Posts Tagged ‘Rick Bay’

Steve Fisher has retired as San Diego State basketball coach and it certainly is the right time for his departure.

His final team wasn’t all that good — 19-14 to snap a streak of 11 straight 20-win campaigns — while playing in a Mountain West that was mediocre at best and now firmly entrenched as a one-bid league when it comes to the NCAA Tournament.

Several times this season, I tossed out social media comments that it would be Fab Five Fish’s final season. It just had that feeling about it.

Longtime assistant coach Brian Dutcher — one of the most genuinely nice people in college basketball — takes over the program.

Fisher, 72, went 386-209 in 18 seasons with the Aztecs and posted 12 20-win seasons and led the program to eight NCAA Tournament appearances, including a string of six straight.

Making six straight NCAA Tournament appearances was surreal for a program which was among the worst in the nation when Fisher was hired.

Remember, I was covering that awful program when Fisher was hired and he was far from the preferred target.

I broke the story that then-Utah coach Rick Majerus interviewed for the job and Majerus was close to taking it a few days later before he said no. Fran Fraschilla also was offered the job (nope, I didn’t break that one) as was then-Gonzaga coach Dan Monson (yep, broke that one and was waiting at the airport for his Sunday night flight to arrive and when he didn’t come out of the jet way, I knew that was a problem for San Diego State).

At that point, then-athletic director Rick Bay turned to Fisher, who was desperate to get back into college coaching. He had been fired at Michigan a few years earlier and I still remember how stunned I was upon meeting him that he had gray hair in 1999, just a few years after having a full head of brown hair while coaching the Wolverines.

The Aztecs were putrid in his first season and went 5-23 and then Fisher booted five inherited players off the team to free up scholarships.

Two seasons later, led by junior-college transfer Randy Holcomb, the Aztecs made the NCAA Tournament. Credibility had arrived for a program that previously had none.

Eventually, the 20-win seasons became an annual thing but there was still the matter of the program having ZERO NCAA Tournament wins. And you really don’t have a program if you’ve never won an NCAA Tournament game.

Finally, the Kawhi Leonard-led Aztecs had the best season in program history in 2010-11 with a 34-3 mark — a season that will still be the best in school history in 2117 if the world exists.

San Diego State finally got that elusive NCAA tourney win by beating Northern Colorado and eventually lost in the Sweet 16 to eventual national champion Connecticut. The Aztecs also topped 30 wins when they went 31-5 in 2013-14 and again reached the Sweet 16 before falling to Arizona.

If you haven’t figured it out, 30-win seasons aren’t supposed to be accomplishments achieved by the San Diego States of the college basketball landscape.

Last season’s final hurrah was not a good one for Fisher but he certainly elevated the program to heights nobody foresaw. Dutcher has been his right-hand man for all of those 18 seasons so the program philosophy won’t change.

The challenge for Dutcher is to have last season’s subpar campaign be an aberration. Once programs like San Diego State fall back into being just another mid-major program in a poor basketball league, it becomes harder to rise back up. Isn’t that right, UNLV?

But know this: Dutcher steps into a far better situation than the one Fisher inherited. The days where nobody cared that San Diego State even had a basketball program seems like centuries ago.

It was a good run for Steve Fisher but good for him to recognize that it was time for him to depart.

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There was a memorial service for Joe Paterno on Thursday.

I think that means the former Penn State football coach really has died.

I sure don’t want to rely on CBS Sports or a website called Onward State for corroboration.

Confirmation of a person’s death becomes pretty clear if there’s a lifeless body lying in a casket and family members giving elegant speeches about his impact on their lives.

That wasn’t so easy to figure out last Saturday night when sloppy reporters used the social media outlet Twitter to tell the world that Paterno had died that night.

The folks from Onward State – a Penn State student website – were inaccurate but that didn’t stop the so-called professionals from CBS Sports to pounce on the report and proclaim Paterno dead. Neither report revealed where the information came from and CBS Sports looked pathetic later when it reworked the erroneous report and blamed Onward State for the mistake.

It told us all a lot about the lack of reporting standards and ethics at CBS Sports. People made fun of the network the rest of the night with fake reports combined with the phrase #CBSSPORTSSAYS … that’s beyond embarrassing when the common folks can deliver such humiliation to what is supposed to be a reputable news source.

