Mario Cristobal on Fair Pay to Play Act: “It’s our obligation, responsibility” to help student-athletes

Mario Cristobal on Fair Pay to Play Act: “It’s our obligation, responsibility” to help student-athletes

Beginning in 2023, California law will be in direct opposition to the NCAA’s definition of amateurism. Monday morning, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law the “Fair Pay to Play Act" Senate Bill 206. This will allow the state’s college athletes to hire agents and make money from endorsements.

Get your popcorn ready, this will be a major showdown with the NCAA. If the bill survives the expected court challenges, the NCAA's business model would be in question.

The ability for athletes to make money could create a major recruiting advantage for schools in California. However it also begs the question, would out of state schools be willing to schedule games with California teams? Would the NCAA ban California teams from future competition?

The ruling of unconstitutional or not will likely come from a judge’s decision.

Obviously the bill will have major implications on the Pac-12 Conference and the nation. The conference released the following statement, in opposition of the bill.

“The Pac-12 is disappointed in the passage of SB 206 and believes it will have very significant negative consequences for our student-athletes and broader universities in California. This legislation will lead to the professionalization of college sports and many unintended consequences related to this professionalism, imposes a state law that conflicts with national rules, will blur the lines for how California universities recruit student-athletes and compete nationally, and will likely reduce resources and opportunities for student-athletes in Olympic sports and have a negative disparate impact on female student-athletes.”

Oregon Coach Mario Cristobal, who competes against four California universities each season, wanted to do a deeper dive into the first-in-the-nation law before giving a comment on the specific bill. However, he did give his own insight:

"I certainly believe that in any way that we can help the student-athletes I think it’s our obligation, our responsibility,” Cristobal said. “We certainly do a lot for them here. I know what it’s like; I’ve been there. I don’t know enough about how, what the rules are, what the format is for that. I’m all for making sure that we maximize what they can benefit or how they can benefit.”

Newsom’s take is that student-athletes are prohibited from being fairly compensated while “other college students with a talent, whether it be literature, music, or technological innovation, can monetize their skill and hard work.”

California schools could form a new organization, since membership in the NCAA is voluntary.

Please stop trying to tell me college athletes play for free!

Please stop trying to tell me college athletes play for free!

I listen to more sportstalk radio than I used to, because I know – and like -- a lot of the people behind the mic at all the stations.

But if there’s one thing I could tell them that frustrates me the most when it comes out of their mouths is the assertion that college athletes “play for free.” Or they “don’t get paid.”

I’m wondering how many of these hosts have sent their children to college these days. And more to the point, I also believe that when people say those kinds of things, they seriously underestimate the value of a college education.

Guys, do you have any idea what it costs these days to attend college, especially as an out-of-state student? Do you know what it’s like to graduate with a $100,000 worth of loans to pay off?

At the University of Oregon, for example, if you aren’t an in-state resident – and most of our state’s scholarship athletes aren’t – you would be paying $35,367 a year for the right to sit in a classroom in Eugene. And oh yes, scholarship athletes now receive “cost of attendance” stipends, too. At UO, that amounts to almost $15,000 a year.

So we’re talking about getting about 50 grand a year for playing a sport!

In my world, that’s a lot of money. Now you can say that those people on scholarship are attending college only to play their sport and don’t care about the diploma, but I would counter that those are the ones who will probably benefit the most from college. Whether they take advantage of the opportunity is up to them. And if you want to take that position, please stop calling those people SCHOLAR-ATHLETES.

But they aren’t playing for nothing (and I’m not even talking about all the perks of pre-registration, training table, luxurious study and workout facilities and whatever they can grab from a rich alum).

They are playing for something that has as much value as they put into it.

Leaked NCAA women’s tournament bracket reveals Ducks as No. 2 seed

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Leaked NCAA women’s tournament bracket reveals Ducks as No. 2 seed

Selection Monday came four hours earlier than expected, but we now know the Oregon women’s basketball team is dancing in the NCAA Tournament.

