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Pac-12's Draft Dominance; First Round QB Busts; Reggie Gets His Heisman Back; Transfers Shake Stanford; New T-Shirt

The Pac-12 Conference, which expired as a football entity a few months ago, came up big in the NFL Draft last week.

Six former Pac-12 players were among the first 15 players selected, including three quarterbacks. USC's Caleb Williams was the overall No. 1 pick by the Chicago Bears, while Washington's Michael Penix Jr. went No. 8 to Atlanta and Oregon's Bo Nix went No. 12 to Denver.

The other early Pac-12 selections were Washington receiver Rome Odunze at No. 9 (Chicago), Oregon State offensive tackle Taliese Fuaga (New Orleans) and UCLA edge Laiatu Latu (Indianapolis), the first defensive player taken.

By contrast, the all-powerful SEC had just four picks in the top 15 and the Big Ten had three. Of course, if you consider the fact that USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington will all be in the Big Ten as of August 1, the BIG had eight of the top 15 under next season's alignment.

Back to the quarterbacks for a moment. Williams was the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner, while Penix and Nix were two of the three finalists for the Heisman in '23.

Penix was supposed to go much later, perhaps in the middle of the second round, according to the various mock drafts. But in my mind, he was definitely worthy of a No. 8 pick. In fact, he was my choice for the Heisman.

The pick is a bit of a head scratcher, though, since Atlanta just signed former Minnesota QB Kirk Cousins to a four-year, $180 million deal, with $100M guaranteed.

Questions about Cousins' health--he's recovering from a torn Achilles--could've motivated Penix's selection. Surely, the Falcons don't expect a No. 8 first round pick to sit for four years.

Nix was also a second rounder on most draft boards, but again, I think he's worthy and Bronco coach Sean Payton may have gotten the steal of the draft.

QB Gambles: History has shown that picking a quarterback in the first round of the NFL draft is always a crap shoot. Success in college doesn't always translate to success in the NFL. 

In fact, the majority of first round QB picks have turned out to be busts.

Perhaps you recall Jamarcus Russell, Ryan Leaf, Joey Harrington, Tim Couch, JP Losman, Dan McGwire, Rick Mirer, Brady Quinn, David Klingler, Todd Marinovich, Akili Smith, Heath Shuler, Jim Drunkenmiller, Cade McNown, Kelly Stouffer, Art Schlichter, and Heisman winners Robert Griffin III, Johnny Manziel, Matt Leinert and Andre Ware. All first rounders who failed as pros.

The 49ers not only blew it on Drunkenmiller, but made perhaps the worst draft deal of all time, trading three first round picks for the opportunity to draft Trey Lance at No.3 in 2021. 

They redeemed themselves with the--let's be honest--lucky pick of Mr. Irrelevant, Brock Purdy, with the last selection in the draft a year later.

Bush Tracks: Speaking of the Pac-12 and Heisman Trophy winners, it was nice to see Reggie Bush's 2005 Heisman reinstated. Bush, you'll recall, had to give up his trophy and USC was hit with severe sanctions because Reggie and his family received some perks from a couple of wannabe sports agents--a rent free house, plus some cash, plane tickets and hotel stays.

That was back in the day when such things were taboo. As were so-called "serious" offenses like giving an athlete an extra meal or letting one borrow your car or use your phone to make a call. At the time, a bagel with cream cheese was defined as a meal in the NCAA manual.

But even 14 years ago, the penalties inflicted on Bush and USC seemed egregious.

USC was hit with a two year bowl ban, loss of 30 scholarships, and had to vacate a BCS national championship.

The NCAA also forced the university to disassociate itself from Bush and took away his Heisman, even though none of his actions gave USC any competitive advantage and the agents involved had no connection to USC.

Now, of course, Bush's "crimes" are totally legal, happen every day, and are dwarfed by the seven-figure NIL contracts and fancy cars being lavished on players of far lesser talent than Reggie Bush.

He and USC were victims of over-reach by NCAA brass trying to make an example of a high profile player and an iconic program, during a time when athletes who received anything other than their scholarship were branded as cheaters.

Transfers Shake Stanford: The transfer portal continues to be a major issue for the Stanford basketball programs going forward, given the academic difficulty of transferring into the Farm and the fact that other schools have bigger checkbooks to attract players.

Saturday's news, though unsurprising, underscored this new reality.

As we had predicted when she entered the portal two weeks ago, standout forward Kiki Iriafen transferred to hometown USC, where she will team with rising sophomore JuJu Watkins to give the Trojans a real shot at the national title.

News from outside the program was also disappointing. Princeton's Kaitlyn Chen, the Ivy League Player of the Year, who had seemed like a natural fit for Stanford, transferred to UConn and Hailey Van Lith, who had considered Stanford last year before transferring to LSU, transferred (yet again!) to TCU.

On the men's side, promising forward Andrej Stojakovic moved across the Bay to Cal and veteran Brandon Angel shipped off to Oregon. Stojakovic, in our opinion, wasn't given enough playing time this year as a 5-star freshman and entered the portal before new Stanford coach Kyle Smith was named. Apparently, Smith wasn't able to convince him to return.

Earlier, guard Kaanan Carlyle, another top recruit coming off an inconsistent freshman season, transferred to Indiana.

Fortunately, Smith did get star center Maxime Reynaud to withdraw from the portal, but he'll be without his entire supporting cast from this season.

Which means it could be tough sledding for both of Stanford's new basketball coaches, Smith and women's coach Kate Paye.

T-Shirt: I recently purchased this t-shirt, which hopefully will remind people to vote this November and make sure that a certain orange menace is not returned to the White House.


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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