Hope Solo is no stranger to controversy, and neither is Megan Rapinoe. Both women have made it a point to use their platform to further the causes they care most about, and while it’s Megan Rapinoe’s social stances (or lack of stance, but we’ll get to that in a moment), the thing that seems to keep Hope Solo in the news is her choice of phrase.
This time, in the midst of attempting to make a nuanced point about the division that surrounds the activism of the US Women’s National Team, she used one of the biggest buzz words anyone can use- bully. And she used it in reference to her old friend and teammate…
“I’ve seen Megan Rapinoe almost bully players into kneeling because she really wants to stand up for something in her particular way. But it’s our right as Americans to do it whatever way we’re comfortable with and I think that’s really hard being on the main stage right now with so many political issues for athletes. There’s a lot of pressure and ultimately at the end of the day our number one focus should and has always been to win first.”
Hope Solo was in the middle of a reasonable thought about the way the country as a whole reacts to athletes protesting during the national anthem, saying “Right now what I’ve seen is there’s been so much debate about the kneeling, about the not kneeling. I know most people stand against discrimination, and I live in the south, I live in a very conservative area here in North Carolina in the south. Obviously I have friends on both sides of the aisle, but I think the kneeling thing can be very divisive.”
She’s not wrong. Kneeling during the anthem is factually, objectively, palpably divisive… and that’s sort of the point of it. But, as legions of people have pointed out on social media, Hope Solo wasn’t exactly around for the kneeling. She’d been suspended from competition for six months just days before Megan Rapinoe first publicly protested.
Her suspension came after calling the Swedish National Team “cowardly” for their style of play, and for raising the ire of the entire city of Rio for saying she was “begrudgingly” traveling to the Olympic games amidst Zika virus concerns. On both occasions, she was left to clarify seemingly reasonable intent due to less than stellar word choice. So here we are, yet again. Not only is bully a word that is sure to get everyone riled up, the timeline of the accusation is undoubtedly going to lead to a need for further explanation.
UnafraidShow.com founder George Wrighster gets into all that and more here:
Have a take you’d like us to read and address in a future article or on a future show? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll address your take.
I’m sure by now you’ve seen the video of BYU football partnering with Built Bar to secure Name, Image and Likeness deals for all 36 walk-ons for the equivalent of their tuition costs. If you haven’t, take a moment to watch below:
This is incredible, and could be a life altering leg up for many of these young men. When you watch an event like this unfold, it’s hard to believe the NCAA spent decades not only standing in the way of corporations entering into mutually beneficial partnerships with the athletes, but doing all they could to make sure this money filtered directly into their “non-profit” offices to fund their operational budget and administrative staffs.
The initial reaction from college football fans all over the country seemed to be excitement, not only for these young men, but for all the possibilities that may have been unlocked for their school’s athletes as well.
“It’s a Brave New World! Companies can gain viral publicity ensuring that walk-ons aren’t stuck getting student loan repayments auto-debited well into their 50’s! My team might be able to hold onto some talent that develops into something special!”
Well, as Lee Corso might say, Not so fast my friend.
It might not seem like there’s a lot of parity in college football, with Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma, Georgia and Ohio State all jockeying for position at the top, but the one thing that keeps hope alive for everybody that exists just outside the perennially elite rung of NCAA football teams is a little thing called scholarship limits.
You can only take an average of 25 scholarship players per year, and hold a limit of 85 overall scholarship players on the roster. When Alabama secures their recruiting class, which has been ranked 7th, 3rd, 2nd and 1st over the last 4 years, they’re not getting all the players that want to spend their college years getting chewed out by Nick Saban. They’re only getting a fraction of the aspiring Crimson Tide.
Now imagine that Alabama wasn’t encumbered by that 25 annual scholarship limit, or 85 overall scholarship limit at all. Imagine that any prospect that wanted to go to Alabama could do so, because a generous alumni was suddenly allowed to fully fund their football and educational experience, independent from the NCAA’s scholarship limit.
Well, you don’t have to imagine, because that’s where we’re at now. There is absolutely nothing stopping Nike-fueled Oregon, or oil wealth-soaked Texas, or the same boosters who bought Nick Saban’s house from ensuring that Alabama has the funding to secure Corporate Walk-On Scholarships for upwards of 40+ four-star or above recruits in any given class.
LeBron James’ super-teamification of sports has made its way to college football, and while BYU’s viral moment was both heart-warming, and a step in the right direction to break the grip of the NCAA over the ability to keep college athletes away from their own market value, we’re now left to ask the question… is parity officially dead?
George Wrighster and I get into all of that and more on this week’s episode of the Pac-12 Apostles Podcast. Make sure and give it a listen.
Have a take you’d like us to read and address in a future article or on a future show? Email us at email@example.com and we’ll address your take.
On this episode of the Pac-12 Apostles Podcast, USC Head Coach Clay Helton talks with George Wrighster about USC’s high expectations, and why he minds his own business when it comes to NIL deals. George and Ralph Amsden get into how BYU’s corporate walk-on scholarships will help make the rich even more rich, and which Pac-12 schools might benefit the most. ASU has put two more assistant coaches on paid leave, George and Ralph recap the entire ASU saga, and discuss whether Baylor’s lack of a punishment from the NCAA gives Sun Devil fans a legitimate gripe. The Pac-12 has announced its forfeit policy, and Wazzu head coach Nick Rolovich gave a non-answer when asked how it affects the conference. The guys discuss ESPN’s in depth story about former Wazzu Head Coach Paul Wulff’s 41-year quest to find answers regarding the disappearance of his mother, Delores. Finally, George and Ralph give their Pac-12 Breakout player candidates, answer listener questions, and react to other news and happenings around the conference.