The confusion last Saturday night finally ceased once Jay Paterno took time away from the hospital bedside vigil to tweet “CBS report is wrong,” and tell everyone that his father was still alive.

Pretty ridiculous that a family member has to deal with something like that when every remaining second of life is so precious at that time.

What Saturday night’s events displayed is that journalism ethics died before Joe Paterno did.

A reporter shouldn’t report anything without attribution and the standard used to be having the information independently verified by multiple sources.

You surely can’t be 90 percent sure that someone like Joe Paterno has passed away. Even 100 percent sure needs to be double-checked in the case of a legendary figure like the winningest college football coach of all time.

With all the scrutiny Paterno has been under due to the child molestation allegations levied at former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, you better be 150 percent sure the man has died before you write a story or put out a 140-character tweet claiming so.

The Paterno thing wasn’t the only black mark on journalism that week. Reporters who cover the Indianapolis Colts claimed Jim Caldwell would remain as the team’s head coach. Once again, there was no attribution to how the information was obtained and no on-the-record club sources.

Guess what happened the following day?

Caldwell was fired.

If your grocery store is out of eggs, that’s because they were needed in Indianapolis – egg all over the face of sloppy reporters not verifying information to the fullest extent.

I personally have a hard time with the sloppy reporting going on. Making it worse is that I have seen real-live reporters blame the immediacy of Twitter for the problem.

Um, who exactly typed in the information? Uh, who is supposed to verify ANYTHING and EVERYTHING they report?

Sounds more to me like the level of journalism has dropped to an all-time low. That has nothing to do with Twitter and has everything do to with a reporter not living up to the standards of the profession.

I don’t understand why any reporter would have different standards for what they post on Twitter than what would run in the morning paper. You would think the standards would be stricter now because your normal every-day person can easily call you out for being wrong.

A decade or so ago, fans had little recourse – the San Diego Union-Tribune erroneously reported that Mike Riley had been hired as San Diego State football coach and it was left up for athletic director Rick Bay to put out a press release saying there was no validity to the report.

Mess up something like that in today’s social-media world and get prepared for a long day of insults and a long night without sleep.

The scrutiny is much higher now.

Too bad the journalistic standards have become much lower.

The famed blue carpet in Boise has a few wrinkles on it these days and is no longer able to hide that Boise State’s athletic program isn’t always so pure and clean.

The athletic director that somebody somewhere determined should be known as “Clean Gene” has been fired. Get this – fired because he apparently isn’t all that clean.

It doesn’t surprise me that NCAA violations and being fired will forever be part of Gene Bleymaier’s legacy. There are so many fakes and frauds in college athletics that the real stunner is when you actually run across an administrator who really is 100 percent honest, ethical and “clean.”

The locals have been insisting to me for years that Boise State does no wrong. I began visiting the spectacular city of Boise in the mid-1990s and have heard over and over how everybody else cheats but not Boise State.

I outlined on these pages back in May how one myopic Boise State fan insisted to me a few years back that successful coach Chris Petersen would never cheat. Of course, the NCAA trouble the university now finds itself in includes many transgressions – minor as they may be – that occurred on Petersen’s watch.

The NCAA determined that Boise State’s athletic department lacks institutional control so it certainly shouldn’t be a stunning development that university president Bob Kustra fired Bleymaier. Even if you have been at a university for nearly 30 years, that’s quite a tough hurdle to overcome.

One of the job descriptions of an athletic director is to be in control of the program he or she oversees. Kustra obviously had lost a lot of confidence in Bleymaier’s abilities to be an effective leader. That was highly evident when Kustra directed the athletic department’s compliance office to report to him as opposed to Bleymaier.

Plus, there has been recent scuttlebutt that Bleymaier might be in trouble with his boss per the NCAA fallout. That’s why Wednesday’s announcement didn’t totally stun me – whispers such as the ones making the rounds usually increase to louder decibels.

Know this too – there are certainly other issues between the two men that aren’t out in the public. When I covered a college athletic program, I heard hundreds of things every month about different programs, coaches, administrators, etc., at other conference schools or at a national level that never reached the public. Some of the stuff would leave you shaking your head.

There are more hypocrite-type Jim Tressels in the college landscape than legitimate good honest folks.

Also, the populace of Boise only knows what gets reported. Let’s just say that the president of UCLA or Michigan couldn’t decide to fire an athletic director and have it somehow stay out of media for six days, as it did in Boise.

