Wednesday, August 13, 2008

New Home for College Blog

The new College Beat Blog is up and running OVER AT THE NEW ADDRESS.

There might still be a few kinks to work out, but I'm planning to start posting right away.

Please change your bookmarks if you made them, and I'll meet you over there soon!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Cal Poly run comes to an end

Well, the Cal Poly women’s basketball team’s run has come to an end at the Big West Tournament, falling to eventual champion UC Santa Barbara in the semifinals.
That just about wraps up the winter season for Cal Poly athletics, minus what has probably been the best story of the season — wrestler Chad Mendes, who hopes to complete his undefeated season this coming week at the NCAA Championships. (I’m working on another Mendes feature for the middle of the week, so look for that.)
The conclusion of the winter season all but wraps up my tenure on the college beat, at least for the immediate future.
Other than a couple of stories I’ve had on the backburner, I probably won’t be taking on much on the Cal Poly beat this spring. Because of some changes around the sports desk, and in my own life, I’ve decided to pass the torch to one of our other reporters.
In the meantime, I’ll be filling in on the desk, editing and laying out the section, along with some general-assignment reporting, i.e. alumni updates, action and outdoors sports coverage and possibly a column. Stories that don’t fit on the college and prep beats, like the kayak series and the big-wave surfing piece that our readers really seemed to enjoy.
I’ve been covering college sports in SLO since 2000, so I still hope to get out to Cal Poly and Cuesta College from time to time for features and various columns. But the day-to-day beat work will be handled by someone else.
When we sort out the details, I’m sure the new reporter will let you know and pick up where I left off on the blog.
I’ll still be looking for column and story ideas, on and off the college beat, if you want to pass them along to Thanks for following my stuff over the years.

Friday, March 14, 2008

They call her Sparkle for a reason

I’ve been covering Cal Poly basketball since the turn of the century (that makes me sound much older than I am), and I’m not sure I’ve seen a more impressive individual performance down the stretch than we saw from senior guard Sparkle Anderson today.
Sparkle. I mean, the name says it all.
Anderson scored six of her season-high 18 points in the final 71 seconds as the Mustangs overcame a 19-point deficit to upset Pacific 79-76 in the quarterfinals of the Big West Conference Tournament. The Mustangs' comeback victory has been, by far, the most entertaining game of the tournament.
Now, I’m somewhat exhausted, having battled SoCal traffic and worked a 14-hour day yesterday covering both the men’s and women’s teams, but I can’t come up with many better performances by Mustangs on the hardwood.
Anderson started Thursday’s rally with a turnaround jumper with 8:50 left to cut the lead to three.
She also came up with a key steal with 1:56 left and hit Megan Harrison with a full-court baseball pass that kept the Mustangs within three and set the stage for her late heroics.
The senior guard hit a game-tying 3-pointer on the following possession with 1:11 left, hit two free throws to take the lead for good with 26.8 ticks left and added a third free throw with 1.1 seconds remaining.
All this from a 5-foot-2 guard who missed much of the last season with a major knee injury and still plays with a brace and a noticeable limp on that bum knee.
Anderson, a fifth-year senior, has set a school record by appearing in 117 games. In the regular-season finale against Cal State Northridge, she broke a 23-year-old record of 114 career games set by Terrie McDonald from 1981-84.
Again, I’m running on fumes at this point, and it's apples and oranges, but I’d have to put Anderson’s performance up there with Kameron Gray’s outing against USC on Dec. 23, 2003, the day of the San Simeon earthquake when the Cal Poly guard scored 20 of his career-high 32 points in the final 11 minutes of a 93-78 victory at USC.
Gray, who had a tooth knocked out in the first half of the USC game, added 12 rebounds in the win over the Trojans, in what I would argue is the best single-game performance I’ve seen by a Cal Poly hoopster.
Then again, Anderson’s performance came in an elimination game, in the Big West Tournament, in what was looking like the final game of her college career.
Now she gets one more game, Friday’s semifinal meeting with rival UC Santa Barbara.

That's all I got for now. I need to catch some zzzs before tomorrow's game. In the meantime, what are your most memorable individual performances by Cal Poly basketball players? Comment below.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

It 'wasn’t a pretty game to watch'

Finally, it’s over.
Instead of this prolonging a season filled with putrid shooting performances – from the arc, from the paint and from the line – the Cal Poly men’s basketball team made an early exit from the Big West Tournament on Wednesday.
The sixth-seeded Mustangs lost 62-54 to seventh-seeded UC Riverside in a fitting conclusion to their dismal season, hitting just 36.7 percent of their floor shots making just one FG in the first 17 minutes.
It was the only upset of the day.
UC Riverside head coach Jim Woolridge probably put it best, saying it “wasn’t a pretty game to watch.”
No it wasn’t.
Cal Poly’s shooting struggles – missing 13 of its first 14 shots and shooting 18 percent in the first half – was reminiscent of last year’s opener by the women’s team, which shot 16 percent in the first half of a 70-67 loss to Long Beach State.
This year, the Cal Poly women got off to a much better start, shooting 41.9 percent this time around, sprinting to a 29-9 lead before the seats in the Anaheim Convention Center were even warm. Then again, the seats were cold for most of the day as only a few hundred showed up for the opener – although the Big West never announced an attendance figure, probably for that exact reason.
What SoCal basketball fans missed was Cal Poly’s women’s team finishing off UC Irvine by shooting 56 percent from the floor in the second half and hitting nine of their final 11 free throws.
So for one more day, at least, Cal Poly basketball is alive and kicking.
The Mustang women play Pacific on Thursday.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

