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Sports Update: Chargers Rolling, SDSU Searching For New AD

Above: The San Diego Chargers were optimistic about a good year this season with healthy players and a 50th season anniversary to celebrate.

Audio

Aired 11/23/09

Are the Chargers in the AFC West driver's seat after their victory over the Broncos this weekend? Is the frequent turnover of athletic directors at SDSU the norm for universities of that size? And, what are the chances that hometown hero Adrian Gonzalez will be traded by the Padres this offseason? We speak to longtime San Diego sports talk show host, Lee "Hacksaw" Hamilton, about the top local sports stories.

Chargers fans hope the 50th anniversary season could be a good year with a healthy Shawne Merriman on the playing field.
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Above: Chargers fans hope the 50th anniversary season could be a good year with a healthy Shawne Merriman on the playing field.

DOUG MYRLAND (Host): I’m Doug Myrland These Days in San Diego. Well, are the Chargers in the AFC West driver's seat after their victory over the Broncos this weekend? We also are curious about the frequent turnover of athletic directors at SDSU, wondering if that’s the norm for universities of this size? And, what are the chances that hometown hero Adrian Gonzalez might be traded by the Padres this off season? We’re going to speak to longtime San Diego sports talk show host, Lee "Hacksaw" Hamilton. He currently hosts a sports talk show in the afternoons on XX1090 and he’s also a sports columnist for SDNN.com. Lee Hamilton, welcome to the program.

LEE “HACKSAW” HAMILTON: Good morning, Doug. How are you? Yes, there are a lot of things to talk about.

MYRLAND: Well, yesterday I was having breakfast with my wife at a nice restaurant downtown and they had the TV on and I saw that Chris Simms was the quarterback for Denver and not doing too well, and we finished breakfast and drove home and I turned on the TV and all of a sudden they were – there was Orton limping around. Tell us – our listeners about that unusual situation in yesterday’s game.

HAMILTON: Well, injuries are really part of all the teams in the NFL at this point of the season. Everybody’s got significant injuries. The Chargers had a terrible siege of injuries the first two weeks of the season and it was the primary reason they started so poorly. Denver’s situation is that their star quarterback, Kyle Orton, injured an ankle a week ago, did not practice all this past week, and they went to little known backup Chris Simms, who’s hardly played the last couple of years because of injuries himself. And Simms was just overwhelmed and played really poorly. And the fact that they asked Orton to come back, he took a painkilling injection in his ankle, Orton came back and he really – he actually gave Denver a little bit of life early on and they were in that game until they started to turn the football over. But that’s the way it is in the NFL. At this point of the season, you get to week 10, week 11, you’ve got an awful lot of guys dinged up and guys just suck it up and go out and play and probably do the best they can. Orton, you know, in the big picture, Orton really struggled as the game wore on and San Diego’s superior talent just kind of took over control of the game.

MYRLAND: I want to ask you a coaching question. When they were at that point in the end of the 3rd quarter, the beginning of the 4th quarter, where it really was not very realistic that Denver was going to make up three touchdowns, was it reasonable for the coach to leave the starting quarterback, injured, in the game for the rest of the game? Or should he maybe have gone back to the backup? What are they thinking?

HAMILTON: Well, I concur with you. It’s kind of strange when you’ve still got a lot of season to be played and the fact that Denver’s still very much in the wildcard playoff race. Why would you even take that chance? You know, coaches do get caught up in the game and play calling and sometimes forget the bigger picture but, no, I thought much the same. Why is he in there when they’re getting their brains blown out and it’s 23-3 and he has no hope of coming back. So, yeah, it’s strange but, you know, it happens a lot a different places where guys are, you know, forgotten about. Guys who had big plays in the 1st quarter suddenly don’t get the ball in the 4th quarter because coaches are so focused in on down and distance and what play they have to call, they forget sometimes the stuff that happened earlier in the game that maybe they should go back to.

