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Grip on Sports: From Hollywood to Sodo to Spokane, today’s subjects are far flung geographically – and in other ways

Washington State head coach Mike Leach speaks at the Pac-12 Conference NCAA college football Media Day in Los Angeles, Wednesday, July 25, 2018. (Jae C. Hong / AP)
Washington State head coach Mike Leach speaks at the Pac-12 Conference NCAA college football Media Day in Los Angeles, Wednesday, July 25, 2018. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Settle in folks. It may be a Thursday in late July, but it isn’t a day to relax around these parts. Way too much news, from Pac-12 football to high school football to Safeco Field, for that. Though, if you love sports, it’s probably just the right amount. Read on.

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• We have three subjects to cover – rant about? – today, but because we have a theatrical flair, we will start in Hollywood. At the Pac-12 football media day.

And, for the first time in years, Mike Leach wasn’t the most-talked-about coach.

Oh sure, the Washington State coach was in the spotlight. He even had one of the best quotes, something about Los Angeles traffic, middle fingers and the oasis that is Pullman. 

But with the Herm Edwards experience underway in Tempe and Chip Kelly returning to the college ranks in Westwood, there were a couple of semi-new faces that seemed more popular.

Kelly has changed. His failed NFL tenure, coupled with a year in the broadcast studio, has mellowed him. At least he was mellower yesterday. The games haven’t started yet. Who’s to say he won’t be more like Chip Kelly, circa 2009, come mid-October.

And Edwards? He’s a bit like a north wind in late September, signaling the weather is changing. There is nothing typical about the Arizona State coach and that’s a good thing. Win or lose, it will be fun to follow what happens with the Sun Devils this season.

If you can. 

Larry Scott, the conference’s commissioner, made his usual presentation and it contained little in the way of new information, despite the changing landscape of the game.

If you want to be a DirecTV customer and remain a Pac-12 fan, it’s pretty difficult. (By the way, I discovered this spring there are some workarounds concerning DirecTV and it not carrying the Pac-12 Networks, but they require a little money, other equipment and probably more knowledge of electronics than many of us possess.) The money gap with other Power 5 conferences is not going away. And Las Vegas will have a bigger football role in the future.

That last also bleeds over into another change, one that Scott, and his peers, are probably working on in the background more than we know. 

Sports gambling is the 3-foot rattlesnake that just escaped its burlap sack, thanks to a recent Supreme Court ruling, and it threatens to bite college athletics’ already vulnerable integrity.

As more and more states try to grab tax revenue related to gambling on sporting events, the pressure to even the playing field will increase, with the hope of keeping the games clean.

One way is to mandate injury reports, making it tougher for a motivated gambler to bribe his or her way into information others don’t have. But many coaches, including Leach and Stanford’s David Shaw, are loath to reveal such information. No matter what reason coaches give, it’s about competitive advantage, something every coach wants to have.

They often fall back on the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act, as if the federal law doesn’t allow them to release information about a player’s health under any circumstances. Heck, Shaw said as much yesterday, after some blather about the player’s right to talk – something I’m sure Shaw would never discourage (cue sarcasm music).

“If there’s something the young man and his family wants to release, that’s up to him. It’s his health. But as far as institutionally talking about a young person’s health, we have HIPAA laws that prohibit that,” he told reporters. “I think it’s wrong, it’s unnecessary, and I think it would be catering towards the gambling and the betting, which we can’t, in my opinion, do that.”

HIPAA laws make health information every individual’s property, to do with as they see fit. They can allow its dissemination anytime they want. That’s true for any college football player as well. 

What’s not clear is whether colleges can mandate release of non-specific health information – for example, “doubtful, lower-body injury” – as part of a scholarship agreement. It’s still unclear and has broader ramifications dealing with employment status, something the NCAA wants to avoid determining at all costs.

• High school football is also in the spotlight today, thanks to the WIAA announcing its football-seeding committees. Our Dave Nichols looked at the list, noticed the same thing we all did and wrote a column about it for this morning’s paper.

The subject: The lack of Eastern Washington representation on the committees. 

In summary, there are few members from east of the Cascades on the three committees that will determine playoff seeding this fall. 

How few? A couple of Central Washington and two Eastern Washington coaches on the 1B/2B committee, one each from those areas on the 1A/2A committee and one athletic director, Mead’s John Barrington, on the 3A/4A committee.

The WIAA’s defense? No one from this side of the state volunteered. And by the time that came to light, it was too late.

Too late? Why? Does the seeding have to be finished by this weekend or something?