4 wins + 4 days = Big Dance

The sixth-seeded Cal Poly men’s basketball team (12-17, 7-9) will try to pull off the unthinkable this week, winning four games in four days to advance to its first NCAA Tournament.
The Mustangs open the tournament Wednesday night against seventh-seeded UC Riverside (8-20, 4-12) in the first round at the Anaheim Convention Center.
Four wins doesn’t seem like such a daunting task until you realize Cal Poly hasn’t won four straight all year and has put together a winning streak only twice (the best of which was a three-game streak in November).
But hey, a sixth seed has won this thing before. Don’t believe it? San Jose State, yes, the Spartans, took the tournament as the sixth seed in 1996 – only the tournament was a three-day event back then.
Wipe the Spartans’ win off the books and nobody lower than a fourth seed has won the tournament since it began in 1976.

See Tuesday’s paper for a story on all-conference selections and Wednesday’s paper for tournament previews for both the men’s and women’s teams.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Big West Tourney seedings set

Big West Conference
Men’s Seedings
UC Santa Barbara (1)
Cal State Northridge (2)
Cal State Fullerton (3)
Pacific (4)
UC Irvine (5)
Cal Poly (6)
UC Riverside (7)
Long Beach State (8)

Big West Tournament
First Round (Anaheim)
Long Beach State vs. UC Irvine, 6 p.m.
UC Riverside vs. Cal Poly, 8:30 p.m.

Women’s Seedings
UC Santa Barbara (1)
UC Davis (2)
UC Riverside (3)
Pacific (4)
Cal Poly (5)
Cal State Fullerton (6)
Long Beach State (7)
UC Irvine (8)

Big West Tournament
First Round (Anaheim)
UC Irvine vs. Cal Poly, noon
Long Beach State vs. Cal State Fullerton, 2:30 p.m.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Poly football picks up another QB

Cabrillo College quarterback and punter Harlan Prather, who made an official visit to Cal Poly last month, has decided to walk on for the Mustangs next fall, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
Prather, a 6-foot, 210-pounder out of San Lorenzo Valley High (i.e. Jordan Beck's old stomping grounds), was an All-Coast Conference selection after passing for 2,159 yards and 27 touchdowns in a season and a half as Cabrillo’s starter.
While Cal Poly returns 10 of its 11 offensive starters next season, including quarterback Jonathan Dally, Prather could make an impact as a punter.
Cal Poly is looking for a replacement for Tim Chicoine, who averaged 42.5 yards on his 46 punts last season.
Jake West and Andrew Gardner are currently listed as the Mustangs’ punters during Spring Drills.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Losses to LBSU* will stand

The defending Big West Conference champion Long Beach State men’s basketball program, which lost at home to Cal Poly on Thursday, has been slapped with a rash of NCAA- and self-imposed penalties.
According to The Associated Press, penalties against the 49ers include three years probation, forfeiting their 18 victories from the 2005-06 season, reduced recruiting and fewer scholarships. The limited probation will allow the 49ers to participate in postseason play and the Big West Tournament.
Cal Poly lost two games to the 49ers in 2005-06, but school officials said the Mustangs’ 2005-06 record (10-19, 7-7 Big West) probably won't be altered other than having asterisks placed next to the Long Beach State losses that season.
You can read more about the penalties in the Press-Telegram and a school-issued press release.

Cal Poly's 2005-06 meetings with Long Beach State:
Jan. 9 vs. Long Beach State, L 79-66*
Feb. 9 at Long Beach State, L 69-66*
*LBSU forfeited its 18 wins in 2005-06.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

RPI could spell RIP for Big West

Not that this is surprising news, but a look at the NCAA's latest RPI men's basketball figures shows the Big West Conference will be a one-bid league to the 65-team NCAA Tournament again this season. This also means the team that wins the regular season is assured of nothing, and the champion of the Big West Tournament could receive a very low seed.
As of Feb. 25, ESPN's Joe Lunardi projects Cal State Northridge will win the Big West Tournament and earn a 14th seed to the NCAA Tournament, opening against third-seeded Stanford.
But even a 14th seed might be too high for the Big West this year considering the league does not have a team ranked in the top 85 of the latest RPI, with UCSB leading the way at No. 89. Cal Poly is down to No. 209:


  • 89. UCSB
  • 93. CS Fullerton
  • 116. CS Northridge
  • 129. Pacific
  • 184. UC Irvine
  • 209. Cal Poly
  • 296. UC Riverside
  • 300. UC Davis
  • 319. Long Beach St.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

For surfing daredevils, it's an "Endless Winter"

Editor's note: This story was originally published by The Tribune (San Luis Obispo, CA) on February 24, 2008:

By Brian Milne

"Get in and wrestle with the sea; wing your heels with the skill and power that reside in you; bit the sea's breakers, master them, and ride upon their backs as a king should."
- from Jack London's 1907 surf essay titled "A Royal Sport"

The sun hasn't even pierced the early morning cloud cover and the Jet Skis are already in the water.

