Pat Forde

  • NCAA, officials show more concern for themselves than student-athletes ... again

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 2 hrs ago

    You may have noticed that the latest red-alert, all-wonks-on-deck, DefCon 1 crisis in college athletics involves graduate transfers.

    NCAA officials, college administrators and other power brokers are scandalized by the fact that student-athletes who fulfill the student part of the equation by earning bachelor's degrees are actually exercising full freedom of transfer movement in record numbers. Immediate eligibility – kind of like coaches switching jobs – seems to be a strong attraction to players who fulfill the NCAA's stated goal of graduating. And it seems to be bringing out the inner control freak in the folks who run College Sports Inc.

    New NCAA vice president for governance Kevin Lennon said in late April that possibly amending the graduate transfer rule is near the top of the list of issues facing college sports. And last week in Irving, Texas, for the College Football Playoff management committee meetings, there was additional tut-tutting about the scourge of empowered college graduates moving freely from one school to the next.

    "I don't think it fits the core values of intercollegiate athletics," said Sun Belt Conference commissioner Karl Benson.


  • American Pharoah's run for the roses elicits silence, pandemonium and an upset stomach

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 2 days ago

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Bob Baffert is a talker. His therapy for nervousness is chatter. One liners, idle banter – it helps keep the thoroughbred trainer calm in stressful times.

    And there is no more stressful time in his line of work than the minutes leading up to the Kentucky Derby. Especially when you're saddling the two betting favorites and holding what many have said is the strongest Derby hand since 1948. Baffert was acutely aware that it was his race to lose.

    The three-time Derby-winning trainer stood in the Churchill Downs paddock before the 141st run for the roses and gabbed. His favorite, American Pharoah, and second choice Dortmund had gone to the track for the post parade. As the strains of "My Old Kentucky Home" began, Bob started talking.

    "That's a good horse," Baffert said. "Gary's got his game face on."

    He shook hands with his assistant, Jimmy Barnes.

    "They're perfect," Barnes said.

    Someone asked Baffert if he was nervous.

    "Who was second?" he asked me.


  • American Pharoah owner Ahmed Zayat is living the dream, but still looking for Derby glory

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 4 days ago

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Ahmed Zayat performed a Bergdorf Goodman makeover of the Churchill Downs barn area Sunday, sauntering past the hay and horse poop in cranberry trousers and mint suede Gucci loafers. No socks.

    The ensemble jumped out amid the dirty boots and faded jeans that populate the working area of the world’s most famous racetrack. The owner of 5-2 favorite American Pharoah and two other entrants in the 141st Kentucky Derby wasn’t interested in posing as a faux Kentucky hardboot. Nor was he afraid of standing out – something he’s done most of his life.

    The 52-year-old Zayat was raised Jewish in Egypt, part of the last generation of a population that has all but vanished from that country. Published reports put the number of Jews in Egypt as of last year at fewer than 40.

    The son of a prominent Cairo doctor and grandson of a writer, Zayat left home as a teenager to pursue an education abroad. His zest for life and quest for freedom led him to the United States, where he earned a graduate degree from Boston University.

    “I know the agony,” Zayat said. “It’s peaks and valleys. We’re very blessed, but I know the game.”

    It would be one more chance for Ahmed Zayat to stand out.

  • Why Billy Donovan's departure to the NBA is another big blow to college basketball

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 5 days ago

    For the past several years, Billy Donovan's jump to the NBA has seemed inevitable. But anticipating it happening doesn't lessen the blow to college basketball.

    Donovan on Thursday agreed to a five-year deal to become the head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder, league sources told Yahoo Sports. This is a huge loss to a fragile game. It's an understandable move for the man, but a detrimental outcome for the wobbly sport he's leaving behind.

    Donovan is on the very short list of the best coaches in college hoops – has been for a while, and could have been for another 15-20 years if he had chosen to stay at Florida. Every bit as significant is what he means to his peer group and his conference.

    In former Butler coach Brad Stevens and Donovan, college basketball has lost its last two coaches under 50 who have made multiple Final Four appearances. Donovan is barely under that wire, turning 50 in late May, but the point remains that the top of the college coaching profession is not getting any younger.

    Brain drain in a sport that is struggling to identify its next generation of star coaches is a significant issue.

  • Big 12 considering asking for rule change so it can hold conference championship game

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 5 days ago

    IRVING, Texas – The first year of the College Football Playoff was controversial, acrimonious – and a raging success, according to the power brokers who oversee the new postseason.

    For that reason, changes to the system are few and minor, College Football Playoff spokesman Bill Hancock announced here Wednesday after three days of meetings with the CFP management committee, which consists largely of conference commissioners.

    "It worked," Hancock said. "There was a pretty strong sentiment, if I can quote an old Oklahoma phrase: don't fix it if it ain't broke."

    The most controversial element of last year's playoff selection process was the exclusion of Big 12 teams Baylor and TCU from the top four. Both were leapfrogged by Ohio State, which went on to win the national title but had been on the outside until the final week of the season.

    The fallout from that comeuppance has led the 10-team Big 12 to seriously consider seeking deregulation of the NCAA rule mandating that a conference must have 12 members to hold a championship game.

    "We probably made some mistakes by tweaking, to be honest," Delany said.

