NCAA

College Football Roundup: Watson shines in a classic; Stanford trending up, Cal down

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College Football Roundup: Watson shines in a classic; Stanford trending up, Cal down

Back-to-back classics.

That’s what we’ve witnessed in the National Championship Game the past two seasons. Even in their wildest dreams, the organizers of the College Football Playoff couldn’t have imagined two games of this caliber in successive seasons.

Last year, you’ll recall No. 2 ranked Alabama edged No. 1 ranked Clemson, 45-40. This year, the tables were turned, as No. 2 Clemson edged No. 1 Alabama, 35-31. A year ago, after defense dominated the first three quarters, the teams erupted for 40 points in the fourth quarter. This year’s game followed the same script, with the teams combining for 28 points in the final period (21 by Clemson).

Divine Deshaun: The game confirmed the unparalleled brilliance of Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, who passed for 420 yards and 3 touchdowns, including the game-winner with one second remaining. In two games against the No. 1 defense in the country, playing for the national championship under the brightest lights and greatest pressure, all Watson did was pass for 825 yards, rush for another 116, and account for eight touchdowns.

Watson’s performance capped a career in which he went 32-3 as a starter, graduated in three years, and finished second and third in the Heisman Trophy balloting (behind Alabama’s Derrick Henry and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey last year, and behind Louisville’s Lamar Jackson this year).

Looking back through the post-season prism, one wonders how Jackson could out-vote Watson. Clemson, after all, beat Louisville 42-36 early in the season. Jackson won despite finishing the season with two straight sub-par performances in upset losses to Houston and Kentucky, then was shut down by LSU in a 29-9 clunker in the Citrus Bowl.

Watson didn’t have quite the same glittering stats, but beat Jackson head to head and won the national title. Like Stanford greats Andrew Luck (who finished second twice), and John Elway (who finished second to Herschel Walker), Watson will go down as one of the best college players never to win the Heisman.

Dykes Dismissed: Earlier this week, Cal fired head coach Sonny Dykes after four seasons at the helm of the Golden Bear program. While the timing was unusual — in that it came six weeks after the end of the season — the decision was not surprising. There were three main issues with the Dykes regime: 1) The inability to develop anything resembling a defense. The Bears ranked near the bottom of NCAA defensive statistics for all four years, and there was no sign of improvement.

2) Dykes publicly pursued other coaching jobs almost from the first moment he arrived in Berkeley, most recently at Houston and Baylor. This was embarrassing to the University and the Old Blues who understandably want a coach who is committed to the school and wants to be in Berkeley.

3) Lagging ticket sales and donor support. Cal had a university-wide debt of $150 million last year, $21 million of it in athletics (largely related to debt service on the stadium renovation). The athletic department needs to fill seats in Memorial Stadium and get the donors excited again.

Like many others, we had recommended then-San Jose State Coach Mike MacIntyre to the Cal athletic department four years ago. One can only wonder where the Bears might be right now if MacIntyre, who has done such an amazing job at Colorado, would’ve been hired instead of Dykes.

Recruiting Trail: Stanford is reportedly on the way to signing one of the nation’s finest recruiting classes. According to Scout.com, coach David Shaw has already garnered commitments from the country’s No. 1 ranked quarterback (Davis Mills of Greater Atlanta Christian School), No. 1 and 2 ranked offensive linemen (Foster Sarell of Graham Kapowsin HS in Graham, Washington, and Walker Little of Episcopal HS in Bellaire, Texas) and No. 1 tight end Colby Parkinson of Oaks Christian HS in Westlake Village). Nationally, Scout rates Sarell the second best player in the country and Mills No. 3.

Speaking of recruiting, Alabama didn’t go home empty-handed this week, as the nation’s top recruit, running back Najee Harris from Antioch HS, decided to go with the Crimson Tide. Harris had verbally committed earlier, then flirted with Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh before sticking with Alabama.

Unsung Utah: With his Foster Farms Bowl victory over Indiana, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham now has the best bowl record of any active coach. Since taking over the reins in Salt Lake City, Coach Whit is 10-1 in postseason play.

USC Finishes at No. 3: After its scintillating win in the Rose Bowl, USC climbed to No. 3 in the final AP poll. If star Adoree Jackson opts to come back for another year, the Trojans will contend for the national title next season.

Chargers to LA: San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos announced on Thursday that the Chargers will move to Los Angeles next season. One can only wonder what this means for the future of Qualcomm Stadium, home of the Holiday and Poinsettia Bowls, and San Diego State football?

Coronavirus: NCAA cancels men's and women's March Madness tournaments

Coronavirus: NCAA cancels men's and women's March Madness tournaments

There will be no NCAA Tournament games at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento or anywhere else. 

Amid concerns over the spread of the coronavirus, the NCAA announced Thursday it was canceling the men's and women's basketball tournaments as well as all other winter and spring championships. 

Golden 1 Center was slated to host the first and second-rounds of the tournament. On Wednesday, the NCAA announced it would hold games without fans in attendance, but as the number of cases continues to rise, Emmert made the prudent choice to cancel the tournament Thursday.

This comes a day after the NBA suspended its season for the foreseeable future after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. On Thursday, the NHL, MLB and MLS suspended or delayed their seasons for varying lengths of time. 

Major college conference tournaments began Tuesday and were set to go through the week until selection Sunday. Most conferences canceled their tournaments early Thursday morning prior to the NCAA's decision to cancel the tournaments. 

This will be the first year since 1938 without a Final Four. 

[RELATED: NBA, G League suspend season amid coronavirus outbreak]

On Wednesday, the World Health Organization labeled the coronavirus as a pandemic. As of Thursday, over 1,300 people in the United States had contracted the virus and 39 had died, according to the Centers or Disease Control, state health officials and NBC News. 

Katie Ledecky was face of USA swimming before starring at Stanford

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USATSI

Katie Ledecky was face of USA swimming before starring at Stanford

In 2012, Katie Ledecky burst onto the scene as a 15-year-old swimming phenom at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London. Ledecky won gold by blowing away the field in the 800-meter freestyle.

She returned to Olympic glory in 2016, winning four gold medals and a silver in Rio.

Already an established swimming star, Ledecky went Stanford to swim for one of the nation's premier programs. During her freshman season, she set 12 NCAA records and nine American records while leading Stanford to its first team title since 1998. She followed that up a year by setting three more NCAA records, two more American records and helping the Cardinal win another crown. She decided to forgo her final two years at Stanford to turn pro because well ... she's Katie Ledecky.

Learn more about one of the world's best swimmers in this piece from NBC Sports Washington:

Ledecky took the mantle from Michael Phelps as the face of American swimming and has been a dominant force in the pool ever since. She swept gold medals in the 200-, 400- and 800-meter freestyle in 2016, setting world records in both the 400 and 800.

In the 2014 and 2015 Pan Pacific Championships, Ledecky won the 200-, 400-, 800- and 1500-meter freestyle races. Winning all four now is known as the "Ledecky Slam." The 1500 wasn't on the docket at the 2016 Rio games, but it will be this summer in Tokyo, where the American star can try and add an Olympic "Ledecky Slam" to her belt.