Tuesdays for me usually begin with a late-morning conference call with other ESPN Radio producers and some of our college football talent. We usually put our heads together, share notes on how the previous weekend went, get gameplans going for the weekend ahead, and kick around various topics and ideas. This week was no different, but two of the "news-and-notes" items we all discussed especially caught my attention.
The first was a quote from Illinois head coach Ron Zook, who had some praise for the suddenly resurgent Rutgers Scarlet Knights: "We're a program that was maybe where Rutgers was four or five years ago, and obviously we want to get to the level where they're at."
Zook actually made that statement (presumably with a straight face) three weeks ago, but I first heard it during Tuesday morning's conference call, and I nearly spat out my apple-cranberry juice when I heard it. Sure, the Illini have fallen on very hard times lately, and yes, Rutgers is ranked in the polls for the first time since the Mesozoic Era. But still… Illinois? Wanting to be like Rutgers?
The amazing thing is, right now, Rutgers' program is better than the one that's in Champaign. So, if you think about it, Zook's quote really isn't that far off-base. It still doesn't make it any less amazing when you read it.
(By the way, Rutgers is ranked in the college football polls… and the Miami Hurricanes are not. What is this world coming to?)
One other topic we discussed that made me do a double-take involved Harvard football. Yes, Harvard football was actually discussed during a college football conference call. I'll get to the exact reason why in a moment.
You don't have to be a member of the Stanford community to know that there are many comparisons between the academic institutions in Palo Alto and Cambridge. And rightfully so. Stanford is, simply put, the best and greatest school on the planet. Harvard has firmly established itself as the "Stanford of the East."
Both schools are identified and represented by shades of red, with Stanford's cardinal and Harvard's crimson. Both schools are responsible for producing countless future world leaders, prominent thinkers, and other movers and shakers.
Both schools have also had some embarrassing moments. Stanford's closet has its skeletons, perhaps most notably the "indirect cost" scandal that rocked the campus in the early ‘90s. Harvard's moment of infamy came when it served as the location for Soul Man, the ‘80s movie that ended C. Thomas Howell and Rae Dawn Chong's careers simultaneously.
Despite their apparent similarities, some want Stanford to be more like Harvard, especially in the Admissions Department. Never mind that much of Stanford's appeal as a student body is that it seems to be so much more well-rounded than Harvard's students. For some, the type of kid that goes to Harvard to study and shiver should be exactly the same type of kid that should be let behind the Eucalyptus Curtain.
And now, with Stanford's struggles on the football field so far this year, some think that Stanford should be more like Harvard on the athletics front as well. More than a few Cardinalmaniacs™ seem to be saying to themselves, "Why should Stanford keep trying to compete in the Pac-10? If the folks in Admissions are going to keep tightening the requirements so we can be more like Harvard, let's just do the same thing in athletics and be done with it."
There is that fraction of people out there who think that since Stanford is trying to compete only with Harvard for students, then Stanford should only compete with the likes of Harvard on the football field. Surely that would make Stanford's problems in football go away, right? Surely, Harvard football can't have its own problems and controversies, right? After all, Harvard's already 2-0 this season.
Which brings us back to my Tuesday morning conference call, and why we were talking about Harvard football in the first place. Crimson football has been in the news a lot lately, and much of it hasn't been good.
In late spring, a backup tight end and a defensive back got involved in a physical altercation with a shuttle bus driver. That same night, in a separate incident, an offensive lineman was arrested and accused of stealing gloves from an ambulance. The tight end and the defensive back were suspended for Harvard's home opener; the tight end later quit the team. Charges against the lineman were dropped.
But wait… there's more. In June, Harvard's all-league linebacker and team captain was arrested for breaking and entering, destruction of property, and allegedly committing assault and battery on his ex-girlfriend. He was eventually dismissed from the team.
But wait… there's more. Before the season began, the team's projected starting quarterback was suspended for five games for an unspecified violation of team rules.
But wait… there's even more. And of all the incidents involving Crimson players, this one is the most bizarre. Before the season opener, the team held its traditional Skit Night, in which players perform skits and impersonate fellow players and coaches. Many teams do this as a team-bonding exercise (Stanford used to do something like this during Big Game week… I'm not sure if that's still the case).
One of the evening's performers, a senior wide receiver, did a one-man recital of 20 reasons why Harvard's program will never rise to Division 1-A status. Reportedly, the skit was done in tongue-in-cheek fashion, and its content was nowhere near as offensive as some of the other skits, accounts of which would not be suitable for a family website like TheBootleg.com.
The other players didn't seem to have a problem with the skit. Crimson head coach Tim Murphy didn't share the players' opinion. The very next day, Murphy kicked the player off the team.