Oregon (29-4) will play as the No. 2 seed in the Portland Region, hosting 15-seed Portland State (25-7) in the first round on Friday at 6 p.m. Both the first and second rounds of the tournament will be held at Matthew Knight Arena.

Oregon’s 21-10 all-time against Portland State and 26-2 in the team’s last two meetings. If the Ducks advance Friday, they will face the winner of No. 7 Texas and No. 10 Indiana on Sunday in Eugene.

Oregon could quite possibly play in its home state all the way to the Final Four. The Moda Center in Portland will host two semifinal games on March 29 and the regional championship game on March 31.

Last season, the Ducks made it to the Elite Eight, falling to eventual NCAA champions, No. 1 Notre Dame. Oregon will once again look to make it to the Final Four, a feat the Ducks have yet to accomplish in program history. 

ESPN inadvertently leaked the NCAA Tournament bracket four hours early on Monday. As a result, teams around the country canceled their selection show watch party. Oregon was one of them.

Doug Brenner and his Rhabdomyolysis: Why he's suing Willie Taggart and the University of Oregon

Doug Brenner and his Rhabdomyolysis: Why he's suing Willie Taggart and the University of Oregon

Wednesday, former Oregon football player Doug Brenner filed a suit against the NCAA, former Oregon football coach Willie Taggart, strength and conditioning coach Irele Oderinde, and the University of Oregon for injuries sustained during workouts in January, 2017, shortly after Taggart was hired.

Brenner is seeking $11.5 million in damages.

"I would ask you, how much is your health and your body worth?" Brenner asked in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Northwest. "My health and my body will be impacted by this for the rest of my life. My kidneys will never be the same."

Why take legal action now? I had the opportunity to sit down with Brenner and ask him some important questions on the forefront of this lawsuit.

Brenner detailed that his health issues led him to the doctor a few months ago, when he learned the severity of his kidney damage through a nuclear renal scan. The statute of limitations in Oregon for personal injury and medical malpractice claims is two years; since the workouts ensued in January of 2017, this month is the end of his window. 

The former offensive lineman was one of three players hospitalized as a result of the workouts, each suffering from rhabdomyolysis.  This is a condition where the body “eats its own muscles,” creating toxic elements which go through the body causing damage.

Rhabdomyolysis in athletes is a preventable and potentially fatal condition.

What does rhabdomyolysis feel like? What does he remember about those drills? Was he properly hydrated?  What NCAA changes does he hope will ensue as apart of this lawsuit? And maybe the biggest question, did Taggart lack control or ignore blatant red flags?

"Oh absolutely (he lacked control)," Brenner said. "That's why I am pursuing this. I want to prevent this from happening to future players. The NCAA has guidelines in place to avoid things liek this from happening but they aren't enforcing it and every year tons of kids across the country are being hospitalized for rhabdomyolysis."

According to the 18-page suit filed in Multnomah County circuit court, the permanent damage to Brenner's kidneys reduced his life expectancy by about 10 years.  

[FROM 2017: Willie Taggart starts his tenure at UO with the wrong kind of publicity]

In the interview, Brenner illustrates the January workouts. He details that the UO medical staff acknowledged that the workout went beyond the student athletes’ natural limits after the first day and on the second day, brought in oxygen tanks on to go along with the trash cans, for vomiting, that lined the workout room.

“Oderinde not only was willing to put student athletes through nonevidence-based physical punishment regimens, but also did not carry industry required certification to be a strength and conditioning coach,” the suit claims.

It also states that Taggart told players when he was hired that he and the new coaches were going to focus on discipline in strength and conditioning and they were "going to find the snakes in the grass and cut their heads off."

[WATCH FROM 2017: Taggart and his staff off to a rough start]

Taggart brought with Oderinde to Oregon from South Florida and currently still retains him on staff at Florida State. Oderinde was suspended without pay for a month by Oregon after the players were hospitalized and Taggart issued an apology.

