After a long eight months, we’re back

first_imgUntil Thursday, the USC football team hadn’t played a game for exactly 250 days.Long time, isn’t it? Dec. 26, 2009 to Sept. 2, 2010.Really quite a bit of time. So much happened between those two games, too.Don’t believe me?Let’s get to it. I think you’ll find the course of the events resembles a wooden roller coaster.So, the Trojans won that game in December against Boston College in the Emerald Bowl. Of course, even playing in that game was fairly out of character for USC, which had won seven consecutive Pac-10 championships and thus qualified for seven consecutive Rose Bowls.Fast forward two weeks to get the first shock of the offseason, quarterback Aaron Corp, who, just five short months earlier, was slated to be the Trojans’ starting signal-caller. On Jan. 8, Corp announced plans to transfer to the University of Richmond, where he would go on to win the starting job.Little did Corp know that if he had only waited until June, he would’ve been able to freely transfer to any out-of-conference school in the nation without being forced to sit out a year.But we’ll get to that.Anyway, Corp transferred on a Friday. By Sunday, rumors were floating — no, swirling — that then-coach Pete Carroll would resign to coach the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks.On Monday, the first day of the spring semester, those rumors were confirmed. Carroll held a final press conference in the Heritage Hall auditorium, where he defended his “business” decision.By Wednesday, former Athletic Director Mike Garrett — we’ll get to him soon — had named a replacement, former USC assistant Lane Kiffin.Kiffin, of course, brought with him a significant following —both bad and good — frenzied by his whirlwind departure from Knoxville, Tenn. Death threats to Kiffin and his wife occurred. In one memorable moment, a Tennessee transplant observing his opening press conference outside Heritage Hall expressed a lack of understanding to how Kiffin could so openly betray Volunteer fans.Kiffin had three weeks to re-recruit the Trojans’ 2010 class, and he did so with gusto — securing the commitments of Seantrel Henderson, Nickell Robey and Markeith Ambles, among others.All-everything freshmen Kyle Prater and Dillon Baxter even enrolled early.The next month, a number of current and former USC staffers met with NCAA investigators in Tempe, Ariz., for an official hearing relating to the Reggie Bush case and a supposed lack of institutional control.Present that weekend were Carroll and then-running backs coach Todd McNair, who brought along his legal counsel. We wondered why at the time.Also at that time, I wrote in this very column: “The worst-case scenario … is some combination of sanctions that force the football team to vacate the wins from past years, lose scholarships and a ban from postseason play for the next few seasons.”Whoops.Anyway, the NCAA was expected to report back with their findings sometime in mid-April. The Trojans proceeded with spring practice, which came and went without too much hullabaloo — although hotshot then-freshman quarterback Matt Barkley did hurt his hand (gasp!) on teammate Jurrell Casey’s helmet during the spring scrimmage at the Coliseum. Senior defensive tackle Christian Tupou, the backbone of the Trojan defense, also went down in that game and was lost for the season with a knee injury.That was May 1.On June 10, the NCAA report was finally released — slapping USC with a two-year bowl ban, a loss of 30 scholarships that takes effect next year and a vacation of past wins.The Trojans were placed on four years’ probation — and all USC juniors and seniors were allowed to transfer to Football Bowl Subdivision schools without sitting out a year. Many of them would do so over the next two months.As far as a response, Kiffin announced immediate plans to appeal, Garrett told a reporter he wasn’t worried about his job but the reporter should be worried about his own, and USC fans grieved.At one point, Thursday’s game wasn’t even supposed to happen. The NCAA threatened to take away the Trojans’ 13th game because of stated penalties limiting teams on probation to only 12 games a season.But it stayed.Then, on a lazy Tuesday in mid-July, news broke that new university president C.L. Max Nikias would replace Garrett with former Trojan quarterback Pat Haden.Haden brought with him a scot-free reputation for success in many ventures of life — giving USC a positive spin heading into fall camp, set to begin on Aug. 4. Before that, however, two other things had to happen.Kiffin made news again with the hiring of Tennessee Titans running backs coach — and USC alum — Kennedy Pola, allegedly going behind Titans’ coach Jeff Fisher’s back to do so.Tennessee actually filed a lawsuit, which brings us to the second thing that happened: Pac-10 Media Day, where Kiffin wore shades at the podium on the Rose Bowl field and limited the shock value of his remarks — until late in the lunch session with reporters, when he dropped the nugget that he thought the Titans sued simply because of the state in which they were located.That gave sports talk hosts material for a couple days.Things that made news during camp: Senior fullback Stanley Havili was suspended for a day for his role in an altercation with junior cornerback T.J. Bryant, freshman defensive back Patrick Hall was suspended indefinitely for unspecified reasons and Kiffin made practices tackle-free to limit injuries.An eventful eight months for sure — all leading up to Thursday.Voilá.“Looking Past the X’s and O’s” runs every other Friday. To comment on this article, visit or e-mail Pedro at read more

