Pat Forde

  • Baylor sold its soul to the devil for gridiron glory

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 1 day ago

    You spend enough years being beaten down in the Texas bloodsport of college football and it can warp your worldview.

    Baylor was a historic nobody, trod upon by the powers in the state and region. It was the butt of jokes. It had no bragging rights. The Bears once went 50 years between Southwest Conference championships, from 1924-74, and had 14 straight losing seasons from 1996-2009. Alums took their rhetorical lumps and had their egos bruised at social gatherings, in the office, on message boards, and most every autumn Saturday.

    When you have been down that long and fortunes suddenly change, as they did for Baylor in 2010, the winning feels so good that you never want it to stop and you sure don't want to question how it's happening. The giddy sensation that accompanies 10-win seasons and a Heisman Trophy and the chance to finally whip Texas and Oklahoma – that's a powerful drug.

    Baylor got hooked on winning.

    Until now. Until Thursday, May 26, 2016. A sad day for Baylor football, but a good day for Baylor University.

    The school finally kicked the winning drug long enough to look at the appalling damage done by some members of its football program and do something about it.

  • Shelby Erdahl's heroic hurdle finish may restore your faith in college athletics

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 3 days ago

    When she crumpled to the track and the shocking realization came – my foot won’t work – Shelby Erdahl had an instant to decide what to do.

    The decision was excruciating but also easy. It was hard-wired into her mind through a life of making the same choice every time an obstacle presented itself.

    She would do her best. She would not quit. She would finish what she started. She would, somehow, complete the race.

    The Idaho State senior had ruptured her Achilles tendon just two hurdles into the 400-meter hurdle event on a windy, chilly day at the Big Sky Conference championships May 14 at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colo. The culmination of her track career, the last race of her life, literally came to a crashing pause.

    But not a halt.

    Erdahl got up and kept going.

    If you are a college sports fan suffering from scandal fatigue, I don’t blame you. Assaults at Baylor. Strippers at Louisville. An Alabama football star in possession of a stolen handgun. Endless investigations at North Carolina and Mississippi. Even Jerry Sandusky made a recent return to the headlines.

    There will be more ugly stories in the days to come. Count on it.

  • Meet Lani, the horse that threatens to make the Preakness weird

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 8 days ago

    The list of obstacles to a Nyquist walkover Saturday in the Preakness is dwindling daily.

    One of the biggest potential X factors was likely removed in the post-position draw Wednesday, when the undefeated Kentucky Derby champion – given morning-line odds of 3-5 – wound up with post No. 3 in the field of 11. The best thing about that post is that it is three spots removed from crazy horse, Japanese import Lani.

    He's one of the oddest entrants in Triple Crown history.

    Lani drew post No. 6, which puts him between two of Nyquist's strongest challengers: second betting choice Exaggerator (3-1) is to Lani's inside, while fourth choice Collected (10-1) is to Lani's outside. If he comes out of the gate sideways and bumps either rival, it could heavily affect their chances.

    Trainers Keith Desormeaux (Exaggerator) and six-time Preakness winner Bob Baffert (Collected) announced no concern about drawing next to Lani – "not at all," Baffert said in a text – perhaps because Lani broke with glacial slowness in the Derby and trailed the entire field early.

    It's hard to be a nuisance from the back of a 20-horse pack.

    Yet there he is. Well, wait, that isn't quite true.

  • Baylor needs to take hard look in mirror after latest damning report

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 8 days ago

    Almost every college football program will take chances on players with violent tendencies. After all, it requires a certain amount of savagery to excel at the sport, and a percentage of those who do excel aren't able to limit their aggressiveness to the playing field.

    So, on teams with 85 scholarship players, volatility is a common side effect. There are going to be behavioral problems. This is a legal and moral compromise most coaches – and most fan bases – are willing to make in pursuit of glory.

    When those problems arise, a large segment of said fan base will spring into deflection mode. There will be vigorous finger pointing elsewhere, finding some program that is more morally adrift than Our School, and wondering why more attention isn’t being paid to them.

    But where do you point the finger right now if you’re Baylor?

    The succession of damning stories about alleged sexual assaults has spurred Baylor to hire an outside law firm to review how the school has handled such claims. That review is ongoing, but the school’s board of regents was given an update on the firm’s findings last week. At the rate of additional revelations, that report may never be finished.

  • Dale Romans, 'happy to be alive,' heads to Preakness

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 10 days ago

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Hours after the Kentucky Derby had been run on May 7, trainer Dale Romans was walking through the Churchill Downs grounds when he saw longtime track executive John Asher. Romans' horse, Brody's Cause, had finished seventh. The 49-year-old Louisville native was wondering if his time might ever come to win the race he cherishes most.

    "Promise me you'll run this race again next year," Romans said to Asher.

    "You'll be back," Asher responded.

    Not long after that, Romans was involved in a car accident just a few blocks from Churchill. Forget next year's Derby; he almost didn't see the next day.

    Romans was driving five passengers south down placid, tree-lined Southern Parkway, away from the track. A car coming off Evelyn Avenue ran a stop sign and collided with Romans' Hyundai, pushing it into oncoming traffic. The passenger's side of the car was then rammed by a car going northbound.

    "It was a very violent accident," Romans said.

    "I'm really sore," he said outside his barn at Churchill on Monday, nine days after the wreck. "But I am all smiles because I'm happy to be alive."

