College Prep Professional Sports

SPORTS DIGEST: Rose Bowl features highly touted Iowa, Stanford

The Rose Bowl will not be the game that decides the national championship in college football this year — or perhaps ever again.

But the game sportscaster Keith Jackson used to call the “granddaddy of all the bowl games,” still figures to be a good game New Year’s Day.

Pac 12 champion Stanford plays the University of Iowa in a traditional Pac 12 versus Big 10 contest in Pasadena with kickoff set at 2 p.m.

Although the Rose Bowl isn’t part of the national championship picture this year, it brings together the fifth and sixth-ranked teams in the country, making it the third best of this year’s bowl games

It features the 12-1 fifth-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes, who bounced back from a 7-6 season last year that had everyone in Iowa calling for the head of coach Kirk Ferentz.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz leads the Hawkeyes against Stanford in the Rose Bowl. (Photo by Mario Villegas)
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz leads the Hawkeyes against Stanford in the Rose Bowl. (Photo by Mario Villegas)

Ferentz demoted last year’s quarterback, two-year starter Jake Ruddock, and replaced him with back-up quarterback C.J. Beathard, who only led the Hawkeyes to an unbeaten season until a 16-13 loss to Michigan State in the Big 10 championship game.

Ferentz has become an institution at Iowa since replacing Hayden Fry as head coach in 1999, but this is his first visit to the Rose Bowl.

His counterpart at Stanford, David Shaw is in his fifth year on the job and making his third trip to the Rose Bowl.

The Cardinal defeated USC twice on the way to the Pac 12 championship, scoring 41 points both times. Running back Christian McCaffrey, runner-up in the Heisman Trophy voting this year, is the offensive star, but four-year starter Kevin Hogan pilots the offense as quarterback.

He has the ability and experience to make the key third-down throw or run to keep drives moving.

Both teams like to play tough, physical football, which means it might be a low-scoring game. Look for Stanford to have more offensive weapons than Iowa in a 28-17 win.

NFL STADIUM UPDATE: In two weeks, NFL owners will meet in Houston to discuss the Los Angeles stadium situation. Three teams, the St. Louis Rams, the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders, are all interested in moving to Los Angeles, with stadium sites in Carson and Inglewood under consideration.

One of the things NFL owners are considering is what options the teams have if they don’t move.

The city of St. Louis, in a last-ditch effort to keep the Rams, unveiled plans this week for a $1.1 billion stadium along the Mississippi River that would involve $400 million in public financing.

The one drawback (as far as the league is concerned) is that the plan calls for the league to loan the stadium project $300 million, $100 million more than the NFL owners have approved.

San Diego plans to submit a proposal to the league before the Dec. 31 deadline, but the proposal is contingent on a public vote that won’t be held until June at the earliest, which the Chargers say is too late for them to decide to stay or go.

Oakland hasn’t submitted a specific proposal and won’t by the deadline. The city did send the league a letter detailing that it had made progress in “exploring a new stadium” for the Raiders.

The next important date is Jan. 4 when the three teams can submit applications for relocation. The Chargers already have said they will file an application; the other two teams are sure to follow suit.

The Chargers have been trying to get San Diego to agree to a new stadium for 20 years and the Spanos brothers who operate the team are well liked by other NFL owners. The league feels the Chargers have been more than fair with San Diego

Stan Kroenke, who owns the Rams, is not as popular with his fellow owners and the stadium the Rams play in is barely 20 years old.

The Raiders are the wild card.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Chargers playing in the Coliseum next September. I wouldn’t hold my breath on a second team joining them here next year.

Westchester High School basketball coach Ed Azzam, center, is surrounded by his players and assistant coaches after the Comets defeated Narbonne Dec. 26. The win gave Azzam 804 career wins at Westchester, breaking the L.A. City Section record for career basketball wins that belonged to former Crenshaw High coach Willie West. (Photo by Nick Koza)
Westchester High School basketball coach Ed Azzam, center, is surrounded by his players and assistant coaches after the Comets defeated Narbonne Dec. 26. The win gave Azzam 804 career wins at Westchester, breaking the L.A. City Section record for career basketball wins that belonged to former Crenshaw High coach Willie West. (Photo by Nick Koza)

AZZAM’S RECORD: Westchester High basketball coach Ed Azzam moved into the record book Dec. 26. The Comets 62-54 win over the Narbonne Gauchos gave Azzam 804 career wins, breaking the record for most basketball coaching career wins in the L.A. City Section. Former Crenshaw High coach Willie West held the old record at 803.

An assistant coach had printed out pieces of paper with a large “804” and the date on it that was passed out to players and fans in attendance at the game, creating an instant piece of sports memorabilia.

Azzam took over the Westchester program in the 1979-80 school year. During that time he has won 12 L.A. City basketball titles and six state titles.

His career record: 804-252.

UCLA WOES: Four years ago, UCLA football fans would have been dancing in the streets with an 8-5 record, even if that record included a loss to a 5-7 team in a bowl game.

But after three highly successful seasons under coach Jim Mora, the Bruins dropped a notch this year and Bruins fans — who have forgotten the dreadful Karl Dorrell and Rick Neuheisel eras — are hoping the Bruins can find a way to lure Chip Kelly, fired Dec. 29 by the Philadelphia Eagles, to Westwood.

The Bruins started the year at 7-2 before injuries decimated the defense and caused them to lose three of the final four games, including a 37-29 loss to Nebraska in the Foster Farms Bowl game Dec. 26.

Bruins faithful are pointing out that defensive lineman Kenny Clark and running back Paul Perkins have already announced they will enter the NFL Draft in April, which must indicate dissatisfaction with Mora.

It could just mean the players want to get paid for playing football next year.

Mora is 37-16 in four years at UCLA. He was 8-5 this year with a freshman quarterback and injuries to his three best defensive players.

A blog Dec. 30 suggested that athletic director Dan Guerrero should “encourage” Mora to explore NFL coaching options and then sign Kelly to replace him.

Mora was 31-33 in a four-year coaching career with the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks. He has provided the same spark with the Bruins that Pete Carroll did when he arrived on campus at USC as an unsuccessful NFL coach.

Mora may want to return to the NFL someday, but UCLA’s problems this year are fixable, especially with Josh Rosen around at quarterback for at least two more years.

Guerrero would be wise to ignore the fans and keep Mora around.

Meadowlark Lemon, the star of the Harlem Globetrotters from 1954 to 1978, died Dec. 26 at his home in Scottsdale, Arizona. He is remembered as a talented basketball player and an ever better showman. (Courtesy photo)
Meadowlark Lemon, the star of the Harlem Globetrotters from 1954 to 1978, died Dec. 26 at his home in Scottsdale, Arizona. He is remembered as a talented basketball player and an ever better showman. (Courtesy photo)

FAREWELL, MEADOWLARK: The death of Meadowlark Lemon — the star of the Harlem Globetrotters for 24 years from 1954 to 1978 — drew thousands of recollections on social media Dec. 28.

Anyone who ever saw the Globetrotters had to have fond memories of Lemon, who was a better showman than a basketball player and he was tremendous at both.

It was hard for blacks to crack an NBA roster in 1954 when Lemon joined the Globetrotters after two years in the Army, but Lemon probably would have held his own in the league. Outside of Curly Neal’s dribbling exhibition, Lemon was the featured attraction for most of his years with the team.

His half-court hook shots were amazingly accurate and he was probably the first to use the no-look, behind-the-back pass that is common today.

When he left the team in 1979 after a salary dispute, the Globetrotters began to lose their relevance, although they still tour regularly around the world.

There will never be another Meadowlark.