Pac-12: Mark Emmert

USC asks for justice from NCAA

September, 26, 2013
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USC is making one last run at the NCAA, hoping the organization that crushed it with severe sanctions in June of 2010 will finally aspire toward some degree of belated justice.

But don't hold your breath.

[+] EnlargePat Haden
Victor Decolongon/Getty ImagesUSC AD Pat Haden is smart to appeal to the NCAA for reductions, but that's doesn't mean it will happen.
Athletic director Pat Haden released a statement Thursday saying he and USC's vice president for compliance Dave Roberts spent the last two days in Indianapolis meeting with NCAA officials, including NCAA President Mark Emmert.

The meeting had been scheduled weeks earlier, so it was purely serendipitous that it coincided with the NCAA's extraordinary decision to reduce previous sanctions against Penn State due to good behavior.

Still, Haden, who's been criticized for not going after the NCAA's poorly reasoned and factually challenged judgment against USC, saw an opportunity and at least wanted to score a public relations point with his frustrated fans.

Noted Haden in the statement, "We felt compelled to discuss USC's sanctions in a new light. As I have stated on numerous occasions, I believe the penalties imposed on our football program in 2010 were unprecedented and inconsistent with NCAA precedent in prior cases."

Haden then said he and Roberts "argued for some consideration regarding the 2010 sanctions during the last year of our penalty."

Meaning Haden is asking the NCAA to restore some scholarships to USC that it can use for the 2014 recruiting class, which has been docked 10 scholarships from a typical class of 25.

Haden concluded, "After candid discussions, the NCAA asked us to provide additional information and indicated it would study our suggestions. Because time is of the essence regarding these issues, we have asked for the NCAA's response as soon as practical."

The problem here is Penn State's situation was a special case, one that allowed the NCAA to both punish and then show newfound mercy outside the bounds of its typical process. Yes, the NCAA made up the rules as it went along with Penn State, which allows plenty flexibility for an organization that prides itself on being just the opposite.

With USC, the NCAA would have to make an unprecedented reversal of long-accepted processes. USC already failed with two appeals. If Emmert were to take executive action, it would be a slap in the face to the members of the Committee on Infractions who handed down the ruling against the Trojans.

That the COI, which was chaired by the late Paul Dee, athletic director at Miami and good buddy with jailed super booster/shyster Nevin Shapiro, from the USC case deserves a slap in the face is probably not relevant, even if it should be.

Still, maybe there is some leeway for justice. If Emmert merely read USC's appeal, it would be impossible for him -- or any other objective reader -- not to recognize the compelling strength of USC's position.

But, again, don't hold your breath.

 
Larry ScottAP Photo/Jae C. HongLarry Scott criticized the NCAA's recent rulings and called for fans to drop DirecTV.
CULVER CITY, Calif. -- Commissioner Larry Scott came out swinging at Pac-12 media day, giving the NCAA a couple of stiff jabs and DirecTV a haymaker.

Scott showed there was general unity among the commissioners in the big five conferences -- along with the Pac-12, the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12 and ACC -- that there is widespread impatience with the NCAA, its administration, rules and inefficiency.

"It's clear right now [the NCAA] is at a crossroads," Scott said. "It's time for a new vision."

As for DirecTV, it's all about it not picking up the Pac-12 Network for a second consecutive football season, meaning millions of West Coast subscribers have a choice to make: How important is the Pac-12 Network to them?

"I urge our fans that are intent on not missing their team's games this fall to drop DirecTV and switch to one of the many providers that have it all," Scott said.

Scott and the Pac-12 Network don't seem to be hitting at DirecTV from a position of weakness. The new network turned a profit in its first year of existence and will increase the number of live events this year from 550 to 750.

The Pac-12 set up a website to explain how to drop DirecTV.

As for the NCAA, Scott outlined four "high-priority items":

  • Student-athlete welfare, including health and safety as well as full cost-of-attendance scholarships.
  • On NCAA governance, Scott said, "... it's time to acknowledge that one size does not fit all." Along this line, Scott believes that the the NCAA should lean more on athletic directors and commissioners when administrating college sports and less on college presidents.
  • Scott holds a dim view of NCAA enforcement: "It's fair to say confidence in the enforcement process is at an all-time low."
  • Finally, Scott believes one-and-done in college basketball should be ended.

While Scott's broadside might seem to make NCAA president Mark Emmert's precarious footing even weaker, he was conciliatory in terms of envisioning Emmert being part of the solution.

"I spoke to president Mark Emmert this week," Scott said. "I was delighted to see yesterday that he announced plans to call a summit in January to discuss exactly what that change should look like."

Scott also backed away from some of the recent talk about the big schools breaking away from the NCAA.

"The current discussion we have heard this week," he said, "... is too radical and too narrow at the same time. The answer ... is not to break away but to evolve into something better."

Of course, that push to evolve includes the notion of survival of the fittest, and the implication that the NCAA at present isn't terribly fit.

Mailbag: Oregon fan hypothetical

December, 28, 2012
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Greetings. Welcome to the mailbag.

Follow the Pac-12 blog on Twitter here. It's where the Pac-12 blog tweets, which is a sight to behold.

Brian Mahuna from Portland writes: Do you think Oregon is on the cusp of having an elite group of receivers? Josh Huff will be a senior, the guys behind him are young but talented with the two true freshman Addison and Stanford. Plus the twins who will arrive in Eugene next year. Everyone is quick to talk about how good their running backs are (mainly because they are REALLY good) but I think in the next few years, we could be talking about a complete offense. Great QB in Mariota and a good group of young wide outs would certainly do that.

Ted Miller: You're forgetting Diante Jackson, Tacoi Sumler and Devon Blackmon. How many passes did those once super-awesome recruits catch this season?

And, Brian, if it seems I'm being snarky -- seeing that none of the above are still with the team -- it's because you are asking me to entertain a hypothetical. Chip Kelly has soured me on those. Unless they serve my selfish purposes.

Oregon does have plenty of potential at receiver next year. Quarterback Marcus Mariota will get all of his top six receivers back, including De'Anthony Thomas and Huff, who posted a breakthrough year. And, if all goes according to plan, there are some incoming recruits who are promising.

Yet we now enter one of my pet peeve areas. It's called "Incoming Dude Is Obviously Transcendent."

Or IDIOT.

"IDIOT," of course, is what fans often call me when I question a team's depth at one position or another entering a new season when it's OBVIOUS! I don't know what I'm talking about because I don't read recruiting messageboard X, and therefore don't know about incoming recruit 007 Batman Wolverine who is a mix of Dick Butkus, Jim Brown and Peyton Manning. Only better.

Oregon State fans right now are going, "Don't. Please. Don't mention him. This is a Duck question! Just leave us alone!"

Simi Kuli! (Sorry about that).

Kuli, for those who don't recall, was a five-star JC defensive end recruit for Oregon State in 2008, one of the highest rated guys the Beavers ever landed. He was reputed to be beastly, and proved to be just that. Beastly like a Sasquatch. I once told Mike Riley I doubted Kuli's existence. Oregonian writer Paul Buker's humorous tracking of Kuli's abortive progress to Corvallis was one of the more entertaining things I remember from that year.

Last I heard of Kuli is he ended up at West Texas A&M and got into a bit of trouble, but was still receiving wide-eyed speculation on NFL draft boards last year.