Breakdown (2 hours, 40 minutes)
BYU Corporate Walk-On Scholarships Change the Game (11:15)
Should ASU’s fan base be outraged over Baylor’s slap on the wrist? An update on the coaching suspensions in Tempe (29:00)
The Pac-12 puts out its forfeit policy, our analysis (53:45)
An Interview with USC Head Coach Clay Helton (1:01:30)
Analysis of the Clay Helton interview, and the state of USC (1:24:18)
George and Ralph select the four players they expect to become breakout stars in the Pac-12 in 2021 (2:01:20)
Hot topics and listener questions (2:11:05)
You can listen to Pac-12 Apostles on iTunes or Spotify, or by clicking play on the iHeartRadio widget below:
Some of Clay Helton’s quotes from his interview with George Wrighster:
On championship expectations at USC:
“We all came here to win national championships. Any time you’re at a place that has eleven of them, and has those types of goals, it’s exciting. There’s a standard of excellence at USC that runs 125 years, and so each and every year you know coming into it that a Pac-12 championship opens the door to the playoff… You understand exactly what this place is and the standard that it is, it’s National Championships, and we welcome that. That’s why we fight like heck every day for the ability to get there.”
On dealing with criticism from the media and fans:
“For me, the way I’ve always handled things is this, I’ve always believed that a coaches job is to win games, to graduate our players, and to provide them a great college experience. The media’s job is to report and to give opinion, and if you’re winning games you get great reports, and if you’re losing games, it’s probably going the other way. The last portion is the fans. They bring the passion to the game, and if you’re winning it’s probably good passion, and if you’re losing it’s probably bad passion… To be able to grow numb to it, you understand that you don’t sit in this chair unless you have thick skin. You don’t worry about other people’s opinions, and you don’t worry about any negativity… your job is to help your young men win football games, help them win a championship, and that’s a full-time job. If your focus isn’t on that, you’re not doing your job, and you’re not helping your kids. I’ve never worried about outside noise, and I’ve never worried about the expectations, because I welcome them…”
On rebounding in the 2021 recruiting rankings:
“Two years ago, there was not a ton of attrition on our football team, we could only sign 13 men. So that brings you down. You don’t get a full class… you’re not going to be ranked extremely high. Plus, we decided to focus on the trenches and focus on our big men and a lot of time when you sign 11 of the 13 and they’re big men, it’s not a very sexy class. But we invested in the trenches..’
“Last year we had the availability to sign a full load. We actually signed 27 young men, both freshmen, as well as I thought we did a tremendous job in the transfer portal of addressing some immediate needs because of having seven young men leave for the NFL early off last year’s team…”
“All of the sudden you get increased numbers with increased resources, a great work ethic, and don’t forget about the production on the field. You go undefeated in the regular season last fall and be able to show your product- that produced a top 10 class…”
On potential recruiting rule-breaking within the conference during the pandemic:
“As far as being a head coach… one of our major responsibilities is to provide a culture of compliance… I’m very fortunate to be at USC for 12 years and to watch a guy named Dave Roberts, who did a tremendous job here compliance-wise, of setting up an organization that I believe is elite and lives as an example on a day-to-day basis, and I think that’s our responsibility across the board as far as coaches, is not only to win, but to win the right way. To remember that we all have last names, and representing your last name… is an important thing. But also to teach young people that doing the right thing is not always easy, but it’s always right. Our job is, as coaches, to have that culture of compliance and make sure things are right… so when you do hoist that trophy up, and that’s going to be my favorite time in life, that you hold that trophy up and you know, ‘man we just won a national championship, and we did it the right way.’ That’s a special thing, and I think that’s a responsibility of all coaches across the country.”
Have a take you’d like us to read and address on the show? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll read your take on a future podcast.
The Pac-12 Apostles Podcast is back, but how much longer will the Pac-12 be the Pac-12? George Wrighster and Ralph Amsden discuss whether or not it’s wise to bring on any Big 12 teams. George interviews Stanford head coach David Shaw, and asks him some questions that he thought Shaw might not be prepared to answer- but as usual, Shaw has thoughtful opinions, rebuttals, and defenses for any and all of George’s inquiries. Last, George and Ralph discuss the Pac-12 preseason media poll and all-conference honors that came out of Media Day (read Ralph’s in-depth recap here).
You can listen to Pac-12 Apostles on iTunes or Spotify, or by clicking play on the iHeartRadio widget below:
Some of David Shaw’s quotes from his interview with George Wrighster:
On going into this season vs going into last season facing Covid-19 concerns:
“We’re much better than we were last year. I think we’re more informed. We’ve got a bunch of guys vaccinated… We made it through last year without a single positive test on our team… and now with the Delta variant or whatever else comes our way, we just have to operate within the boundaries that we have…”
On teams within the conference that offer 300+ scholarships to a single recruiting class:
“That’s what we have been able to do really well. Our players that we recruit respect us, partially because of our process and our honesty. We will offer the number of scholarships that we have. We don’t over-offer… So many of (potential recruits) look at that and initially of course they’re offended, but then they’re like ‘how many of these offers do I have that aren’t really committable offers? …I may have 20 offers, but really that might be 8 truly committable offers.’
So they’re not really offers. Back in the old days we called those ‘noffers,’ like, non-offers.
There’s an integrity that we believe in. There’s a process- I call it ‘The Gameshow.’ We don’t play The Gameshow, like ‘who’s going to take this first, you get an offer and you get an offer, but it doesn’t really matter because the first three guys come.’ That makes no sense to me. So we operate with integrity and honesty, and we’re very up front about out process, and our student athletes that we recruit and their parents really appreciate that.”
On the high volume of graduate transfers out of the Stanford program:
“We haven’t had a single undergraduate transfer in my entire tenure… Now, I have an open philosophy with our guys where I say ‘Hey, you know what? If you’re going to be a fifth-year senior… but you find a better situation out there for you? Not only are you allowed (to transfer) by NCAA rules, but I’m going to help you.’ So I’ll make calls for these guys. I’ll say, ‘Hey, don’t be a backup for me as a fifth-year senior if there’s a place where you can start…’
I think coaches should be encouraging that, because these guys have given themselves to us for four years, and graduated, and as a college graduate, I should not be able to tell this guy what to do, he should be able to do what’s best for himself.“
On Potential Conference Realignment:
“I think it’s all going to eventually settle down… I do think as far as the conference is concerned, we have a lot of natural rivalries that I’d hate to see get broken up, in particular the California schools. The four of us are very intrigued about our long history of playing against each other in every sport… I’d hate to see those things break up. I think we’ve got a great rivalry with both Oregon and Washington, you’d hate to see those rivalries go away.
