typo. Over $10 billion a year. There are 32 NFL teams, so each team will receive about $320 million each season.

Consider that the salary cap for NFL players this year is $182.5 million. Let's say it increases to $190M by 2023. That means that every NFL team will be able to pay all its players and still have about $130 million left over, just from TV revenues alone. Before a single ticket, t-shirt, beer or parking spot is sold.

That's why the 49ers can afford to pay an offensive tackle, Trent Williams, an average of $23 million per year for six years.

Have we reached the point of total absurdity yet?


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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