OT: The Trade Deadline

A little off-topic, but this was quite the day in baseball for trades. In 24-48 hours we will see the awkward sight of Manny Ramirez in a Dodger uniform, Ken Griffey Jr. as a White Sock (singular), and Pudge Rodriguez in pinstripes.

One of the things that makes college sports unique is that you can’t trade anyone. It’s partly why we go so nuts over recruiting. Once a guy commits, you have him for four to five years. It’s done.

Unless he/she transfers, of course. But even then NCAA rules work against the student athlete by making them sit out a year and lose that same amount of time in eligibility. So transfers are relatively rare, and usually have more to do with coaching changes or player unhappiness than they do with stocking up for a championship.

In college, you are forced to win one of two ways. You can win by recruiting (USC football, among others), or win by player development (WSU basketball, among others). Usually it’s a mix of both that breeds a champion.

The one thing you can’t do is trade. It’s against the rules to make that instantaneous move that can build a contender or rebuild a team for the future. Of course it would be totally ridiculous to trade a NCAA athlete, seeing as how they are in classes, settled into their college towns, and not making anything more than tuition and some living expenses.

Still, it’s fun to think of what might happen if you could trade a college athlete. I know a few Cougar fans who would’ve gladly given up Alex Brink to a contender last year in exchange for a few freshmen prospects. Or how about this year: trade a couple of young players to fill some holes at defensive back, or linebacker, or – let’s face it – pretty much anywhere on defense. We could’ve traded Arkelon Hall to Memphis before he flunked out and received a nice return for him. Even in a contending year – a 1997 or a 2002 – wouldn’t it have been great to poach a player or two from a down-and-out team in exchange for a couple four-star commits? That wouldn’t be so bad.

Anyway, it’s a ridiculous thought, so we may as well focus on the positives of not having trades in college. For example, USC can’t get any stronger than it already is. Also, we get to know our players. Even if it is just for four or five short years. We get to watch talented freshmen like Will Derting or Michael Bumpus captivate us for three more seasons. There’s no risk of a Bill Bavasi-type GM trading away all your talented freshmen for seniors with “veteran experience”; who just end up driving your school into the ground and graduating four months later. And the player actually has a choice of where they want to start school, and where they want to finish it.
Really, that’s the best part. Once a Coug, always a Coug. It’s the common thread that links us all, and allows us to verbally assault people like Carl Bonnell who choose to go somewhere else. As funny as it would’ve been to see Alex Brink in a Duck jersey after Dixon went down, it just wouldn’t have been right. We need a little solidarity in sports.

Otherwise you just end up with Ken Griffey Junior in a White Sox jersey.

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Slightly More Attractive Than a Big Blue Heart

Per Cougfan, Martin Stadium is all set to have a 4,500 pound, $400,000 bronze Cougar sculpture displayed in all its glory by November 8th.

Of course it may not even be “Martin Stadium” by November, with rumors floating around that someone may be planning to pick up the tab for stadium naming rights. Boeing is the name that gets tossed around the most, but at this point it appears this rumor is nothing more than that.

By the way, a note on the “Big Blue Heart”, the atrocity that stands at the corner of Stadium Way (hey, that’s the name of this blog) and Grimes Way. For all you students arriving at orientation over the summer: it hasn’t always been there. You can, and you should, be angry about its existence. In two years I’ve watched as 783 letters to the Evergreen about the heart each week have slowly faded into pure apathy. Don’t give in – with a little help from everyone, we can attack this heart.

As for other Cougar news, well, there’s just not much out there. Arizona recruit Brandon Jennings is headed to Europe – something you can read more about over at WSU Hoops. There are a couple of football recruits in as well – check Cougfan for that. Grippi’s blog has been dead the last week, topics on the Cougfan board have included lame personal attacks on Seattle by OKC basketball fans, and tumbleweeds are rolling across Highway 26 in record numbers. I am struggling to find any sort of material for my Cougfan column; something I hope my editors there can forgive me for.

It is the dog days of summer, but we’ll try to keep it interesting with Offseason Videos of the Week and any late breaking Coug news that seems to fly in. Enjoy the warm weather, folks.

So Long, Sonics

Yes, the Sonics are leaving Seattle. Evil defeats good, and NBA owners everywhere get a free pass to hold their own cities hostage for new arenas someday. There’s two things here I wanted to note:

1. The terms of the settlement state that Bennett could owe the city an additional $30 million if the team does not have a new franchise in place within five years. That’s good news for Sonic fans as it puts pressure on the NBA to find Seattle another team if an arena deal gets done.

