Ray Ratto

Mark Davis was ready to violate Rooney Rule the moment he took over for Al


Mark Davis was ready to violate Rooney Rule the moment he took over for Al

If you want to be correct about it, the Oakland Raiders have been preparing for the day they could violate the Rooney Rule since the moment Mark Davis replaced his father as the team’s managing general partner.
That’s how long Davis has wanted Jon Gruden, and his hyperactive haste and generosity is a tribute to his persistence as much as it is his inability to create adequate subterfuge. His giddy admission that he jumped on Gruden on Christmas Eve, other than reminding folks of the 21st anniversary of the day his dad whacked Mike White in 1996, told us he had picked Gruden not only before interviewing any minority candidates but before firing Jack Del Rio as well.
Now that impulse buying – or at least it would be if it was six years’ worth of impulses coming to a head.
So yes, Mark Davis violated the Rooney Rule, and if that offends Raider observers who actually wonder if the rule should actually named the Al Davis Rule because of his groundbreaking record with minority hires, so be it. They did it, and they are right to be called on it by the Fritz Pollard Alliance.
And if you think getting the guy you have craved for more than half a decade isn’t actually wrong, so be that, too. The Raiders will make that argument if pressed, and will use the father’s record as well as Mark’s decision to hire Reggie McKenzie as his general manager, to buttress their claim.
And if that doesn’t work, they will give up $200,000 and move on without a moment’s concern with Gruden as their head coach. They’ll write it off as the owner forgetting to cover his tracks, and so be that as well.
That’s the point. Whether found guilty or not, the Raiders will get the $200 large out of petty cash. The fine is a grossly insignificant deterrent to a billionaire getting what he wants, and it doesn’t come with any kind of shaming mechanism. I mean, it’s been invoked once in the rule’s history, and that was 15 years ago.
There were seven black coaches before the Rooney Rule was enacted (including Fritz Pollard) and eight since, if you eliminate interim coaches who were promoted to fulltime and therefore didn’t have to be included in Rooney Rule provisions. If you include them, the total is 13. You may decide for yourselves what level of progress in opening the process those figures represent.
But it seems clear that Mark Davis never gave the Rooney Rule a thought, and/or nobody told him he had to do so. For that error in procedure, he will happily write a six figure check after pledging himself to a nine-figure check to get the guy he wanted. And, whether this is good or not, he will sleep the sleep of the satisfied. It’s that feeling the Rooney Rule was meant to disturb, and that has clearly been breached by his own giddy admission.

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.