The final regular-season AP and UPI college-football polls show unbeaten Penn State ranked first and Alabama (10-1) second, which should make ABC happy, because it will televise the Sugar Bowl game between the two teams on New Year's Day. It must also please Bear Bryant, because he can envision another national championship if Alabama wins. It's all very neat, very tidy.
Except for one thing. What about Southern California, the No. 3 team in both polls? USC is 11-1, and it has beaten such Top 20 teams as Notre Dame, Michigan State, UCLA and, lo and behold, Alabama. On the afternoon of Sept. 23 in Birmingham, the Trojans defeated the Crimson Tide convincingly, 24-14. Two weeks later USC lost its only game of the season, to Arizona State at night in Tempe. Any coach, Bryant and Penn State's Joe Paterno included, will tell you that Tempe on a Saturday night is no picnic.
The object here is not to discredit Alabama, but merely to point out that if the national championship of college football is worth anything, the situation this year demands closer inspection than it has been getting. To understand why the AP panel voted as it did, we asked many of its members to explain their reasoning. The answers were generally mystifying and emphasize the need for a true playoff system.
Generally speaking, in ranking Alabama over USC, most voters chose to ignore the Trojans' victory over the Tide because it was "early in the season." One West Coast balloter even made Alabama No. 1 because he felt if the two teams played now, "Alabama would win because Bear Bryant would coach the pants off John Robinson." Another Californian made USC No. 3 because it was unimpressive in beating Stanford, evidently ignoring the fact that Stanford nearly defeated Oklahoma. A Providence balloter said, "Picking in these polls is a pain," but rated Alabama No. 2 because it beat Nebraska and Nebraska was highly ranked.
There is a suspicion among some voters that the reason Alabama is rated ahead of USC is that the Southern bloc deliberately downgraded the Trojans, although the AP denies that the ballots show any such manipulation. Perhaps the saddest commentary on the system of choosing a national champion, however, is that of the AP's 68 voters, nine neglected even to cast a ballot in the final regular-season poll.
KATZ GOT THE KITTY
Last Tuesday evening Pete Rose sat on the edge of a bed in the Orlando, Fla. hotel room of his agent-lawyer, Reuven Katz, waiting to see his favorite character on the CBS Evening News—himself. That afternoon Rose had announced at baseball's winter meetings that during the next four years he would be running out walks and sliding into bases headfirst for the Philadelphia Phillies for $3.5 million. But Rose and Katz were also in Orlando because Rose was being honored as baseball's Man of the Year. While awaiting his appearance on TV, Rose noticed Katz affixing a red Phillies "P" lapel pin to his favorite Reds tie. "No," commanded Rose, "put it on your lapel, where everybody at the banquet will see it." Katz did.
Finally, Walter Cronkite got around to Rose's signing. When a film clip showed recently deposed Cincy Manager Sparky Anderson praising his former third baseman, Rose's eyes misted. Cronkite then announced that Rose would not come under the new government wage controls because "he's a business unto himself and Pete raised a fist in the air and said, "You tell 'em, Walter." Then Rose and Katz went down to the banquet room, where Joe DiMaggio approached Katz and shook his hand. "It was one of the biggest thrills of my life," says Katz, a native Cincinnatian and longtime season-ticket holder to the Reds' games. "He congratulated me."
Everybody should. Katz guided Rose's voyage through free agency in a manner that made it both tasteful and entertaining. For his work Katz will get between $20,000 and $30,000 instead of the agent's usual 10% or more. "I'm just a lawyer," he says. "I get paid by the hour. I also represent Johnny Bench and some others, but now I want to go back and practice law. I enjoyed doing the thing with Pete, but it was like raising a family. When my children were grown, I didn't turn to my wife and say, 'Let's start another family.' "
Oh, yes, during the banquet Katz removed the red "P" from his lapel and put it on his red tie. "Pete has never been known for his subtlety," he said.
Although he resembles his bay mother Fanfreluche more than his chestnut father Secretariat, it is agreed that there is a special young thoroughbred wintering at Windfields Farm, some 40 miles east of Toronto. It will be about 18 months before anyone will really know if the colt can run, but already a lot of people know quite a bit about his bizarre background. In June of 1977 Fanfreluche, in foal to Secretariat, was "horsenapped" from the Claiborne Farm in Paris, Ky. in a still unsolved crime. A year ago, Fanfreluche was found on a small farm 150 miles from Claiborne, where she was being ridden as a saddle horse by a farmer and his family. He had come upon her standing on a nearby road and thought she was an unwanted stray. Returned to Claiborne, Fanfreluche bore Secretariat's son two months later.
J.-Louis Levesque, the prominent Canadian financier and horse breeder who owns the colt, decided to let racing fans suggest names for the colt by means of a newspaper contest. He said he would look favorably upon a French name that alluded to the colt's prenatal adventures, so to speak. The winning entry: Sain et Sauf, or Safe and Sound.
The Washington Star, San Francisco Chronicle, TV Guide and The Boston Globe, to name just a few, have conducted write-in polls in recent years to determine how folks out there in printland feel about television sports announcers. Recently the Los Angeles Herald Examiner joined the parade. "The response to the poll amazed us," says Sports Editor Allan Malamud. "We got letters from 3,310 people, an amount we never anticipated."
