Mike Leach Favors Cougars

I was a Mike Leach fan long before Craig James took the helm of the mothership and got Leach fired from the head coaching job at Texas Tech. I think I first learned about Leach through an interview on Jim Rome’s radio show and was hooked by his deadpan demeanor and the facts that he has a law degree from Pepperdine and kept an automatronic pirate-skelleton in his office. I’m not even a pirate guy, but the random, dry sense of humor, and the nonchalance with which he carried on his job as a successful college football coach of one of the highest-flying offenses in the nation all combined to hit me just right.

When Leach finally landed his next coaching job, Washington State plainly had gotten a real steal, and though his tone of voice would never betray it, it appears that Leach has embraced his new home as well. From an interview posted yesterday on SB Nation’s WSU site:

Jim Moore: In a battle to the death among Pac-12 mascots, which animal or person wins?

Mike Leach: The Cougar absolutely. Let’s go through this a little bit. A cougar obviously kills a duck and a beaver. A cougar against a husky … that’s pretty well a massacre. A cardinal or whatever: I don’t know exactly what a cougar would either climb it or I wouldn’t want to think of what else he’d do on it. Now Golden Bears could be kinda tough. I think you’d want to be a little fast and loose with them. You don’t want to get caught by that bear. The Ute … you gotta dodge some arrowheads, but I still like the Cougar. Buffalo … I think the buffalo would be pretty tough to beat. Wildcat: Cougars are bigger than wildcats. Sun Devils, that’s mythical anyway. Trojans, they may be as well. I think you gotta look out for the Bruins and the Buffalo. The Golden Bear, Bruin and Buffalo .. I think those are the tough ones.

Moore: Why the Buffalo?

Leach: Do you want to fight a buffalo? I don’t know, those buffalo are big. You know, buffalo are significantly bigger than elk. I grew up near Yellowstone so I’ve been near buffalo. Buffalo are huge. And then the other thing I’ve always gotten a kick out of: When you play Colorado, there’s those buffalo dragging those six handlers around. Those handlers aren’t dragging the buffalo. The buffalo’s dragging him.

Ralphie’s not even a big buffalo. Ralphie pulls those people wherever he wants to.

More on the interview, including audio, is available here.

At the very least, Leach gives WAZZU fans a reason to believe they can climb out of the Pacific Twelve basement and the rest of us a reason to watch that miserable conference.

LaMichael James, Tom Petty, and the Heisman Trophy

Two years ago, Wall Street Journal entertainment writer John Jurgensen wrote a retrospective on Tom Petty. The musician certainly wasn’t finished, but the then-upcoming release of a career-spanning anthology provided the occasion to look back and consider his legacy. The thesis of the piece was that, in terms of legacy, Petty was too good for his own good. Somehow, because he has been so popular and successful for so long, people almost lose track of him and forget to list him when discussing the great rock and rollers of the period.

An analogous narrative may apply to Oregon running back LaMichael James. The thought came to me while listening to the most recent episode of The Solid Verbal podcast on the Grantland Network. Ty Hildenbrandt casually referenced James’ numbers in Saturday’s Pacific Twelve championship game: 219 yards, 3 touchdowns, 8.8 yards/carry. Hildenbrandt’s co-host and acknowledged Oregon homer Dan Rubenstein appropriately led the show into a discussion of the James’ absurd statistical output and the casual response it generally receives. Indeed, the Heisman Trophy finalists were announced this week, and James’ name was not among them.

There are plenty of reasons why people may not bat an eye at James and his numbers– he plays on the West Coast, in Oregon’s offensive system, and has been doing so for a long time in relative terms (and he’s only a junior, which, along with the existence of a strong field of contenders, may help to explain his omission from the Heisman list this year)– but one can strum up plenty of reasons for Petty’s treatment in the popular realm too– he isn’t a flashy guitar shredder, his voice isn’t inherently iconic, he didn’t have a mega-hit of temporal cultural relevance, he’s kinda goofy-looking. Yet Jurgensen’s too-good-for-his-own-good thesis applies equally to both men. Indeed, these listed reasons really aren’t exceptions to the overarching notion; the fact that they are good or at least debatable factors tends to support it.

