A GRIP ON SPORTS
While watching the rain fall on the Pac-12 championship game last night, a thought popped into my mind. So I checked out the statistics. And what I found made me sad. Read on.
• The rain wasn't the only thing falling on the wet grass at Stanford on Friday night. It was accompanied by the usual Pac-12 quota of yellow flags. In other words, a lot of flags. Something us Pac-12 observers have become used to, maybe even inured to. But let me backtrack a bit. While watching the Florida/Florida State game last weekend, there were two obvious helmet-to-helmet hits, one coming on the game-turning fumble. But neither of which were called. I was shocked. I ran them back on my DVR and yep, helmet-to-helmet contact. Both hits would have drawn flags in the Pac-12, one of which might have even been accompanied by an ejection. But nothing. Now back to last night. As Stanford and UCLA battled on the wet turf (after having been on that field during a downpour, I can only imagine what the field, kept green – in more ways than one – with recycled water, must have smelled like; it certainly wasn't pretty the day I was there) it seemed to me there were a lot of flags thrown. Not a lot for a Pac-12 game, mind you, but a lot for the recent college football games I've been watching on TV. So I decided to check the statistics. And guess what? Yep, Pac-12 officials are flag-happy. That's not to say they aren't calling the game the right way, it's just a way of saying the conference's officials throw more penalty flags than their brethren around the nation. How do I know? It's simple. Look at the NCAA statistics for penalties per game. Ranked 120th (and last) with the most penalties per contest is UCLA, averaging 9.67 going into Friday night's game. But the Bruins aren't alone. At 119 is Washington. Two spots above is California. Oregon, the best team on the West Coast and quite possibly in the nation, is at 115. USC is 113. That's five of the eight most penalized teams in the nation. But that's not all. Eleven of the Pac-12 schools are in the bottom half of the national statistics. Only Arizona State, the 15th most-penalized team, is an outlier in that regard. (If you're wondering, WSU is tied at 101, with 7.25 penalties per game.) Why? There can really only be one of two explanations. One is Pac-12 teams all commit way too many penalties. At least 11 of the 12 like to push the boundaries – way to go Todd Graham and ASU, the class of the league after finishing 120th last season when Dennis Erickson was coach – and are caught too often with their hands in the cookie jar, or facemask, or on a pass receiver too early. After all, the only other explanation is the Pac-12 officials love to throw flags. That can't be true, can it? Not under this new regime in the league office, with new official coordinators, new high-profile folks advising the league and a new commissioner who is dedicated to making everything in the conference the best it can be. There is no way the Pac-12 officials are flag-happy, is there?
• Washington State: The Cougars host Portland tonight and Christian Caple has this advance in the paper. He also has more basketball news in his morning blog post. ... Ki-Ki Moore had 27 points and six steals against her old school as Fresno State defeated the WSU women.
• Gonzaga: The Bulldogs host Pacific tonight in what will be a conference contest next season. This year it is just Bob Thomason's swan song, as the long-time Pacific coach is retiring at the end of the season. John Blanchette has more in this column. Maybe tomorrow I'll share my stories from covering Pacific back in its PCAA days, when Stan Morrison was the Tigers coach. Yes, that was long time ago. ... Jim Meehan took a look back the the LCSC game on the blog. ... The GU women will host a family reunion of sorts on Sunday and Chris Derrick has the story.
• EWU: A big day in Cheney today, with Eastern Washington hosting Wagner in the FCS playoffs. Jim Allen is all over the game with this advance. He was also all over Reese Court last night, talking with the Eagle basketball players (above) after their win over Cal State Fullerton. ... Freelancer Howie Stalwick has this feature on EWU safety Jeff Minnerly in the Tacoma News Tribune.
• Idaho: As the Vandals search for a new football coach goes on, two teams that are leaving the WAC have happier problems. Utah State coach Gary Andersen announced yesterday he's not going anywhere while San Jose State found out which bowl it will be playing in.
• Whitworth: The Pirates host UC Santa Cruz, the school with the second-best nickname in America, this evening.
• Preps: As football season cools down, basketball season begins to heat up. ... Lind-Ritzville/Sprague, the last area school still playing football, powered its way to the 2B title last night in Tacoma. ... Today is the day we preview boys basketball in Eastern Washington, with this roundup of all the leagues, a Greg Lee feature on U-Hi's Brett Bailey (pictured, No. 22) and his look at the Greater Spokane League. ... At "The Fitz," the local basketball tournament honoring former GU coach Dan Fitzgerald, Mead battled back for a win over Lake Stevens, a game that kicks off our boys roundup. ... Here's our girls roundup.
• Mariners: The final days of offseason roster manipulation can get a little crazy around major league baseball, but the Mariners took it to new heights yesterday. ... The winter meetings loom for a M's team that faces challenges.
• Well, it's finally the weekend. It seemed to take forever to get here. Enjoy it. Even if it's raining where you are (as it is here). Until later ...