Or recall when a receiver by the name of "Marqise Lee" was a recruiting afterthought because of USC signing George Farmer. I recall watching Robert Woods getting asked if he was prepared to be the Trojans No. 2 receiver in 2011 with Farmer shortly to arrive.

Farmer, in fact, was an example of the Pac-12 blog falling for the hype. Having watched tape of Farmer, we wrote him in as a sure-thing for the Trojans. A hard lesson about IDIOT was learned again.

While there's no reason not to be optimistic about a touted guy's prospects, it's also premature to write him into a key role before he's even practiced with his college team. It's always best to subscribe to GTSITBI when considering incoming players.

Got To See It To Believe It.




Jim from Los Angles writes: What is the New Years wishlist for the CAL BEARS football program in the new era of Sonny Dykes?

Ted Miller: That's easy.

1. A great recruiting class that is strong on linemen.

2. A strong spring performance from a quarterback that creates a clear pecking order heading into the summer.

3. A team that is competitive in every game in 2013 while posting a winning record.

4. A Rose Bowl berth before the Old Blues become Dead Blues.




Austin from Tempe, Ariz., writes: What do you think will happen to Arizona State running back Cameron Marshall? He seems to have the size and tools to at least be a backup but will this season hurt him bad enough since he wasn't ever given the ball?

Ted Miller: It's always difficult to project NFL careers, but I think Marshall, who shared the ball this year but was still the Sun Devils leading rusher, is going to have a nice NFL career.

He's a physical guy with good-enough speed who can catch the ball. He's also got a nose for the endzone.




Brian Vancouver, Wash., writes: The second best conference, whatever it shall be, is henceforth to be referred to as the Second Eminent Conference. See what I did there? Signed, A Realistic Duck Fan.

Ted Miller: I do see what you did there.

What I realized this week before and after UCLA's Holiday Bowl debacle with Baylor was Big 12 fans share two things with Pac-12 fans.

1. They resent being automatically called a candidate for second-best conference and are not willing to automatically yield No. 1 to the SEC.

2. Big 12 fans think as little of the Pac-12 as Pac-12 fans think of the Big 12.




Lenlen from Wilkesboro, N.C., writes: I recommend you read the letter Abe Markowitz's Dad sent to NCAA president Mark Emmert and the thread that follows. Now we can see first hand how NCAA shenanigans affect student athletes economically.

Ted Miller: It would be great if the NCAA would appoint someone to the position of Smart & Reasonable. This person would be put in charge of reviewing appeals, such as Markowitz's. Their charge would be simple: Err on the side of the student-athlete.

This is where a bureaucrat shows up and talks about the importance of rules and the slippery slope for allowing flexibility.

I don't buy it. That position is merely a prop for folks who aren't skilled at being fair & reasonable.
PHOENIX -- The first reaction was shock: Junior Seau dead at just 43, his death ruled a suicide. Quickly came grief: An all-time USC and NFL great, a good guy known for his accessibility and philanthropy away from the field who didn't want to live anymore.

Then shortly thereafter: Anger. Another football player dead before his time. Surely head injuries -- concussions -- were to blame. Surely the game is to blame. These three stages have been repeated too often of late, and their repetition threatens our love affair with a sport that obsesses our country like no other.

We can't make you feel any better about Seau. That's a still-resonating tragedy. We can only note it's premature to arrive at any overriding conclusions as to why he did the unthinkable.

[+] EnlargeJunior Seau
Greg M. Cooper/US PresswireSpecialists are trying to determine whether Junior Seau's suicide could be related to the growing link between football and concussions.
But we might be able to make you feel a little bit better about football.

The takeaway from a timely Fiesta Bowl Summit panel Thursday, "Sports-Related Concussions: Facts, Fallacies and New Frontiers," was twofold: 1. The NCAA and NFL, after the media forced them to pay attention, have been working hard to get their arms around the issue; 2. It's not unreasonable to believe they can.

Of course, there always will be head injuries in contact sports, and repeated head trauma can lead to long-term health problems. This knowledge isn't new. Doctors were aware of boxers becoming punch drunk -- dementia pugilistica -- in the 1920s.

Understanding concussions and how best to prevent and then treat them, however, isn't easy. As Dr. Margot Putukian, one of four panelists at the Arizona Biltmore, said, concussions are "a moving target." Each one is different, and each person is different. They are not anything like a torn ACL.

Yet there has been recent research progress that is particularly meaningful for football. Said Dr. Michael McCrea, "The news is promising."

McCrea's research found that 28 percent of athletes suffering a concussion no longer show symptoms from their injury after 24 hours. Sixty percent are asymptomatic after a week to 10 days. So nearly 90 percent of athletes passed tests that showed their symptoms were gone inside of 10 days. But that's not the good news. Passing tests that show symptoms are gone doesn't mean the brain has fully healed -- achieved full clinical recovery.

The good news is this: Those numbers, it turns out, do indeed run roughly parallel to a full clinical recovery. Using a multi-dimensional approach -- symptoms tests as well as MRI -- for assessing the recovery process can, McCrea said, "take the guesswork out of concussion management."

These numbers should make it easier to convince athletes who are eager to get back on the field and coaches who want them there to be patient. Simply, coming back too early greatly increases the risk of another concussion, and a second concussion almost always requires a far longer recovery time. Waiting the full seven to 10 days -- and missing a game -- greatly reduces the risk of re-injury, McCrea said. Ergo, there are now specific numbers that show it's better for athlete and team not to rush things.

But the issues with concussions extend beyond understanding them, treating them and even preventing them. Every institution needs well-drilled standards and procedures for dealing with them: A concussion management plan. And coaches and training staff need to know them and know them well. Putukian asked a rhetorical question that all parents of athletes should be asking coaches (non-rhetorically): "What medical personnel do you have there, and what do you do in case of emergency?"

How many layers of procedure are involved here? Lots. Here's one you probably didn't think of: Academic accommodation. A player who suffered a concussion on Saturday might have issues taking a test the following Wednesday.

There was a consensus among the four doctors about how the NFL and NCAA can continue to improve their approach to concussions.

  • Education: Players and coaches need to understand how serious head injuries are, and the potentially harmful long-term consequences for returning to play too soon. This could include, for example, coaches deciding to limit contact during practices.
  • Equipment: There are no helmets that prevent concussions, and there won't ever be. That doesn't mean some helmets aren't better than others. Virginia Tech has devised a respected helmet ratings system, and the Riddell 360, Rawlings Quantum Plus and Riddell Revolution Speed all achieved five-star ratings.
  • Rules changes: Obviously, an emphasis on stopping head-to-head collisions has been front-and-center. A lot of attention also is being paid to when concussions are most likely to happen in a football game -- on special teams, in the open field and for specific positions.
  • Culture change: This might be one of the most difficult to enact -- see the bounty scandal involving the New Orleans Saints. Football is a physical game. That's why it's fun to play and to watch. But there needs to be a recognition that brutality for brutality's sake, a zeal for hurting opponents, can have horrific ramifications after the cartoonish strut and taunt end.

Coaches seem to be taking this issue seriously. Among those who attended the concussion summit, which was presided over by NCAA president Mark Emmert, were Stanford's David Shaw, Wisconsin's Brett Bielema and Texas Tech's Tommy Tuberville. When it was over, UTEP coach Mike Price stood up to say it was the best talk on the subject he'd heard.

