EX-TERRIER COULD BE ON ROAD TO MAJOR COLLEGE HEAD COACHING SLOT

Keep your eyes on Louisiana State University. The Tigers’ win last weekend kind of underscored something taking place in Baton Rouge.

LSU, once the softball home of former Redlands East Valley softball stud Sahvanna Jaquish, is also the home of another local product.

David Aranda, whose brother, Mike, has long been a key basketball assistant coach at REV, always seemed to be injured during his playing days at Redlands. Longtime Terrier defensive coach Miguel Olmeda loved this guy during his prep days.

Technique. Attitude. Warrior mentality. All grade-A.

David Aranda is LSU’s high-achieving defensive coordinator.

DAVID ARANDA (photo by LSU)
David Aranda, a Redlands High School football player, once roomed with current Texas head coach Tom Herman at Cal Lutheran. These days, Aranda is defensive coordinator at Louisiana State University (photo by LSU).

When LSU fired a highly-regarded head coach Les Miles a couple years back, they kept Aranda. He’s paid dividends at whichever campus he’s been — Utah State, Hawaii, Southern Utah, Texas Tech, Wisconsin — in a typical life of a career college coach.

Aranda, meanwhile, might be among the hottest coaches in college football.

LSU’s head coach is Ed Orgeron, the same guy that slotted in as USC’s head man a few years back. In order to keep Aranda at LSU instead of going with Jimbo Fisher to Texas A&M, he got a 4-year, $10 million deal (the highest among assistant coaches) to stay in Baton Rouge.

QB Joe Burrow transferred from Ohio State. LSU also picked up a strong placekicker, Cole Tracy, from NCAA Division 2 ranks.

TIGERS GETTING A-PLUS DEFENSE

Here’s what LSU has gotten ever since Aranda came down from Wisconsin in 2016:

On Sept. 1, LSU’s defense stood off No. 8 Miami, an offensive powder keg, 33-17, holding the ‘’Canes to 342 total yards, picking off two passes, including a 45-yard interception return for a TD, four QB sacks. It was 33-3 entering the final quarter.

In five seasons of Aranda-coached defenses, including three seasons at Wisconsin, his teams have been ninth twice, second, fifth and 12th overall in the nation for total defense.

There were a handful of 2017 NFL draft picks, including two first-rounders, plucked from Aranda’s LSU defense from 2016. Linebacker Duke Riley, who was spotted in last Thursday’s NFL opener for Atlanta, was one.

It might say something that when Aranda’s Wisconsin defense was second in the country in 2015, there wasn’t a single Badger taken in the following spring’s 7-round NFL draft.

Yes, there some underclassmen in ’15, but there were no superstar leaders — just a sound defensive system under Aranda’s watch.

All it takes is one quick glance at the Southeastern Conference. You’d note that it’s split into two divisions, Eastern and Western. The West includes No. 9 LSU, not to mention Top 10 teams Alabama and Auburn.

Talk about being in the fire pit of a red-hot fireplace inferno.

By the way, Fisher’s Texas A&M plays in that same division.

Lost for the season in that Miami win was a promising pass rusher, K’Lavon Chaisson. Aranda countered with a trio of replacements in last Saturday’s win over Southwestern Louisiana.

ESPN TALK CENTERS AROUND ARANDA

During ESPN’s televised coverage, announcers gave Aranda thumbs up.

“Highest paid coordinator in college football … sharp guy … he lit the room up … he’s got the air of a guy who could run a program. … just a joy to talk to.”

After Redlands, Aranda played at Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks. The Kingsmen play in the same conference as the University of Redlands. In a sense, they got him from under the noses of the Bulldogs’ hierarchy. It’s more complex than that, of course, but he wore purple instead of maroon.

While at CLU, he roomed with a guy named Tom Herman. If you google Herman’s name, you might discover he’s head coach at Texas. That’s Univ. of Texas, the famed Longhorns of Earl Campbell, Darrell Royal, Vince Young, a ton of college football legends.

Wait a minute: Aranda and Herman in one dorm room?

