Ray Ratto

For UCLA, Chip Kelly and the NFL never happened

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USATSI

For UCLA, Chip Kelly and the NFL never happened

Chip Kelly’s return to gainful employment (and no, television work is never actually gainful) is being hailed by the raging college punditocracy as a great acquisition for UCLA.
 
And 49er fans are gnawing their arms off in response.
 
Then again, there have always been two Chip Kellys – the one who owned college football with his frenetic offensive style, and the one who had to see if he could reinvent pro football by force of will.
 
That’s how he failed in Philadelphia. And then he failed in San Francisco by finding out that having no talent and working for people who don’t trust you while paying you trumps every clever idea in the playbook.
 
But his reputation among the collegiate types never deteriorated. He’d consolidated the gains made by predecessor Mike Bellotti and made Oregon a national power. Being a tyrant in Pennsylvania didn’t work, and neither did rowing a boat without a boat in California.
 
So he cooled his heels on the Eagles’ and Niners’ combined dimes until an opportunity to reinvent himself on his own terms came – and UCLA’s persistent underachievement relative to its self-image matched his desire to get back to what he knew and did best.
 
It’s as though he never coached in the NFL at all, which one suspects is just fine by everyone.
 
Kelly learned in Philadelphia that a paid workforce has the power of pushback. He learned in Philadelphia and San Francisco that a general manager with a drawer full of knives and a penchant for political scheming and ass-covering is the death of any sport.
 
But he must also know that no place reliant on the money of others to thrive is without politics or ass-coverers. The benefit that he got in Oregon was that there was only one of those – Phil Knight, Keeper Of The Swoosh.
 
UCLA has nobody of that wealth, but it has lots of people with opinions who give just enough money to expect those opinions to be heeded. Today, they are all-in on Kelly because it makes the Bruins’ football program a national talker, and in late November, when only a few teams are doing meaningful things competitively, talking is the currency of the realm.
 
Put another way, nobody talked about Chip Kelly in such glowing terms when he came to San Francisco because the failure in Philly was too fresh. At Westwood, his pro career is almost irrelevant because Los Angeles has only been an NFL town for two years, practically speaking. At Westwood, he is the man who perfected Eugene, and in the world of college football he is the man who reordered the world they care about.
 
In sum, for UCLA administrators and fans, Chip Kelly is the same guy he was the day he left Oregon. Philadelphia was a brief interlude and San Francisco essentially never happened at all.
 
If only all our histories worked that neatly.

No matter how much Steve Kerr makes in his next contract, he will be undercompensated

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AP

No matter how much Steve Kerr makes in his next contract, he will be undercompensated

Steve Kerr either has completed or is about to complete negotiations on his new contract as the head coach of The Team That Ruined Everything, and we know one thing already.

He is still sadly undercompensated at any price.

Only this isn’t because his boss is a cheapskate. Joe Lacob does not squeeze the wallets of those to whom he owes a debt, and Kerr is owed a massive one. Three rings say so.

But Lacob’s climb in the national consciousness is tied to the work of many others, and Kerr is one of those, so if his new contract pays him twice his current $5 million per annum or even more, it’s still less than it ought to be.

[LISTEN: Warriors Outsiders Podcast -- Will Steve Kerr get $10 million annually?]

And yet Kerr is fortunate that he didn’t win the Stanley Cup. There, the prize is only $300,000, take it or leave it. And Barry Trotz, the head coach of the Washington Capitals who no longer is, decided to leave it.

It does bring us to an interesting conundrum, namely finding the answer to the question, “What’s the love of a city worth to you?” Ted Leonsis, the owner of the Capitals who decided to lowball the only coach who ever gave him a parade, decided that the principle of not overcompensating a coach is worth more than the best moment he has ever had as a sports owner. Lacob, on the other hand, pays for his parades and the people who make them possible.

There is a measurable but also quantifiable difference between those two positions, and the word “gratitude” comes immediately to mind.