I’m sure some program is going to look to do what’s best for them, and we’ll see what happens, but by in large I think the conference should pretty much remain the same. The only question I have is who’s going to look to join our conference. That’s what’s going to be interesting…”
On Being Quoted in Pete Thamel’s Article on Arizona State’s Potential Recruiting Violations
“I back what I said. I still believe it. We were coming out of pretty much the most difficult coaching season for all of us… We had an extended dead period, which means none of us could bring people on campus. We had a Covid situation, a national health emergency, so we were really not supposed to be bringing people on campus. We were supposed to try to keep ourselves and our student athletes safe. As you said, it was an open secret, it wasn’t that people didn’t know. They did something wrong, they got caught, and they’re in the middle of an NCAA investigation. I’m not saying what’s going to happen from that, but I let my feelings be known that I felt offended. Especially me being on multiple committees, for our conference, for the NCAA, and trying to help set these rules so that we could all be on the same page and no one could have a clear advantage. For that to be pretty blatantly violated, I felt upset and I still feel the same way today.”
Have a take you’d like us to read and address on the show? Email us at email@example.com and we’ll read your take on a future podcast.
I’ve been a Josh Allen defender since week 2 of the 2016 college football season. Sure, there’s nothing about a five interception performance against the Nebraska Cornhuskers that screams “first round pick and franchise cornerstone,” but your average observer wasn’t 1) watching that game live, 2) a longtime Wyoming football supporter, and 3) expertly-versed on what a good quarterback on a bad team looks like.
It’s not easy to convince good high school football players to attend school in Laramie. During Josh Allen’s final season in Laramie, the team had only managed to sign seven 3-star recruits in the previous four combined recruiting classes- compare that to Nebraska, who signed 41 combined 3-star or above players to the 2015 and 2016 classes. Of course Josh Allen wasn’t going to look like a superhero against that Cornhuskers roster, in Lincoln no less.
But what Josh Allen did show in that game, aside from his very obvious size and ability to sling the ball to the moon, was an escapability and short memory after his mistakes. It was more than clear to me at that point that if he was put in the right situation, he had all the tools to be a star.
Don’t believe me? Well, I’ve certainly got the receipts of some lofty early claims about Allen’s early comps:
One of the main reasons I was so confident in Allen’s ability to adapt to a better situation was a tortured childhood fandom spent rooting for the Arizona Cardinals. Jake Plummer’s stint as a Rose Bowl-bound Sun Devil won me over, and so when the Arizona Cardinals made him a second round pick, and quickly gave him the reigns to the team, it resulted in me spending the next six years believing that if the Cardinals had given him any support in the form of an offensive line or a running game, he’s have ascended far beyond the 114 interceptions and 52 losses he amassed in his first six seasons.
The Denver Broncos believed what I believed, and they took a “Josh Allen at 7 overall” level risk by offering Plummer a seven year deal despite having only one season with more TDs than INTs. The result? Plummer would win 40 total games in three and a half years for the Broncos, and lead them to three playoff appearances before being benched for a young Jay Cutler.
I’m not bringing up Jake Plummer as an example of my infallibility as a QB prognosticator, in fact, my favorite QB from the stacked 2018 draft class wasn’t even Josh Allen, it was Josh Rosen, who is currently fighting for a roster spot on his fourth different team.
I bring Jake Plummer up to say that so many QBs are completely dependent upon outside factors in order to see their true potential fulfilled. Josh Allen’s supposed accuracy issues had as much to do with the talent gap Wyoming faced with most of their opponents not allowing him the time to consistently set his feet and find his guys downfield… and the insane, perpetual wind of the high plains in Laramie wasn’t much of a help either. I knew what Mike Shanahan knew about Jake Plummer back in 2003- if he was put in the right situation, his natural gifts would prove his worth.
But now Josh Allen’s worth has been quantified. The man who had no offers coming out of high school, and only one coming out of junior college, has 258 million additional reasons affirming that he belongs on this stage.
Now he just has to work on earning the next extension, which is something George Wrighster and I got into on the latest episode of Wrighster or Wrong (listen on iTunes or watch on Periscope below)
Do you agree that this contract extension is proof that Josh Allen is the real deal, or do you think he has to repeat/exceed his 2020 performance to be considered legit? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll read your take on a future podcast.
Reggie Bush gave his 2005 Heisman trophy back in 2012 following several years of NCAA investigations into the allegations that sports agent Lloyd Lake and business partner Michael Michaels gave Bush gifts that included hotel stays, a rent-free home for his family, and a limousine ride and suit for the 2005 Heisman Trophy ceremony.
Lake had expectations that Bush would return the favor by being his meal ticket, and when that didn’t happen, Lake sued Bush for $300,000 and cooperated with the NCAA investigation.
Now that the NCAA has relented on the idea, though they were forced to do so, that players are able to capitalize on their Name, Image and Likeness while in school, and make money off their notoriety, Reggie Bush wants his Heisman Trophy back.
But at UnafraidShow, we know exactly who that trophy belongs to:
Reggie Bush doesn’t need to be in physical possession of the Heisman Trophy for us to acknowledge who it belongs to. His 2,218 yards from scrimmage, and 9.4 yards per touch that season electrified college football fans everywhere, and fueled an undefeated Pac-10 season that capped off 23-consecutive conference wins.
The trophy is not only his, but because of the NCAA contending that it isn’t his, much like with the Baseball Hall of Fame keeping Pete Rose on the outside looking in, the first name we’re going to think of every time we hear the word Heisman is Reginald Alfred Bush Jr.
Here are his highlights to remind you of exactly what the NCAA is trying to make you forget:
Here are some of the better takes out in the Twittersphere:
The 2021 Pac-12 Media Day took place in Hollywood, California on Tuesday, July 27th, and the comments of new commissioner George Kliavkoff, as well as all 12 head coaches were streamed on Pac-12.com.