     

  • Hey American Pharoah, here comes Nyquist

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 19 days ago

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Doug O'Neill's Saturday began with a 4 a.m. visit to Churchill Downs Barn 41 to check on his colt, Nyquist. When you're saddling the favorite in the Kentucky Derby, sleep is fleeting and nerves are jangling.

    After everything checked out fine, the trainer and his crew paid a visit to the apartment of Louisville basketball equipment manager Vinny Tatum. Tatum has been a fixture at the Nyquist barn all week, serving as something of a goodwill ambassador to O'Neill, who has had Louisville coach Rick Pitino as a client in the racing business for years.

    At 9 a.m. Saturday at Chez Tatum, the entourage decided it was time for the ritual pouring of the chilled tequila. Shots – deep shots – of Patron Silver were passed out. Multiple rounds.

    "You need to take the edge off," O'Neill said a little sheepishly about 10 hours later, as he triumphantly walked away from the Churchill winner's circle after Nyquist rolled to Derby victory.

    An injury would seem to be Nyquist's most likely impediment at this point.

    Gutierrez, however, was not worried.

     

  • Outwork offers Mike Repole shot at Derby redemption

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 21 days ago

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Mike Repole wants a picture.

    He is waiting for the 3-year-old colt he owns, Outwork, to finish walking the shedrow at Churchill Downs Barn 40 after his morning workout and bath. When Outwork is guided into stall 35, Repole has the setting he envisioned.

    He twists the wrapper off a peppermint, beckons his wife, Maria, scoops 10-month-old daughter Gioia into his arms and heads toward Outwork. A friend is pressed into photographer duty to record the moment. Repole feeds the peppermint to his Kentucky Derby horse and pats Outwork's nose while holding his baby girl with his wife at his side – the loves of his life gathered in one frame. Picture perfect.

    Thirty minutes earlier, the 47-year-old Repole led an entourage of 12 onto the track to watch Outwork gallop. And when I say onto the track, I mean the actual racing strip – not usually the province of pedestrians. There was a huge throng of people in the Churchill Barn area Thursday morning to watch the Derby horses work at 8:30 a.m., but only one group was on the dirt without being on horseback – Team Repole.

    I asked Outwork's trainer, Todd Pletcher, how excited Repole is for this Derby.

    ____________________

     

  • Will the Kentucky Derby suffer an American Pharoah hangover?

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 22 days ago

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. — For many years, Bob Baffert has been the most recognizable face in thoroughbred racing. The sunglasses, the silver hair, all the big races won – they have combined to make the trainer a fan magnet. Somebody is always coming up to say hello, especially in a bedrock racing town like this one.

    Baffert's mobility has been reduced even further this spring.

    In years past at Churchill Downs, he couldn't move more than 20 feet without being stopped. On the short walk from the track to his Barn 33 here Tuesday morning, he was approached roughly every five feet. When he slowed down for one group, here came another, fumbling for iPhones and producing memorabilia for him to sign.

    "It's all about photographs and autographs in my life," Baffert said, half-joking.

    Celebrity status was fully conferred after his dazzling colt, American Pharoah, won the Triple Crown last spring. That ended a 37-year drought between crowns, a deprivation that came to hold racing hostage as it churned through the same cycle of hope in Louisville and Baltimore followed by disappointment in New York.

    Could it ever be done again? There were legions of doubters, myself included.

     

  • The Kentucky Derby favorite who's nobody's favorite

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 24 days ago

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The favorite for Saturday's 142nd Kentucky Derby is a colt named Nyquist. Fortunately, he is unable to complain about the lack of respect he has been accorded.

    Because if Nyquist were an athlete equipped with vocal chords, we would hear no end about the haters and doubters in his path. This would be a Chip on the Shoulder Special, a succession of laments about being unloved by the press and the betting public.

    Here is why: Nyquist is undefeated, a perfect 7-0 in his lifetime, a record rarely carried into the Run for the Roses. He stamped himself as North America's premier 2-year-old colt last year by winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He stamped himself as the Derby favorite on April 2 by winning a much-anticipated Florida Derby, dominating his showdown with fellow unbeaten Mohaymen.

    Yet the embrace of Nyquist has been restrained, to say the least. The hype train has not left the station.

    "Maybe Nyquist isn't getting the respect he deserves," said rival trainer Todd Pletcher, who will send Outwork and Destin to post in the Derby, "because all he does is win."

    So Nyquist is battling bad timing. And bad times.

     

  • What Ole Miss could be facing in aftermath of Laremy Tunsil mess

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 28 days ago

    One source told Yahoo Sports: “This information is as compelling and incredible as you can get at the NCAA. But it’s not a slam dunk. They’re going to have a hard time proving it.”

    But another said of the Rebels: “They’re screwed.”

    This is one of the problems with the complex world of NCAA rules and procedures. Even those well-versed in them can see a situation very differently.

    All three sources agreed on one thing: further investigation of Ole Miss undoubtedly already has begun. The school released a statement Friday saying it “will aggressively investigate and fully cooperate with the NCAA and the SEC.” And the NCAA assuredly has been in communication with the school. (The NCAA refuses to comment on current investigations; Ole Miss in January received a Notice of Allegations alleging around 30 violations in football, women’s basketball and track. The school has not released the notice.)

    One source said the NCAA will “try to find independent corroborating evidence."