Notre Dame has played Miami every year but one since 1971, and in recent years the series between these two independents has heated up to become the most interesting rivalry in college football. As a matter of fact, the Irish-Hurricane duels have produced the only new major rivalry in college football since the creation of the present-day conferences. But the series is scheduled to conclude next season, and while Miami is eager for it to continue, Notre Dame has balked, claiming that there is no room on its schedule until at least 2004.
Notre Dame officials are concerned that the intensity of the matchups may simply have gotten out of hand—as evidenced by the fight among players in the tunnel before last year's game. In fact, to keep the lid on feverish fans, both universities have agreed that no beer will be served during this fall's season finale, which is scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. start in Miami's Orange Bowl.
But that may not be Notre Dame's only misgiving about this blossoming rivalry. Notre Dame has succeeded in producing winning football teams while remaining faithful to the university's overall mission, which is, of course, to educate. To that end, Notre Dame has strived to fill its schedule with opponents—Michigan. Stanford, the service academies—that represent a compatible philosophy about intercollegiate sports, and some suggest that the school no longer regards Miami as a suitable opponent.
That's all well and good, but playing big-time sports makes for some hard choices. Notre Dame wants to play for the national title while keeping its nose clean, but it also welcomes the big money from the networks when its games are nationally televised. And why is there so much TV money to be had? Because fans tune in by the millions to watch games like Notre Dame-Miami. By choosing to participate in Division I-A football, Notre Dame must serve two masters: its own standards and the fans' desire to see the best teams square off. Notre Dame may believe it is striking a blow for integrity by nipping this exciting feud in the bud, but it may also deprive college football of one of its top attractions.
HOME, AT LAST
For years Alabama and Auburn have settled their differences in neutral Birmingham because their home stadiums couldn't accommodate as many fans or generate as much revenue as 75,962-seat Legion Field. But now that Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium has been renovated and expanded to hold 85,214, Alabama will make its first trip to the Tigers' home turf on Dec. 2, an event of historic proportions in the Heart of Dixie.
For Auburn's Pat Dye, who doubles as football coach and athletic director, playing Alabama at home is a mixed blessing. Wearing his AD's hat, Dye points out that Auburn has sold 15.000 more season tickets than ever before, simply because of the Alabama game. Switching to his coach's hat, Dye worries about the added pressure to win—especially from Auburn's older fans—that his team is bound to feel. "Our chances of winning that football game are just as good in Birmingham as at Auburn," says Dye.
Not surprisingly, that's not the way Alabama coach Bill Curry sees it. Pointing out that only 10,000 tickets will be available to backers of the Crimson Tide, Curry says, "I wish a lot of our fans would come and just stand around the stadium."
When Howard Schnellenberger surprised everyone by taking the head coaching position at Louisville in 1984, not even Churchill Downs could have handled all the experts who were willing to bet that he would be long gone before his five-year contract expired. Well, surprise, surprise. This is the fifth year, and Schnellenberger is right there on the Cardinals sideline.
However, he has refused the university's offer to extend his contract. One scenario has it that if the Cards have a season as good as last year's 8-3—Louisville's best record since 1972—Schnellenberger will threaten to leave unless he gets a new stadium. Louisville now plays in a 35,500-seat baseball park at the state fairgrounds, and the coach believes the seating configuration and atmosphere simply aren't right for college football.
Forget those decisions about whether to run the veer, the wishbone or the pro-set; the toughest thing a college coach has to do these days is produce a winner while making sure that his athletes also make a stab at being students. Too often the price for success on the field is failure in the classroom. Washington State, for example, had a 9-3 record last season, the school's most wins since 1930. Then amid all the good cheer in Pullman came the news that the squad had limped to a collective 1.94 grade point average during the fall semester. The Cougars pulled that score up a tad to a 2.36 during the following term, but departed guard Mike Utley probably spoke for many of his teammates when he said, "Once we saw how good we were, going to class didn't seem important."
While most college coaches howl at the prospect of the National Football League reversing its long-standing policy of not drafting players before their class graduates, Penn State's Joe Paterno has a more realistic attitude. "If a kid wants to go to the pros." says Paterno, "he has every right to go. We don't have the right to expect a kid to stay. I really don't see players leaving in great numbers. I do worry about agents who will exploit kids and try to convince kids who aren't ready. There are some kids who should go. Anybody who says this is going to ruin college football is talking nonsense. If college football is so fragile, then it's not worth very much."
