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UCLA Clause for Concern Certainly No Lavin Matter

It’s been a nerve-racking day. I read in my morning newspaper about this outlandish clause in Steve Lavin’s UCLA contract, which doesn’t allow him to “shock, insult or offend the people of this nation or any class or group” of people with the penalty being his dismissal.

Now where would that leave me if such a clause was in my contract?

Maybe that’s why the Dodgers were on the phone first thing Tuesday morning--wanting to know what my contract said. Fortunately it was one of those many mornings when sports editor Bill Dwyre sleeps in.

I was concerned, though, because sooner or later you have to believe Dwyre’s going to realize it’s a waste of time to get his beauty sleep, and he’s going to take calls from the insulted and offended Dodgers, Lakers, Clippers, USC, UCLA, Sparks, Kings and Angels.

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I’m sure the Ducks will call, too, but the way things are going, I’m pretty confident they will dial the wrong number.

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LATE IN THE day, however, I got great news. I’ve been assured by our legal department that I am not operating under the same stifling restrictions as Lavin, which means I don’t have to worry about Dwyre.

But I’m still concerned about Lavin, whose contract also includes another outlandish clause that says he will be fired if he “brings himself into public disrepute, contempt, scandal or ridicule.”

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I guess if they were really enforcing that he’d be long gone by now.

It’s obvious, though, they must be really gunning for this guy from what I read in the newspaper, but to be honest I can’t imagine anyone bringing themselves into any more public disrepute than admitting Dodger General Manager Kevin Malone has provided help in identifying talent.

A Bruin official, however, told me Tuesday--that despite the inference in the newspaper--such outlandish clauses have not been written just for Lavin’s benefit or detriment, but are actually commonplace in almost all of UCLA’s athletic contracts, including that of football coach Bob Toledo.

I remember the handicapped parking placard scandal, and the ridicule that fell upon UCLA and the contempt that inspired, and I’m just thankful none of that rubbed off on Toledo.

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Of course, if everyone at UCLA is subject to the same public disrepute-contempt-scandal- ridicule clause, then I would think Athletic Director Peter Dalis is out of here.

“I’m not subject to the same rules,” Dalis said. “I don’t get paid off when I get fired.”

I would have thought he would have said “if I get fired.”

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AS WE KNOW now, Lavin is on probation, potentially jeopardizing his future at UCLA because he lost his cool during Saturday’s game with Oregon State.

It seems to me, however, he was slapped pretty hard for acting like a basketball coach. It’s pretty well accepted that basketball coaches can act like nap-deprived kindergartners throwing a tantrum--Henry Bibby gets away with it.

It’s been reported that Lavin gestured wildly at Lou Campanelli, the former wild man who coached Cal and who now oversees Pacific 10 Conference officials. Lavin’s crime was compounded because reporters quoted him saying, “You’re the worst official in the country,” and while his remark was aimed at Craig Grismore, I can tell you it would have been right on target for most any Pac-10 official this year.

Coaches yell things like that all the time--it’s a professional expectation to go nuts much like a baseball manager is supposed to yell at an umpire. By Lavin’s count, he’s been hit with four technical fouls in five years, which hardly qualifies him as some sort of coaching ogre.

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Unfortunately, the TV cameras and microphones caught him Saturday at Oregon State. The same thing happened to North Carolina Coach Matt Doherty recently, who got in trouble because he was overheard during a timeout telling his team that Duke’s cheerleaders were “the ugliest in the ACC.”

What’s it coming to when a coach can’t even be honest any more?

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LAVIN MADE A mistake, of course, but immediately linking his outburst and subsequent punishment in the newspaper to clauses in his contract that could result in him being dismissed seems to be a mighty unfair stretch. It just seems to be piling on.

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Lavin was appropriately apologetic after being censured--and I know I would be too, if I had those clauses in my contract.

Shoot, I’d probably never write another bad word about the Dodgers if I had those clauses, maybe get some lunch with Kevin Brown, play some golf with Malone, and stop making fun of the movie guy who is running/ruining the Dodgers.

That last one, though, would really be tough.

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I UNDERSTAND OWNER Michael Heisley wants to move the Grizzlies out of Vancouver and is considering the Arrowhead Pond because the team is averaging a little more than 13,000 fans a game with a record that’s worse than the Clippers. Does he think people in Orange County will accept that?

He should try a Ducks’ game--he’d have no trouble finding an empty seat.

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THE ANGELS HAVEN’T played a game, and Jose Canseco has gone to the ice pack. It appears to me he’s in mid-season form.

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DODGER OUTFIELDER Devon White asked to leave because he didn’t want to be a backup--so he went to Milwaukee and said he’s happy now to be a backup.

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AFTER WATCHING Jeff Shaw pitch in an intrasquad game, Dodger Manager Jim Tracy said, “Shaw looked like he could save a playoff game today, the way he was throwing.”

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Then it would be nice if Shaw was traded to team with a chance to be in the playoffs.

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TODAY’S LAST WORD comes in an e-mail from Michelle:

“For me, a man with a sense of humor is sexy (i.e--I think Drew Carey is sexy). You, my friend, are in the same boat as Drew in my book.”

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If we were both in the same boat--it’d sink.

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T.J. Simers can be reached at his e-mail address: t.j.simers@latimes.com.


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