With last year’s media day being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this was the first time many of the Pac-12’s players and coaches have been able to gather in one place since the 2019 offseason.
Here were my takeaways from an interesting day of interviews:
The Media Picks Oregon and USC (As Usual)
For the fourth time since the formation of the Pac-12, the media picked both Oregon to win the North Division, and USC to win the South Division. Here are the results of the media poll:
1. Oregon (38)
1. USC (27)
2. Washington (2)
2. Utah (6)
3. Arizona State (6)
4. UCLA (1)
5. Oregon State
6. Washington State
If history has taught us anything, it’s that the majority of any conference’s media members have a fairly decent handle on the team they cover… and not much else. So for the Pac-12 media to roll with last year’s Pac-12 Title Game representatives is no surprise. My personal Pac-12 picks look a little different than the media poll:
1. Arizona State
4. Washington State
6. Oregon State
I’m sure George Wrighster will hate this, but if I picked Oregon to go undefeated he’d probably find a way to criticize me for saying Oregon wouldn’t hold every opponent scoreless, so if he’s going to be mad anyway, I might as well pick his rival school to win the Pac-12 North. As far as the South, while I know Arizona State is embroiled in scandal, I’m always a huge believer in returning talent, and almost the entire Sun Devil roster returns, along with some transfer portal upgrades at tight end and on the offensive line.
Evaluating the Media’s All-Pac 12 Team
One advantage of covering high school football and recruiting is being able to make an educated guess on which players might be poised to have a breakout season rather than just relying on the previous year’s stats. Below are the Pac-12 media selections for the first and second teams headed into the 2021 season, and below that is my take:
First Team Offense
Second Team Offense
Kedon Slovis, USC
Jayden Daniels, Arizona State
Jarek Broussard, Colorado
CJ Verdell, Oregon
Max Borghi, Washington State
Rachaad White, Arizona State
Drake London, USC
Johnny Johnson III, Oregon
Kyle Philips, UCLA
Britain Covey, Utah
Cade Otton, Washington
Greg Dulcich, UCLA
Jaxson Kirkland, Washington
Nathan Eldridge, Oregon State
Abraham Lucas, Washington State
Sataoa Laumea, Utah
Dohnovan West, Arizona State
Michael Saffell, California*
Nick Ford, Utah
Kellen Diesch, Arizona State
Alex Forsyth, Oregon
Sean Rhyan, UCLA
First Team Defense
Second Team Defense
Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
Tyler Johnson, Arizona State
Mika Tafua, Utah
Nick Figueroa, USC
Thomas Booker, Stanford
Tuli Tuipulotu, USC
Jermayne Lole, Arizona State
Terrance Lang, Colorado
Devin Lloyd, Utah
Noah Sewell, Oregon
Drake Jackson, USC
Edefuan Ulofoshio, Washington
Nate Landman, Colorado
Avery Roberts, Oregon State
Mykael Wright, Oregon
Isaiah Pola-Mao, USC
Trent McDuffie, Washington
Mekhi Blackmon, Colorado
Chase Lucas, Arizona State
Evan Fields, Arizona State
Chris Steele, USC
Verone McKinley III, Oregon
First Team Specialists
Second Team Specialists
Jadon Redding, Utah
Lucas Havrisik, Arizona
Michael Turk, Arizona State
Ben Griffiths, USC
Thomas Booker, Stanford
D.J. Taylor, Arizona State
Britain Covey, Utah
D.J. Taylor, Arizona State
As far as the preseason offensive first team, the only guarantees I see (pending a healthy season for all involved) are Kedon Slovis and Drake Jackson. That is the premier QB-to-WR connection in the Pac-12, and I don’t see anyone stopping them this year. One receiver that belongs on the first team, and I believe hell prove it this year, is Washington State’s Travell Harris. As far as the running back position, it would be unwise to doubt Colorado’s Jarek Broussard, but I have Arizona State winning the Pac-12 South on the strength of their running game. Perhaps Broussard will share first team honors with Rachaad White.
On the defensive end, many of the picks the media made are fairly obvious. Nate Landman, depending on his health, could potentially lead the entire country in tackles, and Kayvon Thibodeaux has a genuine shot at an average of at least one sack per game. The only head scratcher for me here is Chris Steele. Yes, he has a great pedigree, and yes, he plays for the celebrated Trojans, but he struggled mightily last year. I’d shift Isaiah Pola Mao into a spot on the first team, and consider giving some love to a very talented (but not always well-coached) Christian Roland-Wallace at Arizona.
The Debut of the Pac-12’s Savior (?) George Kliavkoff
George Kliavkoff had a low bar to clear after years and years of Larry Scott’s annual Media Day speeches touting the exploits of badminton and windsurfing while failing to address the pressing questions about network negotiations and distribution.
In my opinion, Kliavkoff cleared that bar and then some. He acknowledged the conference’s inconsistent past while outlining its future, a future that might include adding teams that currently exist in the Central Time Zone, in the fertile recruiting ground of Texas (hint, hint).
He wasn’t perfect in his responses- at one point upholding the idea that paying players from the revenue they are largely responsible for bringing in would ruin college football, but he was good. Here are some of the highlights:
On Playoff expansion
“The Pac-12 is in favor of CFP expansion. We believe allowing more teams and athletes to compete for a national championship is a win for the Pac-12 and for our football players. We appreciate the work that was done to push forward the initial 12-team proposal. There’s much about the proposal that we like, but the Pac-12 and the other conferences that were not part of the two-year process to create the proposal will need some time to collect feedback from our stakeholders and identify any issues that need addressing. As we identify these issues, we will work collaboratively with our CFP partners to recommend an expansion plan that increases access, takes into account the best interest of our student-athletes and also preserves the rich traditions of college football.”
On setting up a football working group
“Consistent with my meeting with our ADs in Las Vegas, I can confirm that every decision the conference makes related to football is on the table for discussion. We will look at our conference schedules, including the number of conference games that we play and the start time of each game. We will look at our non-conference schedule. We will evaluate whether having divisions does or does not make sense, and work collectively to keep our very best recruits in our markets and to market our league to recruits everywhere. The football working group will begin meeting immediately and provide regular updates and recommendations to me and our board.”