Mike Jones and a couple of surfing buddies are gearing up the "skis" for another harrowing ride to their favorite reef break, located six stormy miles outside their launch site inside the Morro Bay harbor.

By the time these big-wave hunters reach the harbor mouth, their nerves are on full alert.

With massive swells swallowing the breakwater and a U.S. Coast Guard boat bobbing about like a rubber duck in a tub, it's no wonder their hearts are pounding on their tonsils.

And this is just the beginning of their epic journey, which will lead to the biggest waves of the winter surf season.

"We've been in some life-threatening situations and it can get pretty scary," said Jones, who owns Azhiaziam sportswear in San Luis Obispo and sponsors some of the county's top surfers. "On days like that, you leave the harbor mouth when it's 40 foot and the Coast Guard is like, 'What the heck are you doing?' They write down all your information, your name, next of kin, and that stuff doesn't help. It can be intimidating, and sometimes you don't want to leave the harbor, but it's what we do."

On this cold winter morning, the bravado pays off as Jones captures a jaw-dropping photo sequence of local surf legend Van Curaza getting towed into a two-story monster.

A 140-horsepower Jet Ski slings Curaza into an avalanche of whitewater, generated by a barnacle-covered reef only a few feet below the surface. Curaza disappears behind the frosted white crest and finds himself deep in the belly of a barreling beast. His green board nearly escapes the collapsing tube, but the power of the wave sends him tumbling down the face like a rag doll.

Curaza is pushed below the surface for a half-minute but pops up from his underwater pummeling with a smile that's as long as his shoulder-length locks.

"It's an adrenaline rush," said Curaza, 45, from Avila Beach. "When you surf a wave like that, dodging death and everything that comes with surfing big waves, it's a pretty intense feeling. Surfing has a certain amount of joy, but on these waves there's a spirituality and a mental reward that you just can't find anywhere else."

Storm surge

While spellbound beachgoers gawk at the giant storm surf from shore and the end of Cayucos Pier, the local gang of tow-in surfers finds itself in the middle of a white-knuckle waterworld, catching 20-to 25-foot-high waves that will later grace the pages of Transworld Surf and Surfer magazines.

Curaza's first wave of the day, which photographer Chris Burkard said "spit him out so hard that I lost him," is featured on a two-page spread in the March edition of Surfer magazine, giving the unheralded Central Coast charger more ink than surfing poster boys Kelly Slater and Rob Machado.

"No matter where you're from, chances are there's a distant reef, shelf or pinnacle that creates mutant formations every time the heavy water appears," the caption notes. "Most of these beasts were attempted long ago, examined up close and personal by previous generations only to be written off as undoable -- possibly unsurvivable."

But the personal watercraft --Curaza first began towing into these winter giants on an inflatable Zodiac--has made tackling Neptune's wrath a reality. Now surfers can be towed into waves that are too big, too fast, and just too dangerous for traditional paddle-in methods.

The gigantic swells reach the Central Coast only a handful of times each winter, so when the swell hits you can bet veteran watermen like Curaza, Chad Jackson, Gabe Gazzola and Jason Milner are on the scene. When the waves get too big for paddling, Curaza and company tow in behind Jet Skis, strapped to their boards like wakeboarders, only this isn't a lazy summer day and this isn't Nacimiento Lake.

"Luckily they surf far enough away that I can't see them," said Angie Morris, Curaza's girlfriend. "I've heard stories about Van being pounded by a wave, held under long enough where he can't breathe or see anything, but you just have to have complete confidence that he can handle it."

Earning respect

While the number of dedicated big-wave surfers in the area has grown since Curaza and his friends first began towing into Central Coast giants in the mid-1990s, frigid waters, sharks and state-issued disaster warnings keep most surfers away from the outer reef breaks this time of year.

And the locals would like to keep it that way, refusing to disclose their favorite spots to reporters and giving outsiders -- even the biggest names in the sport--a hard time if they show a lack of respect when surfing in their backyard.

"I take it pretty seriously," said Gazzola, a 35-year-old Cayucos native. "I'm a native of this place, and it's really a sacred and special place that we don't want to be overrun. The big swells only come a few times a year, so we don't want a bunch of outsiders coming in. I've seen what can happen to other big-name spots that have been ruined, and we don't want our waves to get overcrowded, polluted and all of that."

Despite a territorial crowd and the quest to keep their favorite spots out of the limelight, the word is getting out about the county's waves. Photos of the county's best spots pop up in magazines every winter with names such as "Mysto Reef" in the captions, but the state's best surfers know exactly where those breaks are located.

San Clemente's Greg Long, who won the prestigious Mavericks Surf Contest last month, says one of California's best breaks is off the MontaƱa de Oro coast.

"I've surfed out there plenty of times," Long said. "Those (local) guys would kill me if I say where, but there's some good waves down there."

