Opening the mailbag: USC, LSU and the NCAA

Lots on your mind.

To the notes.

Chris from Oregon writes: I've been hearing from my Pac-10 brethren that Mike Riley and my beloved Beavers are content with being a second-tier team and this is why they continue to schedule games the caliber of TCU @ Cowboys Stadium. Do you feel this is the case or are my beleaguered brethren wrong?

Ted Miller: Oregon State is loading up its schedule to make money. The athletic department, like many others, needs to create more revenue to remain competitive.

And Mike Riley, as secure a coach as there is in the Pac-10, can afford to play an extra-difficult schedule, where other coaches who are worried about job security cannot.

But nobody around the Beavers program seems content with being "second-tier." Recall that last December, they were a Civil War victory away from playing in the Rose Bowl.

Is Oregon State ever going to be, say, Texas? No. But being a perennial top-25 team is hardly "second-tier."

So, respectfully, your beleaguered brethren are wrong.

CP from Hermosa Beach, Calif., writes: How is a LSU coach providing housing for a player not as bad at the alleged Reggie Bush case where a non booster or University employee provided housing for his family?

Ted Miller: Cases are not even comparable. Bush's family allegedly was provided a fancy home by aspiring sports agents as a permanent arrangement. This LSU recruit, apparently, was provided a room over the summer. The recruit never played in a game and his scholarship wasn't renewed. The coach involved was sanctioned and then not retained. LSU self-reported. USC found out about Bush's alleged extra benefits when Yahoo! Sports broke the story.

Not saying LSU is blameless -- or that USC is going to get crushed by NCAA sanctions in the coming weeks. These are just two very different cases, and my first impression is LSU handled its case about as well as an institution can.

DY from Berkeley writes: In regards to your article on Oregon State's scheduling, why can teams get a 13th game when visiting Hawaii? because of TV exposure? or lack of it when going to Hawaii?

Ted Miller: It's an actual NCAA rule. Playing for Hawaii means brutal travel -- six road games with extra long and expensive flights. So the NCAA allows the Warriors to play seven home games. And, to help the Warriors schedule those games, the team that opts to play at Hawaii can play 13 games because it gets an exemption for making the long trip. The idea is that the considerable expense of flying to Hawaii is made up for with the extra game.

Mitch from Seattle writes: Interesting note about Jake Locker playing some baseball this summer. Remember a few years ago when Dennis Dixon went to play baseball before he had his breakout season at Oregon? A lot of eyebrows were raised, but Dixon said it helped him with patience and timing. A lot of people are hoping for big things from Locker this year. I'm curious whether this experience will help Locker in the same way.

Ted Miller: I remember how there was a minor kerfuffle over Dixon playing baseball -- not terribly well, if I recall.

I think it helps guys to "get away" a little bit during the offseason, and playing another sport is a good way to get away without getting soft. Locker strikes me as the sort who will learn at least a few things as a pro baseball player that will help him his senior year at Washington.

Scott from Palo Alto writes: When are you going to start talking about Andrew Luck for Heisman? Before or after the 2010 season? It would be a nice break from the Eugene police blotter assignment you've inherited.

Ted Miller: I'm eager to be done with the police blotter -- for each and every Pac-10 team.

As for Luck: It may be the latter. Luck is likely a season away from playing his way into the national picture.

That said, if Stanford, which plays three of its first five games on the road, wins at Notre Dame and Oregon and improves to 5-0 before playing host to USC on Oct. 9, and Luck is putting up some big numbers, he'll be in position to launch a Heisman Trophy candidacy that weekend.

That's a big "if." But hardly an inconceivable one.

Derek from Birmingham writes: A friend and I are planning to attend the Washington/Oregon game in Eugene in November. We hear Oregon is a great place to see a game so we want to go out there and check it out - with a stop in Blacksburg on Thursday night to see Ga Tech play Va Tech which is another great game venue we hear about.We are from Alabama (I am a Bama fan, and he is a UGA fan) so we know nothing about how hard it is to get a ticket to an Oregon game. What can you tell me about that?

Ted Miller: That's a great college football weekend: Lane and Autzen Stadiums are two of the best -- and most hostile -- venues in college football.

Washington-Oregon used to be a bitter rivalry -- perhaps the most intense in the Pac-10 -- until the Huskies went into a five-year tailspin. However, Washington is perking up under coach Steve Sarkisian, and it's possible that game could have significant conference implications.

Oregon is the toughest ticket in the Pac-10 -- 68 consecutive sellouts -- and that will be one of the toughest Oregon tickets. You will want to plan ahead or it could cost you to get inside -- perhaps $150-$200 a seat.

Toby from Los Angeles writes: I have a few questions: 1. With Masoli being suspended for next year, what team in the Pac-10 benefits the MOST from this? 2. Do you think Mike Bellotti will coach again the Pac-10? Jeff Tedford is on borrowed time in my opinion and I would LOVE to have Bellotti coaching Cal.3. I have a friend who graduates this spring from ASU and is looking at broadcasting opportunities in sports. You have any advice for her for getting started?

Ted Miller: 1. I think USC benefits the most, then Oregon State. Reason is simple. I had them Nos. 2 and 3 in the conference behind Oregon before quarterback Jeremiah Masoli was suspended for the season. At this point, my top three are USC, Oregon and Oregon State. But things are tight.

2. My guess is that if someone went hard after Bellotti, who turns 60 in December, he might seriously consider a return to coaching -- Pac-10 or anywhere else. The temptation for a last hurrah for five or so years might be hard to ignore. That said, I also think he's going to enjoy his new gig doing analysis with ESPN. And, by the way, not sure if I were a Cal fan that I get too "grass is greener" about Jeff Tedford. What was the decade pre-Tedford like?

3. My background is print journalism, not broadcasting. But the key to getting ahead in the industry is working harder than everyone else. That means doing as much work as possible and not worrying about compensation in order to produce as much impressive tape as possible that potential employers can look at. One thing she should do to increase her exposure is to do her own blog and post videos.

On the other hand, I always advise anyone younger than 25 to take some time to enjoy life -- backpack across Europe on the cheap or get a job on a cruise ship or live at the beach. You will have plenty of time to fret about your future. Trust me.

Greg from Hillsboro, Ore., writes: "If the pages of this book contain some successful verse, the reader must excuse me the discourtesy of having usurped it first. Our nothingness differs little; it is a trivial and chance circumstance that you should be the reader of these exercises and I their author." Feeling our oats today are we? Jorge Borges. Really? Silly English majors. Always trying to put a label or explanation on a moment instead of just letting it be and taking it in.

Ted Miller: Greg, not sure what you mean with that last line, but I must say that I was hurt when one of our frequent commenters, the often acerbic "Borges", who is clearly a HUGE UCLA fan (kidding!), didn't notice and comment on the lunch link quote you noted.