This was a sad week for football. A few folks are seriously raising the question of whether college football should be banned. Seau's death made it less easy to scoff derisively at such talk.

Concussions are a serious problem in football. The first step toward solving a problem is recognizing it. The concussion panel this week suggested that football now might be taking a second and perhaps third step.

Talk directly to the NCAA!

January, 31, 2012
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Want to give the NCAA a piece of your mind?

Well, you can today at 4 p.m. ET, when NCAA president Mark Emmert does a chat on ESPN.com.

Emmert, who has recently been talking up a playoff, will be available to answer even the sticky questions.

Should be worth checking out.

Best case-worst case: USC

August, 26, 2011
8/26/11
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Ninth in a series looking at potential dream and nightmare scenarios for all Pac-12 teams.

Understand: These are not predictions. They are extreme scenarios and pieces of fiction. You can read last season's versions here.

We're going in reverse order of my post-spring power rankings (which might not be identical to my preseason power rankings).

Up next: USC

Best case

In the bowels of the Coliseum, USC gathers before taking the field against Minnesota.

"I want to read you something," coach Lane Kiffin says, flicking open a one-page letter

"President Nikias. I appreciate your grace last week when announcing that USC would not pursue any further redress against the NCAA. What I find unconscionable is where this leaves the NCAA. I have personally reviewed the facts of USC's case before the Committee on Infractions, and I can tell you that I am not the only one inside these walls who has long been troubled by the Committee's findings and the resulting severe sanctions against your football program. USC was wronged well before news broke of the massive scandal at Miami under former athletic director Paul Dee, who was not fit to sit judgment of USC as the Committee chair. The combination of a poorly reasoned and unjust ruling and Dee's hypocrisy simply cannot stand. That is why I am taking the unprecedented action of ruling sanctions against USC null-and-void. Sincerely, NCAA president Mark Emmert."

That was not good news for the Golden Gophers, who go down 52-3.

"I'll tell you what it means," says linebacker Chris Galippo. "It means that the rest of college football hears one thing echoing in its collective head right now, 'They're baaaaaaack!'"

A rumor starts to float that SEC commissioner Mike Slive was found locked in his office closet, repeatedly murmuring, "But I don't want USC to be eligible. It's not fair!"

Poll voters immediately promote USC to No. 10 in the polls.

The Trojans batter Utah in the first Pac-12 game, 41-17.

"I know it's the new Pac-12," says ESPN's Chris Fowler. "But it seems a lot like the old Pac-10, circa 2002-2008."

The Trojans bludgeon Syracuse, 60-6 and rise to No. 5.

"Arizona State is going to test USC," says ESPN's Kirk Herstreit. "The Sun Devils have already manhandled a two good teams in Missouri and Illinois."

USC rolls the Sun Devils 38-10, with quarterback Matt Barkley throwing his ninth and 10th TD passes on the year. He throws 11, 12 and 13 in a 41-17 victory over Arizona and two more in a 44-7 win at California and a 33-17 win over Notre Dame.

"Barkley has 17 touchdown passes in seven games; Stanford's Andrew Luck has 16," says Fowler. "Fair to say the winner Saturday becomes the Heisman Trophy frontrunner?'

Stanford nips the Trojans 30-27, with Luck scrambling for 20 yards on third and 8 to set up the game-winning field goal.

The Trojans bounce back with blowout wins over Colorado and Washington, setting up a showdown with top-ranked Oregon, which is coming off a 33-30 overtime win over Stanford.

LaMichael James rushes for 154 yards and two scores in a 33-24 Ducks victory.

The Trojans batter UCLA, 45-20, beating the Bruins for the 12th time in 13 years.

The No. 8 Trojans face the top-ranked Ducks (again!) for the inaugural Pac-12 crown.

They gather before running into Autzen Stadium. Kiffin begins: "What a ride. We've seen a lot of stuff together these two years, huh? Stuff that was out of our control. Stuff that didn't let the Trojans be what Trojans truly are: Champions. But we're in control again, aren't we? It's about us again. And we've got a chance tonight to reclaim what has been taken from us. What is ours. Understand: Our victory will be remembered. It will become an important part of Trojans history. No, we're not going to get an opportunity to play for the national title like a lot of 'SC teams, though I'd like our chances in a playoff. But USC fans and former Trojans are going to remember you as the team who took back our championship identity, which was stolen from us. They will say, 'That was the team that reestablished the tradition.' And they will remember your names. The rest of college football is watching tonight, rooting against us, worried about the return of USC. Well, let's go out there and show them that their worries are 100 percent justified."

James is stuffed by Galippo on a fourth-and-goal inside the USC 1-yard line with 45 seconds left. Three Barkley sneaks later, and USC is a 29-23 winner, headed back to the Rose Bowl as Pac-12 champions.

USC stuffs Wisconsin 35-17 in the Rose Bowl to finish 12-2 and ranked fourth.

"I'm coming back for my senior year," Barkley announces. "because I want to win a national championship before I leave."

The Trojans signed the nation's No. 1 recruiting class.

"I'd like to announce a home-and-home series with USC," says a grim-faced Alabama athletic director, Mal Moore.

"Mr. Moore, over here," shouts an uncommonly stylish reporter. "Is this a reaction to the rumored reality series for the Pac-12 network this fall, 'See what SEC athletic directors do when USC calls!'"

"Shutup Miller," a grim-faced Alabama athletic director says.

Worst case

Quarterback Matt Barkley throws three touchdown passes in a 30-23 season-opening win over Minnesota.

"Yeah, I think everyone is curious what Utah will bring to the table," says Barkley. "Our job is to give them a rude welcome."

The game is tied 28-28 late in the fourth quarter. On a third and 3 from its own 15, Utes QB Jordan Wynn finds DeVonte Christopher for an 85-yard, game-winning touchdown after USC cornerback Nickell Robey fell down.

The Trojans bounce back by whipping Syracuse 33-10, but Arizona State sacks Barkley four times in a 24-10 victory. USC improves to 3-2 with a home win over Arizona, but gets drubbed at California 35-20 and gives up a late TD in a 30-24 loss at Notre Dame after another coverage breakdown. Andrew Luck throws three TD passes in a 40-24 Stanford win over the Trojans.

USC shows some fight, winning at Colorado and at home over Washington, but it looks lethargic while taking a 48-20 whipping at Oregon.

"We play a faceless opponent every week," Ducks coach Chip Kelly says when asked if it still feels special to stomp USC, which Oregon has done three years in a row.

"Is it easier selling that to your players now than it was in 2008?" asks an uncommonly stylish reporter.

Kelly smiles, "Shutup, Miller."

"We still have plenty to play for," Kiffin says. "For one, we always want to beat UCLA. That can make a season. Finishing .500 is certainly better than the alternative. And we can stop the Bruins from winning the South Division."

UCLA defensive end Datone Jones sacks Barkley three times as the Bruins roll over the Trojans 33-17.

"Do I feel sorry for USC?" Bruins coach Rick Neuheisel says. "A little."

The Bruins lose to Oregon in the Pac-12 title game but they whip Texas A&M in the Alamo Bowl and finished 10-4 and ranked 14th.

UCLA's 31-player class -- six elite prospects are brought in early to count against the 2011 class -- ranks sixth in the nation, two spots behind Notre Dame.

"It was great to cherry-pick Southern California recruiting," says Neuheisel. "So much talent. Glad we had a full allotment of scholarships."

