No GameDay

Greetings, everyone. I’m on vacation right now but I know there is a lot of interest in this so I thought I’d provide an update: ESPN’s GameDay is NOT coming to Berkeley for the Cal-Tennessee game on Sept. 1. As had been speculated, the network has decided to set up camp at Virginia Tech, instead. Obviously, it’s a way for ESPN to capture what should be an emotional day in the first football game since the university’s shooting massacre.

One interesting sidebar: ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit will be on site in Blacksburg, Va. for GameDay then immediately hop on a plane and fly to the Bay Area to call the Tennessee game.

For those who are disappointed, there likely is still hope. Cal’s game against USC on Nov. 10 figures to shape up as a biggie, and it’s already been selected as ABC’s Saturday night Game of the Week. It seems there would be a good chance GameDay would be here for that one.

On another note, in case you missed it, a time has been set for the Cal-Louisiana Tech game on Sept. 15: It will begin at 3:30 p.m. and air on Comcast Sports Net.


A prognosis with Hardin

Now that DeVon Hardin has returned to Cal, just how good will the Bears be next season? Probably pretty good. The only problem is they will be playing in arguably the toughest conference in the nation.

Six Pac-10 teams went to the NCAA Tournament last season, and all six of those teams are almost locks to return next season. UCLA, Washington State, Oregon and USC all likely will be preseason top 25 teams. Stanford and Arizona very well could be also.

Washington lost Spencer Hawes to the NBA draft but still has a strong nucleus of young talent, so the Huskies should be more relevant once again. And although Arizona State finished in last place, it lost several close games and has a strong recruiting class coming in for 2007-08. Really, it looks as though Oregon State is the only team that won’t be much of a threat.

If the Pac-10 can get more than six teams into next year’s NCAA Tournament, Cal could be a strong contender. No player will benefit more from Hardin’s return than sophomore Ryan Anderson, who was the team’s leading scorer and rebounder last season despite getting absolutely no help inside. With Jordan Wilkes and Jamal Boykin coming off the bench, the Bears will have one of the deepest front courts on the West Coast.

Hardin’s presence should alleviate some of the suffocating double-teams Anderson was subjected to last season. Anderson exhibited a variety of ways to score as a freshman and could have a huge year. Pac-10 Player of the Year honors wouldn’t be a stretch.

Another thing Cal has going for them is sophomore wing Patrick Christopher, who played well at the end of last season and should enter this year with a lot of confidence. He should assume the starting role at shooting guard in light of the departure of Omar Wilkes.

Cal’s biggest question will be at point guard, where either Nikola Knezevic or Jerome Randle will replace four-year starter Ayinde Ubaka. Randle was hot and cold last year as a freshman while Knezevic, also a sophomore, sat out the season with a knee injury.


Perspective on HPC

A colleague of mine was surprised when I told him that Cal’s proposed high-performance center will put the school in the middle of the pack as far as quality of athletic facilities in the Pac-10. That, at least, is according to Sandy Barbour. Barbour told me that she thinks there is a perception that the school is building a “bells and whistles” building, but she says that simply isn’t true. Barbour said right now the school “ranks near the bottom in terms of training and medical facilities for student-athletes” and the proposed facility, in essense, is Cal’s attempt to keep up with the Joneses.


DeVon Hardin

The reason DeVon Hardin made the right decision to come back to Cal isn’t because he didn’t feel like he could be guaranteed a first-round pick. It’s because it’s the best thing for the long-term prognosis of his professional career.

The truth is, there is a good chance Hardin would have been a first-round pick, and earn the guaranteed money that comes along with it. But he is far from making a meaningful contribution to an NBA team. Teams are in love with his combination of strength and athleticism, but chances are he would have been viewed as a project and languished on the bench or sent to the developmental league early on.

How many times have we seen players in that position never make anything of their NBA career? Yes, Jamal Sampson has been able to hang around the league and probably is living a nice life even if he’s making the minimum salary, but the guess here is he would have made much more of an impact in the NBA had he stayed at Cal a little longer.

During the first two years of his Cal career, Hardin’s strengths were always his physical gifts. As a sophomore, he had to defer to Leon Powe so we didn’t get to see what he could truly do, especially on the offensive end. Last season was supposed to be the year we really saw what Hardin was capable of, but a foot injury limited him to just 11 games.

Truth be told, even in those 11 games, Hardin didn’t demonstrate the skill level required to make an impact in the NBA right away. He had his moments, just like he did earlier in his career, but never showed that he could consistently be productive. Despite that, he may have been a top-20 pick in this year’s draft.

Now imagine if Hardin is able to produce this season. He’ll be teamed up with a deep corps of big men, including returning leading scorer and rebounder Ryan Anderson, 7-foot center Jordan Wilkes and Duke transfer Jamal Boykin. If Hardin can demonstrate he’s NBA-ready, who knows how high he may go in the 2008 draft? Just moving into the lottery might be an understatement.


Trial update

We finally have a date for the trial regarding the high-performance center and Memorial Stadium renovation. It’s Sept. 19. Judge Barbara Miller, who issued the injunction preventing Cal from breaking ground on the project, will preside.