Santa Cruz's Kenny Collins, who won the Billabong XXL award in 2007 for the best bigwave ride of the year, says he's partial to an outer reef break in Cayucos.

"A lot of people don't know it, but San Luis Obispo has some great surf spots," Collins said. "I've got secret spots down there, but I'm not giving them away."

The big break

The area's best big-wave riders also are making a name for themselves outside the Central Coast.

Curaza and Jackson finished seventh in last month's Nelscott Reef Tow-in Classic in Lincoln City, Ore., towing into waves with 30-to 40-foot faces, on a day when a massive great white shark was spotted in between heats.

Jackson was recently featured in the local surf documentary "Lost in the Middle," and is on the cover of the current edition of Deep magazine.

Templeton's Nate Tyler, the county's best-known professional surfer, grew up riding big waves on the Central Coast and has surfed everywhere from Pipeline to Chile.

In 1999, Pismo Beach native Sarah Gerhardt, a Cal Poly graduate who now lives in Santa Cruz, became the first woman to paddle into the infamous Maverick's break in Half Moon Bay, where renowned Hawaiian surfer Mark Foo died five years earlier.

Gerhardt's story is the focus of a new surf documentary titled "One Winter Story."

"I learned to surf in the beach break in Pismo Beach," Gerhardt said. "Even though the breaks around the Central Coast aren't as big or perfect as often as Hawaii or Northern California, I found plenty of opportunities to hone my big-wave skills. I just had to look diligently for them."

The search continues

Searching for big waves is half the fun on the Central Coast, which is probably best known for its shapeless beach breaks that close out and become unsurfable during larger swells.

When the giant swells arrive (21-to 23-foot swells are expected today), that's when the diehards head for the reef breaks off the North Coast or the infamous breaks in Northern California.

And whether they're seeking tow-in waves off the Cayucos coast or paddling in at Maverick's, the big-wave pursuit is the same, says bigwave pioneer Jeff Clark.

"That's what these guys do, they follow the storms around the planet -- it's like 'The Endless Summer,' Bruce Brown's first movie when they follow the surf season," said Clark, who discovered and surfed Maverick's alone for the first 15 years. "Today, things have changed, and now the surf season for the big-wave guys is following the winter storms, and it's become 'The Endless Winter.' "

Next to Maverick's, Northern California's next-most notorious break is Ghost Tree, located off Pescadero Point in Pebble Beach--about 85 miles north of San Luis Obispo County.

Jones was in the water photographing at Ghost Tree on Dec. 4 when legendary Monterey surfer Peter Davi drowned while surfing some of the biggest waves ever along that coast.

"That was just an eerie day with all of the kelp churned up and the rocks out there," Jones said. "I don't know what (Davi) did. I got one shot of him trying to catch a 30-footer and then I didn't really see him the rest of the day. ... When we got the news that he had died, it was just surreal."

News of Davi's death steamrolled the surf community like a cleanup set, but it did little to prevent the bigwave surfers from chasing the next swell.

Jones, Curaza and Jackson, for example, were back surfing a hairy North Coast reef before sunrise the following day.

"It takes a certain type of person to want to go out and attack that kind of stuff," said Curaza, who spent the first half of February surfing in Hawaii. "I enjoy the rush. No matter what you do, accidents are going to happen. We always do our best to be cautious and prevent things like that from happening, but you never know when you're dealing with Mother Nature. At the same time, you can't live in fear. You have to trust your ability and have faith."

Gerhardt, 33, and her husband, Mike, who met while surfing Oahu's North Shore, have two children, but still surf Maverick's occasionally and hope to travel the globe in search of giant waves in the future.

For the Gerhardts, like many big-wave surfers, the thrill will always be worth the risk.

"We both know the risks involved in surfing big waves are heavy, and that we could possibly lose our lives, but we are calculated risk-takers -- not just throwing caution to the wind," Sarah Gerhardt said. "We also believe that God has our days in his hands. We all die, and if we are to die in a car accident on the way to work, or out at Mavs, there is no difference. When our time is up, it's up, so we choose to live each day to the fullest with full awareness that this may be our last day here."

Friday, February 22, 2008

Wisconsin beefs up 2008 slate

Cal Poly has officially announced the worst kept secret on its 2008 football schedule.
The Mustangs will travel to BCS and Big Ten heavyweight Wisconsin on Nov. 22 (read The Tribune scoop here), which, if you do the math, is the final game of the regular season. I guess games against cupcakes like Iona and Savannah State are a thing of the past.
It will be very interesting to see how the Mustangs approach that game if they’re in the hunt for a playoff spot.
The Badgers, who ended the season ranked No. 24 in the AP poll, are projected to be in the FBS/I-A top 15 at the start of the 2008 season. You can read the Wisconsin side of the schedule story here (yes, they attribute stories out there in Madison -- unlike some of our media friends in SLO).
Good thing Ramses Barden didn’t turn pro and the Mustangs return 10 of 11 starters on offense. They’re going to need all of ’em against this schedule – which you can bet is one of the toughest in I-AA.
Here’s a tentative look at what the Mustangs will be faced with in 2008. Again, all of this is tentative and according to opposing schools and/or sources close to the program. According to AD Alison Cone, the Mustangs have 11 games and are looking for a 12th before announcing the entire slate. See Saturday's follow-up story for more on the Wisconsin game, including payout and buyout figures.

