A GRIP ON SPORTS • UPDATED: 11:55 A.M.
Today is not what you would call a compelling sports day. Really. Caught in the malaise that is post Super Bowl week, the sporting world took 24 hours to catch its breath. Sort of. Read on.
• Yes, yesterday was quite quiet. But in a sense, it's just the calm before the storm. And by storm, I mean a gale, though spelled a bit differently. Yes, on Thursday night St. Mary's blows into the Mac to play Gonzaga and, as Spokane sporting events go, this one will be pretty big. The undefeated (in conference) Gaels. The 16th-ranked Gaels. The team Gonzaga is chasing for the WCC top spot in a do-or-forget-about-it game. It is one of those games for which a ticket is almost Willy Wonka-like. It's golden. ... But that isn't everything that's going on in the area this week. Tonight at the Spokane Arena, Central Valley tries to clinch the Greater Spokane League regular-season basketball title when the Bears meet University. It's at the Arena because it's the Stinky Sneaker spirit game as well, a game that draws too large a crowd for either of the school's gyms. And Wednesday the Arena hosts the granddaddy of the spirit games, the Rubber Chicken. ... So yesterday was just a calming, respite of a day.
• Of course, nothing is ever that easy. As Christian Caple writes in this blog post and story, Washington State junior-to-be linebacker C.J. Mizell got into some hot water over the weekend, allegedly confronting someone at the entrance to a frat party and ultimately getting arrested by the Pullman police. Thoughts immediately turned to whether-or-not new coach Mike Leach would pull the plug on Mizell's checkered WSU career. After all, there have been some on-field incidents with the former coaching staff – if Paul Wulff had been retained for a fifth year, I know for a fact Mizell would no longer be a member of the team after pulling himself out of last year's Apple Cup – and now an off-field problem, something that Leach can't be too happy about. But as I read Leach – literally, as in his book – getting into a fight isn't one of his third rails. It leads to some tough-to-stomach physical workouts as punishment, but not immediate ejection on its own. Now it's not known beforehand whether a player, in this case Mizell, wants to endure such punishment or just wants to pull up stakes, so we'll have to watch this play out.
• UPDATE: Now we know the answer to our question. A media release from WSU spokesman Bill Stevens: "Washington State University Head Football Coach Mike Leach said Tuesday that sophomore linebacker C.J. Mizell is not being retained for violation of team policy. Last season Mizell played in 10 games, recording 56 tackles, three sacks and two fumble recoveries." Short and to the point.
• Gonzaga: We mentioned Thursday's game above, and Jim Meehan builds on that with this notebook feature on the freshmen guard's playing time on Monday. ... The Gaels' ranking is their highest from the Associated Press since 1959. Hey, I was just a pup then.
• Washington State: Other than Christian's police reporting, there is nothing from Pullman. But there are a couple WSU and/or Pac-12-related items I want to pass along. ... The first is a small firestorm over Ryan Leaf's comments in Indianapolis over the weekend in which he called former San Diego Charger – and current Oregon State – head coach Mike Riley an "idiot." That unfortunate choice of words led to ESPN.com's Ted Miller writing this piece, which led to this post on CougCenter from Jeff Nusser. OK, I'm going play Mills Lane here and ask everyone to go to their corner and take a breath. ... Speaking of needing a referee, Bud Withers writes about a team that may demand a bit more policing and game that may not have. ... Then there is this piece from ESPN.com on Connor Halliday's performance against Arizona State last year. ... The Sporting News rates the best staff changes made in college football's offseason. Washington is No. 1, but the Huskies probably clinched that honor the day they said goodbye to Nick Holt. ... One last link. Former Cougar John Allen is playing well at Western Washington.
• Idaho: Josh Wright notes there still is no official movement on the Vandals' assistant coaching front (maybe that's why SN didn't have them in the top five) but summarizes what's happened thus far.
• Eastern Washington: Listened to Jim Hayford on the coach's show last night and he spoke at length about the recent benchings of leading scorer Colin Chiverton. It doesn't sound as if the junior is on permanent double-secret probation. ... Jim Allen has more on the Eagles in this blog post from yesterday. ... And Dave Trimmer catches up with my favorite Eastern hoop player from the early 1980s.
• Whitworth: One thing to pass along about the Pirates and its swimming program from Jim Allen. ... There is also a big Tacoma basketball showdown tonight between PLU and Puget Sound and the News Tribune has this story.
• Chiefs: A crowd of 3,506 showed up in the Arena last night – will the prep game tonight surpass that? – to watch a tired Spokane team grind out a 7-3 win over Seattle. Jess Brown has the coverage.
• Mariners: The M's picked up a couple arms on Monday, both of which are a bit of a gamble – though one more than the other. But the upside is pretty darn high. Just might be the crucial step needed for a .500 season (and yes, we are being a bit sarcastic). ... Even the Mariners' spring training schedule is travel-heavy.
• That's our post for this morning. We'll be on the radio today (you can listen here at 3 p.m.) before we head over to the Arena to cover high school hoops. By the way, your favorite Super Bowl commercial thus far? The big dog, his owner and the Doritos. Until later ...