Stanford is better than Cal.
Stanford may not be a better university than Cal — then again it may be better. But when it comes to dealing with its football and basketball players, when it comes to fulfilling its mission to develop student-athletes, Stanford makes Cal look like some rinky-dink community college from the desert somewhere.
This is another way of saying a scandal-fueled controversy is raging across the Cal campus right now. Stanford never would face such an embarrassing, mind-blowing scandal over its football and basketball teams, never in a million years.
Stanford is better than Cal.
What I just wrote sounds biased, like I prefer Stanford to Cal. Sure I do. I went to Stanford for six years, 1966-1972, in the English Department and earned a Master's and Ph.D. there. I love Stanford. You should know that. I also know how the place works. You should know that, too.
The current scandal at Cal involves graduation rates — the GSR. According to numbers from the NCAA, Cal ranks dead last in the Pac-12 in football and basketball. Dead last.
Stanford, of course, ranks first. I'm proud Stanford ranks first, but it's what I expect and demand. I am sad Cal ranks last — my wife and stepson are Cal graduates and I admire that institution, generally considered the best public university in our nation.
These graduation numbers reflect the period 2003 through 2006, and Cal swears it's making corrections. And I believe Cal is making corrections, like firing football coach Jeff Tedford who let things go down the toilet academically. I mean, this is Cal with all its Nobel laureates, for heaven's sake. This is not (name the school) which is a feeder to the NFL, a minor-league team posing as a college squad, rah-rah and all that.
Shame on Cal.
I want to tell you how Stanford operates. I worked my way through Stanford as a graduate student by teaching Freshman English. Year after year, I taught Freshman English to those brilliant, innocent, eager 18-year-olds. One of my students was a handsome, smart, charming young black man named Jackie Brown. We had a class of about 15 and we sat around a conference table in a well-lit classroom in the undergraduate library. And week after week, Jackie read the stuff — Gide, Camus, Conrad — and debated in class with the others and wrote essays to die for.
Jackie was with me the entire year — the whole class was — and one day someone said that Jackie had played a good game. I had no idea what this person was talking about. I was deep into my studies and my teaching, and had taken a break from sports.
So, I said something like, "What game?" And this person looked at me like I was from Jupiter and told me Jackie was the halfback on the Stanford football team.
You don't say.
Turns out Jackie was one heck of a running back. Twice his team won the Rose Bowl. He ran for two touchdowns against Ohio State in the 1971 Rose Bowl and one TD against Michigan in the 1972 Rose Bowl. And here's the point. No one from the Stanford administration ever took me aside and told me who Jackie was and to take it easy on him. No way. He was a student in my class, nothing more, nothing less, and he was expected — required — to be a student.