Instead of adhering to some artificial deadline, why not slow the process, make some inquiries, twist a couple arms and give the committees some geographical diversity? So you don’t announce them until next month. What’s wrong with that?

• Have you ever rented an apartment or a house? Sure you have. And I’m guessing when the roof needed replacing, you dipped into your own pocket and fixed it, right?

Heck no. That’s the landlord’s job. They own the darn property, not you. And they are responsible for the upkeep. It’s a big reason some folks decide to rent and not buy.

Yet there are those on the King County Council who seem to believe tenants must take care of the maintenance

When the county and the Mariners announced earlier this year they had agreed on an extension of the team’s Safeco Field lease, it was accompanied a day later with the news King County would fund $180 million worth of upkeep on the building over the course of the extension.

It seemed fair. The Mariners don’t own the building, the Public Facilities District created to build and operate the Sodo stadiums does. And the hotel/motel taxes that are paying for it are still going to be collected after Safeco is paid off. But now there is some discussion the money should be spent elsewhere. The M's are saying they won't sign the lease extension without it. 

If the M’s leave the area, the PFD will still own the place. Why not use the 25 percent of the tax money designated by law for “tourism promotion” to keep the building in repair? It’s not all it will need – the official estimate is $300 million – but it goes a long way.

Because there are some who believe the 37.5 percent of the hotel/motel tax already designated for affordable housing isn’t enough. The other 25 percent should be spent on it is well. (The remaining 37.5 percent? That has to be spent, by law, on arts programs.)

What happens to Safeco Field if the Mariners don’t sign the extension, something the team says it will not do if the maintenance money isn’t protected? The M’s say now there is no chance they would leave town. 

But say Portland or somewhere offers the franchise a better deal. Goodbye Seattle. 

And then this beautiful stadium would be empty. Well, possibly not for long. King County could use the $180 million and convert it to affordable housing. 

Of course, it would have to ask the new tenants to pay for the upkeep.

That will surely work.

•••

WSU: I can honestly say Theo Lawson worked harder yesterday at the Pac-12 football media day than I ever did. My goal was two stories, tops, and then a trip to my favorite local hamburger joint. Theo put together a story on how the Tyler Hilinski tragedy was reflected at the media event, the influence former WSU assistants are having around the conference, a Q&A with Leach, a notebook of other subjects and the changing the media landscape. He also had coverage of the conference poll, but we covered that yesterday morning. … The most important question early on: Who will replace Falk

Elsewhere in the Pac-12, Washington is the favorite to win the football title, but the Huskies will have to do it without their best tight end. … Oregon may have the best returning quarterback and one of the best chances to leapfrog UW. … Oregon State is rebuilding under new coach Jonathan Smith. … Stanford has the best returning running back and experience at head coach. … California doesn’t have either of those things and has fewer receivers than it did before summer began. … Utah has earned the respect of other Pac-12 schools. … Colorado has little more than optimism. … It’s not as much about coach Clay Helton this season at USC. It’s more about the players. … Not so at UCLA, where Kelly is the focus. … Same at Arizona State. The Sun Devils have football talent and a media star. … Kevin Sumlin takes over at Arizona but the former Texas A&M coach is down the list of coaches who seem to have the spotlight on them. … The conference is happy about one thing. The games it tried to play quicker actually were quicker.

EWU: Larry Weir’s latest Press Box pod looks at the Eagles chances in the Big Sky football race. … Eastern is playing host to some older athletes this week. Ryan Collingwood has this preview of the USATF Masters Championships. 

Indians: Not only did Dave have a prep-based column, he also has his usual coverage of the Indians. Spokane won 7-1 and remained unbeaten in the second half. … Around the Northwest League, Eugene and Everett scored wins.

Golf: Spokane’s Eric Ansett helped Washington win an amateur title this week. Jim Meehan has all the particulars in this story.

Mariners: All the way down here before we mention the M’s 3-2 win over the Giants yesterday at Safeco. The pitching was excellent and there was just enough hitting. … Dee Gordon hasn’t had the best couple days in the field. … The M’s front office had a response to the Seattle Times story on complaints from female employees almost a decade ago. … Oakland was down to its last strike and yet it won again. Amazing.

Seahawks: Yes, the Earl Thomas situation is important. But so are some other things as preseason camp begins.

Sounders: The new guy scored a goal and Seattle picked up a road win – and three points in the standings – at San Jose.

•••        

• It’s been a long time since it took almost four hours to put together this daily column. It better darn well be a long time until it takes that much time again. Until later … 


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