 

 

GARY NELSON: WALTRIP’S WRENCH-TURNING WIZARD

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open and the Olympics, plus NCAA Final Four connections, NASCAR, the Kentucky Derby and Indianapolis 500, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

For most of his 3 ½ years with 1981 NASCAR Cup Series champion Darrell Waltrip, chief mechanic Gary Nelson had met one challenge after another.

And the 26-year-old former Redlands mechanic can look back on over 20 years of experience working with engines as his credentials for time spent with the circuit’s hottest driver.

436px-GaryNelsonNASCAR1985
NASCAR crew chief Gary Nelson wasn’t born in Redlands, but the eventual wrench-turning wizard spent plenty of time there as he got his racing career started (photo by Wikipidia Commons).

“I like to think I can look at a car and say ‘this area’s weak’ and then spend more time with that,” Nelson told me a couple days before the 1981 Winston Western 500 at the old Riverside International Raceway.

“This race,” he said, “is one of the toughest for mechanics because of the course.”

It’s a course that would cause any race team headaches.

Riverside’s 7-turn course each lap would depend on mechanics’ ability to maintain the clutch and brake systems.

“On a super speedway,” said Nelson, referring to the likes of Talladega or Martinsville or Bristol, “you don’t even use them. That is, until you come to a pit stop.”

Cars that pull into pit area at Riverside, well, it resembles organized mayhem. All that stopping, turning and rotating around that course.

Nelson was well-known around Redlands by all those race-lovers. I was urged by plenty, including newspaper advertising manager Jim Mundy, to produce a story for the locals as the Winston Western 500 beckoned. In fact, we rode out to Riverside Raceway together.

Nelson, born in Illinois before Arnold and Mildred Nelson moved to Redlands, started with engines when he turned five.

Arnold Nelson started teaching his son via motorbikes and race carts.

“My dad’s a real good mechanic,” said Nelson, who eventually got into racing with local legend Ivan Baldwin — “Ivan The Terrible.” When he was in his mid-teens, Nelson started sweeping the floors before working his way in as Baldwin’s lead mechanic.

Said Mildred: “He’s just like his dad. When Gary was 16, his dad gave him the family van. The first thing he did with it was take the engine out and put a bigger one in.”

She said Gary had always been interested in anything with wheels.

“I always worried about him, but I knew he was very careful. He wasn’t a wild driver.”

His early racing experience was local.

ORANGE SHOW SPEEDWAY SPECIAL

NASCAR had to be special, especially since the Ontario Motor Speedway and the Riverside raceway were so close to Redlands. To get there, however, required the paying of dues.

It was Saturday at Orange Show Speedway. Arguably, Baldwin might be the most successful driver that ever came out of OSS. Said Nelson: “We had a lot of fun.”

Baldwin, Nelson at 605 Raceway
At left, West Coast driving megastar Ivan Baldwin, while Gary Nelson checks the engine at Speedway 605 in the San Gabriel Valley (photo by legendsofnascar.com).

A connection to Baldwin was worth plenty in those years. Baldwin, later killed in a 1996 traffic accident, raced all over California’s racing circuit. That Nelson was part of his crew shouldn’t be a surprise.

“Racing was cheap in those days,” Nelson said. “And it wasn’t hard to do. But nowadays with the price of engines and tires, it’s hard to get into.”

All of which is why events led him into NASCAR. “I wouldn’t want to race unless I could go first class,” he said.

Waltrip and Nelson hard went after wins. At a race in College Station, Texas one week, a young driver named Dale Earnhardt., Sr. had a one-lap lead with 20 remaining. Nelson saved 10 seconds by replacing just two tires instead of four on the pit stop.

It saved the day. Waltrip won, leaving the driver praising his crew chief – typical comments. “Gary made the decision to change those tires. Goddammit, the kid is so good.”

Nelson countered by saying it had been a joint decision – crew, driver and chief mechanic each involved.

“We have a good crew,” said Nelson, noting future Hall of Famers Buddy Parrott and Robert Yates, plus Butch Stevens in the pits.

