A Heisman winner, and more sports notes
Some thoughts as the sports calendar for 2018 ticks to a close …
• As one of nine accredited voters in Oregon for the Heisman Trophy, my ballot went the way of the final tabulation. I had Oklahoma junior Kyler Murray first, Alabama sophomore Tua Tagovailoa second and Ohio State sophomore Dwayne Haskins third.
Over the final three weeks of the regular season, I pared my list down to five candidates — Murray, Tagovailoa, Haskins, West Virginia's Will Grier and a late-comer, Washington State's Gardner Minshew.
(All quarterbacks. The position has dominated Heisman voting of late. Since 2000, 16 of the 19 winners have been QBs.)
You could make a strong case for any of the five. I saw two of them (Haskins and Minshew) play in person against Oregon State.
Minshew has thrown for 4,477 yards and 36 touchdowns in leading the Cougars (10-2) to the best record in the Pac-12. Grier has passed for 3,864 yards and 37 TDs in 11 games, throwing for 539 yards and running for a score in the 8-3 Mountaineers' 59-56 loss to Oklahoma on Nov. 23.
Haskins leads the nation in passing yardage (4,580). He threw for 47 touchdowns while leading the Buckeyes to a 12-1 record and the Big Ten championship.
Tagovailoa has compiled amazing stats for the top-ranked Crimson Tide (13-0), throwing for 3,353 yards and 37 TDs with only four interceptions while completing 67.7 percent of his passes. He has attempted 294 passes, incidentally — fewer than half than has Minshew (613) in one less game.
But Murray won me over with his versatility and impact on Oklahoma's 12-1 record and No. 4 ranking. The 5-11, 195-pound junior, who is on pace to break the FBS season passing efficiency record, has completed 70.3 percent of his passes for 4,053 yards and 40 TDs with seven interceptions. Beyond that, he has rushed for 892 yards and 11 scores this season (Tagovailoa has 190 net rushing yards).
In the big win over West Virginia, Murray passed for 364 yards and ran for 118. And to think this young man says the Orange Bowl matchup with Alabama will be his final football game. A center fielder who was the ninth overall pick in the 2018 major-league draft by the Oakland A's, Murray says he intends to report to spring training with Portland, er, Oakland next February.
• It is no surprise that Oregon's junior quarterback, Justin Herbert, wasn't a member of the all-Pac-12 first team. Minshew blew the competition out of the water.
But Herbert didn't even make honorable mention. Stanford junior K.J. Costello was second-team quarterback, and the only QB listed as honorable mention was Washington senior Jake Browning.
Pac-12 players must receive votes from three or more coaches (coaches are not permitted to vote for their own players) to make honorable mention. After the completion of voting, each coach is provided a list of players from his team who made first or second team or honorable mention. A coach may then add up to two players from his team for the honorable mention list.
Oregon had six players receive honorable mention — offensive linemen Justin Hollins, Penei Sewell and Calvin Throckmorton, defensive tackle Jordon Scott, linebacker Justin Hollins and safety Ugochokwu Amadi. Good players all. But more deserving of honorable mention than Herbert?
Defensive end Jalen Jelks, all-purpose/special teamer Brendan Schooler, receiver Dillon Mitchell, O-lineman Shane Lemieux and linebacker Troy Dye were named to the first or second teams. That means 11 Ducks got mention ahead of Herbert.
It would be interesting to know which two players were added by head coach Mario Cristobal. And why would he have not added Herbert?
Heading into the Ducks' Dec. 31 Redbox Bowl matchup with Michigan State, Herbert has thrown for 2,985 yards and 28 TDs, third in the league on both lists behind Minshew and Costello. Herbert had fewer interceptions (eight) than did Minshew or Costello, though he had far fewer attempts than Minshew. Herbert's completion percentage (59.6), though, was well below that of Minshew (70.6), Costello (66.8) and Browning (65.1).
There were those who felt Herbert did not progress as a quarterback this season. Some believe co-offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo did not do him justice with his play-calling, which often didn't take advantage of the 6-6, 235-pound Herbert's strong arm.
There is conjecture Herbert will return for his senior year at Oregon for more seasoning. And he has said the opportunity to play with his brother — Sheldon High tight end Patrick Herbert, who will play for the Ducks next season — will "play a factor" in his decision.
But make no mistake, Herbert is still regarded as a top prospect by NFL scouts. One told me this week that if he were to come out for the 2019 draft, Herbert would be "a first-round pick, for sure, and maybe a top-10 pick."
"In terms of size, athleticism and physical ability, he is as good a prospect as I've seen in my 16 years," says the scout, who adds that Herbert "might have hurt himself a little" with his performance this season.
"He has been up and down," the scout says of Herbert. "It's still a little early to tell where he would go if he's in the draft. And of course, he still has a decision to make."
• When I glimpsed news from the SportsCenter crawl that Oregon is facing NCAA sanctions, I figured it was in connection with the college basketball scandal targeting Adidas with illegal payments to recruits — and specifically with the charge that high school star Brian Bowen Jr. was offered an "astronomical sum" to play at Oregon.
No, the NCAA hasn't gotten to that one yet.
These sanctions were in response to mostly self-reported violations that seem relatively minor, at least in the scope of what is going on in college sports these days.
