Almost as soon as California head coach Sonny Dykes hit the podium on Friday night, following the Bears' 52-49 double-overtime win over Oregon, his thoughts turned towards the fact that his team would have to play USC, in six days, for the second straight week on a weeknight. He was less than enthused.
"I don't think it's right for these players to miss school," Dykes said. "We're asking our players to do things we don't believe in."
Dykes and his staff have elevated Cal's academic progress rate to heretofore unseen heights -- a 997 as of last spring -- through a comprehensive study and class checking system. It was a mandate when he took the job in December of 2012 to fix the plummeting numbers which saw the Bears ranked worse than Arizona State, at the bottom of the conference, in APR, and graduating players.
He added to those grievances on Tuesday during his weekly press conference.
"It’s one of those deals where you go, ‘How in the world could this ever happen? How could somebody let this happen?’" Dykes said. "We’re in the middle of midterms. A lot of guys had midterms last week, and I thought most of our players are done, but it turns out we’ve got quite a few that have them this week. So, we don’t normally practice on Monday. Monday’s normally an academic day for our players. We had to practice yesterday."
Cal's Monday practice ended at 7 p.m., with most players leaving the facility around 8:30.
"The thing that is hard about us is that’s when our players have all of their study groups, study sessions, afternoon classes, all that type of thing, so the general idea at first was to practice early in the morning on Monday, and then I was concerned about weather," Dykes said. "We have all these guys that ride scooters, I didn’t want guys on scooters at 4 a.m., on wet roads, trying to get here for practice. I was concerned about that, so we moved practice to last night, and we quite frankly had a number of players that couldn’t participate in practice because of study groups or studying for midterms."
In the middle of all of this television obeisance when it comes to scheduling college football games are the players, including Melquise Stovall.
The freshman -- at one time a commit to Thursday's opponents, the Trojans, before the staff reneged on a "mutual agreement, an understanding," to let him play in the slot and at running back as an offensive athlete, in favor of having him strictly play running back -- had been working for three days on a presentation for his freshman seminar, but computer problem in class on Wednesday -- his initial slot -- forced him to flip with a classmate, for a Friday, 11 a.m.
"He hit me up early that week and told me he had a presentation he had to make, so we had to arrange transportation from the hotel over here, that allowed him to do his presentation, allowed him to get back over there," said inside receivers coach Jacob Peeler. "That morning, we had meetings, and at breakfast, he had his iPad and was getting ready for his presentation, so I know he was preparing that whole morning. We had some different meetings throughout the day, and I kind of adjusted for his schedule, a little bit."
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1721099-davis-webb-breaks-...So, he dutifully woke up at the team hotel, and, during breakfast, worked on polishing up the presentation -- which he had already finished -- for his Native American Studies Freshman Seminar 90 class, before catching a ride to campus.
"Honestly, I didn't change anything on it; it was more so for me to go over it, making sure I memorized the slides for myself, so I could look up at the class while I was doing it," Stovall said.
Stovall demurs when presented with the idea that he is the face for why these mid-week games are a strain on the 'student' part of student-athlete.
"I mean, I knew coming in that school was going to be hard, and that it was going to be my main focus," Stovall said. "Football and school go hand-in-hand here. You've got to get schooling done. It's something that I really had to get done."
Stovall presented for 40 minutes in front of his 20-person class -- Native American Studies Freshman Seminar 90. The presentation, in Native American Studies, was focused on the Prairie Chicken Dance of the Nez Perce Indians.
"It's me going through the reading with the class, breaking down what my main points from the reading were," Stovall said. "I found out what Prairie Chicken Dancing was, chickens doing their mating call on the booming grounds -- a large field of grass."
Stovall had plenty of open grass last week against the Ducks, but he could have used a few extra feet, as his leaping one-handed catch out of the back right corner of the end zone came mere inches from being a touchdown.
Stovall finished the evening with six catches for 35 yards, but still, his acrobatics had Peeler hoping for a few more presentations in Stovall's near future.
"I'll make him do that every week, keep him occupied during the day a little bit," Peeler joked.
Luckily for Stovall, his midterms begin next week, starting on Monday, but there are more than a few other Bears who still have midterms this week.
"We had players, last week, on game day, that left the hotel that had to go do academic presentations," Dykes said. "Clearly, it's not ideal to play mid-week games. The thing about it is, our institution is different than other Pac-12 institutions. Our guys are in class every day. It's different here than it is other places."