When San Diego State fired Ted Tollner as football coach in 2001, I had it leaked to me within minutes of Tollner leaving the office of the athletic director. I knew Tollner had been dismissed before the athletic department’s media relations director.

When Rick Bay was fired as the Aztecs athletic director in 2003, I had published numerous stories over the previous few months that his job was in jeopardy per all the scandals and reported about the growing rift between Bay and president Stephen Weber just days before his firing.

Then not only did I report Bay’s firing hours before the press conference to announce it, I was the only reporter Bay invited to speak to him later that day.

Basically, it appears Boise State has done a solid job of putting up a wall and making most of the media operate as outsiders and not insiders.

That’s a great situation for the university but not a good one for Boise State fans who want to know what exactly is going on at the school they support.

As for Bleymaier, he will forever be famous in Boise for his decision to install Boise State’s blue turf. Switching to a blue field gave Boise State an identity as it took the steps from being a small-college football program to major-college status.

Whether you like or dislike the turf, it helped increase the university’s national profile. Locally, I’m not sure there is any landmark in the city that approaches the field in stature. Visitors to town often stop by the stadium just to see the turf in person.

For the uneducated, nobody drives to the far west edge of Fort Collins, Colo., to take a peek at Colorado State’s football field.

Bleymaier deserves credit for the football program’s rise and now you have to wonder what happens the next time Petersen is intrigued by a job offer.

Petersen nearly took the Stanford job after last season and one of the factors that swayed him to stick around was the presence and support of Bleymaier.

With star quarterback Kellen Moore playing his final season in 2011, it could prove to be quite an interesting winter if Petersen doesn’t believe the new athletic director is fully committed to running a Top 10 football program.

But first, Kustra has to hire a new athletic director. Hopefully the new hire doesn’t have a name that rhymes with “Clean.”

It’s time to accept that there is a “Curse of Marshall Faulk” that is haunting San Diego State.

The evidence has been mounting for a while but Saturday night’s devastating 27-24 loss to Missouri – a game the Aztecs had three-fourths down the bag before allowing a final-minute 68-yard winning touchdown – clinches the deal.

The Curse of Marshall Faulk is indeed real.

A non-football power like San Diego State never gets the chance to have a Marshall Faulk in its program but the Aztecs did in the early 1990s.

And then the Aztecs didn’t take advantage of possessing a once-in-a-lifetime talent. Faulk set records, packed Qualcomm Stadium, got the program’s games on ESPN regularly, rolled up unprecedented yardage totals and should have won a Heisman Trophy (yeah Lee Corso, people are still blaming you for your shameful antics in 1992) and all San Diego State accomplished was one lame Freedom Bowl appearance.

Yes, a bowl game that no longer exists. And the Aztecs got rolled by Tulsa – TULSA! – in that lone bowl game in Faulk’s three seasons on the mesa.

As then-coached Al Luginbill told me several years later, San Diego State wasn’t ready to have a Marshall Faulk-type talent in its program at that time.

Faulk rightfully left for the NFL after his junior season – Luginbill was fired after a 4-0 start in conference play disintegrated with four straight losses into a 6-6 record – and the program has become less and less relevant in San Diego County every single year since. If you need a quiet place to sleep, Qualcomm Stadium while the Aztecs are playing is the perfect place.

No winning seasons since 1998. No bowl games since 1998. No relevancy on the national stage since 1993 – when Faulk left.

But Saturday, San Diego State had a chance to defeat a BCS program for the first time since the late 1990s. Freshman running back Ronnie Hillman rolled up a Faulk-like 228 yards that including touchdown runs of 75 and 93 yards.

Hillman’s latter TD run gave San Diego State a 21-20 lead in the final quarter. The Aztecs tacked on a field goal and intercepted Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert twice in the final five minutes.

But quicker than you say Ty Detmer in 1991 – The Faulk curse might have begun when Detmer rallied Brigham Young from a 28-point third-quarter deficit to a 52-52 tie to cost the Aztecs a conference title – Missouri stole the game.

San Diego State couldn’t run out the clock on offense and Missouri moved 88 yards in two plays and 31 seconds to score the winning touchdown.

Gabbert’s game-winning 68-yard touchdown pass toss to T.J. Moe with 51 seconds left confirms the previously undiagnosed curse.

