Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cal: Really?

To be honest, I thought it was somebody's idea of a joke when I heard that Cal would be playing Presbyterian College in football this coming September. But sadly, it's true.

Perhaps the Golden Bears are a little embarrassed about this: as I write, the Cal athletic department has not officially announced this matchup. But the good folks at Presbyterian have no such reservations; they've already posted their 2011 schedule and the date with Cal (at AT&T Park) is right there between the home games against Wofford and North Greenville and the away games at Furman and Stony Brook.

It's been a rough week around the Cal sports program. First, the fumbled process surrounding the resurrection of three sports and the death sentence for two (including baseball). And now this.

You have to be a seriously blinded-by-blue Bear backer to think it's a good thing for Cal to schedule an FCS (the old Division 1-AA) school with 1200 students from the other side of the continent. Writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, John Crumpacker calls it "one of the most puzzling football scheduling decisions in school history." Crumpacker is pulling his punches here. It's more than puzzling. It's pathetic.

Of course Cal will win this game. But how good will that feel? Go back and read the previous paragraph. Presbyterian College has 1200 students. Heck, aren't there Chem 1-A classes at Cal with that many students?

I'm not naive. I understand the whole business of scheduling "cupcakes" so your big-time program can rack up some wins before facing tougher conference foes. Schools like Nebraska and Alabama have been doing it for years. But at least they have the decency to pick sacrificial lambs with a bit of a fighting pedigree. Nebraska's playing Tennessee-Chattanooga this fall, but UT-C is eight times the size of Presbyterian and has a decent athletic history. Alabama will mop up Kent State, North Texas, and Georgia Southern. The Crimson Tide ought to be ashamed of that, but still, there's not a Presbyterian College on that list.

No doubt the Blue Hose (yes, that's the college nickname) will be reasonably well-compensated for this act of sacrifice (a dirty secret of college sports: big schools pay the little guys to come in and take their lumps; the money keeps many a marginal athletic program afloat).

If you're into the David vs. Goliath thing, you can hope Presbyterian shocks the world on September 17th. Some will point to Appalachian State's 2007 upset of Michigan at Ann Arbor as proof that the little guys can sometimes win these games. But Appalachian State was the two-time defending national FCS champion--a middleweight powerhouse. Presbyterian College is a bantamweight tomato can.

You'd like to hope the folks in Berkeley would be above this sort of thing. Apparently not. Sad.

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