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Random Monday morning thoughts

Things that have been bouncing around in my head that are not worthy of a post by themselves:

  • A reminder to everyone thinking about the Cal/Texas rematch: Cal could have still won last years game even if Texas had made the extra point.  Not only would the game still have only been tied, there was still 1:11 on the clock when Cal got the ball back.  Cal had already had 3 touchdown drives shorter than 1:11 in the game and the Texas defense was pretty tired at that point.  It’s reasonable to think that Cal would have won the game in regulation, to say nothing of the coin-flip likelihood that Cal could have won in overtime.  I say this because there’s this wide misconception that the ONLY reason Cal won was because of the missed extra point.
  • I’ve been trying to understand the math behind why a neutral site game is more profitable to Cal and it finally hit me: It’s because the revenue sharing for the Pac-12 TV contract has no incentive to host non-conference games.  If Cal had 3 road games for it’s non-conference slate, the money it would get from the TV contract would be the same as if it had all 3 games at home.  So, effectively, what these 3rd party games do is effectively rob a game from the TV contract and then create a new separate TV contract for the single game, where the TV revenue is not split between the 12 teams, but instead only split between the two participating teams.  And since the TV money is WAAAAY more than the ticket sales (particularly for a weak non-conference game), it’s a no-brainer why the money works out for Cal.  (That said, I wonder what it costs the conference?)
  • A bit of an off-topic statement: but medal counting at the Olympics really gets under my skin because there’s so much apples vs. oranges going on.  In some cases it’s that a college’s medal counts are per person (so having 3 people on the water polo team counts for 3 medals) vs. a countries being per event (so a whole team of water polo players get one medal).  In other cases it’s the fact that certain sports (swimming and track and field in particular) have lots of medals to win where-as others allow for only one metal per Olympics and then calling the one with lots of medals “the greatest”.  It’s just a bunch of false comparisons and over stated rhetoric.
  • Nevertheless, way to go Cal by being among the top colleges represented at the Olympics, no matter what metric one uses.
  • Back to football, I’m starting to really worry about the back-side of the defense.  Between the attrition at linebacker last off-season and now losing Drew in the secondary, Cal better be ready to score a lot of points if it hopes to win games.

My two 1st loves in one picture

Sailing and Cal Football:

I’ll stick to college football

(Sorry for the lack of posts. I may have a post or two now and then (probably a couple around signing day for instance and a few around spring practice) but it’s going to be pretty quiet for the next few months. I’ll be back in regular form when fall practice gets under way.)

I watched the Superbowl last night and reminded myself why I prefer college football. Who here thinks Beyonce’s halftime show is appropriate for 10 year old boys? I sure as heck don’t. Yeah, it was no nipple-gate, but still, that outfit and her gyrations were so hyper-sexualized that it frankly upset me watching my 10-year old (my oldest) practically drooling sitting 5 feet from our new LED-LCD HDTV (in a shock and awe kinda way… he hasn’t hit puberty yet).

I probably wouldn’t have thought much of the otherwise ho-hum performance if he wasn’t in the room, but watching him watch it, I thought to myself “uhhh… he shouldn’t be watching this… uhhh… do I make a big deal about it and get him out of the room (and thus giving it an allure) or do I just pretend it’s no big deal… uhhh… decision paralysis!?!” (I ended up pretending it was no big deal.)

And there were similar issues in some of the commercials too. (As an aside, what a weak year for the commercials… there were a couple good ones, but overall weak.)

It was so bad I’m considering writing a letter to the NFL. They pretend to try and be family friendly, and those pretenses used to have some moderating effect on the content, but I think they’ve abandoned any meaningful commitment to that in the last couple years.

And I thought to myself after watching the trophy ceremony and turned off the TV after 6 continuous hours (started watching at 2:30) of an amazingly over-hyped, over-produced affair, that I really, really, really prefer college football.

It’s far more family friendly and far more about the sport itself.

