Pac-12 media day: Commissioner Larry Scott optimistic about future of college athletics

Two days after Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby outlined a grim future for college athletics, his Pac-12 counterpart painted a very different picture.

“While we’ve heard some doomsday and some threats over the last week, I am very confident and optimistic about where college sports is going,” Pac-12 commission Larry Scott said Wednesday during the league’s football media day at Paramount Studios in Hollywood.

Scott touted the presidents and chancellors of the Pac-12 for advancing an agenda intended to “bring college sports into the modern era.” He said he embraces proposed reforms that include promoting student-athlete health and welfare, integrating them more broadly into campus life and providing them greater financial support.”

Bowlsby, the former Stanford athletic director, warned that the NCAA’s enforcement staff is toothless to halt cheating and that “a strange environment” featuring lawsuits by former athletes threatens college sports.

He argued against unionization of college athletics and said paying athletes could spell the end of many Olympic-sport programs.

Scott doesn’t envision such a bleak horizon.

“We know there are some significant challenges out there, and we know it’s time to make significant changes,” he said. “Today requires that we do more for student-athletes who work so hard to find balance for their passions for their sport while still wanting to get an education.”

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Basketball: Cal’s Roger Moute a Bidias selected to Pac-12 all-star squad for summer trip to China

Cal sophomore forward Roger Moute a Bidias has been chosen to participate with a Pac-12 Conference all-star squad on a four-game tour of China, beginning Aug. 10.

Utah’s Larry Krystkowiak will coach the Pac-12 team, featuring 13 players from 10 different conference schools. The tour is part of the Pac-12’s Globilization Initiative.

Moute a Bidias played sparingly for Cal last season as a true freshman.

Other players on the Pac-12 squad include Utah forward Jordan Loveridge (14.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg), Colorado forward Xavier Johnson (12.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg), Washington guard Andrew Andrews (12.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg) and Washington State guard DaVonte Lacy (19.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg).

The Pac-12 squad will play one game against a Chinese university all-star team and play three vs. Chinese professional teams, including one against the Shanghai Sharks. The Shanghai franchise is owned by former eight-time NBA all-star Yao Ming and features former Cal center Max Zhang.


Evaluating the Pac-12 presidents’ proposals

The Pac-12 presidents covered a lot of territory in their proposals for NCAA changes outlined in a letter sent to their counterparts of the four other major football-playing conferences.

Some good ideas, a few that need substantial detail, and at least one that ain’t happening. Here’s my reaction:

— Permit institutions to make scholarship awards up to the full cost of attendance.

Reaction: That’s right, full scholarships do not necessarily– and in most cases don’t — cover the full cost of a student attending a school. Especially for kids whose families don’t have a lot of resources, this is an issue. There is plenty of money available at the big schools, no matter what anyone says, and this is right and reasonable.

— Provide reasonable ongoing medical or insurance assistance for student-athletes who suffer an incapacitating injury in competition or practice. Continue efforts to reduce the incidence of disabling injury.

Reaction: It’s unthinkable this is not standard procedure. Should be at the top of the list.

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Pac-12 presidents call for sweeping NCAA reform, including stipends, conference autonomy

The Pac-12 presidents have sent a letter to their counterparts at the four other major football conferences, asking for substantial changes to the way the NCAA functions, including stipends for athletes, better medical coverage and autonomy for the leagues.

The letter, obtained by the Associated Press, said the league’s 12 presidents were unanimous in their endorsement of the sweeping changes.

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Basketball: Two weeks to go, little resolved

There are two weeks left in the Pac-12 regular-season race and although Arizona appears to have a firm grip on first place, there are critical issues left unsettled.

The top four finishers earn first-round byes in the Pac-12 tournament and at least five more teams have legitimate designs on those spots.

“With the four games left,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said, “some people have tougher jobs than others, but eveyrone’s got a chance.”

Here’s a look at the upper half of the conference and what lies ahead for each team:

* ARIZONA (12-2, 25-2)
vs. Cal, Wednesday, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)
vs. Stanford, Sunday, 5 p.m. (ESPNU)
at Oregon State, Wednesday, March 5, 8 p.m. (FoxSports1)
at Oregon, Saturday, March 8, 1 p.m. (CBS)

* UCLA (10-4, 21-6)
vs. Oregon, Thursday, 8 p.m. (FoxSports1)
vs. Oregon State, Sunday, 6 p.m. (FoxSports1)
at Washington, Thursday, March 6, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)
at Washington State, Saturday, March 8, 8 p.m. (FoxSports1)

* CAL (9-5, 18-9)
at Arizona, Wednesday, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)
at Arizona State, Saturday, 3 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)
vs. Utah, Wednesday, March 5, 8 p.m. (ESPNU)
vs. Colorado, Saturday, March 8, 3:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)

* STANFORD (9-5, 18-8)
at Arizona State, Wednesday, 8 p.m. (ESPNU)
at Arizona, Sunday, 5 p.m. (ESPNU)
vs. Colorado, Wednesday, March 5, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)
vs. Utah, Saturday, March 8, 11:30 a.m. (Pac-12 Networks)

* COLORADO (9-6, 20-8)
at Utah, Saturday, 11 a.m. (Pac-12 Networks)
at Stanford, Wednesday, March 5, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)
at Cal, Saturday, March 8, 3:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)

* ARIZONA STATE (8-6, 19-8)
vs. Stanford, Wednesday, 8 p.m. (ESPNU)
vs. Cal, Saturday, 3 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)
at Oregon, Tuesday, March 4, 8 p.m. (FoxSports1)
at Oregon State, Saturday, March 8, 1:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)


Basketball: Dave Butler to Pac-12 Hall of Honor

Dave Butler, a four-year (1983-86) starting forward who helped Cal to its first postseason bid in 26 seasons, will be inducted into the Pac-12 Basketball Hall of Honor on March 14 during the conference tournament at Las Vegas.

