Football: Bears legend Russell White named commissioner of the Oakland Athletic League

Ex-Cal star running back Russell White just took on a very tough job: He is the new commissioner of the Oakland Athletic League.

The OAL is one of the nation’s most storied public high school leagues, with alums that include Bill Russell, Frank Robinson, Curt Flood, Joe Morgan, Rickey Henderson and Gary Payton.

But the six-team league struggles with finances and dwindling enrollments. Private schools take many of Oakland’s elite student-athletes these days, coaches come and go and facilities are sub-par.

In White, who coached football the past two seasons at Castlemont High in the OAL, the league got a man who has faced challenges and overcome obstacles.

One of the nation’s elite high school running back prospects, White was a non-academic qualifier out of Crespi-Encino. Cal, to its credit, took a chance on him. White sat out his freshman season to focus on academics, then stunned everyone by graduating in four years.

He did so perhaps to his own detriment, as his NFL draft stock slipped by his senior season. But White was determined to show he belonged at one of the nation’s top public universities, so he made graduating his No. 1 priority.

“Hopefully people will know that Russell White wasn’t the smartest guy in high school, but he figured it out,” White told our Jimmy Durkin.

And White more than lived up to his reputation on the field, too. He rushed for at least 1,000 yards in all three of his seasons, and returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown against Miami the first time he touched the football in Memorial Stadium.

He still holds Cal’s career records with 3,367 rushing yards and 35 rushing touchdowns.

Jeff Faraudo