Time to rein in signings

Random thoughts for a Tuesday morning, hearing restored after the Winternationals, wondering whatever happened to Alisha Adams, who had 19 assists in a game for Eisenhower High School in 1981.

Are we once again near the breaking point with the national letter of intent signing day?

Last week's developments, as unusual as they might have been, are signs that perhaps the pressure we are placing on high school seniors - 17- and 18-year-old athletes - is increasing, without justification.

What events, you ask?

How about the football player in Reno who was never recruited, as he claimed, nonetheless held a news conference to announce his choice? Only after hard questions, and the prospects of a police investigation, did he come clean and admit the sham.

Or the local football player that participated in a signing ceremony at his school, sitting alongside his teammates with a blank piece of paper before him. We don't print the names (player, coach or school) to avoid further embarrassment, and it is an embarrassment for all involved.

In our view, that charade had more similarities with the Reno scenario than differences.

Our local player was recruited - the major difference - but encountered issues. It's highly probable he will be enrolled at his chosen school in the fall, as his coach insists. However, was it fair or correct to include him with players who had earned the right to sign?

If that wasn't enough, how about Purdue's Joe Tiller calling new Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez a snake oil salesman for stealing a recruit? Those are fighting words, and could very well result in a meaningless touchdown late in the game with one team ahead by 35 points.

If that's the pressure coaches are under, what does that translate for high school athletes? They are the cornerstone of a multi-million (if not billion) dollar industry - college football - and their development will determine whether a head coach and his staff remains gainfully employed.

The NCAA changed the rules many years ago prohibiting head coaches from attending signing ceremonies. Previous to that, coaches were known to fly around in private jets, often holding airport press conferences.

Such media events went away for a while, but with a wink-and-nod from chosen schools, the big productions have returned. The proliferation of specialized Web sites has certainly accelerated the process, to say nothing of cable networks wanting the exclusivity of young men putting a cap on their heads.

Perhaps it's time for all of us - including the media - to take a step back and acknowledge the achievement, without the dramatics. ...

More than 20 years after Cal Poly Pomona dropped its football program, its most famous player has become an NFL head coach. Ironically, Jim Zorn was announced as the Washington Redskins new coach on the same night a group of ex-Broncos were gathering on campus.

Zorn finished his collegiate career with every Cal Poly passing record, playing for Roy Anderson and the late Andy Vinci. Unrecruited out of Cerritos Gahr High School by Anderson, the left-handed Zorn went on to play 11 years in the NFL and has been coaching since 1988. ...

California Speedway president Gillian Zucker, feeling under the weather, nonetheless flew to San Francisco over the weekend to accept a "Spirit of Leadership Award" from the Women's Automotive Association International.

Zucker, gearing up for the Feb. 24 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 500, was among five women honored at the National Auto Dealers Association convention. ...

Todd Anton, whose best-selling book "No Greater Love: True Stories from the Men Who Saved Baseball" is a tribute to his late father, will return to his roots Feb.23 to sign copies at at the Redlands Barnes & Noble.

Anton, who grew up in Oak Glen and attended Yucaipa High School, will be joined by Ray Judy and Elton Shaw, who as members of the U.S. Military All-Stars, composed of active duty, reserves and veterans, work to ensure all available resources and support for our deployed soldiers.

Anton, who resides in Phelan, serves on the Board of Trustees of the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. The signing is set for 4-6 p.m. at 27460 Lugonia Ave., Redlands. More information is available by calling (909) 793-4322. ...

Team owners in the NHRA Powerade Drag Racing Series were lectured by representatives of Homeland Security about the dangers of nitromethane getting into the wrong hands. Nitro is the main ingredient - 90 percent - in the fuel mixture in Top Fuel dragster and Funny Car.

One might recall that Timothy McViegh visited a drag race in Topeka seeking to buy nitro as part of plan to blow up the Oklahoma City federal building. McViegh was denied and he settled for ammonium nitrate fertilizer in the April19, 1995 attack that killed 168.

Since then, Homeland Security has reduced the size of the fuel drums from 55 gallons to 40. And with the fuel costing $884 per drum, it's highly unlikely teams are going to lose track or not properly secure their inventory. ...

Ever thought about singing the National Anthem at a baseball game? The Quakes are holding auditions for the upcoming season on Saturday beginning at 10 a.m. at Chaffey Town Square at Victoria Gardens.

Those interested can obtain additional information from Ashley Cordero, the team's community relations manager, at (909) 481-5000, ext. 206. ...

Mixed martial arts returns to the Ontario Convention Center March 8 for the fifth time. Promoter Eddy Millis has seen a steady increase in attendence, with more than 1,700 fans at the last MMA event.

The card will pit fighters from Orange County and their Inland Empire counterparts. Among those on the card will be Sofie Bagherdai, the only female fighting for a title. ...

Signing day, part 2: Because football is the big dog on college campuses, those who sign letters in other sports are virtually lost in the process.

But that's not the gripe for others. There's an element that believes some of those who sign letters are just above the academic requirements, and still get showered for their on-field talents.

The same group points out a school valedictorian rarely gets the same accolades and exposure as a football player with half the grade point average. ...

Mike Sweeney never struck us as a baseball player who would wear flashy white shoes, not at Ontario High School under Bob Beck nor with the Kansas City Royals.

However, Sweeney's embarking on a new phase of his baseball career after signing with Oakland over the weekend. Hopefully he'll have his health back as he's been limited to 134 games the last two years due to injuries.

He has his work ahead of him. He signed a minor league contract full of incentives, and he's the type of player that will be motivated not by the money, but by wanting to get his game back. ...

On a personal note: From the day we crossed paths with Leo Greene in the newsroom, it was a joy to associate with a person who had such passion for his work. Over the past two years, we drew plenty of inspiration watching our colleague battle with Lou Gerhig's Disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Last week, the fight ended. His body might have given out, but his spirit never did.

Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during these difficult times. Our condolences go out to his two sons, Sam and David; and our former sports assistant, his sister Mary Shelton and her children Molly and Andrew.

Leo displayed dignity and leaves behind a legacy we shall all try to adhere to.

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