Missed oportunities

Tuesday night, after the A’s had won the second of the three games they needed to take the AL West title, I said to myself, “I really should take a day off work and go to the game tomorrow. It’s a day game after all and it has the potential to be one of the greatest games in A’s history.”

I vividly remembered 10 years ago making a similar decision for games 19 and 20 of the 20 game win streak. On a “I really want to be there” whim, I got my wife in the car and drove down there. It was great stuff! Frankly, it was the most memorable sporting event I ever went to.

I haven’t been at any of the great Cal Bears wins of my life (’82 Big Game, 2003 USC game), although I’ve been to some pretty electric wins too (2002 Big Game, 2006 Oregon, 2007 Oregon). But those great games Cal games I was at, are a tier below the truly iconic and electric ones, the ones that only come a few times in a lifetime. The ’82 Big Game was that sort of game. Game 20 was that sort of game. And yes, yesterday’s A’s game was that sort of game.

And since I was there for game 20, so I know EXACTLY what I missed.

But 10 years ago it was just me and my wife. We didn’t have 4 kids. And as I’ve found out, it’s not just taking care of the kids that limits one’s options, it’s also the commitments you make to support the kids. On Wednesday afternoon I was teaching two classes at Church, one for each of the two eldest kids. So it wasn’t even just about finding someone to watch the kids, it was about a commitment I made to the Church to teach those classes.

There was just no way I could go to the game.

Fast-forward to 4:15 PM, I’m driving into the parking lot at Church to prep for the 4:30 class and the director of the Faith Formation department is out in the parking lot putting up a sign:

“Classes Cancelled due to power outage”

It turns out that the construction crew that is adding some more classrooms to the campus accidentally put a backhoe through the power lines. Oops!

Thus it turns out I could have gone, had I anticipated the accident (which happened mid-afternoon). ARG!?!

Of course, I wouldn’t trade my children for the freedom to go to a game like that. Just as I’m grateful for the sacrifice my parents and their parents before them made so that I could live my life, I’m more than willing to make those sacrifices for my children. The window of idylic, youthful freedom is a great time, but it only lasts so long. I’m grateful that during that time, I was able to go to an iconic game like Game 20. Not long after that, it was time to put aside such things and take on the mantle of parenthood, with it’s great joys, and it’s responsibilities. I’m a better man for it.

But I’m still disappointed I didn’t get to go yesterday. :)

Can someone be both a A’s and Giants fan? Cal AND Stanford!?!

Peter Hartlaub of the SF Chronicle is a Giants fan, but went to the A’s game yesterday and considers himself a fan of both (yet primarily a Giants fan). He wrote an article about it:

The rules of regional sports are much more flexible to me.

My favorite teams are the Giants, 49ers and Cal. When their interests don’t intersect — which is about 95 percent of the time — I also want good things to happen to the A’s, Raiders and Stanford.

Frankly, I’m mostly with him for the pro Teams. I’m an A’s fan first, but I don’t dislike the Giants and will root for them when it doesn’t affect the A’s. Same with the 49’ers, when they’re not playing the Raiders.

But obviously it’s VERY different when it comes to Stanford. Only time I don’t root for the Pac-12 to win the Rose Bowl? When Stanford is in it. Only team I don’t root for to beat USC? Stanford.

So I asked myself, what is it that makes Stanford different? A few possibilities:

  • I’m a biggest fan of the Bears, thus the other team is less desirable: Perhaps this is a factor. My next team would be the A’s and it is the Giants who would be 2nd on my dislike list, if i had to rank them. But it’s so wholly different this doesn’t account for it.
  • Other Bears fans feel strongly, more so than the A’s or Raiders fans: Eh, not sure about this one. Raiders fans generally hate the 49’ers. A’s fans are not as bad. Nevertheless there might be a factor here.
  • They’re in the same league: Now this one makes a lot of sense. A’s and Giant’s are really competition for each other until the World Series (only happened once). Same for the Raiders and 49’ers (never happened). But Cal and Stanford play a meaningful game every year AND the other games we play affect each other too. This one seems like it makes a big difference.
  • College is different than pro: This makes a bit of sense too. One of the things I like about going to Cal football games is the sense of ownership is MUCH higher than the pro teams. Too many pro teams have left too many towns for pro-fans to not have just a tid-bit of distance from their favorite team. Pro teams are a business and fans are just part of the bottom line. Not so with college sports. Cal football isn’t going to relocate. The goal of the team is to build up the University. One that many of the fans went to. The level of commitment is unparalleled. Thus by corollary, fans of the other teams are further away and more adversarial.

