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Thoughts on James Rodgers, Oregon-Utah, NBA talks, a fallen OSU legend, and more

Notes, quotes and observations as we head into a new sports week:

• I believe James Rodgers will choose to play this season rather than appeal to the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility via medical hardship. And he should.

The Oregon State flanker looks and feels healthy as he moves through the rehabilitation process from a pair of surgeries on his left knee, the last one in February.

It's true that another year would lessen the prospects of re-injuring the knee and give it more time to recover. And if the doctor decides he is not medically ready to play, the Beavers will have a very good case to take to the NCAA about 2012.

But it's a risk to deal with the NCAA on any hardship matter. I'm also wondering if Rodgers, who has completed requirements for his undergraduate degree, wants to stick around Corvallis for another year to play his final season of college ball.

If he gets clearance from the doctors, Rodgers should play the safest card and play the final 10 - or 11 - games of this season.

• I don't care of the Pac-12 Conference discouraged Oregon and Utah from playing what would be considered a non-conference game this season - the Ducks and Utes should have stayed with their schedule and squared off Saturday at Autzen Stadium.

The Pac-12 should have worked that game into the conference schedule, since it was already on the docket. California and Colorado went ahead with their planned game as a nonconference contest.

Oregon-Utah would have been a compelling matchup. Maybe some fans get a kick out of watching a 50-point blowout of a Division I-AA team such as Missouri State, but more would appreciate an entertaining, more competitive battle at Autzen.

• The latest angle to collective-bargaining agreement negotiations is a move by several big-name agents to decertify the players union.

The idea is, if there were no union, the NBA's lockout would amount to an antitrust violation. The players could then request an injunction to block such a move by the league and win free agency for the players.

In March, the NFL decertified its union. But after the owners and players came to a labor agreement in July, most of the players signed union authorization cards and the Players Association was recertified.

I'm not well-versed enough to know what's going to happen with the NBA Players Association, but I wonder if whatever progress has been made in negotiations - and it's something, though I'm not sure how much - would be erased. Would it be back to square one?

And at the point of decertification, could the league contend that it would be in position to void any existing contracts with players?

I'd like to see the two sides continue to work to hammer out an agreement. And as I've written many times, I'd like to see the players' side move considerably from its position.

The last time there was a lockout, in 1998-99, 'we thought it was a lousy deal for the players,' one agent tells me. 'But as it turned out, it was a lousy deal for the owners.'

That must change this time, or we won't have a 2011-12 NBA season.

• Sometimes we forget about our fallen sports heroes. But Cub Houck should not be forgotten.

Houck, who died last week at 81, was one of the last of the three-sport athletes at Oregon State from 1949-52. The 6-1, 195-pound Houck was a terrific linebacker on Kip Taylor teams featuring such standouts as Sam Baker, Jim Clark and Dick Gray. Houck was a starting third baseman on the Beaver team that made it to the College World Series in 1952. He also lettered one year in basketball for Slats Gill.

A three-sport star at old Salem High (now called North Salem), Houck, according to younger brother Jim, received all-state recognition in football, basketball and baseball.

Cub - his real name was Carlos, but 'he was a teddy bear,' his brother says - was also heavyweight boxing champion for two years at Oregon State.

Houck went on to success in the Air Force and as vice president of Roy L. Houck and Sons Construction.

'We built most of Interstate-5,' Jim Houck says.

Cub later turned to politics and served as Republican leader of the Oregon Senate in the 1980s.

My grandparents, who lived in Salem, used to talk about Houck. The word I heard from them and others to describe him was 'tough.'

'He put his trust in himself,' Jim Houck says. 'He believed he was in charge. He didn't have to prove anything except to himself - and he did that.

'He didn't have to be false to anybody. He proved himself a good athlete, a good politician and a very good partner in business with me.'

• 'The Barbers' continues its third annual peanut-butter drive through the middle of October.

Owners Don and Allison Lovell, who donated more than 13,000 pounds of peanut butter last year to the Portland Police Bureau's Sunshine Division, are shooting for 15,000 pounds this year.

The food goes to families that have been displaced because of domestic violence.

'It's the No. 1 item (the Sunshine Division) needs,' says Don Lovell, the former Madison High and Portland State baseball standout who operates 'The Barbers' at 17 Portland-area locations. 'It doesn't need refrigeration, it's a high protein source and all kids like it.'

Chad 'The Body' Doing will host his 6-9 a.m. morning show on 'The Game' (750 am) next Thursday at The Barbers' Hollywood shop on N.E. 51st Ave. and Sandy Blvd.

Those interested in contributing can stop by any of The Barbers' shops or consult the Website at thebarbersonline.com. Jars of peanut better are on the shelves at The Barbers' shops. Customers can purchase a jar for $1 and put it in the bin.

• A year ago, I wrote about the struggles of Fay Benagni, the co-team mother of the LaSalle High football team, who was battling breast cancer.

Glad to report that Benagni, 50, is doing well and is again serving as LaSalle's co-team mom as her son, center Jace Benagni, plays his senior season.

Fay, who under went a pair of surgeries in 2010, completed four months of chemotherapy in February and two months of radiation treatments in May.

'I feel back to normal,' she says. 'My first mammogram in August came back clean. I don't have another one now for another year.'

Feragni has a good team to root for, too. The Falcons, 2-0, are tied for eighth in the latest Class 4A poll.