Greg Byrne's travel itinerary last week was a bit off the regular NCAA path. He flew from Tucson to Seoul, South Korea, and then embarked on a 10-day tour of Nike's Asian factories in Guangzhou, China; Hong Kong; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; and later to Bejing and Shanghai.
He is one of five BCS athletic directors, part of the Nike family, invited on the tour by Kit Morris, Nike's director of college sports marketing. Morris has been taking athletic directors to China and Vietnam since 2002.
"We will visit all of the Nike factories in Asia and be able to examine worker's conditions and worker's rights," said Byrne. "It will enable us to articulate the entire process to our fans and those in the athletic department and at the university."
Nike established the annual tour of athletic directors in an attempt to be transparent and eliminate suggestions that Nike's overseas operations are sweatshops where worker's rights are violated.
Nike, which pays expenses for the tour, has more than 53 factories in Asia, employing more than 200,000 in Vietnam alone. When Byrne visits the Ho Chi Minh City Nike factory, he will see the process that manufactures 1.3 million pairs of Nike shoes a month.
"The timing isn't great; I was reluctant not to be at the ASU and UCLA basketball games," he said. "But we are a Nike school, and I very much want to understand the process of manufacturing."
Pac-12 Tournament a big ticket
League hogs primo seats; UA starts Vegas wait list
Arizona has already sold its 1,300 allotted tickets to the Pac-12 basketball tournament at Las Vegas' MGM Grand. The UA has begun a waiting list, which is impressive given that an all-session ticket goes for $364.
What isn't so impressive is that the Pac-12 has given itself the primo seats at the 16,800-seat MGM Grand, about 4,000 between-the-basket, lower-level seats and relegated member schools to corners and end zones.
Two exceptions: UCLA and Utah got the between-the-baskets seats on the opposite side of the court from the Pac-12 tickets. Arizona, Oregon, Washington State and Colorado were assigned ticket allotments that squeeze into an angle in a corner of the arena.
Not even that fortunate are Oregon State and USC, whose ticket allotment is entirely end-zone seats.
Ticket locations won't matter much in March. With five contenders - UCLA, Arizona, Oregon, Washington and ASU - the novelty of playing in Las Vegas will emphasize demand over supply.
But some within the league haven't entirely forgotten the way ex-commissioner Tom Hansen operated the league on a comparative shoestring and with a members-first notion.
Under commissioner Larry Scott, the Pac-12 has completely changed its image, its revenue-producing model, its TV exposure and its reputation in college sports. Some would elect him king.
But, at the same time, the Pac-12 office hasn't been shy about taking care of itself. With so many moving parts, there are bound to be some raised eyebrows.
My guess is that sooner or later, in confidence, the 12 member schools will request that the league tone it down a bit, demand that it deliver DirecTV to the television package, become more budget-conscious and surrender some of the best basketball tickets in the house to the average Joe.
No honeymoon lasts forever, right?
Former MLB stars turn out to help youth players
About 75 young baseball players participated in the Major League Baseball Alumni Association clinic last weekend at Tucson's "Field of Dreams" on Kino Boulevard and 36th Street. Those volunteering their time to teach the young players included ex-Indians outfielder Shelley Duncan of CDO; ex-Reds pitcher Pat Darcy of Rincon; ex-UA coach Jerry Kindall of the Cubs; ex-Reds pitcher Paul Moskau of Rincon; ex-Blue Jays outfielder Anthony Sanders of Santa Rita; ex-White Sox outfielder Brian Anderson of CDO; and former major-league players/coaches Tom Spencer, Charlie Montoyo and George Vukovich. UA baseball coach Andy Lopez dispatched likely starting shortstop Kevin Newman, a freshman, to help the major-league veterans. … Flowing Wells grad Tara Erdmann, a seven-time NCAA All-America distance runner, has made terrific progress as part of the Nike Oregon Project running program. She ran a career-best 9:02 for 3,000 meters in last week's Washington Indoor Preview in Seattle. Erdmann's previous best at that distance was 9:08. … Palo Verde grad Bryce Cotton was the Big East's leading scorer, at 21.8 per game, entering Saturday's game against Villanova (he scored 24 Saturday). A year ago, Santa Rita grad Terrell Stoglin led the ACC in scoring. He is now leading the Greece Euroleague with a 26.3 average for Ilysiakos Athens. No one else in the league is averaging more than 18.5 … Sahuaro grad Caitlin Leverenz, the 2012 NCAA women's swimmer of the year, began her final semester at Cal when the defending national champs spent a week working out in Hawaii. While there, she was introduced to 1956 Olympic swimming medalists Carin Cone and Mary Sears. Leverenz had a lot in common, sharing her 2012 London Olympics bronze medal with them.
