Clardy's Corner - 9/17

Just in case we haven't made a big enough deal yet about Stanford playing their first away game this weekend, Mr. Clardy brings us his weekly column with the open road on his mind. This will be Stanford's first time to play in Provo, and we'll all learn something. But what do we know about the other familiar haunts in the Pac-10 and which do we actually like to visit?

Years ago, the great Willie Nelson sang of going "On the Road Again." That's a tune that will be getting some heavy play on Stanford football's jukebox over the next few weeks. Cardinalmaniacs will have plenty of chances to make like Deadheads and follow Stanford on the road. A plane ride to Seattle and the annual caravan to La-La Land await, but this weekend the Card begin their road slate in Provo.

Provo. Hmmmm. Okay, so it's not South Bend. It's not Chestnut Hill or Madison. But Provo is still Stanford football's most exotic road trip this year. That is, if you can call a place that's even blander than Saskatchewan exotic.

In any case, it's time for Stanford football to take to the road. And what a road it is for the traveling party. I don't get to join them for every road trip, but I love traveling with Stanford football. It's all business. You get on the bus, you roll straight up to the plane (at least you did in the old days before the new security measures), you get on the plane, you take off, you land, you get on the bus, you go to the hotel, you wake up the next morning, you get on the bus, you go to the stadium, you watch the game, you get on the bus, you get on the plane, and you're out of there. If you ever get a chance to travel with any sports team that uses charters, do it. You get spoiled very, very quickly.

And since Stanford is beginning their back-to-back-to-back road trip, it seems as if now is as good a time as any to rate the usual Stanford football destinations…

Washington State. Remember that scene in "Rocky 4" when the crew lands in Russia and they're standing at the top of the stairs and the snow is falling and they're all looking around and wondering, "where the hell are we?" It's kinda like that when the team plane lands in Lewiston, Idaho, about 30 miles south of Pullman. And since Pullman doesn't have a hotel large enough to house a football traveling party, the team has to bunk down in neighboring Moscow, Idaho. The name of the town describes it all. Great hash browns at the hotel restaurant/truck stop, though.

Bottom line: the Palouse is pretty in a remote and desolate kind of way, but no one looks forward to making that trip. Unfortunately, Stanford will have to for the next three seasons.

Washington. What's there to dislike here? Seattle is a vibrant, though traffic-choked city, and the scenery can rival the Bay Area's. The usual team hotel in Bellevue is quite nice, and the drive on gameday over the floating bridge to Husky Stadium is pretty cool. In fact, Stanford football trips to Seattle are usually great ones. That is, until gametime. But we won't talk about that…

Oregon/Oregon State. Since the team flies into and stays in Eugene whether the Cardinal's opponent is the Ducks or the Beavers, it's virtually the same trip. Eugene is the Pac-10's prototypical college town, even if some are wondering if their football program is taking things to excess (more on this probably in a later column). A very serviceable mall sits next door to the team hotel, a nice place that Stanford will visit twice later this season. I actually enjoy the bus ride to Corvallis; whether I enjoy the bus ride back to Eugene largely depends on Stanford's results at Reser. In all, a fine trip to make.

U$C/UCLA. Same metro area, but different experiences. You get much more of a sense of Los Angeles when the team plays at U$C, as Stanford flies into LAX, sits on the 405 for a little bit, and stays in a Century City hotel (which sits next door to the "Die Hard" tower). Heading to South Central the next day is a downer, but what better way to encapsulate the L.A. experience?

Stanford gets a more suburban experience when a trip to UCLA is on the schedule. The team flies into Burbank airport, which is about as retro as you can get as far as airports go. The hotel is either in downtown Pasadena or in Glendale, which sits next door. Not much seems to happen in Glendale, but downtown Pasadena is active, yet laid-back. Of course, the capper to that trip is a visit to the Rose Bowl, which is always special no matter what time of year it is.

Arizona State. This isn't my favorite place to visit. The area is just too sprawled out, and the press box is 97 miles above the field. Oh, and then there's the 178-degree heat. Not good times. Downtown Tempe is hopping, and side trips to Scottsdale are always pretty cool, but outside of that, I can't find too many things to recommend about the Valley of the Sun.

Arizona. I actually like Tucson more than the Phoenix area. It seems to be a little bit cooler, like 174 degrees. It's a bit more compact, and it's also pretty laid-back. It's not the easiest place to book flights to, and the only thing that's special about the stadium is that the McKale Center is about a block away, but finding tickets on gameday is never a problem. Especially now.