Aug. 30: at San Diego State
Sept. 6: Montana
Sept. 13: at McNeese State
Sept. 20: at Northwestern State
Oct. 18: at South Dakota State
Oct. 25: Southern Utah
Nov. 15: UC Davis
Nov. 22: at Wisconsin
TBA: Idaho State (in SLO)
Possible: No. Dakota
Not on: Sacramento State

Saturday, February 16, 2008

D.J. joins SaberCats

Another former Mustang has joined Dan Loney on the San Jose SaberCats.
Darrell Jones, Cal Poly’s all-time receptions leader, was signed by San Jose’s Arena Football League team this week, joining the SaberCats’ training camp in preparation for the March 3 season opener.
Jones played at Cal Poly from 2001-04, setting school records for career receptions and kick returns.
He joins Loney, an Atascadero High graduate who played at Cal Poly from 1996-99. Loney, entering his seventh season with the SaberCats, was the team’s lineman of the year the past two seasons.
The 5-foot-9, 190-pound Jones played for the AFL’s Arizona Rattlers the past two seasons, returning 57 kicks for 1,118 yards and two touchdowns. He was put on recallable waivers Dec. 14.
Jones was one of the most electric players in Cal Poly history, returning five punts and three kickoffs for touchdowns. The San Rafael product finished his career with 177 catches for 2,460 yards and 20 touchdowns. In his four years, Jones scored touchdowns five different ways — rushing (1), passing (1), receiving (20), kickoff return (3) and punt return (5).
The San Jose SaberCats open the season March 3 against the Chicago Rush at 6 p.m. on ESPN2.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Just another manic Monday

"Big Monday" was a fitting label for all of the news coming out of Cal Poly on Monday, which is usually a quiet day for Mustangs sports news (with the exception of the made-for-TV press conferences at Mott Gym each week).
Not only did the news about Morro Bay football star Logan Budd committing to Cal Poly come out, but the Mustangs men's basketball team put together a winning streak, winning its second-straight game at Pacific and on ESPN2's "Big Monday" off all places. Cal Poly always seems to play big on TV, but in the two Big West Tournament finales broadcast by ESPN, the Mustangs couldn't finish. Last night, the Mustangs finally closed out a TV game, in what was their biggest win of the conference season.
If you missed the news, you can read about Budd's commitment here. Stay tuned for more signings next week. National signing day is a week away.
You can read about Cal Poly's five-point win in Stockton here, or watch it online at For those who haven't checked it out, ESPN360 shows most of the ESPN-televised games for free, both live and as replays. The only drawback for SLO County sports fans is ESPN360 is not supported by Charter as an Internet provider. But if you have AT&T DSL, it works like a charm. If you go to the replay list, the Cal Poly-Pacific game is toward the bottom (no word on if the games are listed by ratings, but I'm guessing this Big West contest won't be rivaling American Idol this week in the Nielsen Ratings).

Friday, January 25, 2008

'08 football schedule still taking shape

Many of Cal Poly’s opponents have announced their 2008 football schedules, but the Mustangs are still a “ways away” from announcing their schedule, according to head coach Rich Ellerson.
Instead of waiting until late February (which is when the schedule was announced last year), here’s a look at what we know now about the 2008 slate:
Aug. 30: The Mustangs are scheduled to open at I-A San Diego State.
Sept. 6: The home opener is against Montana, which finished the year ranked No. 10 in I-AA.
Sept. 13: Cal Poly heads to McNeese State, which went unbeaten during the regular season and finished the year ranked No. 11 after a first-round loss to Eastern Washington.
Oct. 18: The Mustangs travel to South Dakota State for a nonconference meeting as the Jacks are no longer in the Great West.
Nov. 15: Cal Poly hosts rival UC Davis in a conference meeting.
TBA: The Mustangs will likely host conference foe Southern Utah and has at least one more conference game against one of the two league newcomers, likely South Dakota. The Mustangs also play a nonconference home game against Idaho State. A date has not been announced.
That leaves at least three more opponents to get to an 11-game schedule, with Big Sky teams like Sacramento State or Eastern Washington a possibility. There has also been talk about Northwestern State.
The NCAA has approved the addition of a 12th regular-season game for Championship Subdivision teams in 2008, 2012 and 2013, so there is an outside possibility the Mustangs have 12 games this fall.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Shotwell happy to play for Dungy in '08