After hospitalization, Brenner returned to the team to play in 2017. Brenner's senior season ended after he had hip surgery in October 2017 after he played seven games for the Ducks.

"I'm a proud Duck and I loved my time playing football at Oregon," Brenner said. "It was a tough choice to do this."

Sam Poutasi, another offensive lineman, is now also suing. 

Cam McCormick, the third Duck hospitalized, has opted against suing

"I respect my teammates immensely and their very difficult decision to take that path," McCormick said. "I look forward to putting this unfortunate situation in the past, and moving ahead."

Watch the video interview above to hear from Doug Brenner in his own words. 

Minor, almost mockable: NCAA serves penalties for Oregon Ducks' violations

Minor, almost mockable: NCAA serves penalties for Oregon Ducks' violations

On Wednesday, the NCAA announced Oregon committed violations in men’s and women’s basketball, women’s track and field and football.

The violations and the penalties are very minor…. Almost mockable, considering the level of corruption that exists around the nation in NCAA college sports.

The stiffest penalty? NCAA put Oregon Athletics on two years probation from Dec. 5, 2018, to Dec. 4, 2020. A team already on probation for violations can get substantially worse penalties for similar infractions. Probation can have a negative impact on recruiting and could make the federal NCAA basketball corruption case, that Oregon was mentioned in, more interesting. 

To summarize, Oregon committed violations by having basketball staff show up at practices and voluntary workouts when they weren’t allowed, a professor who allowed a track and field athlete to submit coursework after the course had ended (which he said he would do for any student, regardless of athlete status), and a football electronic presentation that included each prospect’s name, statistics and a high school highlight video displayed in the football equipment area.

Relatively tame infractions that were mostly self-reported. What’s next? The Oregon Golf team penalized for having too many golf tees per bag? I kid, but if you are a worried Duck fan… Don’t be. 

Here are the violations and penalties:

Women’s basketball

The NCAA ruled that coach Kelly Graves failed to monitor his program and failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance by allowing an assistant strength and conditioning coach to participate in on-court activities.

Graves will serve a two-game suspension this season and must reduce the number of countable coaches by one at regular practice for 10 hours during the 2018-19 season (self-imposed by the university). Also, the school must pay a $5,000 fine plus one percent of the women’s basketball budgets.

Men’s Basketball

The NCAA ruled that the director of basketball operations participated in and observed voluntary workouts, which is a violation. 

As a penalty, that individual received a two-year show-cause order from the NCAA. The men’s basketball program must reduce the number of countable coaches by one at regular practice for 5 hours during the 2018-19 season (self-imposed by the university). Also, the school must pay a fine of one percent of the program’s budget.

Track and Field

The NCAA found an adjunct instructor changed a course grade for a women’s track and field student-athlete, which allowed her to maintain her eligibility and earn her degree.

The professor stated this was due to the system not allowing him to give the athlete an incomplete, with the grade coming following the submission of said coursework.

Oregon's senior vice provost for academic affairs said the athlete did not violate the school's misconduct policy, and the professor said he would have made the same accommodation for any student regardless of athlete status. 

Oregon must vacate all records compiled while the athlete was ineligible.

Oregon Football

Lastly, the NCAA ruled the football program gained a recruiting advantage when it impermissibly displayed personalized statistics of visiting recruits during unofficial and official visits on a new electronic reader board in the football facility.

Oregon athletics self reported the violations above. All in all, not much to worry about, Duck fans… Except maybe those golf tees (kidding!).

Wonder women of Oregon make NCAA Track And Field history

USA Today

Wonder women of Oregon make NCAA Track And Field history

The women’s collegiate track and field championship took place this past weekend at Hayward Field and the trophy won’t be traveling far to its home. Oregon has a special place in history when it comes to its women’s Track and Field team having won a Cross Country, Indoor and Outdoor NCAA Championship. They’re the first team to ever do so.  A 4×4 relay that was pure pandemonium clinched the championship for the Lady Ducks.

