Ray Ratto

Internet immediately goes to DefCon1 on Chip Kelly-to-Cal


Internet immediately goes to DefCon1 on Chip Kelly-to-Cal

In what can be considered your standard bolt out of the blue, California head football coach Sonny Dykes has reportedly been fired.

In what can be considered your standard spur-of-the-Internet-moment-connect-the-dots inspiration, the Internet went immediately to DefCon1 on Chip Kelly-to-Cal rumors.

The logic, of course, is impeccable. Dykes never really snapped the Cal program around, taking a bad program and making it, well, mediocre, and he has spent much of the past two years aggressively seeking out other jobs, so one can assume there was at least some trouble in paradise, even if you want to make the case that Cal football and paradise are somehow connected.

And Kelly just got canned by the 49ers as part of Jed York’s latest I-will-not-be-made-to-look-ridiculous twitch, so he could sign a properly modest contract at Berkeley and still get his full $6 million with the offset from the three years left on his Jed deal.

So it makes perfect sense . . . which is why it should be judged with considerable skepticism.

For one, Kelly can almost surely do better in the college job diaspora. Cal is a big name with modest ambitions due in part to constant budget constraints, and there are better jobs out there even if he sits for a year.

For two, Cal and Kelly are an odd fit, given the persistent tensions between academia and athletica at Berkeley.

For three, the job comes with massive roadblocks, including Stanford, USC, Washington and (potentially) a resuscitation of the Oregon he left behind. Success will not come easy, if it does at all.

For four, Cal just finished four years of gimmick offense and overburdened defense, and Kelly would provide a more successful version of the same.

And for five, this is too easy, too simple, too convenient. Something about this scenario must be wrong somewhere. When people hit the Internet with photoshopped Kelly-in-Cal-costumes within minutes of the Dykes announcement, you know this is too obvious to actually come to fruition.

Why? Because we don’t live that well, that’s why.

The beauty of a triumphant Kelly at Cal glowering down at the charred ruin in Santa Clara seems more appealing than it actually is, because try as they might, Cal fans will never be backing the more popular horse here, and Kelly won’t win that battle unless he takes Cal to the Rose Bowl while the 49ers are still grappling over draft positions.

In that way, reality sucks. The idea that Jed York could be mocked in collegial absentia by his two biggest coaching hires is delicious but almost surely illusory.

But until we get more on why Dykes got canned 43 days after the team’s last game – recruiting, academic issues, legal issues, photocopier problems from him sending his resume out so often – all we have is the Chip Kelly rumor-ette to keep us intrigued.

Okay, to keep us amused.

Okay, to keep us from falling over in a coma. Cal should matter more than it does, but it’s been 13 years since the Holiday Bowl zenith of the Jeff Tedford Era, and 25 since Bruce Snyder took the Ursines to the Citrus Bowl. The evidence since 1990 is of a team with bigger dreams than means that is slightly below .500 (160-164). Sonny Dykes leaving means one more coach who didn’t make an impact unless his departure leads to either reassessment of the program’s standards, internal or external sanctions . . .

. . . or what the hell, Chip Kelly. Let’s face it – in these dismal days for wacked-out rumormongering, this is pretty intoxicating stuff.

One useful takeaway from this seeming madhouse of a weekend in NCAA Tournament


One useful takeaway from this seeming madhouse of a weekend in NCAA Tournament

College basketball peaked last week, as it typically does. There were 52 games, many of them hilariously delightful, only a few of them viewing slogs, and the sturdiest pillars of the narrative temple as it relates to the remaining 16 teams are:

* A 98-year-old nun who also functions as an unpaid assistant coach.

* A head coach who curses on air, gets soaking wet after wins and confesses that he worries about peeing himself on the sideline.

* A new version of the old debate about whether your view of Syracuse’s zone defense defines you as a basketball fan.

* Your dead bracket.

The nun, the glorious Sister Jean of Loyola Chicago, is new, and so is Eric Musselman (except in northern California, where he’s had pretty much every available pro job). But Jim Boeheim’s murderous zone defense, which he has employed since the Hoover administration, remains the litmus test about how you like your college basketball served.

Think of it as your AARP ID, if you must. It’s old-fashioned, it isn’t easy to watch, but it works.

And all the fun of a bracket that has more teams below the 4-seed than at or above it . . . well, Week Two is when most of that traditionally self-corrects. Even this year, there is the very real possibility that the gutty little underdog in San Antonio could be . . .

. . . wait for it . . .


And no, this is not the proof that the selection committee got it wrong. Not that they got it right – they’re pretty much not qualified based on work experience to do the job anyway, and their ability to ignore logical criteria at will to get a desired team or result is a long-standing tradition of this three-week bacchanal.

But if there is a useful takeaway from this seeming madhouse of a weekend, it is that it is not yet a sign that the revolution is underway or that the meek are inheriting the earth. If you ignore the seed math and look at the names next to the seeds, you still see the same basketball powers. In other words, the bracket will normalize as it always does, the power in the sport is never far away from the seat of that power, and those of you who root for the meek – well, your hope that charm can beat muscle rests on Eric Musselman and Sister Jean.

And the NCAA Tournament is not the vehicle to bet that prop.


For the moment, the Pac-12 is the Mid-American Conference


For the moment, the Pac-12 is the Mid-American Conference

If you’re a progressive thinker, the only thing that can save the Pacific 12 Conference from the grossest form of humiliation is for one of the six schools it sent to the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament – Cal, Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA, Arizona State – to make a deep run. In Stanford’s case, to become the first four-seed to win a title.

If you’re a more desperate type, it is to hope that Oregon, Stanford, USC or Washington wins the NIT. Nobody will know it, but we did say “desperate.” And if you need to get to Utah in the Women’s NIT . . .

Well, you get the point. The Pac 12 is the first conference to bow out of the NCAA Tournament before the first weekend since the Big 12 was first formed in 1996-7. And because nobody remembers this sort of stuff year to year, it wipes out last year, when the conference went 9-4 and sent Oregon to the Final Four.

And when we say “sent,” we mean no such thing. In the NCAA Tournament, and in college sports in general, teams achieve. Conferences just get their cut.

Still, as the college sports industry is still covered based on the rules of tribalism, where the keeping of scores breaks down by laundry first and then by affiliation, the Pac-12 has been historically God-awful, which for things referencing the deity is a considerable stretch. Not only did they send only three teams to the NCAA Tournament and saw them evaporate before Friday dawned, they were 1-8 in bowl games, the worst record of any major conference since forever.

Plus, there’s the FBI, plus there’s the ongoing sense that the Pac-12 is the last of the Power 5 and getting worse, plus there’s the fact that it isn’t in the Southeast or Midwest, where this stuff really matters.

But we noticed it on Thursday because people kept bringing it up, especially after Arizona was owned by Buffalo despite having the putative top draft pick in DeAndre Ayton and specifically because a Sean Miller-coached team was so poor defensively.

And now comes the fun of watching the 12 conference university presidents panic as the other presidents make fun of them in the mahogany playground in which they all play. And don’t think that doesn’t happen. College sports is a big business played by kids for the financial benefit of older kids who keep score on things like this.

So the women start Saturday, and in a just and fair society that would get sufficient attention and play enough games to make the conference members feel better about themselves. We don’t have that society yet, so for the moment, the Pac-12 is the Mid-American Conference, and won’t get a chance to prove otherwise until December.

But hey, at least their task force on the structural future of college basketball was received . . . well, with a tepidness unknown to mankind. So yeah, they're on a hell of a roll.