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Nice Work If You Can Get It; Playoff Wrap; Betting Bonanza; Trump Warning

Ohio State last week hired Texas A&M's Ross Bjork to replace the retiring Gene Smith as Athletic Director in Columbus. 

Quite a contrast. Smith was one of the true giants of his profession, a standup, classy guy who made a lot of good coaching hires and was known for his honesty and approachability. 

Bjork, on the other hand, is one of the new breed of ADs who's a marketer first, a poor judge of coaches, a guy of questionable ethics who has his eyes firmly--and almost exclusively--on dollar signs.

This is the guy who two and a half years ago gave A&M's underperforming coach Jimbo Fisher a fully-guaranteed $95 million, 10-year contract, then fired him last fall, owing the largest buyout in college sports history--$77M.

Before that he presided over a scandal-ridden football program at Mississippi (remember sanctioned coaches Hugh Freeze and Houston Nutt?), and hired several football and basketball coaches who didn't last three years.

For that sterling track record, he gets the plum job at Ohio State. Go figure.

Bjork's five-year deal will pay him $1.65M annually in salary, plus 350K each year for media, promotions and public relations (wait, isn't that a big part of the job?), bringing his total compensation to $2M per year. He also gets two retention bonuses of $500K if he remains on the job in 2027 and 2029.

Can you blame college athletes for wanting to be paid when they see these ridiculous salaries and buyouts for coaches and administrators?

It's enough to make you sick.

Playoff Postmortem: The 49ers were very fortunate to escape with a win over a tougher-than-expected Green Bay Packer team. 

Quarterback Brock Purdy came through down the stretch, after struggling for most of the game, completing six of seven passes (with one uncharacteristic drop by George Kittle) on the game-winning drive in the final five minutes. 

The difference-makers were running back Christian McCaffrey, who scored his usual two touchdowns, one on a scintillating 39-yard run, and linebacker Dre Greenwall, who made a key fourth down stop to thwart one Packer drive and intercepted two passes, including the clincher in the final seconds. 

Lions Next: The 49ers won't have an easy time with a Detroit Lions team coming off impressive wins over the Rams and Buccaneers.

The game will be a homecoming for Lions' quarterback Jared Goff, the former Marin Catholic and Cal star.

Fun Fact: What a contrast between the two quarterbacks! Goff was the first overall pick in the NFL draft; Purdy was the last.

AFC: As for the AFC championship, the Ravens appear to have the best team. But I'd never bet against Patrick Mahomes. In his six years of starting, he’s never failed to reach the conference title game. 

When you consider his stats, incredible plays and winning record, the two-time MVP may one day rival Tom Brady and Joe Montana for consideration as the best QB in NFL history.

An all-time low for the NFL: During the pre-game show on Fox before the 49ers-Packers divisional playoff, the studio crew made bets on several things--for example whether Christian McCaffrey would score two touchdowns or whether Jordan Love would throw for 275 yards--and then encouraged fans to go to FanDuel to place their own bets.

Then in the third quarter, DraftKings Sportsbook (the NFL's other gambling partner) announced it would refund all bets including Deebo Samuel "on undetermined markets before he left the game" with a shoulder injury.

How big of them.

Last month the American Gaming Association projected that the sports betting "handle" for 2023 (the total amount wagered) would exceed $100 billion for the first time. 

It's been a record-setting year for sportsbook operators, who pocketed a record $10 billion in gross winnings for the year.

Something NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the rest of the overpaid suits in the league office are probably proud of.

Shame on them.

Trump Warning: Now that 2024 has arrived, and the presidential election is less than eight months away, we may occasionally delve into politics.

In our opinion, Joe Biden has done a pretty good job as president. We'll get into that more as the campaign progresses.

For now, just a couple of passing thoughts on the man who's likely to be the Republican nominee, Donald Trump. Last week Trump put up a video on his Truth Social account which basically inferred that he was a Messiah, created by God as a caretaker and "shepherd to mankind."

This from a man who epitomizes the opposite of everything Christianity stands for. Trump is a hate-mongering, name-calling, racist bully who brags about sexually assaulting women, mocks the disabled, steals from charities, admires murderous dictators and believes immigrants "poison the blood of our country."

He tried to steal an election he falsely claims was rigged, and incited an armed insurrection on the capital on Jan. 6. And he's facing four criminal indictments for 91 charges.

I guess I'm old fashioned, but that's not my idea of a Messiah.

The scary part is that Trump could win.

If he does, in the words of former Obama advisor David Axelrod, "it would be a stunning rebuke of the rules, norms, laws and institutions upon which our democracy is founded and would have profound implications for the future."

Trump has told us what his second term would look like. He plans to pardon the Jan. 6 insurrectionists, launch investigations of his rivals, change regulations to punish his critics--particularly those in the media--and deploy the military and federal law enforcement to quash dissent and shut down lawful protests.

Don't say we weren't warned.


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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