Pitch clock, in attempt to improve pace of play, yields mixed results in the minor leagues

first_img Published on August 30, 2017 at 10:16 pm Contact Charlie: | @charliedisturco Tucked away in the public address booth behind home plate, Eric Phillips arrived an hour before first pitch of a recent Syracuse Chiefs’ game. As he’s done for the past three years, Phillips ran the pitch clock for that afternoon’s game.Former MLB commissioner Bud Selig announced an initiative in 2015 to improve the pace of baseball games. A pitch clock, limiting the time pitchers have in-between pitches, was installed in class AA and class AAA stadiums around the country. It was a test before any major initiatives reached the major leagues. The results have come back mixed.In the International League, in which Syracuse competes, game times dropped from 2 hours, 56 minutes to 2 hours, 40 minutes, according to Minor League Baseball data. After the 2015 season, though, game time has increased, up two minutes in 2016 and six more in 2017 (through Aug. 27). The average game time since the installation of pitch clocks has decreased only eight minutes.“No one wants to sit here for four hours in the sun and watch a two-run baseball game,” Phillips said. “But if they can get it down to 2 hours 30 minutes, you’re not wasting your whole day to sit around and watch a baseball game.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textJoe Bloss | Senior Staff WriterThe booth in which Phillips sits is behind home plate and looks over the field. He keeps the windows cracked to hear the sounds of the game. The open window has allowed foul balls into his room.Scattered around are names, dates and dents of the baseballs. There’s Matt Joyce on June 6, 2010 against the wall. Corey Brown on Aug. 19, 2012 on the ceiling. Ryan Goins two years ago hit one that hit Craig Lane, who’s handling the scoreboard, in the arm before bouncing on the floor.Throughout the game, the umpire threw his hands in the air to trigger Phillips to turn off the pitch clock. It’s usually up to Phillips’ discretion on resetting the pitch clock, but there are instances where the umpire wants the clock off after a pitch in the dirt.Packs of fans left their seats to the exit as the Chiefs game entered the latter innings. Kids, still waiting for their opportunity to run on the field after the game, stood crowded behind the right field fence. A two-run, game-tying single in the ninth signaled extra innings. The longest game in the Chiefs’ season could have extended further had it not been for a gray handheld remote gripped tightly in Phillips’ left hand.The handheld pitch clock, smaller than the size of a typical TV remote, has three buttons, each representing a time and situation. The three black buttons are about the size of an average thumb, set up vertically on the left side.The top button, labeled P1, triggers a 2-minute, 25-second stoppage used after a half inning or call to the bullpen. The middle button, P2, is just 20 seconds, used after each pitch excluding a foul, passed or dead ball. In that instance, the clock is off until the subsequent pitch hits the catcher’s glove. And the last button, P3, is a 30-second timer used after each batter. After clicking any of the three buttons, Phillips turns the switch on (clock start) in the top right. Once the pitcher enters his stance, Phillips quickly clicks the switch down (stop).When a pitcher or batter takes too long, the umpire can penalize the disruptor. If the pitcher walks around the mound longer the 20-second frame between pitches, a ball is added to the count. If the batter takes too long, a strike is added. But Phillips notes umpires will call a delay only “once or twice a season.”“The only thing (the pitch clock) changes is speeding the pitchers up in the warmups,” Brandon Snyder, a corner infielder for the Chiefs, said. “But the one in-game is dumb because they don’t even call it.”Joe Bloss | Senior Staff WriterThis lack of enforcement could explain why the average game time has increased since 2015. Pitchers rarely changed their usual antics because of the clock, instead keeping their typical routine, players said.“It’s one of those things I don’t really pay attention to,” Snyder, who’s bounced around MLB and the minors for 13 years, added. “I don’t think it’s really helping anything.“There’s guys that are still slow, there’s guys that are fast. I don’t think it makes a difference.”Neil Ramirez entered in relief in the 13th inning with the score knotted at three. The right-hander has jumped around the majors, totaling 116 appearances. With such experience, Ramirez has seen the pitch clock both live in action (Triple-A) and as a non-factor (MLB). He didn’t struggle to get off the pitches before the 20-second timer struck zero. Pitching within the timer Ramirez says, is pretty common.“Most guys work within that pitch clock anyways,” he said. “I don’t see why guys would need more than 20 seconds.”After Chad Huffman hit a walk-off double, the right field fence opened and kids ran onto the field. Parents ambled toward the first-base dugout. The kids threw their gloves to the side and ran the bases. Despite the near four-hour game that might have run even longer without the pitch clock, fans stayed to see the entirety — and get some extra fun out of it.“When you’re talking about that kind of a marginal difference, five minutes, ten minutes,” Ramirez said. “I think fans that are going to watch the games know that baseball is a longer game anyways.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more

