Olympic trials: Hardy wins 100 free, Coughlin sneaks onto Olympic roster for relay spot

Ex-Cal star Jessica Hardy won the 100-meter freestyle at the Olympic trials and Natalie Coughlin found a spot on her third Olympic team with a sixth-place finish that earns her a spot in the 400 free relay rotation.

Hardy won in 53.96 seconds, beating Missy Franklin by 0.19 seconds. Coughlin, who earlier missed chances to make the team in the 100 back and 100 butterfly, was sixth in 54.44. Only the top two finishers will swim the 100 free in London, but the top six gain relay spots.

Meanwhile, Cal senior Tom Sheilds was third in the semifinals of the 100 free, clocking 51.89. Michael Phelps, celebrating his 27th birthday, had the fastest qualifying time into Sunday’s final with a 51.35 effort.

Cal grads Anthony Ervin and Nathan Adrian were the two fastest semifinal qualifiers in the 50 free, swimming 21.74 and 21.81, respectively.





Olympic trials: Ex-Golden Bear Nathan Adrian swims to 100 free title and London bid

Cal grad Nathan Adrian, fourth in the 100-meter freestyle at the Olympic swim trials four years ago, posted a victory Friday night at Omaha, Neb., to earn a bid to the London Games.

Adrian won in 48.10 seconds against a field of competitors that included the top five finishers in this event in 2008.

Meanwhile, Cal legend Natalie Coughlin kept alive her hopes of earning a spot in her third Olympics. She was among three ex-Bears who qualified for Saturday’s final in the women’s 100 free.

Coughlin was seventh in the semifinal, swimming 54.48. Jessica Hardy and Dana Vollmer qualified fourth and fifth, swimming 54.27 and 54.43, respectively.

TRACK AND FIELD: Cal grad David Torrence easily qualified into Sunday’s 1,500-meter final at the Olympic trials in Eugene, Ore. Torrence led through much of his slow-paced semifinal before settling for third place in 3:51.43.


Football: The sad story of Steve Hendrickson

Long-time Cal football fans will remember Steve Hendrickson, a ferocious linebacker recruited to Berkeley by Joe Kapp who exceleed on Bruce Snyder’s early teams.

Hendrickson, from Napa, earned Cal’s Joe Roth Award as a senior in 1988, given to the player who exemplifies the “courage, sportsmanship and attitude” ot the late quarterback.

Hendrickson went on to play in the NFL.

Now  45, Hendrickson is suffering the ravages of his football career, including a loss of short-term memory that has led to him being unemployed the past six years and divorced.

From the Napa Register, here’s a terrific but sad and cautionary story on Hendrickson’s decline.


Olympic trials: Leverenz wins 200 IM for second London bid; Cal runners fall short in 5,000 final

Cal’s Caitlin Leverenz earned her second bid to the London Olympics, winning the 200-meter individual medley at the U.S. trials at Omaha, Neb. Leverenz, who earlier won the 400 IM, touched in 2 minutes, 10.22 seconds.

Former Cal star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Nathan Adrian was the fastest qualifier in the 100 freestyle semifinals. Adrian, who won gold in the 100 free at Beijing, swam 48.33 seconds to advance to Friday’s final.

Cal grad Anthony Ervin, who won gold in the 50 free at Athens in 2004, was 13th overall in the 100 free semifinals at 49.46, and did not advance.

Another Cal alum, Dana Vollmer, was third in the 200 free finale, missing an Olympic bid by one spot. She swam 1:57.47 in a race won by Allison Schmitt in an American-record time of 1:54.40. Vollmer already has qualified for the London Games by winning the 100 butterfly.

TRACK AND FIELD: Magdalena Lewy Boulet, the 38-year-old Cal grad and 2008 Olympic marathoner, finished 11th in the 5,000-meter final at the Olympic trials in Eugene, Ore. She ran 15:34.31 to finish two spots ahead of Cal senior-to-be Deborah Maier (15:37.56).

Ex-Cal star David Torrence advanced to the semifinals of the 1,500, finishing second in his heat with a time of 3:41.99.


Football: Keenan Allen healthy and eager; makes fair argument for college players to be paid

Three months after undergoing surgery on his right ankle to repair a pickup basketball injury, Cal preseason All-America wideout Keenan Allen is moving well and excited about a season now just two months away.

I visited with Allen this morning at the Bears’ football offices, and he said his recovery is ahead of schedule.

“My ankle is doing very good. It feels completely normal — it doesn’t have any pain,” he said.

Doctors told him three or four weeks ago he could beginning running straight ahead, without making changes of direction.

“A week and a half ago, I started cutting. That was feeling real good so they said I could start running a little bit of routes,” Allen said.

Cal’s players report to training camp Aug. 3 in preparation for their Sept. 1 opener at renovated Memorial Stadium against Nevada.

“Right now I think I’m back full speed,” he said.

Allen’s only restriction: Basketball.

“I would say (it’s) on hold, not over,” he said of his hoops career. “It’s definitely not going to make me any money.”

Allen likely will be preparing for the NFL by this time next season — he said he only would reeturn for his senior campaign if he’s not going to be a first-round draft pick.

In the meantime, he continues to earn exactly what every other Division I football player does — a full scholarship and not a dime more.