“Over the last three years,” said Waltrip, who won 13 races that season with Nelson as crew chief for DiGard Racing, “we’ve been successful because the good mechanics have stayed and the bad ones have left.”

Nelson’s teams won at Daytona and Riverside, Richmond and Bristol, Darlington and Michigan, Pocono and Martinsville, Wilkesboro and Charlotte, Richmond and Dover Downs – pretty much all the major stops on NASCAR’s fabled schedule.

WALTRIP CALAMITY NEARLY OVERCOME

In the 95-lap Winston Western 500, Waltrip crashed at the sixth turn on lap 65. The car limped into the pits. In 15 seconds, the crew changed two damaged tires and hammered out the dented body so Waltrip could drive his now-disfigured car back into contention.

Two days before that race, Nelson said Bobby Allison and Richard Petty would be the “toughest competition.”

He wasn’t necessarily ignoring the likes of Cale Yarbrough, Joe Millikan, Earnhardt or Benny Parsons.

Wasn’t it ironic that Allison took the race and Petty, with substitute driver Jimmy Insolo, finishing third?

DARRELL_WALTRIP_IMAGE
Darrell Waltrip was a stock car driving legend. Part of that success came with Redlands’ Gary Nelson running the team (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

Waltrip, his crew having made the quick-handed changes after the crash, took second.

Six laps were left. Waltrip was down 45 seconds. Crew member Don Sewell, another Redlands-based pit man, said, “It’s too much.”

Only an Allison mishap would cost him the race.

Allison knocked down his fourth win of that season.

Waltrip’s familiar green “88” car sped by some 32.9 seconds later. He was nearly out of gas.

“A few years ago,” said Nelson, “I wouldn’t have predicted I’d be where I am today. It’s hard, but I rely on a lot of luck.”

If that doesn’t leave you chuckling, consider that he was worried that a rebuilt transmission on Friday wouldn’t hold in Sunday’s race.

Tim Williamson, the driver who won the Hodgdon 200 just prior to the Winston Western 500, stood alongside Nelson. It was Nelson who said, “I was worried he’d run out of gas.”

Nelson didn’t last long with Waltrip, who left one year later for Junior Johnson’s racing team.

A portion of Nelson’s resume:

  • Crew chief for Allison, who joined DiGard when Waltrip left.
  • Turned up as Kyle Petty’s crew chief, 1989.
  • In 1988, Nelson was a part-timer with ESPN.
  • A West Coast Stock Car Racing Hall of Famer.
  • Worked for NASCAR in 1991 as its Winston Cup director. During that time, Nelson was credited with safety innovations – particularly after Earnhardt’s driving death.

Since April 2001, when he took on the safety portion of NASCAR, no life-threatening accidents have taken place at any of its speedways.

One final point: Isn’t it interesting that Nelson’s most prized racers, Allison and Waltrip, were tied for fourth place on NASCAR’s all-time victory list at 84?

All that wrench-turning started as a Redlands Connection.

 

PART 2: HALL OF FAME CONNECTIONS INFILTRATES FAMILIES

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

If you haven’t yet, check out part 1 first.

Baseball fans love their hometown players.

It’s complete acceptance. Much like, perhaps, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees, or Astros fans whenever Roger Clemens took the mound. Or a Cubs fan when Sammy Sosa stepped into the batter’s box. Oakland and Cardinals’ fans had Mark McGwire. Gary Sheffield showed up in L.A., Miami, Atlanta and New York. The Red Sox and Dodgers, plus the Indians, watched Manny Ramirez skyrocket dozens of balls over fences. Alex Rodriguez was magnificent during his days in Seattle, Texas and New York.

You think those fans aren’t affected by Hall of Fame corruption? That corruption was media-driven.

Barry Bonds, reviled by rival fans, was beloved in San Francisco.

My son, Chet, saw Bonds strike home runs in San Francisco, at Dodger Stadium, plus both ballparks in San Diego, Jack Murphy Stadium and Petco Park. Throw in a significant bomb at Anaheim. Game 6, 2002 World Series.