Allison Stokke

Today’s story on Allison Stokke has produced a significant amount of reaction from readers. Some believe the story just adds to the problem, that it simply increases the amount of unwanted attention she is getting.

Believe me, don’t think that didn’t cross my mind as I worked on the story.

I knew there would be some people out there that would be interested in googling her name or finding her pictures on the internet after reading the story. I wish that wasn’t the case but I know it is. But I hope the majority of our readers will interpret the story for what it is — the university that we cover is welcoming this high-profile athlete on campus, and how the situation is being handled.

As our Cal beat writer, I didn’t feel like I could ignore Stokke’s impending arrival on campus. For better or worse, she has some name recognition now, just like Natalie Coughlin and Leon Powe did when they got to Cal. The reason for her celebrity is both unique and disturbing, and I didn’t treat that cavalierly.

While one could make the argument that the story will bring Stokke more undesired attention, could it also serve some good? Perhaps stories like this will make people more aware of the pitfalls of the internet, so the next Allison Stokke won’t be subjected to it.

I don’t want our readers to think that we decided to do this story without any thought of the implications. I acknowledged my concern about the potential negative ramifications with my editors and we discussed it. But as a newspaper, it is our job to report what is newsworthy. We arguably cover Cal athletics as thoroughly as anyone, and the fact that Stokke is coming to Cal is a significant story.

Perhaps the reaction would have been less had we not run any photos of Stokke, or not as big. But as our sports editor Tom Barnidge points out, it wouldn’t make sense to not run a photo when a big part of the story is how Stokke’s looks has attracted such a following. And I didn’t think it was a photo that was in poor taste or was manipulated somehow. It was simply a shot from her at the state track meet in Sacramento a couple of weeks ago, where, by the way, anybody could have attended and seen her for themselves. In fact, the state track meet is attended by thousands every year.

For the record, I did have a brief conversation with Stokke’s father, Allan. He told me that he isn’t really worried about Allison; just that the experience has been a “nuisance,” in his words. He was well-aware that I was working on this story and even helped me by explaining how he contacted Cal in preparation for Allison’s arrival. Granted, he still probably would have preffered the story not be done. But he also seemed to understand that I had a job to do, especially when I explained that I cover Cal and was more interested in writing from that perspective — what will it be like when she gets on campus.

Other stories that have been written have gone much deeper into the specifics of the internet exploits of Stokke. My intent was to give some general background but focus on the Cal side of things. You’ll notice that the only quotes in the story are from Cal folks.

I hope this story will promote sympathy and awareness, not more Google searches. That was my intent, at least.



Updated TV lineup

To clarify any confusion, Versus is available on regular basic expanded cable in most areas on Comcast. For those who have Astound, you need digital cable to get Versus.

Cal announced Thursday that this season’s Big Game at Stanford will air on Versus on Dec. 1 at 4 p.m. That was one of three dates that were set. Six of the Bears’ 12 games now have times and TV arrangements. Here is an update:

Sept. 1 vs. Tennessee: 5 p.m., ABC
Sept. 8 at Colorado State: 11 a.m., CSTV
Oct. 27: at Arizona State, 7 p.m., Fox Sports Net
Nov. 3: vs. Washington State, 7 p.m., Fox Sports Net
Nov. 10: vs. USC, 5 p.m., ABC
Dec. 1 at Stanford, 4 p.m., Versus


Where they stand

For those who didn’t see it, the Sporting News ranked Cal at No. 12 in its preseason poll. Here is a quick recap of the preseason rankings the Bears have earned so far:

ESPN.com: No. 9
Athlon: No. 11
The Sporting News: No. 12
Lindy’s: No. 12
CBS Sportsline: No. 16
College Football News: No. 18
Sports Illustrated: No. 20


A Cal fan’s fantasy

I had a chance to stop by the “Men’s Huddle” on Saturday. Pretty good stuff. There were about 75 fans there, and the coaching staff tried to emulate the program as much as possible. When I got there, the fans were in offensive and defensive meetings with the coaches. They put in plays, watched film, etc.

The highlight was putting the fans through pregame rituals. Linebacker Greg Van Housen gathered the fans together in the Big Game Room, where the team meets just before running through the tunnel prior to kickoff. He got them fired up and jumping up and down before heading to the tunnel in a frenzy. They burst onto the field with the Cal fight song playing, running through the steam machine right at the mouth of the tunnel like the players do.

Before the meetings, fans went through fundamental drills and had lunch. After running through the tunnel, they went through pre-game stretching, with Jeff Tedford administering high-fives to every participant. Then they broke off by position for pre-game drills.

There were several players on hand helping out, including Nate Longshore, Justin Forsett, Lavelle Hawkins, Mike Gibson, Craig Stevens, Rulon Davis, Thomas DeCoud and Syd’Quad Thompson. I’m sure there were others but I wasn’t there the whole time. Also, former players like Nick Harris and Troy Taylor were on hand.

All in all, looked like a pretty good event. The fans seemed pretty into it, and the coaches and players looked as though they were having fun with it as well.