Ratto: Bay Area coaches must walk a fine line

June 7, 2011, 7:36 pm
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Ray RattoCSNBayArea.com

Jeff Tedford is coming off his first losing season at Cal, and the Ursines are playing every game away from home this year. Mike MacIntyre is coming off a 1-11 season at San Jose State in which he lost a lot of starters. And David Shaw is entering his first year on the job at a national power -- well, Stanford -- so the pressure there is dancing on his windpipe like you wouldnt believe.

But be happy, kids. None of them are Bill Stewart. Or Jim Tressel. Or the SEC coaches who defended gray-shirting last week. Theyre just three guys trying to get by.

At least we hope they are. At this point, the college football business makes the monument to brazen venality it is, and anything is possible about anyone.

Yeah, we said it. Anyone. You dont know your coach. You dont know him at all. You dont know what he does, or how he does it. This isnt the old line about making sausage. This is not knowing whether theres even pork in the stuff.

So how does this affect our three poster children? Easy. College football doesnt mean that much to most of us. Oh, well kvetch about Tedfords inability to find a successor to Aaron Rodgers, and well look at SJSU and wonder how much longer it can go on as a program, and well fantasize about the good old days under Jim Harbaugh (two of them, mostly with Andrew Luck), but we dont have them hiding players who barter memorabilia for tats, or trying to set up their assistants for firing, or oversign their rosters without a thought for those who get strung along.

Or if we do, there arent enough of us to get our delicates in a knot over it.

Oh, we could be smug and say, These three noble and honorable men would never consider doing such things. And that might be so. They all seem like guys who would drink a beer with you without spitting in your ear.

And we might take the even more elitist road and say, These three magnificent institutions would never allow such things to occur, and that might be so, too. Funny the way when Cal is an exemplar, Stanford is a cesspool and vice versa, but thats just middle-aged fans arguing over the pate.

But this has nothing to do with elitism, or the basic rectitudes of MacIntyre, Shaw and Tedford. This has everything to do with a more basic truth, namely this:

Where there is attention, there is money. Where there is money, there is corruption. Where there is corruption, there is more money. Where there is more money, there is a need to defend the money by considering more corruption. Its the circle of life, and it leads either to shame, a statue, or an NFL job.

And we don't plow enough money or attention into any of these schools to consider the things that happen with such magnificent frequency in other parts of the country parts of the country where college football is king.

And keep your noses down, smugmeisters. We love the fact that the Raiders at their best wiped their feet on the ethics and morays of the NFL. We applauded with great vigor when Eddie DeBartolo spent his way to the top of the heap, and didnt care when they got caught cheating the salary cap. We dont mind our NFL teams weaseling their way to advantages, because thats what we care about. Thats where our money is. Or where it used to be before quality stopped being Job 1 at 1220 Harbor Bay Parkway and 4949 Centennial.

So maybe its just about resources. Weve allotted our abilities to look the other way toward our pro teams, and our college teams . . . well, we dont have Bill Stewart or Jim Tressel. We dont have a national championship being lifted, and we dont sign more athletes than we can use. We cant afford it. Or we choose not to.

The point here is this: Virtue is nice to have, but it is often a sign of the meek and their relationship to the earth. Shaw, Tedford and MacIntyre seem like fine fellows; we have no compelling reason to think otherwise.

But when we start getting snotty about it, we should remember that there but for the grace of the Continental Divide and the Mason Dixon Line go us. Wed probably want them to cheat if we cared enough. This way just seems saner.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.