Anyone familiar with the even kill demeanor of head coach Robert Johnson would know an uproar of emotions after the race was an indicator of the magnitude and thrill. Afterwards he added “It should have never ever come down to that… but what a champion’s heart to see her soldier back in a very short period of time to run a hell of a leg in the 4×400… Just a lion’s effort by those girls today.” per Beth Maiman of Oregon and Georgia went back and forth throughout the meet with contrasting styles. Each point scored by Oregon was done on the track and Georgia’s was scored in the field.  In the end, it was the Lady Ducks who had more athletes that qualified for the meet prevailed.

While the Lady Ducks didn’t score in the field, they had numerous contributions scoring in six events. The scoring kicked off in the 100m where Deajah Stevens took 2nd and Ariana Washington took 4th. That same pair made the 200m final as well. Washington took 2nd and Steven looked to be on her way to winning the race before a fall in the last 20 meters didn’t allow her to finish. Elexis Guster chipped in with a 6th place finish in the 400m. Finally, in the 100m hurdles Alaysha Johnson took 4th and Sasha Wallace grabbed the 6th spot.

The real star of this meet was Raevyn Rogers. The Houston native won her 5th NCAA title in the 800m. She pulled her teammate Brooke Feldmeier through who finished 3rd.  This capped a season for Rogers in which she was never beaten in an 800. She was the anchor of the 4×4 team that broke the collegiate record that was set by Texas in 2004. Her 49.77s split to run down fellow PAC 12 rival USC was worthy of a trophy itself. Fitting for The Bowerman trophy finalist.

Oregon's Chris Boucher is devastated but supportive

Oregon's Chris Boucher is devastated but supportive

KANSAS CITY - Oregon senior forward Chris Boucher expected to be an integral part of the Ducks' run at a Final Four appearance. 

His shot blocking, rebounding, inside and outside scoring prowess figured to help UO make such a run. Then, it all came crashing down for Boucher while attempting to block a shot against California during the semifinals of the Pac-12 Tournament two weekends ago in Las Vegas, Nev. 

The next day, Boucher was ruled out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL in his left knee. He since has been relegated to cheerleader while the No. 3 Ducks (32-5) have carved out a path to the Elite Eight where they will face No. 1 Kansas (31-4) on Saturday night. 

"Well, it's been hard for sure, but seeing my team getting into the tournament and all covers for it a little bit," Boucher said today during media availability at the Sprint Center. "You always want to be on the floor and play. Definitely hurts sometimes to watch them do it so good and you can't do anything about it."

Senior guard Dylan Ennis can relate. He missed virtually all of last season with a foot injury that forced him to watch Oregon reach the Elite Eight without him. 

"As a senior, I know how hard it is and lucky I got my year back, but him going through this his senior year he's been a big part of this and especially with him on the bench he's so encouraging and he's taken that role as being the next coach, that positive reinforcement," Ennis said. "So everything he is doing we can't be more grateful for him."

Oregon lost the Pac-12 Tournament championship game to Arizona without Boucher, but has won three NCAA Tournament games since. Still, it's obvious that the Ducks miss his 11.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots per game. Losing him has placed more pressure on junior forward Jordan Bell to protect the rim. 

"We lost our advantage with the blocks with Chris," Altman said. "We were averaging almost seven blocks a game with him, and I think in the four games without him now I think we have eight total. So Jordan has become a little less aggressive with his blocks, trying to stay out of foul trouble. He's done a great job of picking up rebounding. Chris was our second leading rebounder and third leading scorer besides being the guy who blocked the most shots. Defensively we've slipped. Our numbers in the last four games are not as good as they were previous to him going down. So we've tried to make up for that a little bit offensively."

To do what he can, Boucher said he watches games intently looking for details he can pass on to teammates. 

"I'm just trying to help my team and tell them what I could see from the bench and they could go from there," Boucher said.

It's something, but not what Boucher and Ducks had planned for his role to be during this this time of the season.