Given the news this week that college football is headed to a four-team playoff following the 2014 season — bringing more money still to the sport — I asked Allen whether it’s time players get a slice of the pie.

“I definitely would like to see college football players get paid,” he said. “I think it would bring another encouragement, motivation to the players. It’s definitely — I wouldn’t say a struggle — but it’s definitely hard. Just going from high school, being with your parents for 18 years, then you come here by yourself and it’s hard to maintain (the standard of living).

“Being paid would definitely be great.”

And perhaps only fair, given that every other participant in college football cashes in on some level.

“On behalf of the guys who have jerseys out there that are being worn, that could be another reason to get paid, too,” Allen suggested.

When I asked if being paid is ever discussed among players, Allen said, “We always talk about it.”

So I asked him how much would be fair or appropriate, and Allen gave it a bit of thought, trying to figure how many games BCS playoff teams could wind up playing (as many as 15, possibly), and came up with a number.

“I would definitely say about $10,000, something like that.” he said. “”Why not? I don’t see what would be wrong with it. I think it is fair.”







Swimming: Another trials miss for Coughlin

Cal legend Natalie Coughlin came up short again Wednesday night at the U.S. Olympic swim trials in Omaha, Neb.

The 29-year-old finished third in the 100-meter backstroke — her signature event — missing a ticket to the London Games by one spot.

Making it a harder swallow still, 17-year-old Missy Franklin won the event in 58.85 seconds — breaking Coughlin’s American and U.S. trials records in the process. Rachel Bootsma, an 18-year-old who will attend Cal beginning next fall, was second in 59.49.

Coughlin, who was seventh in the 100 butterfly final the night before, touched third in this one in 1:00.06 — more than a second slower than she swam four years ago at Beijing, where she defended her Olympic gold medal in the event.

Franklin said she hopes Coughlin still finds her way onto the U.S. team.

“She is my biggest role model. She has accomplished so much,” Franklin told NBC. “She still has so many more shots to make the team. I hope she does because I really would love to be on the team with her.”

Coughlin swim in preliminary heats of the 100 freestyle — her final event — on Friday morning.

Ex-Cal swimmer Jessica Hardy also missed an Olympic bid by one spot, finishing third in the 100 breast in 1:06.53 — a half-second shy of a trip to London.

The news was better for Cal sophomore-to-be Caitlin Leverenz, who had the fastest semifinal time in the 200 individual medley at 2:10.51. The final is Thursday.  On Monday, Leverenz earned a London Olympics bid with a runnerup performance in the 400 IM final.

Dana Vollmer, another ex-Cal star, qualified third into Thursday’s final of the 200 free in 1:57.81.

Tom Shields, star of Cal’s NCAA men’s championship team, had the ninth best time in the semifinals of the 200 butterfly, missing a spot in the final by one place. He swam 1:58.75.



Bears finish 11th in Directors Cup standings

Cal wound up 11th in the final Learfield Sports Directors Cup standings, which rank the nation’s top overall athletic departments based on the performance of 20 men’s and women’s teams.

The Bears were fourth in 2010-11 and ninth in 2009-10.

Stanford won the Cup for the 18th consecutive seasons. UCLA was third and USC seventh.

Other Pac-12 teams: 19. Arizona; 24. Oregon; 30. Arizona State; 31. Washington; 57. Colorado; 66. Oregon State; 74. Utah; 106. Washington State.


Swimming: A tough day for Cal legend Coughlin

Former Cal star Dana Vollmer won the 100-meter butterly at the U.S. Olympic swim trials in Omaha, but 11-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin had a rough day.

Coughlin finished just seventh in the 100 fly — more than a full second out of second place, necessary to earn a bid to the London Games. Vollmer won in 56.50 seconds — just off the American record of 56.42 she set in Monday’s semifinals. Coughlin touched in 58.66.

Perhaps just as telling — Coughlin was just seventh later in the evening in the semifinals of the 100 backstroke, her signature event.

The 29-year-old advanced to Wednesday’s final, but her time of 1:00.63 is far from her four-year-old American record of 58.94.

In the final, Coughlin will chase young talent, starting with 17-year-old Missy Franklin, the fastest semifinal qualifier at 59.06. Rachel Bootsma, 18, was second at 59.10, Olivia Smoliga, 17, next at 59.82, and Elizabeth Pelton, 18, fourth at 1:00.31.

Bootsma and Pelton will swim at Cal as freshmen next season.

Coughlin will test herself against those young swimmers — and father time itself — with an Olympic bid on the line Wednesday night.


Football: BCS presidents announce four-team playoff format beginning with 2014 season

The BCS Presidential Oversight Committee has announced a four-team football playoff system, beginning with the 2014 season.

The 12-year deal means there is little wiggle room in the near future for supporters of either an eight- or 16-team format.

The presidents said the semifinal games will be rotated among six existing bowl games. There was no announcement on which bowls will host the games following the fall season of 2014.

This will mean more money coming from TV and ticket revenue, and will put some additional academic stress on students from the two schools playing an additional game beyond what they would have in the existing BCS bowl system.

Still many questions to be answered:

— How is revenue divided?

— How are the four participants chosen?

— How does this impact the other bowl games?

Your thoughts?