Thursday, October 11, 2007

Alameda Times Star: Integrity, not steroids, turned Cal Bears into football power

Here is the link.

Dave Newhouse

There's something going on at Berkeley's Memorial Stadium that might win the approval of even the tree sitters. The University of California's football team is ranked No. 2 in the nation's latest collegiate polls. Now it's not so much that the Golden Bears haven't been ranked this high in 56 years, but the manner in which it was accomplished: ethically.  With the seemingly rampant cheating that has infiltrated the world of sports, and the world, it's comforting to know that Cal has risen from the dump heap of college football to the high-rise level: cleanly.  Coach Jeff Tedford took over at Cal in 2003 following its dismal 1-10 record the season before. Some coaches have resorted to prostituting themselves in order to get ahead, but not Tedford.  His players go to class, they don't use steroids, they exude sportsmanship. And they win.  In Tedford's first year at Cal, he played golf with R.C. Slocum and asked the man who had rebuilt Texas A&M into a football power for some sound advice.  "Don't ever compromise your integrity," Slocum told him.  There's little chance of that ever happening, for Tedford embodies integrity. His mentor at the University of Oregon, Mike Bellotti, describes Tedford as a "Boy Scout."

It's a shame others in the international sphere of competition aren't so honorable.  Women's sprinting champion Marion Joneshas confessed, after previous denials, to steroids use. She has returned her five 2000 Olympic Games  medals to the United States Olympic Committee and U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.   The list is growing of athletes who cheated in their illicit zest for success. Tour of France cycling champion Floyd Landis forfeited his title after laboratory tests showed he had taken illegal supplements.

Baseball player Jason Giambi has admitted taking steroids, joining former player Jose Canseco, whose admission was motivated financially by a tell-all book. Steroids accusations have been directed at other sluggers such as Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Barry Bonds.  Bonds told a grand jury he took growth hormones unknowingly. Meanwhile, his personal trainer, Greg Anderson, has been imprisoned twice for refusing to detail their relationship. Welcome to the BALCO generation.  Cheating, though, isn't anything new in sports, i.e., the 1919 Chicago White Sox and the 1950s college basketball scandals. East Germany and the Soviet Union then became most creative in "juicing" their Olympic athletes.  Not just athletes have taken wayward paths. There's Richard Nixon, Charles Keating, Michael Milken and Kenneth Lay of Enron. Even the 1960 and 2000 presidential elections seemed corrupt. Dead bodies voting? Hanging chads?  It's enough to wonder where the country's morals have disappeared. That's why it's refreshing to observe what Tedford has done at Cal.  Although he came from a broken home, and barely knows his father, Tedford credits his mother, siblings and his coaches with teaching him correct values. He carried on their teachings into his own coaching.  He can't do it alone, though. He praised the efforts of Cal strength and conditioning coach John Krasinski, who educates the players to "do it the right way" through weightlifting and proper nutrition.  So as Cal (5-0) prepares to face visiting Oregon State (3-3) on Saturday, a No. 2 ranking can be achieved honestly, without bending the rules.

"No way would we ever find that acceptable," said Tedford.  Yet he looks around and sees what has happened to those who've bent the rules all out of shape, such as Marion Jones.  "I'm not here to judge anyone," said Tedford. "I have to give her credit for coming out and admitting it. That says a lot. She's probably lived with a lot of skeletons about that. It's probably a lot of weight off her shoulders, even though it's tough to come out and do that."  Jones likely was pressured into making a confession because the feds were closing in. Other high-profile athletes may soon feel similar pressure.  But that's the Boy Scout in Tedford, doing honor onto himself, building personal integrity, and trying to see a good side in everybody.

Go Bears!


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