College football roundup: Hot seat heating up


College football roundup: Hot seat heating up

The pay is good, but the hours are long and the job security is pretty lousy.

Welcome to the high-pressure world of coaching big-time college football, where “what have you done for me lately?” seems to be the criteria being utilized by more and more school presidents and athletic directors in evaluating their football coaches.

Earlier this year, four games into the season, LSU dismissed head coach Les Miles. All Miles had done in 11-plus years in Baton Rouge was post a record of 114-34, win the national championship in 2007 and finish runner-up in 2011, when he was named national Coach of the Year. Not good enough. 

Miles is not alone. Texas coach Charlie Strong has been carrying a life preserver all year as his status is debated in the media every day. A few years ago, USC’s Lane Kiffin was fired on the tarmac at LAX at 3:14 in the morning after a disappointing loss to Arizona State, also just four games into the season.

As we noted last week, pay for college coaches has gone through the roof, with 36 now making over $3 million. But there’s a lot of heat in the kitchen.

A current case in point is Mark Helfrich, reportedly on the hot seat at the University of Oregon. After absorbing a 45-20 spanking from USC on Saturday, the Ducks are just 1-5 in conference play, 3-6 overall, and with games against Stanford and Utah remaining, a good bet to have their first losing season in 12 years. 

But how quick we forget! Less than two years ago, on Jan. 12, 2015, Oregon played in the National Championship Game against Ohio State. The Ducks posted a 12-1 regular season record, routed Arizona in the Pac-12 title game and destroyed Florida State in the playoff semi-final before losing to the Buckeyes. 

Now many pundits are predicting that Helfrich will be fired after this season, and his school’s name appears on every list of “attractive jobs that will be available” after the 2016 season. Rumor has it that Super Duck and Nike founder Phil Knight is willing to contribute $10 million to the head coaching kitty. Knight is already an unofficial member of the Oregon football coaching staff. His suite at Duck games is equipped with a headset that allows him to listen to the conversations between Oregon’s coaches during the game. 
(I’m not privy as to whether or not there’s a seven-second delay).

Oops! The College Football Playoff Selection Committee has a lot of egg on its collective face after No. 4 ranked Texas A&M’s stunning loss to 14-point underdog Mississippi State on Saturday. In its initial rankings last week, the committee positioned the one-loss Aggies in the 4th spot ahead of undefeated Washington. 

The committee’s rationale was that A&M had played a more difficult schedule than Washington and its only loss had come against No. 1 Alabama. Also factored in was the committee’s rather obvious SEC bias. Lots of folks, including this writer, felt that because the Aggies had lost by 19 points to Alabama and only had one quality win  (Auburn), they should’ve come in at No. 7 behind Washington and two other one-loss teams with better resumes—Ohio State and Louisville. 

It’s all moot now, of course. The Aggies will plummet and Washington hopefully will be ranked at No. 4 this week, where it belongs, after another impressive victory over the Cal Bears. 

No flag zone: Navy (6-2) became bowl eligible for the 13th time in the last 14 years with a 28-27 win over Notre Dame Saturday. A big part of Navy’s success this season has been avoiding costly penalties. Or, to be more accurate, avoiding any penalties. Incredibly, Navy has been flagged for only 17 penalties this year—in eight games—to rank first in the nation with an average of 2.1 per game. By comparison, there were 25 penalties called in Thursday night’s UCLA-Colorado contest, and two weeks ago, the Oakland Raiders had 23 in one game. Yes, discipline does matter.

Gridiron marathon: Saturday’s Texas-Texas Tech game lasted four hours and twenty minutes. There was no overtime. The game started at 9 a.m. PT on Fox Sports1, with the Stanford-Oregon State game slated to follow at 12:30 p.m. Unfortunately, the game didn’t end until 1:20. Those of us looking for the Cardinal-Beavers tilt had to watch the first 50 minutes on Fox Desportes. Fortunately, I took Spanish in high school. 

Four-hour games have become the norm in college football as more and more teams use a no huddle, pass-happy offense that results in more plays, more scoring, and more incomplete passes that stop the clock. Plus, defense is a lost art these days. For the TV networks, which routinely schedule back-to-back-to-back games in three-and-a-half hour windows, this is becoming a weekly nightmare.

Buffs’ defense shines: The resurgence of Colorado football under former San Jose State coach Mike MacIntyre is due to a lot of things—an excellent rebuilding plan, improved recruiting, a balanced offense, and perhaps most of all, a stingy defense. Colorado (7-2) has allowed only 58 points in its last five games, all against high-scoring Pac-12 opponents. Thankfully, there are a few schools still playing defense.

The Buffs secret weapon is defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt. You may remember Leavitt as the man who built a terrific program at South Florida from 1997-2009. His team climbed as high as No. 2 in the national rankings in ’07.