When Bonds showed up in BALCO reports, law enforcement investigations, plus various other significant bodies – including a Federal government trial – Chet’s view was that his baseball achievements should remain intact.

Chet is furious that Bonds – he wasn’t necessarily a fan of Roger Clemens – wasn’t elected to the Hall of Fame.

He’s heard me say it for years.

That the same fraternity of media that voted MVP and Cy Young, Rookie of the Year and Gold Glove honors had also voted to keep significant players out of Cooperstown, the New York-based site of the Hall of Fame.

It was right under the media’s corrupt noses that PED usage was taking place.

Corrupt …

… in that all major teams, from its ownership and management to its medical staffs and dugout personnel, had to know.

… the stain and stench reaches all the way up to the Commissioner’s office – Peter Uebberoth, Bart Giamatti, Faye Vincent and Bud Selig. If they didn’t know, they’re ignorant. If they did know, they did nothing.

… baseball’s player union, which deflected away testing procedures that would’ve kept the sport clean.

Tom Verducci (Photo by Wikpidia Commons)
Tom Verducci wrote an eye-opening article for Sports Illustrated in May 2002, perhaps one of the first big breaks in reporting PED use among MLB players. For years, deep and insightful reporting was missing from the PED story. (Photo by Wikipedia Commons)

Sports Illustrated Tom Verducci gets a huge “Hall” pass for a significant article he wrote in 2002. San Diego Padres’ third baseman Ken Caminiti, an admitted PED user and one-time National League MVP (voted on by the media, incidentally), was quoted by Verducci saying 50 percent of baseball players were using enhancements.

Over a decade earlier, Canseco was besieged by Red Sox fans during the playoffs against Oakland. In Boston. “Sterrrrroids. Sterrrrroids. Sterrrrroids.” They all chanted.

Canseco, for his part, struck a Greek god-like posture, flexing for them, kiddingly posing for those Fenway Park fans.

That was 1990, or ’91. Where was baseball’s media? You’d think they’d pick up on a story like that. It took over a decade before the story broke. When it did break, Canseco’s first book created the eventual storm.

The media got scooped.

Hundreds of news outlets – print, TV, radio, you name it – were planted in each major league city. Coast to coast. ABC. CBS. NBC. ESPN. CNN. Where were these journalists? Didn’t you guys remember Woodward and Bernstein, the two Washington reporters who broke Watergate a generation earlier?

The media could’ve headed off the PED era right away. It wasn’t enough to simply offer speculation. Or blind rage. Or ask questions, that players denied using.

They didn’t dig for stories.

Eventually, Canseco wrote two books, naming names.

Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams wrote “Game of Shadows,” detailing the BALCO raids and subsequent legal connections.

I once wrote a column about that, noting significant names of those media personalities that didn’t properly do its job. Amazingly, one of those names I’d mentioned, Bob Costas, contacted me.

“I don’t want to you to think I surf the net, looking for my name,” said Costas in one of two communications I had with the longtime NBC sportscaster. “A friend of mine in California sent me a copy of your article.”

I promised Costas our conversation would be off the record. To this day, I won’t reveal anything we discussed further. I will share this, however: He told me that he called the MLB All-Star game, I think back in 2002, and spent the entire game bemoaning the state of baseball with all its PED usage. He was, in effect, calling them out.

Bob_Costas (Photo by Wikipedia Commons)
Longtime NBC sportscaster Bob Costas called to talk with me about the state of steroids after a column I wrote about what the media had missed all those years. (Photo by Wikipedia Commons)

Costas said he received plenty of blowback from the players and its union.

My own complaint was that kind of unspecific coverage meant nothing until evidence was produced, such as Verducci’s SI piece.

“Howard Cosell,” I said, mentioning ABC’s legendary tough-as-nails broadcaster a couple decades earlier, “would’ve gotten to the bottom of this.”

It was great talking with Costas, but he only underscored the problem. Media was largely responsible for the outbreak of PED use. By not rooting out its issues, exposing the sinners and shutting down the freakage use of PEDs in its early stages, all talk was cheap.