Questions of the Week: Stanford Drop Football? Cal Rebrand? USC Manage Media? Congress Control NIL?
Last week SF Chronicle columnist Scott Ostler suggested that it was time for Stanford to give up football. As usual in an Ostler column, there was some funny stuff, and a few legitimate points were made.
Of course, we've been down this road a couple of times before. There was serious discussion on the Stanford campus about giving up football after the Cardinal (then known as the Indians) went 0-10 in 1960 under Jack Curtice. The subject came up again after Stanford went 1-11 under Walt Harris in 2006, ending a five-year run of futility that produced a 16-40 mark. Both times the old red and white came back—thanks to John Ralston (and Jim Plunkett, Bob Moore, Randy Vataha, Jeff Siemon, Jack Schultz, et al) in the late 60s and Jim Harbaugh (and Andrew Luck, Toby Gerhart, Richard Sherman, et al) after the Harris debacle. Admittedly, it may be tougher this time in the era of NIL and the transfer portal. You have to have the horses, and right now Stanford doesn't have the horses. But that doesn't mean it's time to start waving the white flag. I think you have to give Troy Taylor a chance to rebuild the program again, and he's got a lot of excellent recruits committed for next year that could improve things in a hurry.
Obviously, as an alum and former Stanford SID, I'm prejudiced. But the fact is, few schools can match Stanford's pedigree—from Ernie Nevers and Pop Warner to Jim Plunkett and John Elway to Andrew Luck and Christian McCaffrey. Not to mention Stanford's sucess in the NFL. Plunkett and Elway each won two Super Bowls, and McCaffrey is the best back in the league. Heck, yesterday Stanford alum Michael Wilson made the biggest play, a 69-yard reception, in Arizona's 28-16 upset win over Dallas.
All of us who care about college football and believe in the much-maligned concept of the "student-athlete," should pull for Stanford to rise again. Just to prove that it's still possible to win while doing it right.
Cal Berkeley? Another Chronicle columnist, Michael Silver, took his alma mater to task for apparently planning to rebrand its athletic teams "Cal Berkeley."
I agree with Silver. This is an absurd idea.
"Cal" or "California" establishes the school as the flagship university in the UC system. "Cal Berkeley" puts it in the same category as Cal Poly, Cal State East Bay and all the state schools.
SC's Media War: Remember the good ol' days when coaches were honest with the media, talked openly about injuries, and didn't throw a fit over negative stories? Now, football coaches are so paranoid—and so powerful—that it's difficult to get a straight answer. Injuries are either described vaguely ("upper body") or not at all ("undisclosed"). Critical writers are ignored or banished. Athletic Directors meekly go along with whatever their coaches want. Last week USC coach Lincoln Riley "suspended" Orange County Register reporter Luca Evans for two weeks for "violating media policies." The Trojans were upset that Evans asked a question after a news conference officially ended, used the phrase "garbage time" in a story, called school president Carol Folt by her first name (instead of "your majesty"), contacted players' parents without asking permission from USC, and sent an email to members of the athletic department to introduce himself. Perhaps a firing squad would've been more appropriate. The idiotic suspension was reversed after a few days of public outcry, but not before, in the words of LA Times columnist Bill Plaschke, both Riley and Athletic Director Jen Cohen came off looking like "two-bit bullies seemingly more concerned with managing the media than winning a championship."
Can Congress Govern NIL? The dysfunctional U.S. Congress, which would have trouble passing a bill to name a post office right now, is apparently working on a bill to regulate college sports and NIL. Texas Senator Ted "Cancun" Cruz told a conference of athletic directors last week that there's a 60-40 chance a bill governing NIL will pass soon. I have trouble believing anything Cruz says, but this prediction is even more laughable than usual. The guys in Washington couldn''t pass a bill to fund the military last week and are looking at a possible government shutdown. Cruz thinks NIL should continue to be overseen by the NCAA, which fought against it for years and lost numerous court cases in the process. That's a non-starter for Congressional Democrats, as well as most college administrators, athletes, coaches, and legal experts. When two prominent ADs—Ohio State's Gene Smith and TCU's Jeremiah Donati—were asked by a Florida Congressman to rate their confidence in the NCAA's ability to handle NIL on a scale of 1-10, their answer was "4". I think that's pretty generous. Right now a number of court cases are working their way through the system that may force the NCAA to pay billions of dollars to former athletes in back-NIL and Alston-related pay. Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy (a favorite of mine because of his push for sensible gun control laws), summed it up this way: "The clock is ticking. The appellate courts and the Supreme Court are going to strike down the existing system and paradigm sooner rather than later. I think it's going to be up to the folks in this room (the ADs) to really lead on reform. Right now, this is not a priority issue in Congress." RIP Buddy Teevens: College football lost one of its most beloved and innovative leaders last week when Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens passed away. Teevens had been hit by a truck while riding his bicycle back in March, suffering severe spinal cord injuries and losing his right leg. Bay Area fans will remember his three undistinguished years as head coach at Stanford, when his teams went 10-23, but he had great success at his alma mater, Dartmouth, in two separate stints covering 23 years. There he posted a 117-101-2 record, winning five Ivy League championships. He had been a star quarterback at the school, winning Ivy League Player of the Year honors in 1978. Teevens was a pioneer in player safety, becoming the first coach to eliminate live tackling in his practices as a way to reduce head trauma. This was later adopted throughout the Ivy League and by other schools nationwide. He collaborated with Dartmouth's engineering school to create the "mobile virtual player (MVP)" a robotic tackling dummy that was used not only by college teams but also in the NFL. Teevens also was a trailblazer in diversity. He was the first college coach to hire women on his full-time staff. Two of his former assistants—Callie Brownson and Jennifer King—are currently coaching in the NFL for the Browns and Commanders. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told the Athletic, "Not many people have contributed more to the game than Buddy Teevens." This year the eight football teams in the Ivy League are wearing decals with Teevens' initials on their helmets in tribute to his contributions. Stanford did the same last Saturday against Arizona. I didn't know him well, but in all my dealings with him he was always warm, friendly and humble, a refreshing change from the massive egos you see all too often in coaching. He will be missed.