More Short Stuff
Mayfield's life to be celebrated Saturday
A celebration of the life of Ollie Mayfield, Tucson High's state championship football coach in 1970 and 1971, will be held Saturday at 4 p.m., at the Randolph Golf complex clubhouse. It will follow his memorial service at 2 p.m., at the El Camino Baptist Church at 7777 East Speedway. … World No. 1 golfer Rory McIlroy's decision to include the Tucson Boys and Girls Club as part of his "6 Bags Charity Project" goes beyond the potential fundraising. "It gives us exposure and credibility," said Armando Rios, director of the Tucson organization. McIlroy will display the logo of the Tucson Boys and Girls Club on his bag during the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship next month, one of six tournaments at which he will do so early in the '13 season. The bag will be auctioned during the Match Play event; all proceeds will go to the Tucson organization. … Most disconcerting new rumbling from the PGA Tour: Tucson's stop will be usurped by one in South Carolina after 2014. This is the umpteenth time our golf tournament has been linked to a new destination. So far, no go. … Sahuaro High junior pitcher Alex Verdugo, Ironwood Ridge senior infielder Travis Chavez and Marana sophomore pitcher Bradley Gonzales are part of the prestigious Under Armour All-America Pre-Season baseball tournament going on this weekend at the Kino Sports complex. More than 400 high school baseball players from around the country are involved. Verdugo hit .472 and struck out 78 batters in 61 innings at Sahuaro during his sophomore season. … A week after the Dallas Cowboys made him one of the scapegoats of a failed season, ex-Sahuaro and UA receiver Skip Peete was hired to be the running backs coach of the Chicago Bears. … When UA football coach Rich Rodriguez hired offensive line coach Jim Michalczik last week, it wasn't just another routine coach move. Michalczik, who helped coach Miami to the 1991 national championship, and later coached for Mike Riley at Oregon State and was the offensive coordinator at Cal, is probably the most accomplished offensive assistant coach hired at Arizona since Homer Smith in 1995. How did that work out? Smith installed Arizona's first real offensive system of the Dick Tomey years, the structure of which led to a 12-1 season in 1998. … When the San Diego Chargers made Mike McCoy their new head coach last week, it brought back memories of the 1994 Freedom Bowl game. McCoy was Utah's quarterback in a 16-13 victory over Arizona. Utah gained just 75 net yards in that game, a record bowl low in UA opponent history. Didn't seem to hold him back much.
My Two Cents
Super 7: Michael Bates heads list of local recruits
With the pledge of Salpointe Catholic junior receiver Cameron Denson to play at Arizona beginning in 2014, I did some research on what I believe are Tucson's 10 leading football recruits, any position, of the last 50 years. Does Denson belong? Could he belong at this time next year?
You decide. Here's my Super Seven, in order (Rodney Peete doesn't count because he left Sahuaro after his junior season):
1. Michael Bates, Amphi. Was generally regarded as the No. 1 skill position player available in 1989. Chose Arizona.
2. Bill Dawson, Tucson High. In the late '60s, Dawson, who chose Michigan State, was a two-time first team All-State lineman.
3. Mike Ciasca, Sahuaro. Most recruiting services listed him as the No. 1 overall offensive lineman of 1990. Went to Arizona.
4. Mike Dawson, Tucson. Bill's brother led the Badgers to a pair of state titles and played 10 years in the NFL. Was a star at Arizona.
5. Freddie Sims, Sunnyside. He went to Oklahoma when the Sooners hand-picked running backs like Billy Sims.
6. Kris O'Dowd, Salpointe. When the nation's then-most successful college coach, Pete Carroll of USC, puts you near the top of his must-get list, it carries unusual significance.
7. Mike Saffer, Sabino. He became an All-Pac-10 tackle at UCLA, rebuffing Nebraska and Arizona.
Waiting list: Ralph Zarate, Tucson to ASU; Mario Bates, Amphi to ASU; Daniel Borg, Ironwood Ridge to Arizona; Adam Hall, Palo Verde to Arizona; Ka'Deem Carey, CDO to Arizona.