Those last two reasons seem most accurate to me. What do you guys think?

Let’s go Oakland!

My first team was not the Cal Bears but the Oakland A’s. Having been born and raised in Oakland, I am both a Raiders fan (although that was temporarily crushed in the 80’s) and an A’s fan. With the Raiders out of town when I came of age and the A’s doing quite well, it was the A’s who first caught my attention as a budding sports fan.

Over the years, my primary team has become the Cal Bears, but the A’s have always held a special place in my heart.

That’s why I take great joy in seeing them in the playoffs again. AGAIN it’s with a rag-tag group of players who were never supposed to amount to anything. AGAIN they did it with a strong 2nd half of the season.

Let’s hope, now that the playoffs are upon us, I don’t have to use any of the “AGAIN”s that are needed during playoff season… unless the year is 1989.

And yes, I’d LOVE to see another Bay Bridge series.

But first, I want to see two more wins to take the division from Texas. Or at least one so they’ve got a better shot at having the wild-card game at home.

A great day for Cal sports

I got an e-mail today from Sandy Barbour indicating that the great fund-raising efforts of the baseball team have paid off. You can read her e-mail here and a press-release with the chancellor’s comments here. The team will be saved! WOOHOO!

Frankly, I’m quite surprised they were able to raise as much money as they did. Good for them. I’m also a bit surprised that there’s an announcement when they’re $1 million short of the stated goal and “the team’s formal reinstatement will be announced once the $10 million target is met through continued fundraising.” Huh? Wasn’t this the official announcement? It’s a bit odd. I guess it’s a statement that they’re committed to re-instatement and there’s no “decision” left to be made… just a few more dollars (OK $1 million) to be secured.

Nevertheless, I share the confidence of the administration and the fundraisers that the money will be raised and the official announcement is just a formality.

It’s a great day for Cal athletics!

More on sport saving fundraising

I saw this tidbit in a new SFGate article:

According to the university, rugby raised about $6 million, baseball $1.5 million to $2.5 million, lacrosse $400,000 to $500,000, and gymnastics less than $1 million, with the remainder not earmarked for any particular sport.

There’s been an open question until now about whether the saved women’s sports had raised enough. Up until now we had numbers for rugby ($6m) and baseball ($1.5m-$2.5m) and the total ($12m-$13m), which left a big gap, approximately 3 to 6 million. If the two saved women’s sports had raised the majority of that money, one could easily say they had “saved themselves” through their fund raising.

Personally, I had suspected this wasn’t the case, but until now I didn’t have published numbers to support this. Now I do. The women’s sports looks to have raised about a million total (I’m assuming the women’s gymnastics raised half (or perhaps a bit more) of the total gymnastics funds).

There’s no need to re-iterate my earlier points, I just wanted to make sure that it was clear that the numbers had been verified and that the women’s sports were spared not because of their fund raising, but because of Title IX.

3 sports spared – explanation is deceptive

The Chronicle is reporting that 3 of the 5 sports have been saved: Rugby, Women’s Lacrosse, and Women’s Gymnastics.

The answer for why Baseball and Men’s Gymnastics didn’t get spared is because they didn’t raise enough money. Which is true, I guess. It appears baseball only raised $1 million (update, it appears it was $2 million) and gymnastics didn’t raise nearly that. That’s not enough to save them.