Tough sledding: Many seasoned observers consider LSU’s Leonard Fournette the top running back in the nation. Watching him run is like watching a runaway freight train. Yet in his last two games against No. 1 ranked Alabama, Fournette has carried the ball 36 times for a total of 66 yards. Alabama’s defense is even better than Colorado’s.

Tedford update: Former Cal head coach Jeff Tedford, now an offensive consultant on the Washington Huskies’ staff, is reportedly in line to be the next head coach at his alma mater, Fresno State, if and when that job becomes available.

Foster Farms Bowl: This is the time of year when people start speculating about which teams are going to play in the various bowl games. This year the Bay Area’s post-season game, the Foster Farms Bowl, will again feature teams from the Pac-12 and Big Ten. Right now the likeliest candidates to play at Levi’s Stadium on Dec. 28 are either USC or Washington State from the Pac-12 and Minnesota or Indiana from the Big Ten.

Heisman update: 1. Unless he has a total meltdown in the next three weeks, Louisville QB Lamar Jackson will win the Heisman Trophy. Jackson had another sensational game Saturday against Boston College, throwing four touchdown passes and running for three scores. It was the third time this year he’s been responsible for seven or more touchdowns in a game. 2. Jake Browning, Washington QB. Browning threw for six TDs against Cal on Saturday and now has 34 scoring passes and only three interceptions this season. If it weren’t for Jackson’s routinely dazzling performances, Browning would be the favorite right now. 3. Deshaun Watson, Clemson QB. Watson deserves more consideration than he’s getting; 4; Jabrill Peppers, Michigan. The do-everything Wolverine played six positions this week; 5. Jalen Hurts, Alabama QB. Stock is rising as he takes a more prominent role with the nation’s best team. Meanwhile, the man who should’ve won the trophy last year, Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey, is now fully healthy and had a scintillating game on Saturday with 199 rushing yards.

WNBA All-Star sues Cal over alleged sexual assault


WNBA All-Star sues Cal over alleged sexual assault

BERKELEY — Former California women’s basketball player and current WNBA All-Star guard Layshia Clarendon has filed a lawsuit against Cal claiming she was sexually assaulted by a longtime member of the athletic department.

The school acknowledged the lawsuit Wednesday night and said the staff member, Mohamed Muqtar, had recently been placed on paid leave. The assistant director of student services, Muqtar has been working for the university for just more than 25 years, the school said. An e-mail to Muqtar’s Cal email account was not immediately returned.

Cal said in a statement “the University is aware of the complaint, but has not received a copy of the lawsuit nor had the benefit of reviewing the allegations.”

Clarendon, who plays for the Atlanta Dream and was at Cal from 2009-13, posted on Twitter her thoughts about the lawsuit.

She said in three separate tweets:

— “Regarding the news today: I want the shame to not be my own anymore, because it’s not my shame to carry, but it’s something that I’ve had to carry. It’s a horrible thing to live in silence, to carry that pain and that weight and the guilt.”

— “My biggest hope is that he never does this to anyone else. That no one else has to suffer under his hand, or him violating their bodies again. That this would be the end of him assaulting people. #TimesUp.”

— “It feels there is a big level of responsibility there for me, to make sure this doesn’t continue. And he doesn’t continue to harm other people.”

Cal explained in its statement that this case goes beyond the athletic department for investigation.

The statement reads: “Our department policy states that once anyone in Cal Athletics is made aware of any instance or allegation of a violation of University policy involving a coach, staff member or student-athlete, those matters are referred to the appropriate departments on campus responsible for investigating them. Athletics does not have its own specific conduct process nor does it investigate allegations or cases on its own, but follows the University’s policy and works in concert with campus professionals who are responsible for those areas. All university staff are also required to complete sexual harassment and sexual violence prevention training, and those programs have increased in recent years. Cal Athletics is and will always be committed to fostering a culture where everyone feels safe, welcome and respected. We encourage anyone who is feeling distressed or troubled to contact the PATH to Care Center and other campus resources.

“Layshia holds a special place in our history for her contributions to Cal women’s basketball both on and off the court and we are saddened to hear of the allegations that are coming to light today.”

Alabama wins national title on epic walk-off touchdown in OT


Alabama wins national title on epic walk-off touchdown in OT


ATLANTA -- To add another championship to the greatest dynasty college football has ever seen, Alabama turned to its quarterback of the future, and Tua Tagovailoa proved that his time is now.

The freshman quarterback, who had played mostly mop-up duty this season, came off the bench to spark a comeback and threw a 41-yard touchdown to DeVonta Smith that gave No. 4 Alabama a 26-23 overtime victory against No. 3 Georgia on Monday night for the College Football Playoff national championship.

Tagovailoa entered the game at halftime, replacing a struggling Jalen Hurts, and threw three touchdown passes to give the Crimson Tide its fifth national championship since 2009 under coach Nick Saban.

