The truth, the whole truth, half-truths, shades of the truth and other items admissible as sports news:
ITEM I: How times change: Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey and LSU’s Leonard Fournette, the two most high-profile running backs in college football, will not participate in their team’s mid-level bowl games, the Sun and the Citrus, respectively.
The fear of injury and the potential loss of millions of dollars supplants school spirit, Win-one-for-the-Gipper and all that jazz. And besides, it’s just the Sun Bowl.
I wonder how that would go over with Wilford “Whizzer” White, probably the greatest football player in Arizona State history. In 1950, he played in the East-West Shrine Game on New Year’s Eve, caught a flight to Phoenix and played 48 hours later against Xavier in the Salad Bowl.
Here’s some perspective: White’s NFL career, two short seasons, ended because of knee injuries. He spent the next half-century operating a security business in Phoenix.
McCaffrey and Fournette are merely playing the same Money Game long played by coaches; Colorado defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt won’t be accompanying the Buffaloes to the Alamo Bowl because he chose to leave his $512,000-a-year job at CU for a reported $1.1 million to coach the Oregon Ducks.
ITEM II: Unbeaten and No. 9 Creighton plays Arizona State Tuesday night in Tempe. It is the first non-conference Top 10 team to play at Arizona State since 1980, when Ohio State played the Sun Devils.
By comparison, 14 non-conference teams ranked in the Top 10 have played at Arizona since 1980: Duke (twice), North Carolina, Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Minnesota, UNLV, Michigan, Texas, Michigan State, Texas A&M, Florida and Gonzaga.
The Sun Devils are averaging 5,878 at Wells Fargo Arena (54 percent). Given that school is not in session and ASU is 6-5, coming off a home loss to New Mexico State, it might be difficult to draw 10,000 to watch Creighton on a Tuesday night when it can be seen on ESPN2.
ITEM III: Rich Rodriguez will hire 57-year-old linebackers coach Scott Boone to coach that position at Arizona. Isn’t that a bit like hiring Jeff Casteel (also 57) again?
Boone and Casteel, fired a year ago when RichRod attempted to put together a younger and recruiting-for-millennials staff, have a lot in common. They are linebacker coaching lifers. Before joining RichRod at West Virginia 15 years ago, Casteel coached at UTEP and Division II Shepherd (W. Va.) University.
Boone coached at Wabash, Randolph- Macon and William & Mary before spending three seasons at Nevada, where he was paid $180,000.
He’ll surely be paid more than $200,000 at Arizona as the Wildcats try to put some Old School back in their talent-challenged defense.
ITEM IV: Derrick Williams has been the best player of the Sean Miller years at Arizona. He was the only Wildcat who could put a team on his back and take it deep into March, as he did in a drive to the 2011 Elite Eight. I thought Williams would have a pro career to rival those of Jason Terry and Mike Bibby.
But now, after being the second overall selection in the 2011 NBA draft, Williams is deep on the bench at his fourth NBA team, the woeful Miami Heat. He has nine dreaded DNP-CD’s this season — did not play, coach’s decision.
In retrospect, Williams has become a classic “tweener,” stuck between small forward and power forward skills. In his 2011 breakout season at Arizona, he shot 59 percent overall and 57 percent on 3-point shots. In the NBA, he has shot 43 percent overall and 29 percent from 3-point range.
If nothing else, Williams has been paid well. He has earned $31 million and will be a free agent at year’s end when he turns 26.
ITEM V: Incoming Arizona recruit DeAndre Ayton, a 7-foot 1-inch center at Phoenix’s Hillcrest Prep, engaged his most formidable prep opponent over the weekend in a Florida tournament.
Ayton was matched against 7-foot Mohammed Bamba of Westtown (Pa.) High School, a prospect being recruited by Duke, Michigan and Kentucky. Ayton’s team lost, 53-42, but he outscored Bamba 13-6 and outrebounded him 13-5.
Small world: Bamba’s teammate, shooting guard Brandon Randolph, who signed with Arizona last month, might’ve been the best player on the floor. He scored 13 for Westtown.
Neither Ayton nor Randolph will be lacking for competition before arriving in Tucson; Hillcrest is to play in New York, Kentucky, North Carolina, California, Minnesota and in Canada this season. Randolph’s club will play in Atlantic City, N.J., and in Columbia, S.C., over the holidays.
ITEM LAST: Arizona completes its nonconference schedule Tuesday against New Mexico. It did not play a Saturday game at McKale Center in the preseason. Yet because basketball in Tucson is THIS BIG, the Wildcats averaged 14,183 against a series of mid-week puffballs.
Winning (and national rankings) hasn’t done much to boost attendance at UCLA and Oregon this season. The No. 2 Bruins are averaging 8,352 at Pauley Pavilion (61 percent capacity) and the No. 20 Ducks average 7,842 at Matthew Knight Arena (63 percent).
The Ducks played just one Saturday game in Eugene (against Savannah State). UCLA’s lone Saturday game at Pauley Pavilion, against Michigan, was a robust success; 13,571 (and a few movie stars) attended.
At the Power 5 level, TV determines college football and basketball schedules. Over time, there will be a reckoning, a time when those who buy tickets cease bowing to TV-mandated schedules.
As former Diamondbacks and Suns heavyweight Jerry Colaneglo told The Arizona Republic last week: “Television is television and there’s a lot of money to be made, but the fan is still the fan. You have to be responsive to them.”