Former Cal Poly football player Kyle Shotwell is “elated” to hear Tony Dungy is coming back to coach the Indianapolis Colts.
Shotwell signed a free-agent contract with Indianapolis earlier this month and will join the team in March or April in preparation for mini camp.
“I have an enormous amount of respect for him not only as a football coach but more importantly, a man,” Shotwell noted of Dungy in an e-mail to The Tribune. “He seems to take the same approach to the game of football that I do, and am looking forward to the opportunity to be around a leader like him.
“...I think what separates him from other coaches is the way that he approaches the game. He approaches it with the right perspective, and that is that at the end of the day it's just a game. A very important and beautiful game, that is a large part of our lives, however, it is not your whole life. He prioritizes his life and priorities well, and it seems to me that it has worked out nicely for him and the organization as a whole. I really admire what he stands for and how he goes about his business.”
In the meantime, Shotwell said he plans to continue working out in Goleta and in San Luis Obispo and is gearing up for quite the road trip this week. He flies out to Atlanta on Thursday to visit with former Mustang teammate Jordan Beck.
Beck, who was cut by the Atlanta Falcons last year, is now with the Denver Broncos and Shotwell said he is helping Beck move all of his belongings to Denver — a 1,400-mile road trip.
I guess the two Mustangs — who went to the NFL immediately after graduation — will get to go on that senior trip after all.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Ramses remains a Mustang

The NFL will have to wait for Ramses Barden.
The Mustangs' junior wide receiver told The Tribune on Sunday that he will return to Cal Poly for his senior season.
With 10 offensive starters returning, Barden said it would’ve been a tough call to make the jump to the NFL.
The All-American had considered leaving school a year early and filed paperwork with the NFL advisory committee. He was projected as a fifth-round pick for April’s NFL Draft but has decided to come back and might even run track this spring to improve his speed.
With his sights set on the 2008 football season, Barden feels the Mustangs are ready to make a run at a national championship.

“I can’t say (our goal) will be any different from any other year, but the possibility is a lot more real than it has been in the past,” he said. “We have all the right pieces in place at the right time. We have another opportunity this year. We have a little more talent than we’ve had in the past. We have a lot of experience, and we have a lot of people that buy into what we’re doing. We have a great community, too, so we have a good chance to get to that championship game and be the one team that can (win) it this year.”

Read more about Barden’s decision to return in Monday’s Tribune and at
• • •
In other news, I'm out of town for the week, so I won't be posting any more scoops until after Jan. 20. In the meantime, post your thoughts on Barden's return — and whatever else is on your mind — below:

Friday, January 11, 2008

Should he stay or should he go?

That is the question facing Cal Poly junior wide receiver Ramses Barden heading into the weekend.
In an interview Thursday, Barden confirmed he has turned in paperwork to the NFL advisory committee and is considering leaving school a year early for the NFL Draft.
The 6-6, 228-pound All-American said he was projected as a fifth-round pick by the committee -- which some have said can be right on with its projections or be a bit conservative, depending on who you talk to.
Either way, it looks like leaving a year early could be a gamble for a FCS/I-AA player, even if it's someone with Barden's size, speed and play-making ability.
The general feeling I'm getting from players and others sources close to the program is that Barden is leaning toward returning to school but is keeping his options open just in case.
Then again, in the interview Thursday, he said he's "still not completely decided yet.”
Well, he better be soon. The deadline is Jan. 15. You can read the rest of the story here.

Saturday update:
Reached by phone tonight, the Cal Poly wide receiver told The Tribune he is still undecided on whether he will return for his senior season or forego his final year of eligibility to enter the NFL Draft.

In the meantime, what do you think Ramses should do?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Shotwell signs with Super Bowl champs

Former Cal Poly linebacker Kyle Shotwell has signed a free-agent contract with the defending Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts.
Shotwell, whose five-week stint on the Philadelphia Eagles practice squad ended at the conclusion of the regular season, is expected to join the Colts after the postseason in preparation for the 2008 preseason.
“When I was finishing up my time with the Eagles, I thought the (interested) teams would be the Eagles and the Raiders,” Shotwell said. “Then the Colts kind of came out of nowhere. I was excited when I heard that because that’s one of the teams that was interested in me from the start and a place that I saw myself fitting in with. I’m glad it worked out that way.”
The 2006 Buck Buchanan Award winner is one of five former Mustangs in the NFL.
Two others — Philadelphia LB Chris Gocong and Denver LB Jordan Beck — just finished up their first seasons with their respective teams.
The other two are in the playoffs this weekend.
Kassim Osgood, who played at Cal Poly for three years before transferring to San Diego State, is a wide receiver and Pro Bowl special teams player for the San Diego Chargers, who travel to face Shotwell’s new team in Indianapolis on Sunday.
Former Mustangs cornerback Courtney Brown is a defensive back for the Dallas Cowboys, who host the New York Giants on Sunday.
See Friday's Tribune for more on this story.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Trib sports staff BCS picks

OK, so it's not exactly Cal Poly related, but it's college and it's local because I polled our sports staff to see who they like to win Monday night's BCS title game between No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 LSU. Needless to say, the staff doesn't like the Buckeyes' chances.
• Tristan Aird: LSU, 35-24
• Ashley Conklin: LSU, 34-17
• Erick Smith: LSU, 34-14
• Donovan Aird: LSU, 35-21
• J.D. Scroggin: LSU, 42-13
• Brian Milne: LSU, 28-17
Well, I guess it's a clean sweep for the Tigers. If LSU wins, whoever is closest to the final score will get dinner or something on the rest of staff. If Ohio State wins, we should look into another profession.