On Pac-12 Networks distribution
“I wish distribution was better, but some of our current and existing distribution contracts make it very difficult to expand distribution under the current model. I think we have to look forward to 2024 and set our fans’ expectations that that’s when we’ll be able to reset the distribution. I wish more people could see the incredibly high quality, good content that our network produces. But just being honest, the distribution is not where I would like it to be.”
On Pac-12 priorities
“I want to be 100 percent clear that going forward the Pac-12 Conference will make all of our football-related decisions with the combined goals of optimizing CFP invitations and winning national championship. This is a decision fully supported by all 12 of our athletic directors.”
Thoughts on the North Division
Cal’s Justin Wilcox led the day off, and with the news of star DL Brett Johnson out for the year with a hip injury, and starting OL Michael Saffell retiring, I was looking for any hint of excitement for the upcoming season. I feel like Wilcox delivered that excitement when he reminded the media that Chase Garbers is a very good quarterback:
“I think Chase is primed for a great season, I really do. He’s played a ton of football, he’s got a lot of different experiences, his comfort level at practice and within the scheme, he’s operating and confident – I think that just comes with age and time. I think that for all of us, it’s just the consistency in our performance. He’s had some great moments in great games like the rest of the team has, now it’s finding that consistency.”
I was also impressed with Wilcox’s take on the Name, Image and Likeness era:
“We have put together a program called GOLDEN which is centered around NIL for all our student-athletes. It’s a resource and provides guidance for them. In terms of education, contracts, negotiations, tax implications. We’ve had a number of players that have entered into agreements within NIL. I think it’s going to be months, maybe even years, before it sorts itself out. I think it’s long overdue. I’m in full support of it. With our location being in the Bay Area, there’s going to be a number of opportunities for the players on our team.”
Next up was Washington State’s Nick Rolovich, and the media response was almost either baffled or scornful, if not both. Rolovich elected to not get vaccinated, which meant he couldn’t attend Pac-12 Media Day in person. His press conference was zoomed in while the Hollywood media tried to get around his pre-written statement about keeping his reasoning private.
What was interesting is that Rolovich still touted the state of Washington’s high vaccination rate as well as encouraged his players to get vaccinated if they felt it was right for them.
Look, it’s possible that Nick Rolovich’s doctor advised him that a medical condition or medication may have negative interactions with the Covid-19 vaccine, and it’s even possible that Rolovich values his privacy enough to create a secondary inconvenience of ridicule in order to keep his justification a secret.
It’s also possible that Rolovich is among the large subsection of the population that it afraid of a Bill Gates microchip implant.
Third up was Oregon State’s Jonathan Smith. The most painful part of having Pac-12 Media Day in Los Angeles is that there are only a few coaches the LA media show any interest in, and a couple that they outright ignore. Smith has been that guy for years, and it was Gary Andersen before him. Oregon State just doesn’t move the needle for those Hollywood-types (even though there’s over 30 California athletes on his team that that could certainly find time to ask about).
Smith says the Beavers have a four-way QB battle, and this is how he broke it down:
“(Tristan) should be healthy in August here to practice. I think he’s got a great skill set. Understands the scheme, good leader. He has won games for us.”
“We added Sam after spring ball and he’s a guy that’s has won games at quarterback in this league. Has a little bit different skill set, makes the game physical, moving his feet, big-time arm. We’re anxious to work with him coming in August.”
“Chance Nolan has started multiple games, we were really close the last couple of games with him as the starting quarterback. Counting on him making huge strides in his game from year one to year two.“
“Excited about Sam Vidlak. He had a great spring. He’s going to have an opportunity this August to go.“
David Shaw practically won the day by coming out and repeatedly saying he expects to compete for a conference championship. That attitude was certainly a surprise to many who have noted there’s been a slip in Stanford’s recruiting to go along with a difficulty in keeping their own non-NFL ready seniors around for graduate school.
But it was Shaw’s invocation of Nick Saban’s name in relation to his comments about Bryce Young and the NIL opportunities at Alabama that had the media talking:
The thing that David Shaw said that I appreciated most, however, was that early and late kickoffs don’t serve the student athletes:
Washington’s Jimmy Lake rocked the boat a bit when he announced that Dylan Morris is the presumed starter, but is also still competing for the QB job- other than that, Lake’s Pac-12 Media Day experience was more about being able to finally face the media as Washington’s head coach- something he didn’t get to do last year because of the pandemic.
I found his answer about recruiting outside the traditional Pac-12 footprint to be fascinating and worth considering for some of the teams in the conference that have put abundant amounts of energy into recruiting SEC and ACC country:
“I don’t think we need to do that. I think there’s always special cases where we can go outside of our footprint where there’s a connection. We’ve actually had players that are Washington football fans, their dream was to play at Washington. If there’s a special connection like that, for sure. But we feel there’s enough talent in the footprints that we currently recruit in to win the Pac-12 and be on that national stage, which we’ve been on. Now we just have to make sure we win those football games we’ve been in, those three New Year’s 6 games in a row that we went to for 2016 to 2018. We need to take that next step and win those football games. When we do that, there won’t be all this talk we need to go recruit way outside of our footprint, all those things. Again, I go back to the proof’s in the pudding of the best football in the world, the National Football League, loves our players. They love our players from our team. I go back to our recruiting department, our coaches selecting the right players and our strength and conditioning department making sure that they develop these players the right way. But there’s always going to be — what I never want to do is take my attention somewhere way far away and then miss out on the players that are right around us. We’ve been very, very successful with the players that are on our current footprint. But we never want to handcuff ourselves. If there is somebody that is outside our footprint and we have a special need, we will go get those guys, for sure.”
