McCaffrey skipping game not an indictment of the bowl system


McCaffrey skipping game not an indictment of the bowl system

There are too many bowl games, and the College Football Playoff has significantly diminished their stature. That much is indisputable.

But despite a lot of media chatter, bowl games are not “meaningless” or “bogus,” and they’re not “populated by dubious figures,” as alleged earlier this week in a San Francisco Chronicle column.

Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey’s decision not to play in the Sun Bowl wasn’t an indictment of the bowl system. It was based on his desire to put himself in the best possible position for the NFL Draft and, most likely, avoid the risk of injury. That was it, pure and simple.

If Stanford were heading for a playoff game, I’m quite sure McCaffrey would’ve played. But he and his family determined that the Sun Bowl wasn’t worth the risk. Ironically, McCaffrey had his coming out party in a bowl game—the 2014 Foster Farms Bowl at Levi’s Stadium. But what if quarterback Kevin Hogan and offensive tackle Andrus Peat (an NFL first-round pick) had opted out of that game to begin their draft preparations? How might that have affected his performance?

I think McCaffrey’s decision was unfortunate. That’s easy for me to say, given that I’m not eyeing a lucrative pro career. But I think he’s letting down his teammates (none of whom, understandably, will criticize him publicly), his coaches (ditto), his fans (many of whom had purchased airline tickets, hotel rooms, rental cars, and game tickets to watch him play his final game in El Paso), and the good folks at the Sun Bowl.

The Sun Bowl is one of America’s oldest and most established postseason games. It was founded in 1935. Stanford has played in the game three times against three of the top programs in college football, and each game was meaningful and memorable.

In Bill Walsh’s first season, 1977, Stanford beat LSU, 24-14. In 1996, under Tyrone Willingham, Stanford shut out a Michigan State team coached by Nick Saban, 38-0. And in 2009, Jim Harbaugh’s first bowl game, Stanford played a courageous game against Oklahoma without injured quarterback Andrew Luck, losing 31-27.

Try to tell any of the players on those Stanford teams that the bowl game was meaningless or bogus. I was the Sports Information Director at Stanford in 1977, and I can tell you that Walsh and his players cherished that experience and reveled in that victory over a favored SEC team. Future NFL players James Lofton and Darrin Nelson were responsible for all three of Stanford’s touchdowns. And oh-by-the-way, Lofton was a first-round draft pick playing in his last college game.

Later, I served as the executive director of the bowl game played here in the Bay Area for 15 years, and I can assure you that the games were not “pointless” for the athletes who played in them. In the 2004 Emerald Bowl, for example, Navy capped one of the greatest seasons in school history with a win over New Mexico. Nearly 20,000 Navy fans made the trip West to support their team, including 4,000 Midshipmen. After the game, jubilant Navy players were yelling, chanting, and crying with joy in the locker room.

In 2011, about half the state of Nevada came to San Francisco to watch Colin Kaepernick lead his Wolf Pack team to a win over Boston College, capping a 13-1 season. The players carried Kaep off the field, and delirious Nevada fans stormed the gridiron at AT&T Park. Meaningless? I don’t think so.

As for the people involved, Bowl games are not “populated by dubious figures.” In fact, most of the people who run bowl games are volunteers from the local community. They give up their time during the holidays to host the competing teams, make sure the players have a great experience, and staff events that raise millions of dollars for local charities.

The local bowl that I was privileged to direct—known over the years as the Emerald, Kraft Fight Hunger and now Foster Farms Bowl—has donated over 400,000 meals to feed hungry families in the San Francisco area. The people on the host committee are some of the finest people I know.

Risk of injury, to be sure, is a valid consideration for any potential high draft pick. Yet at Stanford, both Jim Plunkett and Andrew Luck returned for their final seasons rather than turn pro, despite the risk of injury, and both were the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft.

Moreover, injuries can happen anywhere. This year, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was lost for the season due to an injury suffered in a non-contact drill. A few months ago, Cleveland Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer injured himself repairing a drone.

Finally, there is the issue of precedent. If Christian McCaffrey can decide not to play in one of the country’s oldest bowl games for fear of injury, what about a “meaningless” season-ending game against an over-matched Rice team? Once the trend starts, where does it end? When do you stop being a member of a team and start being a commodity?

In several of the bowl-bashing columns, the example of Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith was cited. Smith injured his knee in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl, saw his draft stock decline and missed the 2016 season. Earlier this week, after he saw his experience being used to support McCaffrey’s decision, Smith took to Twitter to issue his response. Here’s what he said, exactly as Tweeted:

“Honestly, With Everything I’ve been through, if I could go back to Jan. 1st I’d play again.”

That’s really all you need to know.

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.