Now for some places I'd love to see Stanford play…

Michigan. How cool would it be to see Stanford in The Big House, playing in front of 111 zillion people? And sorry, Notre Dame fans, but "Hail to the Victors" is a better fight song.

Oklahoma. Personal reasons here, being the Sooner State native that I am. The whole state oozes college football, and the pinnacle of it all is gameday in Norman. It's really a sight to see, especially now. And who knows…maybe Stanford can channel the ghosts of their Elway-led upset of the Sooners in 1980…

Anywhere in the SEC. Well, almost anywhere. I could do without a visit to Mississippi. But could you imagine gameday in Athens? Or Tuscaloosa? Or Knoxville? Some of us probably wouldn't survive a gameday in Baton Rouge. 

Yes, they won't be playing at home for the next four weekends, but when it comes to Stanford football, I can't wait to get on the road again!


RANDOM PAC-10 THOUGHTS

Not the best weekend to be forced to watch everyone else play on TV. Sure there was one great game (NC State-Ohio State), but there were a whole bunch of clunkers, too…

The ultimate stinker was Illinois-UCLA. Good God. How far did that game set college football back?

While ABC was broadcasting that snoozer, things weren't much better on TBS. Um, Arizona is bad. Real bad. There's just no other way to spin it…

Shhhh…don't look now, but here comes Reggie Bush

Another valiant comeback, but another tough loss for cal. I think the key play in that game was the final play in the first half. The Bears were down, 21-7, but they had the ball at the Utah 33 with nine seconds and one timeout to go. Aaron Rodgers dropped back, but his first option wasn't open. But instead of throwing the ball away and giving cal a chance at a long field goal, Rodgers held the ball, looked off two other guys, then threw short to RB J.J. Arrington. By then there was virtually no time on the clock. Even worse, Arrington had to scamper a few yards to get a first down, and the half expired. It was a little play, but it ended up being a big play down the stretch, as that missed scoring chance came back to haunt them…

I know there's still a lot of football left, and the Pac-10 season hasn't really started yet, but can I rescind my prediction of Wazzu finishing eighth in the conference? No? Oh well…

Not a Pac-10 thought, but…is it me or does North Carolina State's T.A. McClendon look just like Earnest Byner back in his Browns days?

Let's see…Michigan at Oregon, New Mexico at Washington State, Stanford at BYU, UCLA at Oklahoma, Boise State at Oregon State, Arizona State at Iowa, and cal at Illinois? All on the same day? Methinks we're going to learn a lot about the Pac-10 this weekend…


E-MAILBAG

Robert from parts unknown writes:

"I think you missed the mark badly last week when you addressed the recent behavioral lapses by coaches like Price…What do these clowns like Price and Harrick do to prepare these kids for life after sport?…Do you really think it is unreasonable for the schools to have a morals clause with respect to employees whose earnings are probably 7x to 10x a professor's salary? I think not.

I think you blew it in trying to lower the bar. Guys like Willingham who win on the field and teach manners, interview skills, and resume writing are the bench mark that should be used in the evaluation of coaches in college athletics. Compensation packages should reflect the results achieved by the truly superior performers who are adequately serving all of the participants in their organization."

Good points, Robert, and I appreciate you taking time out to drop them on me.

And in an ideal world, coaches would be measured by how many players they graduate and the number of good citizens they produce. But unfortunately, that's not how it works. The ultimate measure of success in coaching is wins. If I'm an AD and my football coach has graduated every last one of his players in a four-year period, but he's only won ten games in that same four-year period (which would most likely cause alumni and booster donations to plummet and corporate sponsors to pull out), I'm sorry, but I can't let him stick around.

The only other reason why I'd let a coach go is if his conduct inherently jeopardizes his ability to gameplan, recruit, relate to his players, and oversee the day-to-day operations of his program. Mike Price's conduct didn't even jeopardize his ability to play golf the next morning. Whether he actually played well might be a different story, though.

Got a thought on this column or on Stanford sports? E-mail me at gocardinal@knbr.com! The ones I like best will end up in next week's E-Mailbag…

 

Troy Clardy is a reporter for the Stanford Cardinal Farm Report, which airs Saturday mornings at 8:30 on Fox Sports Bay Area.


Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our website, as well as our full-length feature articles in our glossy magazine. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up) and The Bootleg Magazine (sign-up)!


The Bootleg Top Stories