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Aliotti gets nod for his candor

Oregon assistant Nick Aliotti doesn’t get an award for being the smartest guy behind a mike. (Associated Press)
Oregon assistant Nick Aliotti doesn’t get an award for being the smartest guy behind a mike. (Associated Press)

A Grip on Sports

Monday: There was an awful, awful movie in the 1970s (based on an equally melodramatic book) from which the catchphrase “love means never having to say you’re sorry” became part of the lexicon. What a bunch of hogwash.

As John Lennon once said, love means saying you’re sorry about every five minutes. I’m more in that camp. But want more proof?

Just ask Nick Aliotti, the defensive coordinator at Oregon.

Everyone in the Pac-12 loves each other, don’t you know? And everyone respects each other. At least that is the public line spewed forth from the marketing guys. So when someone  says something stupid, as Aliotti did Saturday night, when he  criticized Mike Leach for, you know, still trying to win a game down to the final seconds, it’s important for them to  backtrack immediately. As Aliotti did Sunday.

There is no way major college football coaches should ever, God forbid, let the public know a lot of them don’t like each other, either for personal or professional reasons. They must make nice for public consumption.

Now I don’t know if that’s the case between Aliotti and Mike Leach, or if what Oregon said yesterday, that Aliotti just got caught up in the heat of the postgame moment. Whatever the reason, the statement was, on its face, just plain stupid. But it was refreshing Aliotti said it. He actually shared with everyone how he felt. And there is no need to apologize for that.

Wednesday: There was a headline in one of the papers I perused this morning saying something to the effect the Miami Hurricanes received a fair but harsh penalty from the NCAA.


If you  read the hundreds of pages in the NCAA report, it’s pretty clear Miami received a more-than-fair, something-less-than-harsh punishment yesterday. And that USC’s near death-penalty was vindictive on the NCAA’s part.

You can compare the two if you like, because I won’t. There is no comparison. The Trojans had a couple of stars earn some extra benefits from agents or street agents. The largesse received by the NCAA’s main villain, Reggie Bush, actually went to his parents, when they were helped into a new home in the San Diego area. All with the expectation Bush would sign with an agent. He didn’t and thus began the Trojans descent into the fifth circle of Hell.

The Hurricanes, on the other hand, were in the pocket of a criminal mastermind. The president, the athletic director (Paul Dee, who oversaw the USC case while Nevin Shapiro was  handing out $1,000 handshakes back in Miami), the entire athletic department cozied up to a crook who was handing out money (and other benefits) to football and basketball players (the pictures of Shapiro with the powers that be in Miami are extraordinary, especially the one with president Donna Shalala in a bowling alley).

Shapiro has said he “invested” about a million dollars in the program, the NCAA was able to account for about a tenth of that, but that’s enough. The athletic department probably should have been shut down. Instead, the football team loses nine scholarships – less than one-third what USC lost – and the basketball team three more – that’s more like it – along with other penalties. But the Hurricanes, who self-imposed a bowl ban while the case was being investigated, can move forward now. For USC, the wounds still fester. 

Sunday: Washington State lost to the second-ranked Oregon Ducks 62-38 last night in a matchup that was, for the second consecutive year, close at halftime.

WSU junior quarterback Connor Halliday had set an NCAA FBS record for pass attempts with 89. He had tied the classification’s completion mark with 58. And he had broken school and Pac-12 records with 557 yards, throwing for four touchdowns along the way. But he also tossed four interceptions?

Does Halliday make mistakes? Heck, yes. Anyone who drops back to pass 94 times – as Halliday did last night, being sacked four times and scrambling once – will make a bad decision or three.

Halliday was ticked after the game, saying he’s trying everything they can think off to limit the mistakes and it hasn’t worked yet – but it does put them in context. There is one other thing to put into context. At 4-4, the Cougars still must win two more games to get back to the Promised Land, a bowl game. Can they do it? The way Halliday throws the ball, they could easily go 4-0 down the stretch. Or 0-4. That reflects, in part, Leach’s philosophy. And the rebuilding process.

So does 89 pass attempts. Win or lose, it won’t be boring.


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