Thoughts on play calls, BCS, MLS, MLB and more


Notes, quotes and observations from behind the laptop ...

• It went almost unnoticed at Autzen Stadium Thursday night, but there were some very poor coaching calls by both sides in Oregon's 43-15 rout of California.

In the second quarter, with Oregon leading 14-9, the Ducks went for it on fourth-and-eight from their 41-yard line. Darron Thomas' pass went incomplete, setting up a short field that the Bears took advantage of by scoring a touchdown to take a 15-14 lead.

Then it was Cal's turn. Though it was early in the game, the Bears went for a two-point conversion and failed. That allowed Oregon to go for two and make it in seizing a 29-15 lead in the third quarter.

At the end of the first half, Cal almost blew another scoring opportunity. With seven seconds remaining, the Bears had the ball at the Oregon 23-yard line with no timeouts left. They chose to run another play, and QB Zach Maynard took his time getting rid of an incomplete pass.

The clock stopped at one second - the home timekeeper easily could have run another second, and probably should have. Oregon challenged the time call, but lost the challenge. The Bears wound up getting a 40-yard field goal attempt blocked, but they were fortunate to even get that opportunity.

• Given Jeff Tedford's reputation as a quarterbacks coach, it's surprising he has a mediocre talent such as Maynard as his starter. The junior lefthander misfired on several passes early that could have given the Bears a bigger lead at the half.

• Good friend Dick Harter has had a rough year in the health department.

The former University of Oregon head basketball coach, who also served as an assistant on P.J. Carlesimo's staff with the Trail Blazers, underwent prostate surgery in June and had part of his lung removed in August due to cancer.

In a follow-up to the lung surgery, Harter had several lymph nodes removed, revealing a few pre-cancerous cells.

That means Harter, now retired and dividing time between Vermont and South Carolina, faces preventative bouts of chemotherapy and radiation in November.

'I feel wonderful,' Harter says, 'but it's discouraging, because after the surgery, I thought I was fine. Just another battle I'm going to have to win.'

• Amazing seven-part series by the Arizona Republic exposing enough dirt on college football's Bowl Championship Series to bury an apartment complex.

Seems obvious there has been an avalanche of corruption and greed, and as the BCS faces investigations, lawsuits and public scrutiny, it could mean the downfall of college sport's most powerful entity.

A group of university and athletic officials examining how all postseason college bowls are managed and how they stay in business will make recommendations to the NCAA later this month.

Let's hope one of them is for a Division I-A playoff system.

• Texas A and M is joining the Southeastern Conference. Texas Christian is headed to the Big East - and then, according to reports, Pittsburgh and Syracuse are moving to the Atlantic Coast Conference. Already, we have Conference USA, with member schools spread from Texas to Tennessee and West Virginia.

I suppose what's next is Notre Dame, Penn State, Nova Scotia and University of the Netherlands to fill out the new Pac-16.

Does it bother anyone else that geographical location seems to have nothing to do with conference affiliation anymore?

• Major League Soccer has to make its schedule more concise.

The Portland Timbers, who began the regular season in mid-March, don't wrap up their 34-game slate until Oct. 22 at Salt Lake City. Then there are the playoffs, if the Timbers qualify. They have had breaks between games of 17 days, 12 (twice) and eight (twice). That's ridiculous.

Start in early April and finish the regular season in early September, so that the playoffs are done by the end of the month. Makes sense both from a weather standpoint and in keeping a little continuity to a schedule that lasts just short of forever.

• Football referees have gone way overboard in recent seasons on personal foul penalties for late hits along the sidelines.

If a ballcarrier is hit by a tackler just as he reaches the sideline, it's not a late hit. But the runner who flops and falls to the ground like a skeet disk shot out of the sky is more often than not drawing a call.

As Jack Lambert would say, put a skirt on him, then.

• I know it takes up a portion of the television screen, but I love the 'K zone' that is being used by TNT on its major league baseball playoff telecasts.

I like it being there on every pitch. It may not be 100 percent precise, but it gives you a pretty good idea which calls the plate umpire gets right or wrong. A great percentage of the time, he gets it right.

• If I were on the East Coast, I would hate the 8:35 p.m. playoff starts. That means games are ending near midnight or later - much too late for children facing an early wakeup for school. And come to think of it, too late for adults who actually have to work the following day.

• Finally, I've wondered what has happened to former NBA referee Tim Donagahy since his release from federal prison in 2009 after serving 15 months for betting on games and making calls to affect point spreads.

For awhile, Donaghy worked as a consultant dispensing NBA gambling advice on the website Donaghy had to stop giving actual picks on games after his probation officer found out about it. Now he just 'advises' Danny Berrelli, who makes picks and operates the site.

I find that amazing. But in today's world, maybe I shouldn't.