Last for the south, Oregon coach Mario Cristobal, who immediately sung the praises of Anthony Brown, last year’s backup to Tyler Shough who was seemingly given the reigns during last year’s Fiesta Bowl:
“Anthony will start with the ones. He has earned that. He’s done a very good job from a performance standpoint, leadership performance, taking on (offensive coordinator and quarterbacks) coach (Joe) Moorhead’s offensive scheme. At the same time the freshmen behind him have done an excellent job as well. It merits them getting an opportunity to compete for that position as well. We will make that happen. I think technically and fundamentally the quarterback position never ceases, right?” Cristobal said. “You’re always looking for the next best thing to help you from a technical and fundamental standpoint. I think now after having done, having experienced coach Moorhead’s coaching style, sitting in meetings with him, reviewing film, then experiencing spring ball in the off-season with our players, a lot of the stuff that he takes home with him, he can apply to those training sessions as well. He’s done that. There’s always carryover when you do that. I think our players sense it, our team senses it. I think he’s poised to have a really big season. We’re excited for him.”
Cristobal lapped praise on incoming freshman QB Ty Thompson, and talked about building versatility amongst his offensive linemen, but the most interesting thing he said was in response to whether continued success in the Pac-12 had put a target on their backs:
“I never and we will never see ourselves as a program with a bullseye on us, a target on us. It’s never been that way, never will be that way. When we wake up in the morning, our feet hit the ground, we wake up with a hunger, drive, determination to make sure we’re always a hunter in a humble way, driven way.”
Thoughts on the South Division
Herm Edwards, fresh off the paid administrative leave announcement of TE coach Adam Breneman, called the NCAA investigation into recruiting improprieties a “review” and said it wasn’t a distraction to the team. Edwards announced, as Merton Hanks had reiterated before him, that no one would be answering questions about this “review,” but I’m disappointed that the Pac-12 media put zero effort into finding practical ways around that.
Either way, Herm was as smooth as ever, and found a way to say a lot about his team without talking about the things that were on everyone’s mind.
Of course, I’m picking Arizona State to have the best record in the Pac-12, so the quote I gravitated toward most was about the experienced secondary:
“I think we’ve got some gifted players back there, some talented guys that can play sticky defense, that can play man-to-man, cover guys. I think they’re excited about that. Three or four of them have played together now for two or three years. They’re very comfortable. The communication is what I like the most. Have to change certain things because of different looks or formations, motions. The communication with the secondary is much cleaner than it’s been. That’s important. You have to communicate. You have so many different elements back there, you all have to be on the same page. Chase (Lucas) is a prime example. You can just tell the way he walks around, the way he talks. He’s the team captain. It’s fun to watch him develop from the years I’ve been here to where he’s at right now. I’m excited for those guys.”
The one thing Herm said that confused me was that Arizona State’s offense was going to need to average in the high-30’s to give the Sun Devils a chance. Statistically, scoring in the high 30’s has mostly resulted in mediocrity, with a couple of notable outliers:
Kyle Wittingham has had to guide Utah through an awful year, followed by an awful offseason after the loss of star RB Ty Jordan to an accidental shooting. He addressed the loss of Jordan in his remarks:
“It was tough to deal with the Ty Jordan situation, still is. Fortunately, our administration is committed. We have a full department that’s committed, that’s dedicated to mental health and counselors that our players can talk to and visit with,” the coach responded. “We try to make it a point of emphasis to our players that it’s not a sign of weakness to seek mental health assistance. That’s part of life. It’s the same as being physically ill. If you need to get help, see somebody, there’s no shame or no stigma attached to that. I think our coaches, our assistant coaches, have done a really good job of conveying that to our players. Our players seem to do a really good job of taking advantage of the resources that we do have.”
Sometimes I listed to Wittingham speak and wonder what he could do with the type of talent that comes from coaching in a city that recruits itself. Don’t get me wrong, I love Salt Lake City, but put this man in Seattle or LA and I’m not sure anyone else wins the conference for the next decade. He’s a good and wise man, and seems to have a knack for developing football players.
Chip Kelly brought his modest, calm, no-nonsense demeanor in full on Tuesday, but I respect it. Any time he didn’t have the answer to a question, he said “I don’t know,” and then went into detail about exactly why he didn’t know. It wasn’t all boring, however. I thought he had some really insightful things to say about both his multi-year starter QB Dorian Thompson Robinson, as well as the benefits of being part of Jordan Brand.
Chip Kelly on DTR
“I think the beauty is having Dorian for four years. He didn’t get an opportunity to play in high school until his senior year. Played wide receiver as a junior because they had another quarterback that was a pretty good player. He came in, just kind of jumped in both feet. Every day Dorian is always striving to get better. He’s just a joy to coach. You love kids like that, that are thirsty for knowledge, have that kind of growth mindset that we always talk about. We want our players to have that. That’s what he has. I’m really excited to see where he is right now. I know he’s in the best shape of his life. He’s worked extremely hard in the weight room, on the field, throwing with receivers, organizing everything that goes on in the summer program, because the coaches aren’t allowed to be around them till this Friday. We have great expectations of him. Our expectations of him are no bigger than his expectations of himself. It’s all borne out of his work ethic. He’s got a great work ethic.”
Chip Kelly on Jordan Brand
“It’s such an iconic brand and I think everybody wants to be associated with an iconic brand. But I’ve always been just a big fan of the product. I think sometimes that gets glossed over, what a good product it is. I had a chance to check things out with our equipment guy, seeing all the new stuff that came in and the prototype cleats that Jordan has, what that is going to provide with us, especially our big guys. We do have some really big guys on our team and the product itself will support those guys. Two-fold, I think it will help us in recruiting because everybody wants to be associated with it. But I think the product that we have is outstanding and I’m really excited to get these guys using it.”
I think it’s crazy how easy it is to forget that Karl Dorrell, to this day, has probably been around his team no more than a few dozen times. Colorado hired Dorrell last year, and Dorrell didn’t get to meet his team until the season was getting ready to kick off in the fall. This is basically his first offseason, and he’s got a lot of work ahead of him if he’s going to keep the Buffaloes on an upward trajectory. Offensively, he praised the potential of his wide receiver group:
“That group has skill. The receiver group has skill. We’re continually have to refine that skill where the talent is consistent. That’s the way I would say it. I’m a hard-ass receiver coach, though, right? I’ve done that most of my career. There’s definitely some really good talent in that group. It’s young, but it’s young. That’s the part that they have to grow and have a level of consistency that needs to be better than where it is.”