LSU battled back from an early 10-point deficit to beat Ohio State 38-24 in Monday's BCS Championship Game in New Orleans.
The Tigers' second BCS title made The Tribune sports staff look smarter than some would think. But some looked smarter than others. While all of us picked the Tigers to win by at least two scores, Tristan "The Wizard of Odds" Aird was a mere three points off the final score thanks to the two late touchdowns. Nice work by Aird and the Tigers.

— Associated Press photo

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Cal Poly aims to shoot out of slump

Cal Poly guard Lorenzo Keeler was the first to field the question after Thursday’s blowout loss to Cal State Northridge.
What’s wrong with the Mustangs’ shooters?
The Cal Poly men’s basketball team had another miserable night from the floor in the 80-59 defeat in Mott Gym, signaling the start of what could be a long Big West Conference season if the Mustangs (5-8, 0-1) don’t turn around their dismal 38.5 shooting percentage.
“We need more confidence on offense,” said Keeler, who was 2 of 8 from the floor against the Matadors. “We haven’t shot well all year, and I think it’s a mental thing because in practice they’re going in. In the games, it’s been a different story.”
Has it ever.
Despite what Cal Poly head coach Kevin Bromley said were “three good days of practice” early in the week, the Mustangs were 19 of 56 from the field and 5 of 21 from beyond the arc in the loss to the Matadors. It was Cal Poly’s worst home loss since a 64-37 debacle against UC Santa Barbara on Feb. 15, 2006.
And this is a Mustangs team that returned a conference-high 11 players from a squad that shot 46.5 percent from the floor and 39.3 percent from long range last season. It’s a team that obviously misses the shooting and leadership presence of departed seniors like Derek Stockalper and Tyler McGinn.
Cal Poly, which hasn’t shot better than 36 percent in its past three games, is now dead last in the Big West in field-goal percentage, 3-point percentage (29.4) and free-throw percentage (61.9).
The Mustangs hope to regain their touch tonight in Mott Gym when they host defending-conference champion Long Beach State (3-9, 0-1), which lost at UC Santa Barbara 79-64 on Thursday.
The 49ers beat Cal Poly in last year’s Big West Tournament finale to advance to the NCAA Tournament, but with both teams struggling. the Mustangs are more concerned with fixing their shooting woes than exacting revenge on a 49ers squad that lost its top nine scorers and is playing for a new coach in Dan Monson.
“This basketball team has to have a nice mixture of an inside presence, penetration and a 3-point presence. When we have that mixture, we’re going to be pretty darn good,” Bromley said. “We can’t go away with 30 3s. We can’t go away when we don’t have penetration in the paint. We can’t go away when we don’t have any post touches.”
In the first half of Thursday’s loss, Cal Poly center Titus Shelton did not have an official field-goal attempt, though he went to the free-throw line once.
Despite missing their first five attempts from 3-point range, Cal Poly attempted another nine treys in the first half. Mustangs guards Keeler, Chaz Thomas, Trae Clark and Dawin Whiten finished a collective 5 of 19 from beyond the arc while Cal Poly big men Shelton, Matt Hanson, Dreshawn Vance and John Manley were 6 of 15 inside.
“We’re not on the right page right now,” Bromley said. “We just have to get this out of our system. All I know is there’s no easy solution. ... You want it back hard enough, you just have to work harder and that’s when it comes. If you’re passionate about it, work hard for it and work smart, you’re going to get where you want to go.”

The latest from the sports desk

Well, that Cal Poly men's basketball preview didn't make today's edition because of the power outage. In fact, no sports made today's paper, which is discouraging as that's never happened in my previous seven plus years here. But we'll have to blame Mother Nature on that one.
In the meantime, you can find a capsule previewing the game at

In other Cal Poly news today:
The awards keep coming for Cal Poly football players Ramses Barden and Stephen Field.
Barden and Field, a pair of juniors who have one more year of eligibility, earned All-America honors Saturday when The Sports Network announced its Football Championship Subdivision All-America teams.
Barden, a wide receiver, earned first-team honors.
Field, an offensive lineman out of Arroyo Grande, was recognized on the second team. You can find the entire All-America list here.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Raining, pouring, sports desk is snoring

Luckily it was a slow night on the Cal Poly beat tonight as it appears there will be no sports section Saturday because of a power outage at The Tribune office – the first time I can remember us having such a problem in my seven plus years.
The only event involving a Cal Poly team tonight was the wrestling squad's 22-15 victory over Oregon in Mott Gym.
The fact that the Mustangs wrestled tonight at home, with power going out all over the place, is a good indicator Saturday’s Cal Poly men’s basketball game against Long Beach State (7 p.m.) should go off without a hitch. I’ll keep you posted tomorrow and will be sure to post a game preview if it doesn’t make the morning paper. I apologize ahead of time if this is the case.
Chad Mendes did not wrestle tonight because of a forfeit at 141 pounds.
Notable victories by the Mustangs included:
• Micah Ferguson’s 4-0 win over Joey Lucas at 125
• Eric Maldanado’s 9-5 decision against Jeremy McLaughlin at 149
• Chase Pami’s 15-3 victory over Elliott Trace at 157
• Ryan Williams’ 5-4 win against Kyle Bounds at 165
• AG’s Arturo Basulto’s 3-1 decision over Shaun Dee at 197