2. Don’t hold any ill will toward Oklahoma City or their fans. They’re good people who just wanted a sports team. Yes, it is ugly how they got it, but it isn’t their fault. They’d prefer the Hornets, but between Katrina and Clay Bennett the Sonics became the only option. It is still absolutely fine to dislike Bennett.

A Cougar Uniform note: Cougfan.com reports Paul Wulff is going with the ‘Cougars’ script helmets at home, and the Crimson and white Coug head helmets on the road. As a fan of the Coug head on the gray helmets I have to say I’m disappointed.

News and Notes 5/30

Posting has been a little light this week – combination of a slow news week and working on another Cougfan article.

Head on over to WSU Hoops for the most comprehensive info on walk-on recruit John Allen of Montlake Terrace. If he makes the 15-man roster, I believe that it all but assures Charlie Enquist of another season on scholarship. I’m leaving the scholarship chart as-is until we get some concrete info from the program, because walk-ons that don’t make the roster just end up on the practice squad (and therefore don’t affect the scholly chart). (Edit: I still would expect Allen to make the roster for this fall)

Cougar football cut ties with QB recruit Calvin Schmitdke, the Lakes High star who has been drawing some hype from people close to the school. It’s unfortunate, and probably related to the numerous, albeit minor, legal problems Schmitdke has come across recently.

Otherwise, if you’re looking for some reading to keep you occupied, check out one blogger’s quest for the ESPN.com “featured comment of the day”. Also, Bill Simmons has a blogspot blog as part of what appears to be a passive-aggressive quarrel with the Worldwide Leader in Sports. If baseball is more of you’re thing, it’s always entertaining to witness the meltdown on USS Mariner as the M’s work to avoid being the worst team in baseball. Bill Bavasi has to be toast at this point, right?

OT: ESPN Fiddles While the Sonics Burn

One of the key privileges of being a member of the media is that you have the power to fight an injustice. That’s why there are “investigative reporters”. It’s why there are the 60 Minutes and Dateline NBCs of the world. From Edward R. Murrow to Carl Monday, media members have a desire, perhaps even an obligation, to report what they believe are wrongdoings, no matter how trivial they may seem.

So if you were a member of a sports information network so huge that you proclaim yourself, I don’t know, “The Worldwide Leader in Sports”, you would feel an obligation to fight a sports injustice. Right?

Well, not if you’re ESPN, who continues to gloss over the ever-worsening situation with the Seattle Supersonics.

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Abercrombie Out, Hicks Suspended, and Why Arlen Specter is Incompetent

It had been in the rumor mill for quite some time, but Thomas Abercrombie appears to be headed back to New Zealand to play professionally, according to the Spokesman-Review.

The always informative Vince Grippi speculates that although this frees up yet another scholarship for 2008, his spot may not be filled until next year. I agree with him. This Cougar team will already be ridiculously young with eight freshmen and six true freshmen on the 15-man roster. Unless Tony has a recruit on the radar for this upcoming season, I expect the scholarship to go back to Charlie Enquist, who was set to be a non-scholarship player per an agreement he made with Tony prior to last season. And because this always comes up, let me squash it again: It’s not going to Rochestie. He wants to, and he is, helping the team by giving up his free ride for next season.

It is sad, in a way. The sophomore forward from New Zealand had potential as a player but just turned out to be a wrong fit on the Cougars’ squad. He doesn’t have the height to be a Robbie Cowgill or Caleb Forrest type player at the power forward position, and he doesn’t have the ballhandling skill or 3-point shooting to be an effective option at guard or small forward. But he was a talented, athletic kid who was mentally everything you’d want from a Bennett Baller. Behind the Lord of the Rings movies and Flight of the Conchords, he’s the third best thing to come out of New Zealand this decade. I wish him the best of luck going forward.

Xavier Hicks can add a three game suspension to his 45-day jail stint, all as a result of substituting rubbing alcohol for his roommates’ contact solution (and a theft charge). (note: see the aforementioned Spokesman blog post) The contacts never made it in the victims’ eyes, but it’s not too hard to imagine how it would have felt. That resulted in the assault charge, and coupled with the theft of a credit card, Hicks landed in the Whitman County jail. He entered into a plea agreement to avoid felonies – he instead gets booked with two gross misdemeanors.

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