Dorrell also went into great detail to address the uncertainty at quarterback:
“It’s a two-man race between Brendon Lewis and J.T. Shrout. We think they’re both very qualified, capable players. If you remember what Brendon did in the bowl game, his first time playing college football end of the season in the bowl game, I would say he had a passing grade. He did really well. He did some positive things that I would say any first-year quarterback might have done poorly. He was able to do those things in a positive way. So that confidence from the bowl game has given him a great level of confidence going through the whole off-season, going through spring. He’s a completely different player now than where he was last fall. I would say with J.T. Shrout, being a kid that just transferred in, in a short period of time he digested our offense. He spent the overtime hours to do that to get himself a chance to compete. Both of those guys have great leadership qualities as well along with their physical talent. They have really good leadership qualities. All of our players offensively respond to both of them in a positive way. It’s not like they dislike one and like the other. Everybody on offense really thoroughly enjoy both of those guys under center. It’s a competition in that two-man race with those two. When will we make that determination? That will be somewhere in the middle of training camp, I would say. At least not until the first couple weeks. Trying to get all the information in. It’s going to be a day-by-day test, right? They’re going to be assessed on everything about how they run the offense, the mistakes they make, the plays that they do make, everything like that. We’re going to account for everything as we go through that process.”
Jedd Fisch pumped a shot of energy into the room just before the end of the day and it was a lot of fun to watch.
Only a couple of media members were able to get questions in, as it didn’t seem that there were many in the LA Media clamoring for content from the first year coach from Tucson. You’d figure he’d at least get a few UCLA-Rosen related questions from his last stint in the Pac-12 as an assistant, but no.
Fisch addressed a lot of what Arizona has done to rebuild pride in the program after the 70-7 loss to ASU that ended Kevin Sumlin’s tenure, but the most practical question has to do with the three-way QB battle to replace Grant Gunnell, and here’s what he had to say about that:
“The hardest position to evaluate without a football would be the quarterback position because you can’t ever see them throw. But we have had that two hours a week that we have the opportunity to meet with him. We’ve had two hours a week that we’ve been able to during that time also be able to do some drill work. We’ve been able to do some team runs and evaluate and watch how he is there. I love just to see how he interacts with his teammates. Jordan is doing good. We’ve got a nice 3-headed monster, Jordan, Gunner (Cruz) and Will (Plummer). We’d like to see one of them step up and be the guy. Right now we’ll go 33, 33, 33 for a 99-play practice. I would hope (McCloud is at a disadvantage by arriving after Plummer and Cruz had time with the playbook) because those other guys, if they didn’t get anything out of the coaching in the spring, we got major problems. I hope (Jordan McCloud) is at a major disadvantage, but unfortunately I feel like he’s just at a disadvantage. I’ll talk to Coach Dougherty about that later (laughs). I think he’s doing a great job of trying to catch up, trying to learn this thing quick from what I understand. But, yeah, I mean, it’s going to be hard because those guys took almost every single rep. Whoever moves the ball the best in every period we have- Who moves the football, who gets us down in the red zone, who scores touchdowns. We’ll have a lot of competitive practices. I believe we’re going to have a very good defense this year. Let’s see what we can do. See if we can move the ball. Whoever does that will be the starting quarterback.”
USC fans hate Clay Helton. They think he stands in the way of a return to greatness, and his Southern kindness in the face of their constant pressure makes the blood of Angelinos and Trojan faithful boil unlike anything I’ve ever seen. That’s why I had a good laugh when in response to a question about how they plan to have a good season since there have been “not that many over the last few years.”
Helton referenced the pressure to win as a privilege. It’s the exact type of thing that drives USC fans insane:
“I love USC because you know what the standard is? Championships. You can be at USC and win every game but one. If it’s the last one, it’s looked at as a bad season. That’s being at a special place. You can have an undefeated regular season and win a Pac-12 championship game and everybody is sad. That’s a special place to be. So when you’re at a place that’s won 11 national championships, you know the standard of excellence and you know what’s demanded. We welcome that. We welcome it as players, we welcome it as coaches. That’s why we all came to USC. Our job right now is to get back to that championship game and to win that game because we know when we win that game, it opens the doors to the Playoff and the national championship opportunities. That mentality I talked about earlier of going in to each and every game, trying to be 1-0, getting back to that championship game, winning that game, opening those doors, that’s what USC is about. Other programs may have other standards. It’s not what we’re about here. That’s the beauty of USC, is not only being in that championship game but winning it. That’s why we work so hard at what we do to be back there and to win it. Thanks for that question.”
The one thing I was most curious to hear about from Helton was the Name, Image and Likeness topic, being that USC is the most likely place those type of deals would occur in the Pac-12. Here’s what he had to say:
“Yeah, we’ve been living it, as you know. We’ve been living it for a while just being in the city of Los Angeles. You’re talking about the number one college media market in the country, the number two pro media market in the country. You’re talking about a city that is based on one-word names. I think of LeBron and Kobe, Snoop, JuJu. That’s part of being in Los Angeles, being in a championship city, a championship market. There’s an advantageous thing to that. I watched JuJu before name, image and likeness was even there, our university be proactive in helping him build his brand and build his platform that enabled him to walk into the NFL and have tremendous opportunities. I’m thankful for the resources USC has given because I think universities are going to have to do three things in this standpoint. We’ve lived it. We’ve been proactive as a university. I think one, you’re going to have to provide support, which our university has done with the merger of J1S, to be able to provide content, social media direction. I think you’re going to have to provide compliance of what’s right and wrong to do within it. Then I think you’re going to have to provide knowledge. In our merger with ALTIS, being able to say what’s a good decision or bad decision as you move forward. At the end of the day, like I tell our players, remember the most important thing, it’s great now in name, image and likeness that you have marketing teams that can do their job and be able to find you opportunities. But what’s your job as a student-athlete? Your job as a student-athlete is to get your degree, to be a master of your craft on and off the field when it comes to academics and athletics, and to put yourself in an extremely positive light of how you represent yourself, your family, your team, your university. If you focus on those three things, whether it’s your degree, mastering your craft on the field, how you present yourself on a day-to-day basis, I promise you opportunities are going to come out. I watched is with JuJu Smith-Schuster before there was name, image and likeness. I watched it with Michael Pittman, what he did at USC. If you concentrate on those three things, have the support, knowledge and compliance along with it like our university provides, you’re going to do great things. That’s why our kids come to USC.”