USC's class of 15 ranks eighth in the Pac-12.

"Tough times don't last, tough people do," says Kiffin. "Wait... where did I hear that?"

Murmurs USC athletic director Pat Haden, "Not for long if they go 5-7 as USC's head coach."

Barkley, offensive tackle Matt Kalil, defensive end Nick Perry, defensive end Devon Kennard and safety T.J. McDonald each announced they are entering the NFL draft.

Ring! Ring!

"Pat, hiya! Mal Moore down here at the University of Alabama," says Mal Moore to Haden. "How you? Good, good. You want to bring your boys down here for a football game? We'd love to see 'ya!"

Best case-worst case: UCLA

August, 22, 2011
8/22/11
7:27
PM ET
Fifth in a series looking at potential dream and nightmare scenarios for all Pac-12 teams.

Understand: These are not predictions. They are extreme scenarios and pieces of fiction. You can read last year's versions here.

We're going in reverse order of my post-spring power rankings (which might not be identical to my preseason power rankings).

Up next: UCLA

Best case

Someone forgot to tell Datone Jones UCLA's visit to Houston was supposed to be about the quarterbacks.

Jones provided three of the Bruins six sacks against Case Keenum, while Bruins starter Kevin Prince turned in a solid, unspectacular performance in UCLA's 28-24 win.

"I read in the Pac-12 blog that Jones was supposed to be good, but against my better judgment I chose to ignore the Pac-12 blog," Keenum says. "I have learned my lesson. Dude's a beast. Jones, not the Pac-12 blog, who I hear is very nice."

Prince and most of the other starters sit out the second half of a 55-10 win over San Jose State. Up next is Texas, which comes to town talking about revenge for the 34-12 whipping administered by the Bruins last year when the Longhorns were ranked seventh.

"We want revenge," Longhorns quarterback Garrett Gilbert says. "We're Texas. You're not supposed to mess with us, particularly if you wear pastels, though my mother thinks I look good in powder blue."

Prince passes for 250 yards and two scores and rushes for 85 in a 35-21 Bruins victory.

"Does that guy only play well against us?" queries Texas coach Mack Brown.

It's not an unfair question. But it's one Prince answers well at Oregon State, running for a score and passing for another in a 30-27 victory. UCLA, at 4-0, moves up to No. 15 in the national polls.

Headline in Los Angeles Times: "Neuheisel seat no longer so hot."

Headline in Seattle Times: "Miami scandal? Neuheisel's fault!"

Of course, Prince is no Andrew Luck. Luck, the Heisman Trophy favorite, throws three touchdown passes in a 35-24 Cardinal victory, though Jones does beat All-American tackle Jonathan Martin for a sack.

"Those two are going to be going at it 10 years from now," observes play-by-play man Brent Musburger.

The Bruins nip Washington State on a 55-yard field goal from Kip Smith, but they fall at Arizona in overtime. They beat California at home, which sets up a critical Pac-12 South showdown with Arizona State.

Down 28-21, Prince finds Cory Harkey, who hasn't dropped a pass all season, for a 17-yard TD with 38 seconds remaining.

"I'm going to tell you why we are going to go for two," coach Rick Neuheisel tells his gathered offense on the sideline during a time out. "It's because we need to show everyone who we are right now."

On a quarterback draw, Prince runs over Sun Devils linebacker Vontaze Burfict for the winning points.

UCLA, in a classic let-up scenario, goes down at Utah the following weekend. The Bruins bounce back with a 31-24 win over Colorado.

They head to the Coliseum to play arch-rival USC with the Pac-12 South Division title on the line. If the Trojans beat the Bruins for the 12th time in 13 years, they will be the South champions, even though they're not eligible for the postseason. If the Bruins win, they will be tied for first with Utah and Arizona State, which beat the Utes, but would win a tiebreaker for a spot in the inaugural Pac-12 championship game.

"Is it more motivating to win the first South division crown or to stop UCLA from doing it?" USC quarterback Matt Barkley says, repeating a reporter's question. "Well, I'd like to say us winning the division but really there's nothing better than making those guys miserable. Was I even alive the last time they beat us?"

Barkley recovers: "Oh, yeah, you're right. I was alive in 2006."

Jones sacks Barkley three times as the Bruins roll over the Trojans 33-17.

Before the Bruins play top-ranked Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game, Neuheisel is named conference Coach of the Year.

Says USC coach Lane Kiffin, "Yeah, I voted for him. He deserved it. He outcoached me."

"Vindicated?" says Neuheisel. "You know what? Tough times don't last, tough people do."

Whispers Prince to a nearby reporter: "He says that, like, five times a day."

Oregon nips the Bruins 33-31 on a 44-yard field goal at the end of regulation. The Bruins are invited to the Alamo Bowl, where they whip No. 10 Texas A&M 41-20 to finish 10-4 on the season and ranked 14th.

"We sort of own the state Texas, don't we?" Jones says.

Andrus Peat, Shaq Thompson, Kyle Murphy and Davonte Neal announce commitments to the Bruins the night of the bowl game. The Bruins 31-player class -- six elite prospects are brought in early to count against the 2011 class -- ranks sixth in the nation.

"It was great to cherry-pick Southern California recruiting," says Neuheisel. "So much talent. Glad we had a full allotment of scholarships."

Worst case

UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel had pointed to the road trip to Houston as a game his Bruins needed to win in order to establish early-season momentum. If so, the season's momentum starts off flowing in the wrong direction.

Case Keenum, whose season ended in the 2010 game at UCLA, throws for 330 yards and three TDs in a 35-21 win, as the Bruins passing game again sputters with Kevin Prince under center.

Neuheisel repeatedly berates Prince as he walks off the field. "He has to play better," Neuheisel says after the game. "We've taught him what to do. He's just not doing it."

"So the coaching isn't working?" LA Times columnist T.J. Simers volunteers.

The Bruins beat San Jose State 24-10 but get humiliated at home by revenge-minded Texas, which keeps its starters in the game well into the fourth quarter of a 44-10 victory.

"Richard Brehaut will start at Oregon State," Neuheisel says. The Bruins lose 28-17 in Corvallis.

"Kevin Prince will start at Stanford," Neuheisel says. The Bruins lose 51-13 in Palo Alto.

Writes Simers, "I'm trying to figure out who is a worse coach, the Bruins head coach or its quarterbacks coach. It's hard to say who is more clueless."

Neuheisel began the 2011 season on the hotseat. It's clear he's pretty much sitting naked in a pool of lava after a 1-4 start.

"Tough times don't last, tough people do," Neuheisel says.

Neuheisel is fired after a home loss to Washington State. Offensive line coach Bob Palcic is named interim head coach.

The Bruins slog through the rest of the season with Prince and Brehaut sharing the QB duties. It works curiously to perfection in an upset of Arizona State, but the Bruins head to the Coliseum to play unbeaten arch-rival USC at 2-9.

"Do we hope AP voters rank us No. 1 if we finish unbeaten?" USC coach Lane Kiffin asks. "Well, sure. We're pretty good. We just beat No. 1-ranked Oregon. Stanford's only losses this year are to us and Oregon. Arizona State's only loss is to us and Oregon. Notre Dame's only loss is to us, though Stanford will probably beat them. "

It's pointed out to Kiffin that UCLA upset the Sun Devils. "Really?" he says. "How the hell did that happen?"

