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Rodgers Off the Rails; Stanford Humiliation; Giant Embarrassment

I'm a big admirer of Aaron Rodgers' play on the football field. I even like most of his State Farm commercials. But his admission this week that he hadn't gotten vaccinated for COVID, despite his false claim to being "immunized," and his convoluted explanation of how he was "in the cross hairs of the woke mob" was pathetic and hypocritical.

Rodgers accused the media of "blatant lies", but the only lies were his. Along with the "immunization" fantasy, Rodgers lied about a meeting with NFL doctors that never took place. He said he'd done voluminous research on vaccines, but his comments indicated he was horribly misinformed. To wit, he worried about vaccines affecting his ability to have children, when there is no evidence that they cause infertility, and said they were "untested," when all COVID vaccines have undergone rigorous testing by the FDA.

Part of Rodgers’ “research” was apparently heeding the advice of podcaster/comedian Joe Rogan, who recommended taking a horse de-wormer instead of getting vaccinated. The net result of this idiocy was to put his teammates and all who came in contact with him at risk.

All of this has done perhaps irreparable damage to Rodgers’ image and reputation. While on the field he may be the epitome of accuracy and clear-headed decision-making, off the field he’s revealed himself to be a narcissistic whack job.

Cardinal Crushed: Stanford’s ugly 52-7 loss to Utah on Friday night was the worst defensive performance I’ve ever seen by a Stanford team. And I’ve been watching Stanford games since 1967.

Afterwards, Coach David Shaw blamed the debacle on “inexcusable” missed tackles. I’d have to disagree. On most of the Utes’ long runs no defender was close enough to miss the tackle.

For those keeping track, Stanford’s 82 net rushing yards brings its four game total to 238, or an average of under 60 yards per game. Meanwhile Utah rushed for 441.

Shaw Status: Much has been said and written, including in this space, about Shaw’s $8.9 million compensation. In the middle of what may turn out to be a 3-9 season, it seems especially egregious.

But to me, this goes beyond the won and lost record. The fact that Stanford feels it has to pay “market rate” for football coaches, as dictated by the likes of Alabama and Clemson—two schools with which it has nothing in common—is a real indictment of the current administration.

I got a couple of calls and emails over the weekend asking whether Shaw was in trouble after such an embarrassing shellacking.

Of course not. Stanford is not going to fire Shaw after one crushing defeat, or a couple of bad seasons. And that is one of the many reasons Stanford shouldn’t have to pay “market rates.”

Consider that, in the past several weeks alone, head coaches at USC, LSU, Texas Tech and TCU have been canned after a bad loss or a disappointing half-season.

The pressure to win at those schools is enormous. And if the head coach—who’s being paid a fortune to win—doesn’t produce quickly and consistently, he’s shown the door. LSU’s coach, for example, was booted two years after winning a national title.

Stanford’s football coach has only a small fraction of that pressure. Expectations are much more realistic. The players actually fill out applications, meet admissions standards, go to class and graduate. The University is well-respected for many things other than football.

Which is precisely why paying an $8.9 million salary is such an atrocity.

Changes Needed: However, changes are needed in the Stanford football program. Shaw’s teams used to dominate opponents with a punishing running game. Now they can’t run the ball.

Shaw’s teams used to play tough, hard-nosed, run-stopping defense. Now, the line and linebackers can't stop anyone.

The Stanford coaching staff is too inbred. Defensive coordinator Lance Anderson has been with Stanford since 2007. Offensive coordinator Tavita Pritchard, a former Stanford quarterback, was named coordinator when he was just 31 years old.

Shaw needs to bring in experienced, proven coaches from outside the Stanford family to run his offense and defense.

Herschel Background: Years ago, when I was Associate Athletic Director at Stanford, one of my duties was to organize and run major track meets. We hosted the Martin Luther King Games, and one of our star attractions was former Georgia running back and Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker.

Track stars are an interesting lot. In those days, they were always looking for an under-the-table payment, a guarantee, a little "incentive" to run. Walker, like hurdler Rod Milburn and several others, told me he was suffering from a "twinge" in his leg and wasn't sure he could run without a little extra financial incentive.

My recollection of Walker is of a not-very-bright scam artist. A guy with his hand out, trying to capitalize on his name and grab every penny he could before his name faded from the public memory.

Now Walker is running for the U.S. Senate in Georgia. Despite the fact that he has lived in Texas for the last 10 years, has described himself as mentally ill, and has been accused by both his ex-wife and ex-girlfriend of threatening to kill them.

Last year Walker claimed his company made hundreds of millions of dollars per year and employed hundreds of people, then applied for COVID stimulus checks while listing revenues of less than $2 million and only 8 employees.

I bring this up because San Francisco Giants' majority owner Charles Johnson is a huge Walker donor.

Yes, this is the same Charles Johnson who not long ago was "outed" for supporting gun-toting Congresswoman Loren Boebert and other white nationalists who promote false conspiracy theories about election fraud.

After the media firestorm, Johnson promised to seek refunds from "any other individuals who are found to have engaged in similar behavior" and to "reject and denounce any individuals, candidates or elected officials who do not honor our constitution or who espouse or assist in violence of any kind."

Well, he hasn't followed through on that pledge. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Johnson hasn’t asked for any refunds or denounced anyone, and he is supporting Walker to the fullest extent of campaign law.

The Giants are fortunate that Buster Posey’s retirement pushed the Johnson controversy to the back burner, and that they’ve experienced few repercussions from their owner’s political activities.

So far.

Happy Ending: After a year in which the Stanford wrestling program was slated for elimination, several alumni and friends have endowed three coaching positions that will ensure the future of the sport on the Farm.



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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