The only beef I had with Clay Helton today was that it didn’t feel as if they had a legitimate Heisman candidate in Kedon Slovis, but it’s possible that’s more of a critique of the energy of the Pac-12 Media as a whole…
Winners and Losers
Three winners from today’s event are unquestionably commissioner George Kliavkoff, David Shaw and Jedd Fisch.
Kliavkoff impressed the local and national media with his comprehension and candor, while managing to impress the athletic directors and coaches even more. Everyone spoke about being excited about the direction and possibilities moving forward.
David Shaw’s enthusiasm for his program and courage to attack tough subjects with well thought out and articulated opinions really helped him stand out amongst a group of coaches that all have fairly dynamic personalities (expect for Chip Kelly).
Jedd Fisch came in on a hot streak of having impressed the Wildcat alumni and fan base with almost every move he’s made since his hire was roundly mocked, and he brought the same energy into his appearance at Media Day. If personality can help win games, we all might regret picking the Wildcats last in the Pac-12 South.
Three losers? Well, beyond the fairly obvious inclusion of Nick Rolovich for reasons that may or may not be outside his control, I’d have to add Merton Hanks, and the Big-12 Conference.
Merton Hanks, the Pac-12’s Senior Associate Commissioner, decided to take a serious break from the candor displayed by commissioner George Kliavkoff to let everybody know that they’ve completely invented their longstanding gripes with the way that Pac-12 football games are officiated:
Last on the list of losers, the Big 12. It’s bad enough that it was confirmed that Oklahoma and Texas are abondoning their conference to chase glory in the SEC, but when George Kliavkoff repeatedly mentioned that the Pac-12 would consider their options in the Central time zone, the Big 12 conference had to feel a brand new level of desperation to find a way to stay together as an entity.
Webb Streaming is back to take you through what content I’m watching, reading or enjoying this week.
This week’s top 5 Webb Streaming recommendations are below:
1- The Loki Season 1 Finale
Holy cow. What a way to end the series.
Michael Waldron, the shower’s main writer, has absolutely killed the dialogue. Whether it’s the seriousness of the show, or its moments of levity, this show just crushes it. Loki brings fresh life into the MCU and plays around with avant-garde ideas. If you’re looking for a Marvel show to bring you up after the Infinity Saga, Loki is your meal ticket. While Falcon & The Winter Soldier, or WandaVision were outstanding in their own right, This is by far Marvel’s best show to date.
Based on the hit children’s series by Trenton Lee Stewart, The Mysterious Benedict Society is a wonderful twist of puzzles, great and small, and uncovering the secrets behind a mass event known as the Emergency. The story is rather gripping and involves children going undercover in the fictitious town of Stonetown. While the show is generally made for children, you’ll still enjoy this show ifr you’re an adult in age, but a child at heart. Star Anthony Hale (Arrested Development) absolutely kills it. Between this, Harley Quinn, and Rugrats, Hale keeps himself busy.
3- Mario Golf: Super Rush
Mario Golf: Super Rush might be the crowning achievement in the Mario Golf arena. Not only does this game bring elements of Mario Kart, but the golf itself is incredible. The courses are perfect, the specialty courses deliver everything and then some. I can promise you’ll love this iteration of Mario Golf. If you ever want to play me in a game, here is my Nintendo Switch Friend Code: SW-8557-9540-0508.
Let’s get up on a game.
4- Secret Empire
While this is an older comic miniseries (2017), it truly was one of Marvel’s best events in recent history. A lot of people took umbrage with the notion of Captain America going Hydra. I personally thought it was brilliant. It reminded me of the Hulk Hogan WCW heel turn when he became Hollywood Hogan. It truly was a memorable experience and they made the most out of what they had with heel Captain America. The story showcased exactly how difficult it could be to try and take down the heart and soul of the Avengers. Nick Spencer absolutely killed this run and it might be one of my favorite modern stories.
The news of University of Texas and University of Oklahoma’s exploration of leaving the Big 12 rocked the college football world, especially with the news that their preferred destination is the SEC- the home of 11 of the last 15 National Champions. But what if the SEC wasn’t the only possible destination? What if the Pac-12 would actually be a better play?
Texas is no stranger to flirting with the possibility of conference hopping, but is the SEC the best home for them? The SEC is likely not as open to the idea of the Longhorn Network taking away from the overall shared pot of gold, and rival Texas A&M is certainly displeased with the idea of losing the exclusivity of being able to recruit as the state’s only SEC representative.
The Pac-12 would definitely be more open to the idea of acquiescing to some of the demands of Oklahoma and Texas, and the west coast is a fertile recruiting ground that the Sooners and Longhorns have both taken advantage of (see Heisman contenders Spencer Rattler and Bijan Robinson from the state of Arizona).
Addison Rae seems to have pissed off every single sports journalist on earth by posting a tweet of herself holding a microphone in front of an Ultimate Fighting Championship banner ahead of tonight’s UFC 264 with the caption “I studied broadcast journalism in college for 3 whole months to prepare for this moment.”
Yes, the caption is terrible. And yes, sports media is a competitive, expensive, exhausting grind that very few outside the ‘big J journalist’ bubble understand. But do we really think that Addison Rae got this opportunity based on the one class she took at LSU? Of course not. Addison Rae has 82 million followers on TikTok alone, and just like when UFC commissioner Dana White used comedian Joe Rogan to help grow the brand in the early days off MMA, the purpose of her presence is to expose the UFC to her massive and impressionable swarm of not-yet-able-to-rent-a-car followers.