The Sunday Seven, Sept. 1
1. Thing I Am Upset About: We learned late in the week that former Arizona football coach Rich Rodriguez was apparently unaware of a prior domestic abuse incident perpetrated by Orlando Bradford before the running back was arrested and later convicted of abusing two women. At the time Rodriguez kicked Bradford off the team before the case was fully resolved and told the media essentially that those who put their hands on women have no place on the football team. Rodriguez and his wife were initially included in a federal lawsuit about the school’s handling of the Bradford case based mostly on allegations by a former employee who is also suing Rodriguez, but Rodriguez and his wife were not only dismissed from the lawsuit but according to the Arizona Daily Star the plaintiff’s lawyer sent a letter to Rodriguez that apologized to Rodriguez and his family for “having participated in the spread of what now appears to us to be disinformation” about Rodriguez’s management of the UA football program.
While it is good that Rodriguez apparently had no knowledge about Bradford’s past history, though one has to wonder if he should have had more knowledge, it still does not excuse the actions of the athletic department whose handling of domestic abuse and sexual assault allegations against athletes and coaches has been abysmal. In three cases the administration erred on the side of protecting three of the accused. One could argue that it is the natural response to protect student athletes and an Athletic Department employee, except in two cases the accusers were also student athletes. There is also a separate lawsuit alleging multiple sexual assaults by football players against student equipment managers, though because the players have not been identified we don’t know how the school and program handled their discipline, if there was any.
In the case of Bradford, no charges were brought when he was first accused of domestic violence, but he was ordered by the University to stay away from the accuser and kicked out of the dorms. No charges were brought against former Arizona basketball player Elliot Pitts who was accused of sexually assaulting a female student athlete, but a Title IX investigation found enough evidence to ban him from campus for a year. In this case Pitts was held out of action, but remained with the team until his eventual dismissal. Arizona assistant track coach Craig Carter was eventually convicted of choking a female track athlete and threatening her with a box cutter. The two had been involved in a sexual relationship that she claimed was non-consensual. The school had investigated the relationship, but that investigation consisted of just a few e-mails.
To me, the thing that inexcusable is the fact that the Athletic Department failed to protect their own in at least two of these cases. These occurred on the watch of the prior athletic director, so hopefully the current administration does a better job.
2. Speaking of Rich Rod: Rodriguez debuted as the offensive coordinator for Ole Miss and the results were lackluster. The Rebels amassed just 173 yards in a 15-10 loss to Memphis. By way of comparison, the Wildcats had 624 yards in Rodriguez’s Arizona debut. They only scored 24 points in a 24-17 overtime win over Toledo, but they did move the ball. The next week they scored 59 against Oklahoma State.
3. What I Worry About: The crowd for the NAU game. Enthusiasm for the football team has already been lacking and that was before Arizona lost to Hawaii a week ago. Between losing seasons two of the last three seasons, a lack of fan and media access, and how the 2018 season ended with the fourth quarter collapse against ASU, Arizona fans have had little to get excited about. Add to that an 0-1 start and an FCS opponent and there is a very good chance that it will be the least attended season opener in decades.
4. It Is A Shame: Arizona has not had a ton of football players leave school early for the NFL Draft, but with the exception of Rob Gronkowski, most have made bad decisions. P.J. Johnson bypassed his final year of eligibility after last season and was a seventh round draft pick of the Detroit Lions. Johnson was released this week, and while he may end up on their practice squad, one has to wonder if another year at Arizona may have helped. Johnson turned pro in part because he has a young family. That was not the case for Scooby Wright who actually got engaged last week. Two days later he signed with New England and despite getting two sacks in his lone preseason game, the Patriots let him go. Kadeem Carey has not been on an NFL roster in a few seasons, but is having a decent season in the Canadian Football League averaging 5.5 yards a carry and finding the endzone twice in four games. His mother also opened a restaurant near campus over the past month or so.
5. Thing That Puzzles Me: Who is Kedon Slovis? Admittedly, I did not follow recruiting as closely the past two years as I previously had, but I had no idea who Slovis was and that a Phoenix-area quarterback wound up at USC. The Scottsdale/Desert Mountain Product was only a 3-star prospect and Arizona and ASU showed very little interest, but some of that may be due to the fact he committed to the Trojans in May 2018. Stranger, 247Sports rated him as the No. 5 quarterback in the state. Due to an injury Slovis was pressed into duty Saturday night and was 6-8 for 57 yards and a pick in USC’s 31-23 win over Fresno State. 41 yards came on one pass, which means his 5 other completions wend for just 16 yards.
6. Thing I Am Excited About: The Wednesday Night Wars. Confession time, I am a professional wrestling fan. The best era for pro wrestling was the mid 90’s when the WWF and WCW competed head to head on Monday nights. That era produced great competition between the two companies and each had to raise their game, and up the ante to carve out their market share. WWF ended up winning the Monday night wars, and in doing so put WCW out of business. Since then they have had little competition and the product has suffered. Starting in October a new company, AEW owned by the same people who own the Jacksonville Jaguars, will debut on TNT on Wednesday nights. Not to be outdone, WWE’s developmental federation NXT will go head to head, moving to the USA Network. NXT had been the best thing WWE has done in a decade and now more eyes will be on the product.
We got a taste of the Wednesday night wars on Saturday, when AEW ran their second pay per view super card and NXT’s United Kingdom Federation ran a super show earlier in the day from Wales. Both shows were great as each group tried to outdo the rest. If you used to be a wrestling fan but drifted away, now might be a good time to get back in.
7.Thing I Am Listening To: Tool’s Fear Inoculum. Art rock band Tool released their first new album in 13 years last week. It was worth the wait. While not as immediately catchy as their 1990’s records Underow and Ænima, after a few early listens I like it better than their last two records Lateralus and 10,000 Days. It is not an easy listen, most songs are in the 10-minute range, but it has everything you want from Tool, complex arrangements, thought provoking lyrics, and amazing musicianship.