MICHAEL BLACK IN PASADENA
THERE'S NOTHING LIKE third-party support to validate my crimson-colored homerism. A new book is out called "The Worst Calls Ever! The Most Infamous Calls Ever Blown By Referees, Umpires and Other Blind Officials." Right there in black and white on the list of the worst calls in college football's television-age is the vanishing two seconds from the 1998 Rose Bowl Bowl between WSU and Michigan.
For you youngsters in the audience, here's a brief summary of that game: Washington State’s date with destiny came to a halt 26 yards short of the perfect ending when a referee decided not to stop the clock with 2 seconds remaining even though Ryan Leaf clearly spiked the ball in time. And yes, even if the would-be final play had been allowed to happen, the question begs: What are the odds it would have resulted in the Touchdown-Heard-‘Round-the-World?
We’ll never know. And therein resides the justification for the game's inclusion in the book. The vanishing 2-seconds ranks No. 15 on the book's list of worst calls in college football.
The book quotes Leaf as saying the real reason the Cougs lost the game (21-16) was the first-half injury to star running back Michael Black.
The authors, who dub themselves "the keepers of truth and enlightenment," are sportswriter Kyle Garlett and sports commentator Patrick O'Neal. Fittingly, they put a photo of ill-tempered Lou Piniella on the cover.
THE CLEVELAND BROWNS' DECISION to pass on a running back in April's draft, coupled with the fact perennial 1,000-yard rusher Jamal Lewis is entering his eighth season, recently prompted The Sporting News to declare former WSU All-American Jerome Harrison the Browns' running back of the future. His opportunity is golden, TSN writes, despite his size (5-9, 199) and poor blocking skills. They laud his quickness, vision and moves, and say he's working hard to improve his blitz pickup and receiving skills. As a Browns rookie last season, Harrison rushed 20 times for 60 yards and caught 9 balls for 47 yards.
WITH IVORY CLARK off to take his elevated game to the pro ranks (or perhaps to the football field as a tight end for Bill Doba), all eyes seem to be looking toward second-year freshman Thomas Abercrombie, the athletic 6-6 forward from New Zealand, as the guy to step into the breach. He'll no doubt play a big role for the Cougs this season, but he won't be the only one filling Clark's 24 minutes per game.
The coaching staff is expecting a breakout season from junior-to-be Caleb Forrest, a 6-6, 228-pounder from Pagosa Springs, Colo. He's played, mostly sparingly, in 47 games for the Cougs over the last two seasons but did earn four starts as a freshman. He's a tireless worker with a smooth, face-to-the-basket offensive game. He plays solid team defense and has been described by WSU assistant coach Ben Johnson as the squad's best offensive rebounder -- a facet of the game where the Cougs could certainly use a boost.
THE NCAA RULES COMMITTEE last week officially moved the three-point line one-foot father out. It'll now be at 20-feet, 9 inches -- the first time since the arc went into effect in 1986-87 that it hasn't been at 19-feet-9-inches. I've always felt the line was too close, so welcome the change. The new line on the court will be a contrasting color to the current line, which remains unchanged for college women.
This marks one of the few times in the last year where the NCAA made a rules change in a timely way. Last football season, they mandated that lower tees be used on kickoffs, which is all fine and well, but they announced the change right after spring workouts had concluded, squandering a ton of time for kickers to practice with the new teee.
This football season, the NCAA is moving kickoffs from the 35-yard-line back to the 30, just like the NFL. Again, the timing stunk, because the announcement came after letter of intent signing day, thereby precluding teams that could have used one, from recruiting a big leg to accommodate the change. My biggest complaint, though, is that this change simply will result in more injuries. The most violent, bone-jarring moments in a football game are on kickoff returns, and with more kicks now being returned instead of downed, the outcome seems inevitable.
THE FOLKS RUNNING THE Las Vegas Bowl have finally come to their senses. The game will now be played the Saturday before Christmas instead of the Thursday before Christmas. The game features the No. 5 team from the Pac-10 vs. one of the top teams from the Mountain West Conference.
COUGFAN.COM SENIOR editor Barry Bolton broke the story on Oregon prep basketball star Michael Harthun's weekend verbal commitment to Tony Bennett after a visit to Pullman with his parents. But Sean Meagher of OregonLive.com had the best one-liners about Harthun's decision. Wrote Meagher, who is a graduate of the University of Oregon, "Undoubtedly, Harthun chose WSU based heavily on the opportunity to enjoy the National Lentil Festival first hand every year."
He added, "It appears this is the first visit he has taken during his recruitment, and to an 17 year old kid the flashy, bright lights of the big city (Pullman) can be enough to take anyone's breath away ... Things could change if Oregon offers an invitation up to the Eug and Ernie shows up in his $1,000 suit and $500 gators on ..."