Matt Barkley throws four touchdown passes as USC rolls the Bruins 42-3. Barkley nips Stanford QB Andrew Luck for the Heisman Trophy. When Oregon beats Alabama in the BCS national championship game, the AP votes USC No. 1.

On Jan. 12, NCAA president Mark Emmert announces that after a double-secret meeting, all remaining sanctions against USC are revoked. Says Emmert: "It's easy. A Committee of Infractions hearing chaired by former Miami athletic director Paul Dee has zero credibility. I personally reviewed the case. Those penalties were exorbitant. So the Trojans get time served -- a two-year postseason ban. But they will get all their scholarships back."

Kiffin sweeps across the country, tearing away commitments from major powers in every AQ conference.

Says ESPN recruiting guru Tom Luginbill on national signing day, "It might be the best recruiting class in history."

Meanwhile, UCLA hires Paul Hackett as its head coach.

"He has a track record in Southern California," says athletic director Dan Guerrero.

Opening the mailbag: Rodgers vs. James

May, 17, 2010
5/17/10
1:47
PM ET
Wanted to post the mailbag on Friday from the home offices in Bristol, Conn., but ACC blogger Heather Dinich told me you guys had already started your weekend early and would be unavailable until Monday.

To the notes.

Cam from Albany, Ore., writes: Preseason All American, Dark horse Heisman hype, Pac Ten awards, national media attention: Jacquizz Rodgers has all of these things. What he does not have, with two attempts, is a season as good as LaMichael James had last year. Quizz leads LaMichael only in rushing touchdowns in a year, and Oregon scored on the ground with no less then six different people last season. Long runs, average, yards/game: In all of these categories James is measurably above Rogers. OSU fans will claim Quizz means more to his team then does LaMichael, and they are right. But since when did lack of depth make a player better? And wasn't Quizz flat shut down against both Oregon and Cal last year? Why no love for LaMichael?

Ted Miller: LaMichael James is an outstanding back. He could become an All-American candidate. Heck, even a Heisman Trophy candidate.

But you lost me when you asserted that James had a better season that Jacquizz Rodgers. Cam, you get a frowny face.

James rushed for 1,546 yards last year. Rodgers, 1,440. James averaged 6.7 yards per carry and Rodgers 5.3. Ergo, you write, James had a better season.

You leave out this: Rodgers scored 22 touchdowns (one receiving), James 14. Now to me, TDs are important in football. I realize there is a camp where they are not so important -- the 2008 Washington squad apparently found them burdensome -- but I am not a member of that camp.

You, fairly, note that "Oregon scored on the ground with no less then six different people [seven actually] last season" as a reason for James scoring fewer TDs. In fact, four Ducks had at least three rushing TDs. No other Beaver had more than two.

So ... everybody knew Rodgers was coming and he still found the end zone. James? Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli was just as much of a threat, see 13 rushing touchdowns. A defense didn't know what to expect from Chip Kelly's fancypants offense that in 2008 had Jeremiah Johnson averaging 7.2 yards per carry -- and LeGarrette Blount 7.3. Heck, a converted cornerback, Kenjon Barner, averaged 6.0 per carry as James' backup last fall.

Has any Oregon tailback not been successful under Kelly?

But let's just say that a comparison of Rodgers and James as running backs is close (which it is). Rodgers résumé also includes this: He was one of the best receivers in the conference last year, catching 78 passes for 522 yards. James caught 17 for 168.

Now, I've begun to suspect that Oregon State fans are secretly asking me this question -- it seems to come up every mailbag -- because they know my position (you know, the correct one). There is no argument here: Rodgers is the Pac-10's best running back based on what he has done thus far.

Projecting forward? Ah, that is why we play the season!


Brandon from New York writes: Why is everyone bullish about Stanford? I consistently see them on the fringe of top 25 lists and i am confused how a team that barely scratched the top 25 last year with the best player in the country is generally assumed to be BETTER after losing said superhuman. I wasn't aware they had a tremendous defense, and Stanford is no Ohio St or Va Tech when it comes to winning with special teams. Luck may be great, but seems like he's set up to disappoint without the support of some other QBs in the Pac (Locker, Foles, anyone not under arrest at UO)

Ted Miller: First of all, if Andrew Luck has played in the Sun Bowl, Stanford would have beaten Oklahoma and ended up 9-4 and ranked in the final Top 25, which would have paved the way for even more 2010 Cardinal bullishness.

Toby Gerhart is a big loss, no doubt, and that's a legitimate reason to question just how good Luck will be in 2010. Still, he's a major talent and a future first-round NFL draft pick. Moreover, he's got seven other returning starters around him, including four of five offensive linemen and all of his main receivers.

Luck is where most of the Stanford hype starts, but there's also intriguing up-and-coming talent on the Cardinal that should break through in 2010, particularly on the defensive front-seven, such as sophomore linebacker Shayne Skov, junior end Thomas Keiser and sophomore end Chase Thomas. The biggest question is the secondary, but word out of spring drills is that crew looked much-improved.

Stanford is a program with momentum. Folks are impressed with the coaching and recruiting of Jim Harbaugh, and last season felt more like the start of an upward trend than a flash in the pan.


Kevin from San Francisco writes: I see the 2010 Cal Bears being the most boring 8-4 team in the country. Kevin Riley will (finally) settle in and become the mediocre QB that he was meant to be. I love Shane Vereen and see him rushing for 1500+ yards but I just don't see No. 34 stealing the hearts of media pundits. Do you agree? I'm already looking forward to the 2011 season when our stellar recruiting class has matured into super soph's.

Ted Miller: 8-4 sounds like a pretty good record for Cal in 2010, so I guess I agree.

If Vereen rushes for 1,500 yards, however, it's a good bet that he'll steal at least a few media pundits hearts. And I'm not so sure that Riley won't be better than mediocre in 2010. After all he's been -- suffered -- through, it would be nice for him to walk away from his senior season hearing a few cheers from Cal fans.

Though, after reading your letter, it appears Cal fans may need a pick-me-up -- or Prozac.


Jay from Seattle writes: Just saw [Washington president] Mark Emmert drive by me in Madison Park behind the wheel of a brand new Lamborghini Murciélago. Does the NCAA pay that well and what happened to his Prius?

Ted Miller: Jay, I'm glad you wrote. Emmert told me he was going to "borrow" my car. That was May 12!

Yes, the NCAA pays well, Emmert's predecessor, the late Miles Brand, made $1.72 million, according to 2008 tax records. And Emmert was doing OK already, making more than $900,000 a year at Washington.

[Note: A school spokesman has confirmed that the Lamborghini doesn't belong to Emmert, though the school has a relationship with the manufacturer, which you can read about here .]


Barrett from La Grande, Ore., writes: I'm the S.I.D. at Eastern Oregon University and thought I'd pass along a story from our Spring Game. 21-year-old Dylan Steigers passed away after a hit in the game. Not sure if you could share any info on something like this, just being a West Coast guy I thought I'd try. There is also a foundation in his name beginning and for his two-year-old daughter.

Ted Miller: A terrible story. Frightening and sad.


Raymond from Tucson writes: Joyless ride: Oregon State trio sentenced to community service -- I think they should clean the bathrooms after each OSU home game including the visitors locker room. This might be harder than making trips to a retirement community and driving golfers in carts or serving on the food line at the local Salvation Army.

Ted Miller: Not a bad idea. We obviously should keep them away from golf carts.


