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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

December 19, 2014 at 11:48 AM

Pelini’s rant, Mariota’s speech, UW/WSU props and more . . .

Been engulfed in a bowl preview piece recently that ran in the Friday paper, plus a few other things, so there’s been limited time to catch up on several recent events:

Pelini trashes the joint on the way out: If you haven’t listened to Bo Pelini’s parting thank-you to Nebraska — a bootleg tape of a conversation with his players after he was fired — you can do it here. Frankly, I don’t know whether to recommend it or not.

It’s an unbelievably crude talk, centered around his non-relationship with athletic director Shawn Eichorst, and a scathing indictment of Bo Pelini. I make mention of it here because Pelini’s successor is Mike Riley, late of Oregon State.

Pelini’s act could negatively impact Riley, who hardly deserves to inherit the divorce brawl between Eichorst and Pelini. For instance, if certain players were tight with Pelini, they might be less inclined to buy into Riley, knowing the firing/hiring was done by Eichorst. Or if you’re a pro-Pelini booster, your suspicion level of the new coach might be greater.

It’s difficult to see how this helps Riley in any way. And why Pelini couldn’t have handled the breakup with Eichorst more tactfully with players, only he would know. Wouldn’t it have been enough to say, “Hey, it’s no secret that I could have had a better relationship with the athletic director, but it’s time to move on, and I want you guys to rally behind the new coach and be the best players you can be.”?

Good luck, Bo, explaining this little hitch on your resume when you interview for your next job after Youngstown State.

Mariota leaves ’em crying: When I watched Marcus Mariota’s Heisman speech, candidly, it made me uncomfortable. It’s hard to see a shy person struggling in front of a microphone, especially when the content of the speech renders him emotional.

But Mariota’s heartfelt thanks to his high school in Honolulu, his parents and the Polynesian culture nevertheless left the audience, in person and on TV, touched deeply by his sincerity, and I think his talk will be remembered a long time.

Nowadays, it’s unrealistic and even foolhardy to expect athletes to be as admirable off the field as they are on. But when they are, as in Mariota’s case, it makes the appreciation of the player all the greater.

Mariota’s Heisman prompted Oregon State to run a large advertisement saluting him in the Oregonian. Being skeptical and jaded, I took it two ways: It was no doubt a classy move by the Beavers, and it was a subtle way of saying, hey, way to go — but we also did this 52 years ago (with Terry Baker).

Huskies hog the hardware: As a kid, I always valued the Associated Press All-American team most. It seemed the gold standard — perhaps because there were fewer of them then. But for me, it’s still that way, even though I can’t authoritatively say the AP team is any more legit than the Football Writers team, or the Walter Camp team, or ESPN.com’s.

At any rate, it’s stunning to have three players from one team make the first unit, as Danny Shelton, Hau’oli Kikaha and Shaq Thompson did this week.

Now, about that 8-5 record . . .

Cougars snarling with recruits: No school appears to have benefited more from Riley’s surprise departure from Oregon State than Washington State, which pilfered three of the Beavers’ committed players — including a four-star junior college safety, 6-1, 200-pound Shalom Luani of City College of San Francisco. Also switching allegiances were 6-4, 255-pound Hunter Mattox of Chatsworth, Calif., and 6-0, 180-pound DB Treshon Broughton of Riverside JC.

WSU also gained a commitment this week from four-star outside linebacker recruit Kyahva Tezino of Los Angeles, who had reported multiple offers from Pac-12 schools.

Not that the Cougars needed any defensive help . . .

Two other thoughts: Mike Leach’s staff has done far better than Paul Wulff’s with junior college recruits. In fact, a few of the Leach regime’s JC gets have been some of the best performers in his three-year regime (Justin Sagote, Junior Gauta, Vince Mayle). Hardly any coach prefers the JC route, but if it’s as productive as recently for WSU, the Cougars will be just fine with hitting the “emergency” button.

And secondly, after WSU’s season ended on a downbeat note with Connor Halliday’s injury and a generally forgettable Apple Cup that capped a 3-9 year, the Cougars needed some bright news and they have it. It’s a long way until February signing day, but WSU’s class ranked No. 28 by Scout.com on Friday, and that would be its best in many years.

And some Pac-12 bouquets: The league had a total of eight victories against the Power Five leagues and Notre Dame. By my count, the SEC had five. And that’s (cough, cough) with an extra game by each SEC team out of league.

According to Dave Hirsch of the league office, 14 different Pac-12 players won first-team All-America recognition by one of five major outlets — AP, Walter Camp, Football Writers, Football Coaches, Sporting News. The SEC had 11, Big Ten eight and the ACC and Big 12 had six apiece.

Four teams with nine wins or more — Arizona, ASU, UCLA and Oregon — ties the Pac-12’s record high. USC, Washington and Utah (each with eight wins) have a chance to bump the total to as high as seven.

 

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