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WAC football sinks to a new low

By Joe Santoro

Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .

That sickening thud you kept hearing over the past week was the reputation of Western Athletic Conference football. There were already critics around the country that wondered why a middle-of-the-road afterthought of a conference like the WAC could get five bowl games. And now this. Fresno State gets beat in the New Mexico Bowl by Colorado State. Boise State, the pride of the WAC, sees its unbeaten season evaporate against TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl and Hawaii gets humiliated by national laughingstock Notre Dame in its own backyard. What does it all mean? Well, two things. First, we do not need any more proof that there are far too many silly bowl games. And, second, sometimes getting national exposure is not a good thing.

Never fear, WAC fans. The Wolf Pack is going to save the conference by whipping Maryland next week in the Humanitarian Bowl. Louisiana Tech will also likely crush Northern Illinois in the Independence Bowl, lifting the WAC’s record in meaningless bowl games to 2-3 this holiday season. By the way, don’t let that Hawaii Bowl mess on Christmas Eve scare you, Pack fans. The Pack will show the WAC how to beat Notre Dame next September.

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Nevada football coach Chris Ault and basketball coach Mark Fox have a chance to make Wolf Pack history in the next few years. Next year the dynamic duo will be in their sixth season together as the Pack football and basketball head coaches in the same seasons. Only three other Pack duos have coached football and basketball in the same season at Nevada longer than Ault and Fox. Ault and Lenny Stevens were teamed together for six years (1987-88 through 1992-93), Ault and Sonny Allen were together at Nevada for seven years (1980-81 through 1986-87) and Dick Trachok and Jack Spencer hold the school record at 10 years together (1959-60 through 1968-69). The Pack athletic department should be commended for providing such stability in the school’s two most high profile sports.

Yes, the New York Yankees going out and spending over $400 million on just three players in recent weeks is disgusting. But don’t start demanding a salary cap in baseball. Spending ridiculous amounts of money doesn’t buy you anything in baseball. It certainly doesn’t buy you a World Series title. If the Yankees want to be idiots and give three players $400-plus million, let them. They are still going to finish third in their division.

The Yankees buying up all the free agents is really a good thing for baseball. Baseball is best when the Yankees are worth hating, just like football with the Dallas Cowboys and basketball with the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics. And the Yankees are definitely worth hating now.

If media reports are true, the San Francisco 49ers are finally going to do something right and keep Mike Singletary as coach. Under Singletary, the 49ers play with emotion and effort, something they haven’t done in years. Give Singletary the right players and hold on for the ride. This is reminiscent of the early years of the Bill Walsh era. You just knew greatness was coming when Walsh came to town. The 49ers will make the playoffs next year. Count on it.

The same can be said about the Oakland Raiders. Tom Cable deserves the chance to become the Raiders’ permanent head coach. He stepped in at a very difficult time and, like Singletary, has his team playing with emotion and intensity. If he can get his players to play hard when he is just the interim coach, imagine what he can do when he gets some job security.

Brett Favre isn’t sure if he’s going to play again next year? What a shock. If the New York Jets were smart, they’d make Favre’s decision for him. Old quarterbacks going to a new team for a last stab at glory never ends well. And this season is not ending well for the Jets. Favre needs to get his faithful dog, a new pair of Wranglers, load up his shotgun and go hunting.

Since there are no great teams in the NFL this year, the best story to come out of the overhyped league is the Detroit Lions. To go an entire regular season without a victory, especially in this mediocre season, is truly amazing. To consistently find a way to lose, even when the other team is doing its best to give you the game, is really quite special. How special is going winless? Well, something tells me that if the Lions win this weekend some members of the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the other team to go winless in a season, will pop a champagne cork and celebrate.

The Phoenix Coyotes are expected to lose $30 million this year. Imagine that. A hockey team struggling to make ends meet in Arizona. Who knew? If the Coyotes need any financial help, they should call the Yankees. You can barely sign a backup middle infielder for $30 million these days.

New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker gets fined $10,000 for making a snow angel. Shaun Ellis of the New York Jets gets fined the very same amount for tossing a two-foot square chunk of ice and snow at a fan. Hmm, let’s see. The same fine for a pretty little snow angel by a player showing happiness for helping his team win, or a chunk of snow and ice that could send a fan to the hospital. Makes sense.