Al from Pasadena, Calif., writes: A guy that sits next to me at the office is originally from Atlanta and transplanted to the West Coast. Although a diehard Georgia fan, he has become a Pac-10 football believer over the years. SEC fans are quick to discount the Pac-10 as a "wine & cheese conference." I know this because I lived in the South for 4 years. Being a native of Atlanta yourself, why can't the rest of your SEC brethren look at things objectively?

Ted Miller: I know that guy!

SEC fans? What makes SEC fans so great is their lack of perspective. As for the "wine & cheese" belief: That's just trash talk. SEC fans don't really believe that. At least, not the smart ones.

Opening the mailbag: Expansion, playoffs, USC & the NCAA

April, 30, 2010
4/30/10
6:30
PM ET
Read this and then unleash your weekend with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.

Jim from Davis, Calif., writes: I'm somewhat baffled by all the talk of conference expansion as a "necessary reaction". Why does one conference stand to lose money if some other conference expands? Heck, if the Big Ten expands to 16 teams and swallows up the Big East, doesn't that open up one more guaranteed BCS slot for everyone else, while the Big Ten teams now get 1/16 of the payout instead of 1/11th? Not to mention the fact that it's 45% harder to go to the Rose Bowl. It makes me wonder if conferences just want to get big enough to support their own TV network, and moreover if the Big Ten needs to get bigger to get the most out of their existing TV network. Super-conferences seem to be good for conferences, but bad for the schools in them.

Ted Miller: Some of that is Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott's point.

The Pac-10 doesn't necessarily need to follow the leader. If the conference can maintain competitive revenue per team with its next media deal -- whether that's with a new Pac-10 Network or existing media entities -- then why expand?

But it's more complicated that that.

Imagine a new 16-team Big Ten and SEC. Do you suspect those two superconferences would view the Pac-10 as an equal partner in the BCS? No.

Now imagine the Big 16 and SEC-16 business offices looking for myriad ways to generate more revenue with their huge footprints across the East Coast, Southeast and Midwest (and Southwest?).

What happens if, even after Scott signs an impressive media deal, the Big 16 and SEC-16 end up distributing two or three times the revenue per team than the Pac-10 does? You would suspect they would gain a significant competitive advantage -- as I wrote last week.

The point is: If the Big Ten and SEC, force a "paradigm change" -- SEC commissioner Mike Slive's term -- it's possible the Pac-10 will have no choice but to expand. At least if it wants to keep up.

Patrick from Berkeley, Calif., writes: If the Pac-10 expands to 12 teams, how many conference games will teams play?

Ted Miller: It's possible the conference could continue to play a nine-game conference schedule, which would make scheduling easier for athletic directors and also help ensure that teams see each other in a more regular rotation. But other 12-team leagues realized that by playing eight conference games and four nonconference patsies they could artificially inflate their records and thereby look better to the humans and computers that rank teams in the BCS standings.

For example, what would happen to Oregon State if it played Memphis, Southeast Louisiana, UAB and Northern Arizona in its nonconference schedule, as a certain preseason top-10 team did in 2009, instead of a nine-game Pac-10 slate plus TCU, Boise State and Louisville?

What would happen is the Beavers would win nine, 10 or 11 games on a regular basis rather than seven, eight or nine.

Four nonconference patsies means a team needs only to win three -- sometimes even two -- conference games to "earn" bowl eligibility. And then you can join the disingenuous squawking about having, say, 10 bowl teams, when that result is significantly based on scheduling rather than having 10 teams actually worth a pooh.

Of course, as many of you often note, it's more fun to watch Washington play Nebraska, or Oregon visit Tennessee, or a USC-Ohio State home-and-home series than four home games vs. directional schools.

Andy from Seattle writes: Mark Emmert (UW's prez) just resigned to take the helm of NCAA. It's a huge loss for UW, as Mark was monstrously talented in raising big $ in Olympia and with UW boosters (as a PhD student at the UW school of med, I know he was a huge asset to UW's billion dollar research juggernaut; as a bleed-purple Husky fan, he led the Husky stadium renovation effort). However, I know he's a big fan of NCAA football playoff and if anyone can get it done, it's Mark Emmert. Any thoughts on this one?

Ted Miller: I think the NCAA made a great hire, by the way. Three reasons: 1. He's a true academic who also loves sports; 2. He's savvy about money -- fundraising as well as business; 3. During my interactions with him, albeit limited, he's always seemed like a guy you could have a cocktail with.

But Emmert's personal position as pro-playoff will only go so far. The NCAA doesn't control the BCS. The national title game isn't an NCAA property.

College football is controlled by the six BCS-AQ conferences and Notre Dame. When the BCS meetings took place last week, there wasn't a whimper of playoff talk. In fact, BCS executive director Bill Hancock told reporters they were "now planning as though [the BCS] is going to be here in 2040."

Now, Emmert could try to sell a plan to the college presidents. And perhaps widespread conference expansion would make more massive change palatable.

But, please, don't hold your breath.

Nicola from Los Angeles writes: So it's been over six weeks since the NCAA infractions committee closed their doors....has there been any wind of anything at all? Or is this actually taking longer than everyone thought? Will we (USC) get in trouble, based on the length of the deliberations?

Ted Miller: You didn't hear the news?

USC just received this from the NCAA. Turns out the investigation was just a big a misunderstanding. The Trojans are free and clear.

Of course, I'm joking!

It's just that I get so -- SO! -- many questions about USC and the NCAA and their seemingly endless tango that, well, I'm exhausted. When I absorbed USC athletic director Mike Garrett's grumpy expression as I approached him for a standard "no comment" during hearings before the NCAA infractions committee all I could think was, "Right back at you."

The hearings ended on Feb. 20. NCAA officials will tell you it typically takes around six weeks for a ruling to be made public, but this was a particularly complicated case. David Price, the NCAA's vice president of enforcement, said the hearings were "the longest in my 11 years" as an NCAA enforcement officer. It didn't seem like he was enjoying himself either.

Chatting with some folks in the know at the time, they said it could be 10 weeks. It will be 10 weeks Saturday.

So it wouldn't be surprising if we learned of USC's fate something next week. Or the next.

As for whether the length of the deliberations matter, I'd say "sort of," but it's more accurate to say that a thorough report on a complicated case takes time to complete, no matter how severe the penalties.

Eddie from Scottsdale writes: Why don't you ever answer UCLA questions?

Ted Miller: Is this one?

My answer: 57. No, 74.

Pac-10 lunch links: LB Galippo is battling to remain USC starter

April, 28, 2010
4/28/10
2:39
PM ET
Um, he's sick. My best friend's sister's boyfriend's brother's girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who's going with the girl who saw Ferris pass out at 31 Flavors last night. I guess it's pretty serious.

Washington's Emmert is new NCAA head

April, 27, 2010
4/27/10
8:44
PM ET
Washington president Mark Emmert has been named the new president of the NCAA, where he will replace the late Myles Brand, who died of cancer last fall.

Emmert was a sports-friendly president at Washington, often referring to athletics as the "front porch" of a university. My immediate reaction: Great hire by the NCAA.

Said Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott in a statement: “Mark is a visionary leader and a great choice as next President of the NCAA at such an important time in the Association’s history. He has a deep appreciation for the welfare of student-athletes and the role athletics plays in the higher education mission.”