MYRLAND: Well, this is Public Radio so we’re going to ask a big picture question. Context is what Public Radio’s all about. Seems like there’s almost an ethic in professional sports with the starting – the starters wanting to play a certain number of minutes, wanting to stay in the game. You see that in the NBA, you see it in the NFL where even in, for lack of a better term, junk time you still put the stars out on the field. And I can’t help but wonder over and over again, why do they risk those injuries? Does it have something to do with egos? Or does it have something to do with making sure the fans get to see the money players play?

HAMILTON: It’s an intriguing question. You know, there’s only sixteen of these games to be played. Guys want to be on the field and want to play the games, that’s item one. Everybody plays with bumps and bruises, that’s item two. The issue you get into, though, is, for example, you’re blowing somebody out and if you put your backups in but you’ve still got to have some starters in, do you risk getting your veteran stars hurt because they’re surrounded by a bunch of backup guys that might make mistakes on the field. In other words, there’s not a whole group of backups you can put in simultaneously that would make a change. So normally you stay with your starters unless it’s just a massive blowout and then you sit, you know, you sit the guys down. But, you know, Peyton Manning, you know, plays the whole game, Eli Manning plays the whole game, Philip Rivers, for the most part, plays the whole game unless it’s a landslide, you know, one-sided defeat. Sometimes they’ll pull guys but guys want to play, that’s just the way it is.

MYRLAND: Well, it certainly was good news yesterday for the Chargers. So what does that say about their ability to move on into a playoff situation at the end of the season now that…

HAMILTON: Well, they’re in first place right now and, in all honesty, I don’t see them losing another game. And that’s a hard thing to understand when you consider at one point they were 2 and 3, playing very poorly, head coach was under enormous fire, the general manager was being criticized. But what’s happened is, hurt guys have gotten healthy, this team has gotten more complete, they’ve found additional guys who can contribute. I think it’s very realistic that they could run the table. We could be looking at a team that might wind up at 12 and 4 or 13 and 3, which is stunning, considering where they were once we got to the middle of October. And, you know, the critical thing now is how many home playoff games can they get? Because Pittsburgh is faltering so badly, there’s a chance that San Diego could host one or two playoff games, which would be huge before they, you know, and they get a chance to go to the AFC Championship Game. But it does – it sure does look like that the AFC Championship Game’s going to be in Indianapolis where the Colts are currently 10 and 0 or maybe even in New England. But there’s still six weeks to play in this regular season but they’ve got this thing dialed in, Doug. They are playing great offensive football, they’re getting healthy defensively, they’re much most physical. Some of the young people they have put in, especially in the defensive secondary and the defensive front, have played very good football the last month of the season so it’s not outside the realm of possibility they could run the table and win the rest of their games.

MYRLAND: Well, I want to change the subject to athletic directors and, of course, athletic director Jeff Schemmel from San Diego State University resigned last week. That story’s been covered a lot in various media. I heard your show about it on Friday afternoon on XX1090 so I don’t think we’ve got too much to add to the discussion here about the facts of that. But I do want to say that it seems like we’ve had quite a few athletic directors in the past decade or so at San Diego State University. Is that kind of turnover, for whatever reason, because people move on in their careers or there’s a scandal or whatever, is that normal or is it unusual? In big college sports, do athletic directors tend to follow career paths and move around? Or do they tend to go one place and stay and build a…