This past weekend, Murphy explained that the player was dismissed "because of a mean-spirited attack on the training staff, coaching staff, players, strength coaches and Harvard University in general." Murphy also announced that Skit Night would no longer be a team-bonding tradition at Harvard. That whole sequence nearly sparked a mutiny on the team and made Harvard's laundry list of embarrassing incidents even longer.
So, to those who think Stanford needs to be more like Harvard, both academically and athletically, I say this: be careful what you ask for… you just might get it.
RANDOM PAC-10 THOUGHTS
Did I see this right? Did Stanford really punt on a 3rd down against the Cougars last week? Sigh…
The game wasn't on TV, so I didn't get a chance to see it. I did check out the Seattle Times' photo gallery of that game, though. Of the gallery's eight pictures, five of them depicted Trent Edwards being sacked, hit, or otherwise harassed by the Coug defense. But again, the stadium looked pretty!
Great game between the Huskies and the Bruins last week… and another big win for UW. The Huskies' offense took control of this game in the second half because they went to a quicker tempo. Washington looked like the Oakland Raiders in the first half; they had their quarterback take deep drops, hold on to the ball, and get smothered by the opposing pass rush. Bruin defensive end Bruce Davis was destroying the Huskies in the first half. But the moment Isaiah Stanback started using quicker drops and quicker throws, the Huskies offense jumpstarted into a whole new gear. Huskies wide receiver Sonny Shackelford made some great plays, too…
Of course, it also helped that the Bruins spent most of the first half settling for three points instead of getting touchdowns. UCLA left the door open, and the Huskies walked through it…
If the Huskies continue to do well and they start making more TV appearances, keep an eye on senior linebacker Scott White. I was impressed with his efforts in a losing cause against Stanford back in 2004, and it looks like he's back playing at that level again…
Here's a "what-if" question I forgot to put into last week's Corner… what if the NCAA throws the book at U$C as a result of the Reggie Bush scandal? What if U$C gets slapped with severe sanctions, even the death penalty? In that highly unlikely event, I think the Pac-10 should hold a dispersal draft of U$C's players. How cool would that be? Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen striding up to the podium and announcing, "…With the first pick in the U$C Dispersal Draft… the Stanford Cardinal select… Dwayne Jarrett… wide receiver… the Washington State Cougars are now on the clock…" Seriously, though, what one player from U$C's roster would you take for Stanford?
Then again, Dwayne Jarrett wouldn't do Stanford much good right now. After all, the Cardinal already have the market cornered on injured receivers…
Not a Pac-10 thought, but… never thought I'd be happy to see a gallon of gas go for $2.51. Heck, I never thought I'd see a gallon of gas go for $2.51 ever again…
Not a Pac-10 thought, but… has anyone ever seen Al Davis and Jerry Lee Lewis in the same room together? I'm just saying…
CLARDY'S CORNER INBOX
Plenty of good e-mails in the Inbox this week…but only one makes the cut.
John in Santa Barbara had a "what-if" question: "What if George O'Leary had remained head coach at Notre Dame?"
That's a fun one… and, I think, a fairly easy one. Stanford would have had another good season in 2002. Maybe not quite as good as the 2001 season, but, with Chris Lewis and Teyo Johnson playing for a coach they believed in, they would have gone to a bowl. Then, Tyrone Willingham would have left for another opportunity somewhere else. After that, who knows what would have happened? But whether George O'Leary had stayed at Notre Dame or not, I don't think Tyrone would have still been on The Farm by the 2003 season.
Oregon @ Arizona State. Thanks to their collapse last week at cal, this game will decide whether the Sun Devils can stay with the Pac-10's big boys or not. I think A-State will have better results this week, and I think it's possible that this one could come down to the wire. But I also think the Ducks' offense will be the main difference here against an exposed Sun Devil defense. I like Oregon by 11.
U$C @ Washington State. The Trojans don't have a fully healthy Dwayne Jarrett. Their offense struggled against Arizona. And they're headed to the Palouse, where anything can happen… and it usually does. I have a funny feeling about this game. Funny enough to pick the Cougars? No, I like U$C by 10. But the Cougs might give the Trojans a game here.
Washington @ Arizona. The grumblings have begun about the Wildcats offense, both inside and outside of Arizona's locker room. Wildcat players hinted that they weren't too happy with some of the conservative playcalling against U$C. Still, I think this game comes down to Arizona's defense. If they can stop Isaiah Stanback, Sonny Shackelford, and the rest of that crew, I think Arizona gets an advantage. That's why I like Arizona by 4.
Last week and this year: 2-1 (straight-up), 1-2 (ATS).
Last year: 22-10 (straight-up), 15-17 (ATS).
Got a thought on this column, on Stanford sports, or anything else in general? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and the best e-mails will be answered in next week's Clardy's Corner Inbox!
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)!