Sunday, September 03, 2006

L.A. Times College Football Coverage Has Improved Over Last Year

The new L.A. Times sports editor, Randy Harvey, I presume, is responsible for a major upgrade in Times coverage of college football this year, as evidenced by the special section largely devoted to it last week and then this morning's actual coverage of the games on the opening weekend of the season.

It is clear that more space is being given to the coverage, and there is better coverage of specific games. It was particularly gratifying to me to see this morning Chris Dufresne's coverage of the opening victory of Notre Dame's season over Georgia Tech, and the space given to AP stories about Cal's loss to Tennessee and Oregon's victory over Stanford. The Times always had good coverage of USC and UCLA games last year, but other coverage was truncated, to the point that Notre Dame would only rate a paragraph or two, and the Ivy League teams, to which hundreds of Southern California fans are loyal because they graduated from these schools, rated only a score, not a story at all. The Ivy League season has yet to begin this year, but hopefully we will see Ivy League football covered in the new Times football format. Yale and Harvard may be only 1-AA football schools, but to their graduates, they are at the heart of the college game.

The real glory days of Times football coverage came when I was a boy in the 1950s, with Braven Dyer, Paul Zimmerman, Dick Hyland and other Times sportswriters siding with their favorite teams. In those days, these sportswriters were widely known. to schoolboys. It was a thrill out in our elementary school in Palm Springs when Hyland came to speak to our class, in which his son, Ricky, was a member, and in those days the Times even had great high school coverage about such memorable figures as Harry Edelson, the former USC football player who coached a number of city championship teams at Fremont and Los Angeles Highs. My mother had graduated from L.A. High, and Edelson was the owner of the summer camp I used to go to for eight weeks every year in Lake Arrowhead. He used some of his football players as counselors.

Then, over the years, with the cutbacks affecting the sports section, Times coverage of college football, which is much more spirited than the pro game, languished. It's good to see it making a comeback.

And it was also nice today to read, in Jerry Crowe's obituary of the great athlete, Bob Machias, reference to his 96-yard touchdown run for Stanford in the 1951 USC-Stanford game in the Coliseum. I was present at that game with my father, of blessed memory, and I was looking through the obituary wondering if it would be mentioned. It was one of the best memories of my childhood, when my dad used to get USC tickets from Edelson and take me in to Los Angeles to see great SC games against Cal, Stanford and Notre Dame (but never against UCLA, which we both thought poorly of, for some reason).

With USC, and even UCLA playing great football these days, and the cowardly and greedy NFL staying out of Los Angeles because municipal fathers won't roll over and play dead for them, college football is ever more popular in this area. So I'm glad Harvey has increased the space devoted to covering it this year, and would remind him that there are thousands of graduates in this area of Cal, Stanford, Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Dartmouth and Notre Dame who definitely want to see good coverage of those schools as well as USC and UCLA.

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