‘Betrayed’: Jose Mourinho savages Chelsea players after Leicester defeat

first_imgJose Mourinho accused his Chelsea players of betraying his hard work after the club’s ninth Premier League defeat of the season at Leicester.Mourinho let rip on Sky Sports after the defending champions lost 2-1 to top-of-the-table Leicester, claiming last season’s success was down to his “phenomenal” work bringing his players “to a level they aren’t really at”. Highlights from his interview with Patrick Davidson:’I feel like my work was betrayed’ “We concede two goals that are unacceptable for me. I know my best quality is to read the opponents for my players and to identify every detail and these two goals – with the movement of (Jamie) Vardy between the two central defenders and then (Riyad) Mahrez one-against-one when I want one-against-two – are difficult to accept. “I feel my work was betrayed.”‘Last season I took them to a level that is not their level’ “When you have some players in crucial positions not playing at a normal level, it is difficult.  “All last season I did phenomenal work and I took them to a level that is not their level. It’s more than they really are. It’s not all of them, of course, but clearly for some of them it is more difficult (to reach that level again)”. Hazard went down injured in the first half, tried to continue but quickly concluded he could not play on. Mourinho said, appearing to border on sarcasm: “The only thing I know is in 10 seconds he made the decision himself. It must be a serious injury as he made the decision himself and just left the pitch.”Mourinho was critical of striker Diego Costa, specifically accusing him of failing to get into scoring positions inside the penalty area. “We put on an extra midfield player, then an extra striker, because clearly Diego (Costa) is in trouble in the box. Normally his movement is outside the box, so I tried to bring (Loic) Remy in to have another body there.” Mourinho accused Leicester of timewasting after Chelsea pulled a goal back to make it 2-1. “We scored a goal with 15 minutes to go, but it was almost five because of the ballboys, the injuries, the ball disappearing and all this stuff. It’s not nice, but they did it very well.” He later called the ball boys: “A disgrace to the Premier League.”–last_img read more