But the words Caps general manager Brian McLellan used were “high character and integrity,” and he used them to describe Trotz while he explained how the further care and grooming of the Cupholders could no longer use such a man in their employ.

No, this was about a plan to fire Trotz if he didn’t win the Cup (or, in the parlance of the day, “choose not to renew his contract,” or the even newer one, “choose to part ways”) that backfired because he got his players to do just that. It’s almost as if he screwed the organization by giving it a championship.

Oh, there will be other explanations offered in the next day or two as to why this had to be done for the good of the franchise, and how Trotz was surely losing the team while guiding it eagerly to the thing hockey players crave most.

But mostly, this was about valuing a once-in-a-lifetime moment at 20 percent of a man’s annual salary because, well, damn it, a deal’s a deal, and it’s just a coach and you can find them anywhere.

Of course you can. Cup-winning coaches are a dime a dozen – 52 total, or 14 percent of all the men who ever coached in the NHL. It’s a job so easy that most baristas could do it while foaming your latte.

Except that it isn’t, and never has been. Steve Kerr, who allegedly has the easiest job in NBA history, can vouch for how hard the Warriors’ third championship was, with the best team of its era. Joe Lacob can vouch for it, too, and is.

Oh, there will be a time when Kerr might be called overpaid, after the championship window has closed and the Warriors flail to repeat what it is doing now with such facility. But he will know he was treated well for those three Larry O’Briens, and that they now have a value of their own.

Specifically, about 10 Stanley Cups worth. Weird, because I always was told the Cup is the greatest trophy in sports. Now, it’s worth $300K, because Ted Leonsis said so. How lucky Kerr is to work for a guy who thinks about the long game, and the many millions more he made by going pocketward when it was the right time to do so.

 

Winning bid for 2026 World Cup highlights America’s ability to throw massive party, not grow the sport

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AP

Winning bid for 2026 World Cup highlights America’s ability to throw massive party, not grow the sport

The United States’ pre-eminent role in world soccer was reaffirmed Wednesday when the 2026 World Cup bid it shared with Canada and Mexico was approved by FIFA.

And when we say “pre-eminent role,” yes, we mean money – the official language of FIFA. I mean, the United bid threw so much promised money at FIFA that it didn’t even have to spend a lot of time apologizing for the current U.S. administration, which is a great deal of money indeed.

But the bid, which crushed one from Morocco, was also described by U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro as a likely catalyst for greater expansion of the sport in the U.S., to perhaps as many as 10 million registered soccer players from a current level of four million.

But we had been led to believe by soccer people that the expansion fight had already been won. And which, we were assured, was the reason for the 1994 World Cup, the last one held in the U.S.

In fact, linking the World Cup to soccer growth in America has always been a tenuous one. The sport grows at its own pace, and even after that World Cup and the creation and multiple expansions of Major League Soccer, the game’s hold in America is still fungible. Those four million registered players in America are out of 330 million, 1.2 percent, a similar percentage to 1994, and the 2026 World Cup is somehow supposed to fix that.

Well, that isn’t how these things work. The World Cup will generate billions in revenue (though the bid’s estimate of $14 billion seems wildly high), and rich folks will get richer. But this is more an acknowledgement of America’s ability to throw a massive party than its ability to grow the sport.

You see, the spectacle, and the money it churns, is still America’s most enduring link to the sport. Winning the 2026 bid is largely being framed as a grand consolation prize for the U.S. team throwing up all over itself and failing to qualify for the 2018 Mundial, which begins Thursday morning.

But it doesn’t truly affect “the growth of the game” because most of the money that will come in, estimate or no, will be great for the business of the sport. That’s where it traditionally stops. It will not create, and is not designed to create, the kind of fundamental changes that will make the U.S. more than a third-tier nation in terms of talent spotted and developed.

That will take more and more purposeful work, and the financial windfall of a World Cup is not the same as growing the sport. Period.

So yes, by all means hail the United bid (as it is called) is a triumph for North American soccer. But it’s mostly a triumph for money . . . as these things typically are.