San Jose State's record-breaking tailback, Johnny Johnson, begged offspring practice to rest his aching knees, after having stepped in to play basketball for the Spartans this winter when 10 players quit the team 16 games into the season (he averaged 11.2 points and 6.5 rebounds). That irked coach Claude Gilbert, who thought Johnson should at least have shown up for conditioning drills and punished him by demoting him to third-string fullback on the depth chart. Meanwhile, Virginia landed schoolboy sensation Terry Kirby by promising him that he would also be able to play hoops for the Cavaliers.... At Iowa all the quarterbacks competing for the starting job have illustrious sports pedigrees: Front-runner Tom Poholsky's father, Tom Sr., pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs; Matt Rodgers's father, Jimmy, is coach of the Boston Celtics; and Jim Hartlieb's older brother Chuck last season ended his career as quarterback at Iowa, where he passed for more than 3,000 yards as a junior and senior.... Clemson is the only team in the nation that can claim a conference championship, bowl victory and Top 20 finish in each of the last three seasons.
NO MORE TEE PARTY
Those early defectors to the NFL—Barry Sanders, Steve Walsh and Timm Rosenbach—won't be missed nearly as much this season as a two-inch-high piece of equipment. A new rule bans the use of the kicking tee, which has been used in college football since 1948 to help place-kickers get elevation and distance on field goal and extra point tries.
Coaches' assessments of the ban range from optimism to outright dread. "Even the automatic extra point is going to become an adventure," says Florida State's Bobby Bowden. Georgia's Ray Goff adds. "You'll see more field goals blocked this year." In fact, during the spring, coaches spent a good deal of time on kick-blocking drills.
The new rule could also alter game strategy. A coach faced with fourth-and-one on his opponent's 35 might be more inclined to go for a first down or "pooch" a punt into the corner, rather than risk the three-pointer.
One of the nation "s top returning kickers is LSU senior David Browndyke, who succeeded on 82.6% of his field goal attempts last season (19 for 23) and has never missed an extra point try (80 for 80). Browndyke's most important field goal in '88 was a 34-yarder with 28 seconds remaining, which gave LSU a 19-18 win over Alabama. This fall's game with the Tide will be played in LSU's Tiger Stadium, which has natural grass: most coaches believe that without a tee, it will be tougher to kick off the real stuff than the more uniform artificial surfaces. So given the same situation as in '88, would LSU coach Mike Archer call on Browndyke or let quarterback Tom Hodson go for a first down or a touchdown?
BEST OF THE BUNCH
NFL scouts say these players are most likely to go in the first round of next April's draft:
Johnny Johnson, San Jose State; Blair Thomas, Penn State; Anthony Thompson, Indiana; Darrell Thompson, Minnesota
Mike Bellamy. Illinois; Greg McMurtry, Michigan; Reggie Rembert, West Virginia
Tom Hodson, LSU
Charles Arbuckle, UCLA; Derrick Walker, Michigan
Bern Brostek, center, Washington; Dean Caliguire, center, Pitt; Glenn Parker, tackle, Arizona; Mike Pfeifer, tackle, Kentucky; Richmond Webb, guard, Texas A & M
James Francis, Baylor; Lamar Lathon, Houston; Jon Leverenz, Minnesota; Jeff Mills, Nebraska: Aaron Wallace, Texas A & M
Oliver Barnett, Kentucky; Terry Price, Texas A & M; Renaldo Turnbull, West Virginia
Gary Jones, Texas A & M; Pat Terrell, Notre Dame
Alonzo Hampton, Pitt; Mickey Washington, Texas A & M
Dennis Brown, Washington; Travis Davis, Michigan State
EIGHT WHO HAVE THE POTENTIAL TO BE FIRST-ROUNDERS
Wide receiver Gary Cooper of Clemson; quarterbacks Frank Baur of Lafayette. Mike Buck of Maine and John Friesz of Idaho; safety Kevin Thompson of Oklahoma; cornerback James Williams of Fresno State; defensive tackles Tony Savage of Washington State and Tony Siragusa of Pitt