On the network level the Herald Examiner asked readers to vote for both their favorite and least-favored announcers in three categories: Anchor Persons and Special Features, Play-by-Play and Commentary and Analysis. The top three vote-getters in each category were:
Anchor/Special Feature, Favorite: Brent Musburger, CBS (706), Jim McKay, ABC (623), Bryant Gumbel, NBC (566); Least Favorite: Howard Cosell, ABC (1,973), Jimmy (The Greek) Snyder, CBS (387), Curt Gowdy, NBC (355).
Play-by-Play, Favorite: Vin Scully, CBS (1,258), Frank Gifford, ABC (521), Dick Enberg, NBC (460); Least Favorite: Joe Garagiola, NBC (787), Chris Schenkel, ABC (488), Curt Gowdy, NBC (397).
Commentator/Analyst, Favorite: Don Meredith, ABC (798), Merlin Olsen, NBC (546), George Allen, CBS (400); Least Favorite: Jim Brown, CBS (520), Tony Kubek, NBC (297), Maury Wills, NBC (294).
FINGER ON THE PULSE
The embattled Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission, which considered granting a manager's license to hoodlum Frank (Blinky) Palermo until his lawyer withdrew the application because of press criticism last March, has taken a shot in the chops from State Auditor Al Benedict.
After inspecting records for the last three years, Benedict says the commission is violating its own rules and regulations, which are designed to protect contestants from physical injury. For instance, the auditor says he "could find no evidence that postfight physical examinations were being performed, a violation of the Pennsylvania Athletic Code. And the root of the problem appears to be that the Medical Advisory Board to the commission, which sets the standards for physical examinations, had not held a single meeting in 18 years."
Benedict also questions whether some prefight physicals were given at all. For one card in Pittsburgh, the prefight physician reports showed that 15 of the 16 contestants had exactly the same blood pressure, and 11 of those 15 had identical pulse rates. A further strange coincidence: the reports indicate that every one of the 16 contestants had a chest X ray in 1975.
The University of Florida did a rather clumsy job of changing football coaches recently. Perhaps it was because the Gators haven't had much experience at it; Florida has had only three football coaches in the last 29 years—Bob Woodruff, Ray Graves and, since 1970, Doug Dickey. After the Gators lost to Florida State 38-21, it was a foregone conclusion that Dickey was foregone. But University President Robert Q. Marston left everyone hanging until the following Wednesday, when he was informed that Florida alumni had raised enough money to buy up the last three years of Dickey's four-year contract. The midweek announcement didn't exactly help the team in its preparation for its final game, against Miami, and Dickey went out losing, 22-21.
Marston meanwhile appointed a 13-man search committee, which came up with a list of 45 candidates. The search would have ended if Arkansas Coach Lou Holtz had accepted, but Florida hedged too long, and to quell the rumors Holtz had to promise Arkansas Governor William Clinton that he would stay.
By Monday morning, Florida had decided to hire Clemson Coach Charley Pell. However, the committee neglected to call off the search. At noon on Monday, Ron Meyer of Southern Methodist flew from Dallas to Washington to meet with a Florida delegate. When Meyer landed, nobody was there to greet him. He did spy the familiar face of Navy Coach George Welsh, though. Welsh had been waiting for two hours to talk to the same man. When the delegate finally arrived, he told Welsh and Meyer that the job had already been filled.
OFF AND DRIBBLING
In Milwaukee there were front-page headlines five days before the game. In Chicago, TV stations were building up the game daily, and ABC even sent a film crew to a pregame cocktail party. Women's professional basketball became a reality last Saturday afternoon when the Chicago Hustle defeated the Milwaukee Does 92-87. It was a highly respectable debut, in Milwaukee Arena, for the Women's Professional Basketball League, which claims its eight franchises (Minnesota, Dayton, New Jersey, Houston, New York and Iowa, in addition to Milwaukee and Chicago) will have to average 3,000 fans a game over a 34-game schedule to survive.
Chicago's Karen Logan, an assistant coach and player, is guardedly optimistic. "I've spent my whole life playing basketball and not getting anywhere," says the 28-year-old, who spent three years (1971-74) playing for the All-American Red Heads, the female version of the Harlem Globetrotters, for a lowly salary of $3,500. "The WBL can make it, but we need a product that's different from the men's game. We have to utilize our skill and grace. If we try to copy the brute-force, big-power men's game, we'll be a freak show. One fist thrown, and we'll be compared to the Roller Derby.
"We should never get to the point where a small, 5'7" or 5'9", woman can't play the game. To eliminate the quick, graceful player would be suicide. We need to emphasize the feminine, graceful movement and agility that so many people have found attractive in women's gymnastics. That is what it is going to take to make the WBL a stable, salable product."
THEY SAID IT
•George Steinbrenner, New York Yankee owner, responding to Commissioner Bowie Kuhn's latest lament against free agency because the Yanks had signed pitchers Tommy John and Luis Tiant: "I don't agree with free agency, but it wasn't my leadership that created it."
•Dick Erickson, head groundkeeper at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minn., asked what his job would be if the Twins and Vikings move into a domed stadium in 1981: "I guess I'll just scrape the bubble gum off the field."