What’s deceptive in that explanation is that it’s not why the two women’s sports were saved. I guarantee you neither the women’s lacrosse team nor the women’s gymnastics team raised $1 million. It appears that well over half the money was raised by the rugby team, with baseball coming in 2nd and then a couple million of general donations to save all 5.

What I’m saying is that if it was just about the money, rugby and baseball would have been saved and that’s it.

No, it’s pretty clear that the two women’s sports were saved because cutting any women’s sport, irrelevant of whether men’s sports are being cut at disproportionally higher numbers, you’re going to run afoul of Title IX. The university just couldn’t take the chance that they’d get sued.

Basically, the rugby team raised enough money to save itself by making sure the dollar figure was enough to save the two women’s sports as well and thus not running afoul of Title IX.

This is not right. It’s time for supporters of women’s athletics to pony up. You’re already HEAVILY subsidized by men’s football and basketball. That’s more than enough. You want to keep those sports, you pony up whatever additional dough is needed.

Jason spoke below in a comment about how we should mend Title IX instead of ending, and I agree in concept that there should be some protection of women’s sports. But Title IX is so far from where it should be that I think starting over is the right way to go.

Title IX should only apply to public funds. Of course, it should insist that the funds be split equitably. But that should be the end of it. All private schools (assuming no public funds) should be able to do what they please. All public schools should be able to do what they please with private donations, per donor’s instructions. You might get me on board that any ticket sale money that exceeds the costs of a program (and let’s not kid ourselves, that means men’s football and basketball) at a public school should be split equally between the other men’s and women’s sports, but in my mind, the scope should be limited to public funds and most definitely should not apply to private donations.

As for baseball being cut, while it’s very disappointing to me, times are tough and I don’t know that I can justify keeping it, knowing what it means to the rest of Cal, both athletically and academically. Here’s hoping that better times allow us to bring it back in the future (hopefully without running afoul of Title IX again).

Title IX garbage

The New York Times has an article up about the cuts of sports at Cal. In it, it states:

The elimination of two women’s teams — lacrosse and gymnastics — threw the Cal athletic department out of compliance with the federal gender-equity law known as Title IX. Without the five teams, the university, based on numbers it provided, will have to add 50 spots for women and eliminate 80 spots for men to meet Title IX requirements.

The reason is that if you cut even ONE women’s sport, you’re now forced to match the men/women ratio of the athletic department to the ratio of the student body. If you don’t cut a women’s sport, you can use a couple of different methods that allow for some inequity.

This is absolutely ridiculous… Let me show you how. Cal cut 5 sports:

Men’s Rugby: 63 men
Men’s Baseball: 36 men
Men’s Gymnastics: 19 men
Women’s Gymnastics: 13 women
Women’s Lacrosse: 25 women

That’s 118 men cut and only 38 women cut for those who don’t want to do the simple arithmetic. And somehow doing this is a violation of not letting women participate in sports?

Or lets look at it a different way, like on a sport by sport basis. Cal already had one more women’s sport than men’s sport, 14-13. With the cuts it’ll be down to 12-10 in favor of the women, where the only men’s only sport is Football and women have Field-Hockey, Softball and Volleyball as women’s only sports.

This is an injustice. There’s no other way to say it.

By any basis besides equal participation, a crummy way to judge things if there ever was one (what do you do if no women want to participate? Men can’t do things just because women aren’t interested?), there’s no way to justify this sort of thing. Whether we’re judging by opportunities for participation, by dollars spent, by number of sports, the men are getting the shaft. They bring in effectively all the dollars and they don’t have all the sports that the women do (you don’t think there are men who would like to play Volleyball?).

As a quick aside, I suspect the way this is going to be resolved (since it’s clear, albeit in an unstated way, from the article that the wheels are in motion to sue the university) is that with the dollars raised, both women’s sports will be retained, as well as the baseball team. That will allow the University to avoid the wrath of the unfair and keep the sport that from all indications in the one doing all the fund-raising (baseball). (Sucks to be Men’s gymnastics)

But the pragmatics of how the university will avoid this mess aside, this is a travesty and an injustice.

Title IX must go!