HAMILTON: Well, I think it’s very unusual what’s happened here at San Diego State. I mean, I’ve been here twenty-plus years and probably the two most influential athletic directors they had were the guy who just resigned, Jeff Schemmel, who I think did a lot of really good things cross campus, and the first one they had when I first arrived here, Dr. Fred Miller, who really took the athletic program from the, quote, small, small mentality, nickel and dime, mom and pop operation and tried to head it in the right direction. But there’s been an inordinate amount of turnover here. I mean, it’s really odd because you can’t build any continuity. When you get – excuse me, when you get a new athletic director coming in, he brings in a new philosophy, he brings in new people and a whole bunch of things always change here. So what they really need more than anything else is stability and they need somebody that’s going to be here for a long period of time. They really need a dynamo. That’s what they really need. And I thought Schemmel was a dynamo, and I think a large preponderance of the things he did were very positive at San Diego State but, obviously, he was done in by some bad personal decisions and a bad professional decision. And I’m stunned it ended so badly and stunned that he made the decisions that he made. I’m kind of disappointed. What they need to do, and Dr. Weber has indicated that they’re going to have their own search committee, they’re not going to go outside. What Dr. Weber really needs to do is to align himself with somebody who’s got expertise and knows where good prospective ADs are. And I’ve recommended on the air that they contact the outgoing commissioner of the Pac 10 Conference, Tom Hansen, who had a 22 year run of excellence. He knows everybody everywhere, they contact the retired athletic director at UCLA, Peter Dalis, he knows everybody everywhere. Both of them, very classy people. And maybe use them as sounding boards to, you know, to give them some insight as to who the next AD should be.

MYRLAND: Lee, I want to move on to the Adrian Gonzalez question but I want to ask you one more question. Let’s say Steve Weber calls you up and says I heard you on These Days, Hacksaw, and I want you to be on the search committee. And you’re sitting on that search committee and you’ve got three candidates or four candidates, what’s the first question you want to ask that potential candidate?

HAMILTON: Wow. I think first of all you’d need to do due diligence in their background. You’d talk to everybody you can within college athletics about that candidate so that you really have a profile and a background of that guy. I think probably the most important question is how do you mold the athletic side to the business side because college athletics is really part and parcel creating money and revenue streams. It’s not just about wins and losses on the field because in our economy I think it’s hugely important that he be only not an athletic director as it relates to the programs but he also be a CEO as it relates to helping guide the athletic program to create those additional revenue streams. It’s a very different model now than it was 10 years ago, than it was 20 or 30 years ago.

MYRLAND: Okay, well, let’s talk about the trade maybe, Adrian Gonzalez, what do you think?

HAMILTON: Awful tough decision. It has to be made by Jed Hoyer, the new general manager of the Padres. His first move may be the most important move. My feeling is Adrian Gonzalez is a very affordable player. Who cares what’s going to happen in 2012, that’s when his contract expires. I mean, the landscape of baseball could be very different in 2012. We might have a salary cap. We might have more revenue sharing. We might have a whole different set of rules in which players get contracts by then. He’s very affordable now considering the star that he has become. I don’t think I would trade him unless I was so overwhelmed by an offer by the Boston Red Sox and it would probably have to be four quality players, it would probably have to be two proven major league pitchers. It would have to be can’t miss prospects in the farm system. Now, Boston does have a lot of that, they do have resources. But my only concern is if you trade Adrian Gonzalez, who’s going to hit homeruns in your batting order? Because outside of he and Kevin Kouzmanoff, there’s really no legitimate power threat for the team at Petco Park. So I’d be very cautious. Now, that being said, middle of last summer, Doug, they traded Jake Peavy. I never thought we’d ever get to the day where they would trade this Cy Young Award winning pitcher but that deal turned out to be win-win for both. Peavy went to Chicago, won a bunch of games, the Padres got four young pitchers, three of them that really helped the team to an – very much an upbeat finish to the season. So I would never rule it out but if you trade Adrian, make sure you get the right players, and if you trade Adrian, you got to answer this question, who’s going to hit homeruns at Petco Park because there’s very few power hitters left on that roster.

MYRLAND: Well, Lee “Hacksaw” Hamilton, thank you very much for joining us. It sounds like you’ve got a lot to talk about on your sports show on XX1090 in the afternoons and…

HAMILTON: My pleasure. We’ll talk to you again at KPBS.

MYRLAND: All rightie. That’s Lee “Hacksaw” Hamilton and joining us on These Days. This is These Days in San Diego, I’m Doug Myrland.

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