In all of the Tweedia Day, Jimmy Raye and Giants-hooray hoopla, I forgot to mention the best performance from over the weekend, Stanford’s dismantling of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Honestly, if you’re fiending for some 1980’s/’90’s San Francisco 49ers football, watch Stanford. And not just because they have the best quarterback alive under the age of 22, Andrew Luck.
Like the Niners when Bill Walsh was in charge, one of the ways Stanford will sneak up on people is they’ll be mistakenly labeled as a “finesse” team, even though their defense is the backbone. The Niners used to roll into opposing stadiums, where before kickoff teams that played in “tough” divisions salivated at the opportunity to show these Frisco white wine quaffing Frasier Cranes the way real men play football.
Then the 49ers would collect three or four sacks, their safeties (don’t forget guys like Jeff Fuller, Chet Brooks, Marquez Pope, Tim McDonald and Dana Hall — Ronnie Lott wasn’t the only one crushing people in the secondary) would drill receivers who dared venture across the middle, and after the other team noticed they were only averaging 2.4 yards a carry, they’d realize the game was a lost cause.
But still, because football announcers were even more provincial and ignorant back then than they are now, the Niners were always considered the “West Coast Offense” panty-wearers (and not in a good way, like Aubrey Huff) who couldn’t match up with smashmouth blahblahblah. And Stanford, with their incredible quarterback, private school elitism and status as a middle-of-the-Pac-10 team for so many years, means no matter how many crushing sacks from Chase Thomas, Shayne Skov and Thomas Keiser (among others, as Stanford has 14 sacks in their first 4 games, compared to only 1 for their opponents), or backbreaking interceptions from 2-way sensation Owen Marecic, people will think they can outmuscle them. Good luck.
Maybe Cal can ask Stanford for a loan
Pushing the 10-9 loss suffered by the football team in Arizona out of our consciousness, Cal slashed athletic teams and programs yesterday, including switching the rugby team to “varsity club” status and completely dropping the baseball team, which has been around since 1892.
Now, I’m not going to put my soapbox on a pitcher’s mound and cry about how much I will miss the baseball team. It seems very strange and wrong that a Pac-10 school would drop baseball, but I’ve never gone to a game. However, there are many people who do consider the baseball squad, and the other teams that were affected by Cal’s announcements, as instrumental to the quality of their lives and/or livelihoods.
Jeff Tedford came in like some sort of Oregonian hero, built up his rep to the tune of the highest salary of any single UC employee (I guess when you consider that the only other competitors for that crown would be in the Regents office, that isn’t so unpalatable, but it still seems misguided considering California’s budget is so messed up that they’ll probably make every highway a toll road by 2020). Tedford is a good college coach, and if you think it takes a miracle worker to keep Cal in bowl games and over .500, he’s as wonderful a deity as you can hope for. His record since coming to Berkeley is 67-35, which equates to an average record of about 8-4. Good enough to recruit NFL talent, but not good enough to get the entire metro area wearing blue and gold on Saturdays.
I’m not about to jump on Title IX, since it’s one of the only things about college sports that’s actually about the betterment of the athletes who participate. And it’s true, if Cal didn’t pay their coach a competitive salary, they’d be left with a revolving door opened by an infinite number of guys like Tom Holmoe. But the fact remains that Cal football, while consistently decent, hasn’t fulfilled the promise the program showed in 2004 when they went 10-2 and lost in the Holiday Bowl.
Winning isn’t everythng, but if Tedford doesn’t get to competing for that elusive Rose Bowl once the new stadium’s ready, sacrificing the baseball, lacrosse, gymnastics and rugby teams will seem even more disappointing than it does today. Hopefully the new facilities will bring in better players, Tedford will earn his salary and coach them up into a perennial Pac-10 title contender, and the increase in revenues that follow will lead to Cal reinstalling the programs that got the axe yesterday.