Butler still ranks 19th on Cal’s career scoring list (1,291 points) and sixth in rebounding (814). He was Pac-10 Freshman of the Year in 1983 and led the Bears in rebounding three times.

He still holds the Cal record of 113 career starts and set single-game school marks of 20 free throws made and 24 attempts against Arizona State in 1987.

Butler and the Bears ended a 26-year postseason drought with an NIT appearance in 1986, and they returned the next year, advancing to the tournament’s quarterfinals.

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Basketball: UCLA tips off big week for Bears

With three weeks left in the Pac-12 regular season, the possibilities for the Cal and Stanford men’s basketball teams seem to be growing, not shrinking.

For Cal (18-7, 8-4), tied for third with Arizona State after a road sweep in Washington, there suddenly is a path opening to the conference championship.

And for Stanford (16-8, 7-5), still residing in the upper division of a conference getting increased respect from the bracketology crowd, the road to its first NCAA tournament bid in six seasons has become less cluttered.

But it all starts this week with UCLA.

The 23rd-ranked Bruins (20-5, 9-3) visit Cal on Wednesday and Stanford on Saturday. UCLA was impressive in beating both Bay Area schools in Los Angeles a month ago, but has shown vulnerability on the road in losses at Utah and Oregon State.

If the Bears or Cardinal can hold serve at home, the race at the top tightens.

Cal’s win over then-unbeaten Arizona demonstrated the Bears can play with anyone in the Pac-12, when properly inspired. They should be plenty motivated against UCLA, given what’s at stake.

Click here to read the rest of my college basketball column.


Basketball: Pac-12 ready for Round 2

Here’s a look at what’s ahead as teams prepare to begin the second round of the Pac-12 schedule, with each team’s conference record in parenthesis:

1. ARIZONA (8-1)

The Wildcats looked invincible until coming to the Bay Area last weekend, when they squeaked by Stanford 60-57 and lost at Cal 60-58.

Home games remaining: Oregon, Oregon State, Cal, Stanford.
Road games remaining: Arizona State, Utah, Colorado, Oregon, Oregon State.
Miss: UCLA, USC, Washington, Washington State.

Analysis: Arizona takes a two-game lead into the second go-round, but starting forward Brandon Ashley (foot) is done for the season and the Cats have shown limited depth so far. Plus, there isn’t an automatic road win left on their schedule. They’ll hold onto the regular-season title, but it won’t be a waltz.

2 tie. CAL (6-3)

The Bears have beaten the No. 1 team in the country and lost to the last-place team in the conference. Exactly where they belong on that vast continuum remains to be seen.

Home: Stanford, UCLA, USC, Utah, Colorado.
Road: Washington State, Washington, Arizona, Arizona State.
Miss: Oregon, Oregon State.

Analysis: An important three-game stretch begins Wednesday with a home rematch against Stanford, then a trip to Washington. If the Bears want to set up a big game at Arizona on Feb. 26, they need to win these next three.

2 tie. UCLA (6-3)

Of all the teams I have seen in person against either Cal or Stanford, UCLA was most impressive, in both matchups. They also played Arizona close, then lost at Utah at Oregon State.

Home: Colorado, Utah, Oregon, Oregon State.
Road: USC, Cal, Stanford, Washington, Washington State.
Miss: Arizona, Arizona State.

Analysis: A loss at Oregon State on Super Bowl Sunday is bothersome because the Bruins had been playing at a high level. But that’s the road in any conference. UCLA doesn’t play again vs. Arizona, but its trip to the Bay Area in two weeks will be intriguing.

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Basketball: Cal’s men/women easily the best combination in the Pac-12 so far

Which Pac-12 school has the most successful combination of men’s and women’s basketball programs?

It’s Cal, and so far this season it’s not close.

The Bears’ men and women each are off to 4-0 conference starts for a combined record of 8-0. Next is Stanford, whose women are 4-0 but men are just 2-2.

No school has a bigger disparity between the men and women than Arizona, whose men are No. 1 in the country and 4-0 in the Pac-12, while the women are 0-4.

Here are the combined Pac-12 basketball standings:

Cal: 4-0 + 4-0 = 8-0 
Stanford 4-0 + 2-2 = 6-2 
Arizona St.   2-2 + 3-1 = 5-3
Washington St.  1-4 + 4-0 = 5-4
Arizona 4-0 + 0-4 = 4-4
Colorado 3-1 + 1-3 = 4-4
UCLA  2-1 + 2-3 = 4-4
USC  0-3 + 4-1 = 4-4
Washington  3-2 + 1-3 = 4-5
Oregon St. 1-3 + 2-2 = 3-5
Oregon 1-3 + 0-4 = 1-7
Utah 1-3 + 0-4 = 1-7


Basketball: WSU’s Lacy still out this week

Washington State will be without star guard DaVonte Lacy when it visits the Bay Area this week.

Cougars coach Ken Bone confirmed Tuesday that Lacy remains sidelined another 3 to 5 weeks after tests conducted to assess the progress of a rib cartilage injury he suffered Jan. 5 against Arizona State.

Lacy leads the Cougars in scoring at 17.7 points per game.

It’s been a rough few weeks for the junior guard, who underwent an emergency appendectomy on Dec. 28. He has played briefly in one game since — the ASU contest in which he sustained the rib injury.

WSU (8-8, 1-3 Pac-12) visits Stanford on Wednesday night, then Cal on Saturday afternoon.

The Cougars are averaging just 47.8 points in four Pac-12 games and three times have been held under 50. But they are coming off a 49-46 home victory over Utah.