Rain, rain, go away

The power went out at The Tribune at about 4:45 p.m. today and there is a possibility the paper won't be able to run the presses tonight. If we receive power, I'll try to post a preview I wrote for Saturday's Long Beach State-Cal Poly men's basketball game.
• Last time I checked, Cal Poly's 7 p.m. wrestling match against Oregon was still on for tonight. You can watch it online here.
• A handful of prep events have been washed for today. I believe J.D. will be posting an update on that on his blog.
• In other college news, soon-to-be Great West member North Dakota has already hired a new football coach. North Dakota assistant Chris Mussman has been tabbed as the replacement for Dale Lennon, who recently resigned to take over head coaching duties at Southern Illinois.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Matadors dressed to kill

Initial thoughts from tonight’s Big West Conference opener, which the Cal Poly men’s basketball team lost to Cal State Northridge 80-59 before only 1,500 fans in Mott Gym:
• The Mustangs might have returned a league-high 11 players this year, but they really miss those three seniors they lost – their best all-around player Derek Stockalper, the grit of Tyler McGinn and the emotional lift that one of their verbal leaders, Joe Henry, brought.
• Cal State Northridge is better than people thought.
• The Matadors' coach, Bobby Braswell, was sporting another sweet suit. Braswell, once named the conference's best-dressed coach by one random magazine or another, was wearing what was kind of a beige suit with a coral pattern this time around.
• Why am I going all GQ and writing about suits? That stuff happens in a 21-point blowout.
• Josh Jenkins, the Matadors JC transfer point guard, is the one who gets them going. When he’s under control, he’s fun to watch. He had 11 assists in like 20 minutes.
• Cal Poly had 11 assists, AS A TEAM.
• The Mustangs didn’t jack up 30 threes tonight, but they made just five of the 21 they attempted. Cal Poly head coach Kevin Bromley must have had a talk with his shooters at halftime because they attempted only seven treys in the second half. Should be interesting to see how they come out Saturday against Long Beach St.
• Cal Poly big men Titus Shelton, Matt Hanson, Dreshawn Vance and John Manley attempted just 15 shots inside the arc.

- Braswell photo courtesy GQ, I mean CSUN.

Great West will get another new face

Another Great West Conference program will be playing under a new coach next season.
A week after Southern Utah announced the hiring of Ed Lamb, University of North Dakota’s Dale Lennon resigned from his post to take over head coaching duties at Southern Illinois.
North Dakota and South Dakota are set to play in the Great West in 2008, although you wouldn’t know it by the Great West Web site, which barely mentions the schools on its homepage. North Dakota State and South Dakota State are still featured on the site, although the two programs will be playing in the Gateway Conference in 2008.
Even though the FCS season is over, the conference site probably won’t recognize the realignment until the end of the current academic year.
In the meantime, there is a Web poll on the site that asks what team should be the preseason favorite in the Great West. As of Thursday at midnight, UC Davis led the poll with 2,508 votes (56 percent). Cal Poly was next with 1,252, followed by North Dakota (489), Southern Utah (112) and South Dakota (86).

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Big zero for Big West women

Zip, zero, zilch, nada.
I’m writing a Big West Conference women’s basketball preview and realized that’s the number of teams with a winning record heading into conference play.
Going into tonight’s opener between Pacific and UC Riverside, the league is a combined 28-76 this season. Yikes.
Only league newcomer UC Davis, which is 6-6, has a .500 record.
Everyone else has losing records, and the league favorite, UC Riverside, is 2-9 thus far. Double yikes.
Why is the Big West struggling so bad? Well, you can find out more about that tomorrow when the preview runs. Or you can just look at a never-ending injury list that includes: UC Riverside’s Kemie Nkele (knee), Long Beach State’s Karina Figueroa (foot), Pacific’s Jake Kelly (undisclosed health condition) and UCSB’s Jenna Green (back). Yikes times four. And those are only the injuries that have been announced by the respective programs and are expected to be season ending.
All of which should make for a wide-open Big West race this year.

Here's to a happier new year

The new year couldn’t have come soon enough for the Big West Conference.
Of the conference’s nine men’s basketball teams, only three closed out 2007 with victories – and none of those teams is riding a winning streak heading into conference play.
UC Santa Barbara (11-2), Cal State Northridge (8-3) and UC Irvine (5-8) are the only teams entering 2008 on a high note. League favorite UC Santa Barbara is coming off a 58-51 victory at Eastern Washington on Dec. 29. Cal State Northridge, which opens at Cal Poly, is fresh off a 73-65 win at Utah Valley State on Dec. 28. UC Irvine needed overtime to beat Harvard 80-77 on Dec. 30 to snap a three-game losing streak.
The other teams will try to get their seasons back on track beginning tonight, when Pacific and UC Riverside officially tip off the Big West season.
Most of the league gets underway Thursday, with Cal Poly hosting Cal State Northridge.
See Thursday’s paper for a team-by-team preview of the league.