  • American Pharoah class of a class Kentucky Derby field

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 5 days ago

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. – During morning training hours at Churchill Downs last week, National Thoroughbred Racing Association publicist Jim Mulvihill stood by the backstretch rail and cheerily noted how injury-free this year's crop of 3-year-old Kentucky Derby contenders has been.

    Jaws dropped and those near him recoiled in horror.

    Mulvihill might as well have announced a no-hitter in the dugout in the seventh inning. In a sport steeped in superstition – and riddled with injuries – this was a bold flouting of the Derby gods.

    Fortunately for all involved – including Mulvihill, who could have been thrown off the Twin Spires for such talk – the hex has not ensued. The horses have stayed healthy, and in the wake of Wednesday afternoon's post-position draw, we are looking at one of the most impressive Kentucky Derby fields in a long time.

    "It's as strong as I can remember," said trainer Todd Pletcher, who has started 40 horses in the Derby in his career and plans to send four more to this year's race. "I don't recall a race as deep as this one."

    "I like horses with tactical speed," Lukas said. "The favorites all have it this year."


  • Who's the Kentucky Derby favorite? Just look in Bob Baffert's barn

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 7 days ago

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Thoroughbred racing is an emotional ambush, a sport that lures in romantics and then finds creatively cruel ways to break their hearts.

    There are incredible highs, for sure. But every dreamer who has been in the game for any length of time bears the scar tissue of bad breaks, bad karma, bad beats.

    And few racing endeavors are more rife with risk than trying to guide a talented young horse all the way to the Promised Land: the starting gate of the Kentucky Derby.

    They are frighteningly fragile creatures, with so many things that can go wrong on a given day. A misstep, a sudden cough, a reversal of training form – all can turn a precocious contender into another instantly forgotten casualty on the Triple Crown trail. That attrition is why the big trainers load their barns with 2-year-olds – in hopes that one or two will still be fast and fit when they turn 3, and make it to the first Saturday in May.

    In a sport that teems with bad luck, Baffert has had so much good fortune this spring that he doesn't seem to trust it.

    "The higher you are, like we are now," Baffert said Sunday morning, "the fall is pretty steep."


  • Michael Phelps all in with cross-country move with Bob Bowman

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 11 days ago

    The geography of American swimming underwent a startling, seismic shift Friday when Bob Bowman became the new coach at Arizona State University.

    Westward, ho.

    Bowman is best known as Michael Phelps' coach since childhood, though he has developed other internationally elite swimmers as well. Other than a stint at Michigan prior to the 2008 Olympics, the Bowman-Phelps tandem has done its work at North Baltimore Aquatic Club in Phelps' hometown.

    Now, after the startling press conference sight of Bowman flashing the ASU pitchfork Friday afternoon while wearing a maroon-and-gold tie, that will change. Bowman is headed to Tempe to put some juice into a historically underachieving college program, and Phelps – winner of a record 22 Olympic medals, 18 of them gold – will come along to make Arizona State his training base heading into the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

    Bowman said he plans to be in Tempe full-time in August. Attempts to reach Phelps Friday for comment were unsuccessful.

    "I wanted to be at a place where we could build something special," Bowman said in his introductory press conference Friday. "Everything I could want in a school is here."

  • How Stephen Curry went from ignored college recruit to possible NBA MVP

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 11 days ago

    The NBA will announce its Most Valuable Player soon, and by most accounts the favorite to win is Golden State's Stephen Curry.

    If that happens, the Davidson College product will join the ranks of the most under-recruited MVPs in NBA history. He might even lead the class.

    In the past 45 years, a total of five MVPs have come from well outside the college conference power structure: Steve Nash of Santa Clara (named MVP twice); Karl Malone of Louisiana Tech (also a two-time winner); David Robinson of Navy; Julius Erving of Massachusetts; and Willis Reed of Grambling. (That excludes five MVPs who didn't go to college: four-time winner LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki and three-time winner Moses Malone. All of those players were can't-miss stars who could have attended almost any college of their choosing.)

    Only Dr. J, who was from New York, stands out as a fairly mystifying non-recruit.

    Until now, and until Curry.

    "He had all the technical talents," McKillop said, "but also all the emotional talents."

    "Some ACC schools didn't even want him to walk on," Brown said.

  • SEC feeling college football recruiting heat due to Big Ten's attempted talent raids

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 14 days ago

    From the days of Reconstruction, Southerners have not always reacted kindly to Northern interlopers. “Carpetbaggers” was hardly a term of endearment.

    The stakes are far less serious now than they were then, but college football coaches from the Southeastern and Atlantic Coast conferences may feel similarly regarding Yankee invaders.

    For the second consecutive summer, Penn State coaches are crossing the Mason-Dixon Line to work satellite football camps designed to raid the local talent. Last year they were in Atlanta and central Florida; this year the locales are Charlotte, N.C. and Norfolk, Va. The Nittany Lions have company from the Big Ten this time – Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan coach staff is going satellite camping in Alabama, Florida and Texas.

    Last week Ohio State coach Urban Meyer clucked his tongue and shook his head over these Dixie dives through a Big Ten loophole, which allows schools to work far-flung camps that the SEC and ACC forbid. Then he said his program may follow suit.

    “I think that should be outlawed,” Meyer said in one breath. Shortly thereafter: “If it helps us, we’ll do it. And I think we might try one this year.”

    Not now.