And here's a statement from Pac-10 Conference Chairman and Arizona State president Michael Crow: “I have known Mark for a long time. He is a great academic leader who will bring new ideas and tremendous energy to the role of President at the NCAA. On behalf of my colleagues in the Pac-10, I would like to congratulate Mark on his new position.”

Some Washington fans might be concerned that Emmert could take Huskies athletic director Scott Woodward -- who's been with Emmert since both were at LSU -- with him to Indianapolis. Woodward told the Seattle Times he's staying put.

"I love being here and I'm the athletic director and love what I do and I plan on being here a long time,'' Woodward told the newspaper.

Locker, Sarkisian lead Washington back into light

September, 19, 2009
9/19/09
9:19
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian and quarterback Jake Locker gave Huskies fans a day to remember Saturday with an upset of top-ranked USC.

SEATTLE -- Jake Locker was trapped by a suffocating rush. The Washington quarterback could see no daylight. His athletic and leadership ability were of no value.

Yes, he admitted later. He wanted his mother.

Locker told the story as he got into an elevator inside the bowels of Husky Stadium, surrounded by grinning people. Who knew a post-game celebration could be so scary?

"I couldn't breathe," he said.

Washington president Mark Emmert laughed. "That's a high-quality problem to have, Jake."

Yes, surviving and sharing in the euphoria of a 16-13 victory over No. 3 USC is a different sort of problem for a program that went winless in 2008 and only broke a 15-game losing streak last weekend against FBS bottom-feeder Idaho.

"It was a little chaotic," Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian said. "I was trying to get to Pete, but I couldn't get to Pete. Then I got stuck there in the middle of the field."

"Pete" would be Trojans coach Pete Carroll, who Sarkisian worked under for seven years at USC. At the end of each of those seasons, save the first, the Trojans would play in a BCS bowl game. Sarkisian was guiding the Trojans offense last year when they beat Washington 56-0.

The distance from that humiliation and all the misery that surrounded it to the pandemonium on Saturday is hard to conceptualize.

"I will never forget this day," senior linebacker Donald Butler said. "I will tell my kids about this. I will tell my grandkids about this. Man, this is crazy."

Butler led a suprising Huskies defense, which gave up 10 points in the first quarter but just a single field goal thereafter. Butler was in on two of the Trojans' three turnovers deep in Washington territory, picking off Aaron Corp once and forcing a fumble from fullback Stanley Havili. He finished with 12 tackles.

He also stopped Stafon Johnson on a third-and-1 carry in the fourth, and twice tackled Johnson for no gain inside the Huskies' 11-yard line on the Trojans' final possession, forcing them to only tie the score 13-13 on a 25-yard field goal with 4:07 left.

Then Locker and company took over on their 33. Locker was promptly sacked for a 12-yard loss and then faced a third-and-15.

You could feel doubt suffuse the stadium

But not on the Huskies sidelines. "No! And that's the difference this year. We expect to win," Butler said. "Believe! We all believed we would win."

Locker connected with Jermaine Kearse for 21 yards. Locker rushed for four yards on third and 2. Locker then lofted a ball perfectly to Kearse for a 19-yard completion to the Trojans 16-yard line.

Locker, however, blew the ensuing chest bump from Kearse, getting knocked to his rear.

"I went down! I think I jumped too high," he said. "Coach was trying to settle me down."

Erik Folk calmly drilled a 22-yard field goal for the win.

Carroll and Sarkisian shared a moment later. "He was great," Sarkisian said. Carroll also stopped a radio interview to shake Locker's hand.

"I think the difference in the game was Jake," Carroll said.

Carroll tipped his cap to Sarkisian and defensive coordinator Nick Holt, who out-coached their mentor and his reordered staff in their rookie season outside the womb of winning that envelopes the USC program.

"When you really like people, you want good things to happen," Carroll said. "So I'm happy for them in that regard."

Sarkisian admitted after the game that, for a moment, just as the final bell sounded, he wondered, "Is it real?"

"To have the moment when the crowd rushes the field, those are things you dream about as a kid -- never mind as a coach -- when you're laying in bed at night throwing the ball in the air," he said.

And just like that, a program that has played in 14 Rose Bowls but hasn't posted a winning season since 2002, reintroduced itself to the college football world.

With a bang.

Sarkisian is more than a good first impression

September, 4, 2009
9/04/09
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller


SEATTLE -- Steve Sarkisian has to stand up to tell the story about the time he convinced Don James -- the Dawgfather -- he's the perfect man to coach Washington.

That the moment takes place at cushy Broadmoor Golf Club likely will give some Husky fans a fretful pause. Didn't Tyrone Willingham roll up 36-hole days when he should have been racking his brain for ways to fix the flagging football program?
Stephen Brashear/Icon SMI
Steve Sarkisian has had overcome adversity many times before, which was attractive to Washington when it was looking for a new coach.

But wait! Let Sarkisian explain -- and act out -- how he impressed James.

"I hit a seed about 10 feet off the ground right into a house," said Sarkisian, gleefully swinging an imaginary driver in his office overlooking Lake Washington.

"Coach James is putting on the green behind me. And he yells, 'That's the sign of a good ball coach! That away baby!'"

First impressions count for a lot. By every account, Sarkisian makes a good first impression.

That doesn't guarantee much, starting with a daunting debut against 11th-ranked LSU on Saturday, but it does provide something the Huskies haven't had for a while: hope.

The 35-year-old Sarkisian made a good first impression on Washington athletic director Scott Woodward and school president Mark Emmert. They interviewed Sarkisian for the Huskies' coaching job at the posh Fairmont Hotel in downtown Seattle on Thanksgiving night in 2008. Sarkisian was one of only two sitting coordinators Woodward wanted to talk to about the Huskies' vacancy, the other being Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, who is now the Longhorns head-coach-in-waiting behind Mack Brown.

While Woodward wouldn't say one way or the other, word was Sarkisian was not at the top of the Huskies' list. Until after the interview.

"We checked all the boxes and [Emmert] and I just go, 'This was an incredible interview,'" Woodward said.

Sarkisian didn't wow Woodward and Emmert with visual aids or detailed plans or a secret playbook. What first stood out was his energy. Next came Sarkisian's personal story, which most folks believe features him starting his coaching career on the 1-yard-line, courtesy of USC coach Pete Carroll.

Woodward was most surprised -- and excited -- about hearing how often Sarkisian had failed.
  • Despite putting up huge passing numbers at West High School in Torrance, Calif., Sarkisian wasn't offered a football scholarship.
  • He was cut from the USC baseball team.
  • He was a baseball bust at El Camino Junior College because he couldn't hit a curve ball.
  • He started playing football at El Camino almost on a whim, earned a scholarship to BYU and put up huge numbers.
  • He went undrafted by the NFL and signed with the CFL's Saskatchewan Roughriders.
  • He quit in 1999, following a 3-15 season, moved back to Torrance and got into sales for a software company.
  • He coached quarterbacks at El Camino.

Then -- poof -- something good happened.

In 2001, a fourth-choice coach who was sure to fail got hired at USC, and that guy -- Carroll -- offered a graduate assistant's job to Sarkisian on the advice of Sarkisian's former quarterbacks coach at BYU, Norm Chow.

That first season, USC made a trip up to Washington and lost its fourth consecutive game, 27-24. But on the ride across the 520 Bridge to Husky Stadium, Sarkisian recalled an impression.