"He just stepped in and did his thing," Hurts said. "He's built for stuff like this. I'm so happy for him." The Tide might have a quarterback controversy ahead of it but first Alabama will celebrate another national title.

For the third straight season, Alabama played in a classic CFP final. The Tide split two with Clemson, losing last season on touchdown with a second left.

What was Saban thinking as the winning pass soared this time?

"I could not believe it," he said. "There's lots of highs and lows. Last year we lost on the last play of the game and this year we won on the last play of the game. These kids really responded the right way. We said last year, `Don't waste the feeling.' They sure didn't, the way they played tonight."

Smith streaked into the end zone and moments later confetti rained and even Saban seemed almost giddy after watching maybe the most improbably victory of his unmatched career.

After Alabama kicker Andy Pappanastos missed a 36-yard field goal that would have won it for the Tide (13-1) in the final seconds of regulation , Georgia (13-2) took the lead with a 51-yard field goal from Rodrigo Blankenship in overtime.

Tagovailoa took a terrible sack on Alabama's first play of overtime, losing 16 yards. On the next play he found Smith, another freshman, and hit him in stride for the national championship.

Tagovailoa was brilliant at times, though he had a few freshman moments. He threw an interception when he tried to pass on a running play and all his receivers were blocking. He also darted away from the pass rushers and made some impeccable throws, showing the poise of a veteran. Facing fourth-and-goal from 7, down seven, the left-hander moved to his left and zipped a pass through traffic that hit Calvin Ridley in the numbers for the tying score with 3:49 left in the fourth quarter.

He finished 14 for 24 for 166 yards. The winning play was, basically, four receivers going deep.

"After the sack, we just got up and took it to the next play," Tagovailoa said. "I looked back out, and he was wide open. Smitty was wide open." Freshmen were everywhere for the Alabama offense: Najee Harris at running back, Henry Ruggs III at receiver, Alex Leatherwood at left tackle after All-American Jonah Williams was hurt. It's a testament to the relentless machine Saban has built.

But this game will be remembered most for his decision to change quarterbacks trailing 13-0.

"I just thought we had to throw the ball, and I felt he could do it better, and he did," Saban said. "He did a good job, made some plays in the passing game. Just a great win. I'm so happy for Alabama fans. Great for our players. Unbelievable."

Saban now has six major poll national championships, including one at LSU, matching the record set by the man who led Alabama's last dynasty, coach Paul Bear Bryant.

This was nothing like the others.

With President Trump in attendance, the all-Southeastern Conference matchup was all Georgia in the first half before Saban pulled Hurts and the five-star recruit from Hawaii entered. The president watched the second half from Air Force One.

"I don't know how Coach Saban found me all the way in Hawaii from Alabama," Tagovailoa said. "Thank God he found me and we're here right now."

The Tide trailed 20-7 in the third quarter after Georgia's freshman quarterback, Jake Fromm, hit Mecole Hardman for an 80-yard touchdown pass that had the Georgia fans feeling good about ending a national title drought that dates back to 1980.

Fromm threw for 232 yards for a while it looked as if he was going to be the freshman star for the game, the first to true freshman to lead his team to a national title season since Jamelle Holieway for Oklahoma in 1985.

"I mean, if you want to find out about Jake Fromm, go ask those guys on the other side of the ball, and they'll tell you because that's a really good defense he just went against," Smart said.

A little less than a year after the Atlanta Falcons blew a 25-point lead and lost in overtime to the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, there was more pain for many of the local fans. Two years ago, Georgia brought in Saban's top lieutenant, Kirby Smart, to coach the Bulldogs and bring to his alma mater a dose of Alabama's Process.

Smart, who spent 11 seasons with Saban - eight as his defensive coordinator in Tuscaloosa - quickly built `Bama East. It was Georgia that won the SEC this season. Alabama had to slip into the playoff without even winning its own division.

With the title game being held 70 miles from Georgia's campus in Athens, Dawg fans packed Mercedes-Benz Stadium, but it turned out to be sweet home for Alabama and now Saban is 12-0 against his former assistants.

But not without angst.

Alabama drove into the red zone in the final minute and Saban started playing for a field goal that would end the game and win it for the Tide. A nervous quiet gripped the crowd of 77,430 as `Bama burned the clock. With the ball centered in the middle of the field, Pappanastos lined up for a kick to win the national championship. The snap and hold looked fine, but the kicked missed badly to the left.

For the second straight week, Georgia was going to overtime. The Bulldogs beat Oklahoma in a wild Rose Bowl in double overtime to get here, and after Jonathan Ledbetter and Davin Bellamy sacked Tagovailoa for a big loss on the first play, Alabama was in trouble - second-and-26.

Not for long. Tagovailoa looked off the safety and threw the biggest touchdown pass in the history of Alabama football.