Oregon gets two years of probation (don't do this again, boys and girls), a five-hour reduction of practice time by one men's basketball coach (or one hour less each by five coaches, the way I read it), a $5,000 fine (help, Uncle Phil!) and a one percent reduction in the men's and women's basketball operating budgets (about $110,000 — no more dessert at training table, people). Plus, men's basketball director of player operations Josh Jamieson must attend the 2019 and '20 NCAA regional rules seminars (old friend Josh was going, anyway).
The one significant penalty was a two-game suspension of women's basketball head coach Kelly Graves, though it's not clear which games (I'd go for South Dakota State and Air Force, coach). Graves took responsibility for the violations within the women's hoops program, which means he got a valuable lesson that others have learned: Never 'fess up to the NCAA.
• Congrats to Seattle for being awarded an NHL expansion franchise starting with the 2021-22 season.
Eat your hearts out, NHL-to-Portland fans.
I know, the drive to land a major league baseball franchise has overshadowed any thought of bringing the NHL to our fair city. And with the addition of Seattle, the NHL is balanced now with 32 teams, so further expansion is out.
But relocation isn't. A handful of NHL teams are hurting financially or with weak arena agreements. Portland is the 22nd largest TV market in the U.S., and all but two cities ahead on the list — Orlando (No. 18) and Sacramento (No. 20) — have NHL franchises.
An NHL team would have a head start on baseball in one area — the city has an NHL-ready arena in Moda Center. The late Paul Allen never had much interest in the NHL, but now that the Trail Blazers' ownership will be passing hands, a window of opportunity may open.
I'm not saying it will happen. I'm just saying, don't sleep on the idea.
• When you talk about great high school football coaches in our state's history, Lake Oswego's Steve Coury deserves to be on a short list.
Coury wrapped up his second state championship by beating Sheldon 34-27 in the Class 6A finals Dec. 1 at Hillsboro Stadium.
In 27 years at Lake Oswego, Coury has amassed a record of 235-82 (74-percent win percentage) with 15 league championships. Over the past 18 years, Coury's teams have made it to the state quarterfinals 14 times, to the semifinals 10 times and to the finals six times.
One of the reasons for the sustained success has been continuity within Coury's coaching staff. Assistants Karl Halberg and Brian Newcomer have been with Coury from the start. Frank Everhardt (25 years) and Bill Hughes (23) joined up soon thereafter. Now Coury's sons, Jordan and Stevie, are the latest to join the staff.
"I've been lucky," Coury says. "It's been a great group to work with."
The Lakers were led this season by Casey Filkins, a 5-11, 185-pound junior running back who rushed for 1,160 yards (6.8 average) and 28 touchdowns and caught 48 passes for 869 yards and nine TDs.
"We've had some great players in 27 years," Coury says. "Casey is top three, and he might be No. 1. He is an unbelievable player. He's not the biggest kid in the world, but he is put together. In the final, he took the game over in our last offensive series. He wasn't going to lose."
Filkins has not received much attention from major college scouts.
"I'm shocked he hasn't had offers from everywhere," Coury says. "He can play at a high level. He's a physical kid. Put him at receiver. He'll catch every ball, and he could return punts."
The irony is that numbers in the Lake Oswego football program have been declining in recent years. As recently as six or seven years ago, the program had125 to 130 players. This year, the Lakers had 90.
"We told our league before the season we might not have a freshman team," says Coury, who with the other LO coaches recruited enough kids to field a 25-player freshman roster. "The problem is diminishing numbers in the youth organizations. We'll be lucky to have a freshman team next year."
Coury isn't sure how much longer he'll coach, but doesn't see the end coming soon.
"The day that I feel like I can't relate to the kids, or they can't relate to me, that would be the time I consider getting out of it," he says. "But the energy part of it? I feel great. I love the kids. I feel I still have something to offer."
• Beaverton native Gigi Stoll is officially a pro golfer.
The former Beaverton High standout cashed her first paycheck after finishing 11th in last week's Arizona Women's Open with a 2-under-par 214, making $575.
"She covered her entry fee," quipped her father, Mike Stoll.
Stoll decided to forego her senior season at the University of Arizona after advancing to the second of three stages of the LPGA Q-school in Venice, Florida. As a result, she qualifies for most of the events on the Symetra Tour, the LPGA's secondary tour.
"I'll be mostly likely in every (Symetra) event, which conflicts with the spring schedule (at Arizona)," Gigi says. "I want the opportunity to fully compete on the (Symetra) tour, because the top 10 money-winners get their (LPGA) tour card."
Stoll, who helped the Wildcats win the NCAA championship last spring, placed seventh out of 350 competitors in the Q-school's first stage of qualifying in August in Palm Springs, California. She was 112th in the second stage.
"I struggled a bit, which was disappointing, because I was hoping to get to the third stage," Stoll says. "It's a learning experience. I'm excited to play the Symetra."
Stoll is still living in Tucson and will finish her classes online so she can graduate with a degree in sports and society in May. She'll then move back to Portland, which she'll make her home base as she continues her bid to get to the LPGA Tour.
• Gary Andersen has resurfaced as head coach at his old school.
Sources have confirmed that Andersen, who coached 2 1/2 seasons at Oregon State before his departure in the middle of the 2017 season, will fill the post vacated at Utah State with the departure of Matt Wells, who left to become head coach at Texas Tech.
Andersen, 54, spent the past season as defensive line coach at Utah. He had a very successful run as head coach at Utah State from 2008-12 before leaving for Wisconsin, a job he left after two years to head for Corvallis.
OSU fans can hardly believe Andersen is fit for another head coaching job. In Utah, he is regarded in a totally different light.