"I remember leaning forward to Pete and saying, 'This place is unbelievable,'" he said.

"Unbelievable" is how longtime Huskies fans would describe the slide from No. 3 in the nation in 2000 to 0-12 in 2008.

So it wasn't just the USC pedigree. It wasn't just the youthful enthusiasm. Woodward knew he had his man because of something else.

"He had overcome adversity," Woodward said, "and he will have to do that here."

That's for sure. The Huskies, winners of 15 Pac-10 titles, are 12-47 since 2004.

That dismal record permeated the program with misery and decay. For obvious reasons, the players lacked confidence. They also were out of shape. Some of them didn't give a rip.

Forget beating them down and building them back up. Sarkisian saw a team that needed to believe it wasn't a bunch of losers. They needed to believe football was fun again.

"It dawned on us about halfway through spring that these guys struggled when adversity struck in practice or during a scrimmage," Sarkisian said. "When a guy gets beat or makes a mental mistake -- a guy might drop a ball, get a penalty call, whatever can happen -- they harbor that for sometimes the rest of practice. It was almost as if they fell back into a negative perception of themselves, which we were trying to pull them out of. They would fall back into where they thought they belonged.

"These guys were beat up mentally and physically. They'd been torn apart every which way. There was a lot of build-up that needed to take place. That was a challenge, to build them up but coach them like we needed to coach them."

So there was plenty of positive reinforcement. But this isn't a tea party. It's Pac-10 football. There was also tough love.

"I have to be the half-crazy guy, especially at the beginning of practice," Sarkisian said. "I want them to feel the intensity."

Sarkisian's work with dual-threat quarterback Jake Locker has received positive early reviews as far as refining his passing technique in order to make him more consistently accurate. Sarkisian also is quick to note the Huskies' talent is better than last year's 0-12 record indicates. For what that's worth.

Nonetheless, a transformation will require a massive injection of talent. Though wins won't likely pile up this season, Sarkisian has been winning on the recruiting trail, his 17 present commitments earning Top-25 national rankings, according to most services.

Despite everything, Husky fans always have high expectations, so Sarkisian's recruiting philosophy, which zeroes in on the biggest bully on the block, will warm the neglected cockles of their hearts.

"With every kid we recruit, we say, 'Is he good enough to beat USC with?'" he said.

James went 9-8 vs. USC. If Sarkisian approaches parity with the Trojans, he likely will get plenty of "atta boys" from the Dawgfather and the rest of the beleaguered Husky nation.

Washington forms 'Football Coach Advisory Committee'

November, 19, 2008
11/19/08
5:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Washington announced the members of a search advisory committee that will help school president Mark Emmert and athletic director Scott Woodward find a new football coach.

The committee will be chaired by Pat Dobel, a professor of public affairs who also serves as the school's faculty athletic representative to the Pac-10. Quarterback Jake Locker also will be on the committee.

The committee has already met, according to the Seattle Times.

Other members, according to a release from the school, are Ana Mari Cauce, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; Ed Taylor, dean for undergraduate academic affairs; Professor Robert Stacey, representing the Advisory Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics; Professor David Lovell, chair of the Faculty Senate; Randy Hodgins, interim vice president for external affairs; Joanne Bowers, head women's gymnastics coach; Anttimo Bennett, president of the Associated Students of the University of Washington; Andre Riley, representing the Big "W" Club; community members Don Barnard and Bob Flowers from the Tyee Board, and Eddie Pasatiempo, representing the UW Alumni Association.

Washington wants next coach to make a big splash

October, 27, 2008
10/27/08
7:18
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Tyrone Willingham was nearly fired as Washington's coach following the 2007 season, so know that the folks in power -- both inside and outside the university -- have been cogitating about who the Huskies next coach will be for some time.

School president Mark Emmert loves his football. He was chancellor at LSU when he bypassed the authority of athletic director Joe Dean, fired coach Gerry DiNardo and lured a guy by the name of Nick Saban away from Michigan State.

 
  AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
  Washington president Mark Emmert, left, and athletic director Scott Woodward need the next Huskies football coach to revitalize the fading program.

Remind me: Did that work out for LSU?

Emmert hung around the football team so much when things started to turn around that Tigers beat reporters dubbed him "Jerry Jones."

With Emmert's long-time right-hand man Scott Woodward recently elevated to athletic director -- think Robin to Emmert's Batman -- know that the athletic department will speak with one voice.

And that voice both wants and needs to sing an inspiring tune to the beleaguered Huskies fan base.

Two names would be sweet music to most Huskies fans: Missouri's Gary Pinkel and Seattle Seahawks assistant Jim Mora Jr.

Both have ties to Washington and legendary coach Don James. And both would be expensive.

Some might wonder why Pinkel, a finalist for the job when Rick Neuheisel was hired after the 1998 season, would leave Missouri after building it into a national power, but more than a few connected folks believe Pinkel could be in play.

Of course, the Huskies will have to substantially beat the five-year contract extension that Pinkel signed last December that guarantees him $1.85 million annually.

Mora already has been announced as the Seahawks next head coach after Mike Holmgren steps down at the end of the season, and word is he'll pocket top NFL coaching dollar, previously reported as perhaps as much as $5 million annually.

It's likely that feelers were sent out weeks ago.

But, considering that word of Willingham's forced resignation didn't leak out until Monday's press conference began, it's clear that Emmert and Woodward, both extremely media-savvy, are working very hard to keep a lid on things.

So everybody is going to trot out the usual suspects to replace Willingham:

  • Other Pac-10 head coaches: California's Jeff Tedford and Oregon State's Mike Riley.
  • Respected mid-major head coaches: Boise State's Chris Petersen, Fresno State's Pat Hill, Tulsa's Todd Graham, Utah's Kyle Whittingham and TCU's Gary Patterson.
  • Hot coordinators: Texas' defensive coordinator Will Muschamp (who was LSU's defensive coordinator when Emmert was at LSU), Missouri offensive coordinator Dave Christensen and USC OC Steve Sarkisian.

It's also probably worth it to toss former Oakland Raiders head coach and USC assistant Lane Kiffin's name into the mix.

The general feeling is Emmert and the moneyed friends of the program will be willing to put together a hefty contract for the right guy.

The need to immediately generate positive momentum suggests they will be looking for a name that makes a splash, which means a salary between $2 and $3 million a year. Maybe even more, considering the high cost of living in Seattle.

Worrying about a "splash" might seem superficial -- just hire the right guy -- but it's not. This is a critical juncture for the Huskies. It's not just about restoring the fading tradition of winning, which could take a few years due to poor recruiting from Willingham.

The next coach will need to inspire a sagging fan base during an economic downturn to invest in a massive and necessary renovation of Husky Stadium.

The city of Seattle also needs something to get excited about.

With the Sonics bolting for Oklahoma City, the Mariners in disarray and the Seahawks sagging even in the milquetoast NFC West, Seattle is hungry for some good sports news.

The Huskies used to be the team that most reliably carried the winning banner, and they were always the team that generated the most passion -- and that includes hate coming from the city's Washington State minority.

Husky Stadium use to be one of the nation's most feared venues. Under Willingham, the Huskies have lost 13 of their last 15 home games.

In recent years, it wasn't just that Huskies fans felt frustration and even anger over the downturn. It was that some were turning away from the program.

The next Huskies coach needs to immediately inspire hope. And then he needs to win.

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