I don’t think that familiarity always breeds contempt. In the case of Petty and James, the combination of familiarity and success appear to breed forgettableness.

Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

USA Today does its best to disentangle the World Wide Leader’s role in the current conference realignment mess:

For all that ESPN has lent to the growth of major-college athletics — through on-air exposure and with rights-fees payouts that schools have fed into stadium improvements, luxurious locker rooms and huge contracts for top coaches — there’s an undercurrent of concern about the influence of the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader in Sports.

It’s not just that its tentacles are everywhere: They’re everywhere at once.

As a TV rights holder, ESPN is a business partner to a wide array of conferences and schools (its total college outlay will average more than $700 million annually by next year).

And as a leading broadcast, print and online news outlet, ESPN also reports the news it’s often a party to making.

Although I wish it delved more deeply into the ethical/journalistic issues involved in ESPN reporting on events that it has a substantial financial and controlling interest in, the article is still a great read.

Why don’t the Colts pick up David Garrard?

Rotoworld reports:

Colts not going after David Garrard –

The Colts have not contacted free agent QB David Garrard. With the inept Kerry Collins being evaluated for a concussion and Peyton Manning (neck) likely out for the season, Colts fans are clamoring for an addition. But the team might be best off going with Collins and Curtis Painter, thus entering themselves in the Suck for Luck sweepstakes. The Colts have not shown any interest in Kurt Warner or Marc Bulger either, although they are both retired anyway.

I was thinking last night that Indy should make a move for Garrard, whom Jacksonville almost certainly shouldn’t have let go. They probably will have to lose every game– something of which they’re undoubtedly capable– to get Andrew Luck, but it still is amazing to think that a team like the Colts would even be in a position where flushing a season looked like the team’s best (and possibly only) option. Keep reading…

The Pacific Twelve will not expand, cannot explain why, and will regret and later reverse this decision

As beautifully reported last night, the recently-expanded Pacific Twelve Conference declared it will expand no more. While commodawg recently wrote that I have made some “preposterous suggestions” on this site (a not wholly inaccurate suggestion itself), I am going to register a prediction on this issue. First, though, I have to thank commodawg for discussing and linking to the only sampling of the written word ever to speak of the major Western conference as the “Pacific 12.” That’s on par with “Philip Jackson,” and the only place to go from there is “Pacific Twelve,” so here we are.

Before this year, the Pacific Twelve was the Pac 10. The conference added consistent football juggernauts Colorado and Utah to make a non-baker’s dozen. In reality, the Buffs and Utes are anything but (no matter what Senator Hatch says), which is what makes yesterday’s statement confusing. The flailing Big XII’s national powerhouses, Texas (to my surprise) and Oklahoma, were making comparatively overt, public ovations to the Pacific Twelve, and it was the acts and statements of these schools that triggered the no-expansion announcement. Why they would not want these two programs, though, is beyond me.

I haven’t engaged in the rumor-mongering that’s been flooding the webwaves these past weeks and months, but it’s hard to disagree with the view that we’re going to end up with four sixteen-school superconferences. Once the SEC, Big Ten, and whatever survives out of the ACC and Big East each amass sixteen members, the Pacific Twelve will wish really bad that they’d become the Pacific 14 in 2011 by adding Texas and Oklahoma. In fact, they could have led the way by also taking Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, schools thought to be politically tied to their in-state counterparts, to become the first sixteen-school major conference. Their non-expansionist foreign-conference policy might make Ron Paul happy on some micro level, but in the next round of major conference realignment, the Pacific Twelve will 1) join in the expansion; 2) wish they already had as members these two major programs because there aren’t any better options and those are two excellent options anyway; and 3) solicit their membership if Texas and Oklahoma aren’t already gone to another conference.