It was a short pass – a harmless one designed to pick up 10 yards for a Missouri team desperate to move upfield. But a missed tackle was followed up by two defenders colliding into each other and Moe could have walked backwards for the final 53 yards en route to the end zone.

It was the type of play that only happens to San Diego State. Think of some of the near-misses over the years – Andy Trakas missing the short field goal when Faulk ran wild in the tie against USC, the Detmer-led comeback, the 2003 game when San Diego State should have pulled off the upset against Ohio State – and there has to be another factor besides not having finishing ability.

Throw in the 2006 NCAA basketball tournament when San Diego State was finally going to win an NCAA tournament game for the first time in school history. Brandon Heath dribbles the ball off his own calf, ball turned over, Indiana hits game-winning shot. Aztecs are 0-6 in NCAA tourney games after losing to Tennessee this past March.

There has to be a reason for such a long history of underachievement. It can’t all be tied to Rick Bay hiring Tom Craft and Jeff Schemmel hiring Chuck Long. Ted Tollner retiring on the job isn’t the reason either.

There’s a deeper level of reasoning for why San Diego State trips over its feet whenever it has a chance to take a step forward. And it all goes back to the early 1990s.

When you land a Marshall Faulk in your program and fail to take advantage of it, the football gods notice.

Oh, do they notice.

But at least it has now been diagnosed and perhaps San Diego State can someday change its fortune.

The malady is known as the “Curse of Marshall Faulk.”

Oh no, that infamous phrase regarding San Diego State athletics has been uttered again by a new hire.

You know the expression – the one that reminds you of the football program’s underachieving nature and all the untapped potential that supposedly exists when you are a major college entity amid the sunshine in Southern California.

Yeah, that reference to San Diego State being “a sleeping giant.”

Jim Sterk was hired away from Washington State to become San Diego State’s athletic director and Sterk didn’t waste much time digging out that long-used phrase that never seems to come to fruition.

“My peers in the Pac-10, Mountain West and around the country have always referred to San Diego State as a sleeping giant, with just a huge upside,” Sterk was quoted as saying in this Associated Press story: http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2010/feb/16/its-official-sterk-an-aztec/

Of course, no matter how often San Diego State changes up the administration or switches football coaching staffs, the Aztecs continue to be more like a snoozing midget in terms of athletics prowess. The football program last had a winning season in 1998 and the men’s basketball program has never won an NCAA tournament game.

That is a bad one-two combo, one even football player turned MMA fighter Herschel Walker could easily slap away.

So the tradition of the “sleeping giant” has arisen again with the hiring of Sterk, who had been at Washington State since 2000. A cynic might say Sterk will fit in just fine with the Aztecs since the Cougars have gone 3-22 in two seasons since Sterk hired Paul Wulff as football coach.

Even Chuck (not for) Long topped that performance. Long was 9-27 in three seasons before the Aztecs fired him after a 2-10 mark in 2008.

Dropping down from the Pacific-10 to a Mountain West school isn’t usually the direction an athletic director’s job path heads, though it should be noted he’s the second Pac-10 AD to make a similar move in recent months – Jim Livengood went from Arizona to UNLV.

Perhaps Sterk needed an escape route out of Pullman and has done a good job studying climates because he surely hit the location jackpot in moving from the cold, dreary area of the Palouse — yes, I spent a month there one weekend — for the sunshine and beaches of San Diego.

But will his decision-making be so good when it comes to improving the school’s athletic department?

You had to cringe to hear university president Stephen Weber talk about Sterk’s integrity since Weber’s previous athletic director hire, Jeff Schemmel, was forced out due to a lack of integrity (allegedly attempting to be reimbursed for travel while carrying on an extramarital affair).

Schemmel was the second San Diego State AD to exit under scandal in six years — Rick Bay in 2003 was the other. Mike Bohn was the athletic director in between Bay and Schemmel but left for Colorado after 18 months on the job before anyone could fully determine whether he was doing a good or bad job with the program (call that exceptional timing on Bohn’s part).

Only time will tell whether Sterk will get the job done and awake the “sleeping giant.” Football coach Brady Hoke is in his second year on the job and basketball coach Steve Fisher should at least have a chance at scoring an NCAA tournament win as long as freshman phenom Kawhi Leonard remains on campus.

But for now, the term remains the signature reminder of just how underachieving the San Diego State program has traditionally been.