You would think the news couldn't get any worse for the Big
East. Temple, the laughingstock of college football for the last
five years, has been replaced in that role--by fellow conference
member Rutgers. Former national champion Miami aspires to
mediocrity. A battered Notre Dame has pummeled Big East teams
Pittsburgh 45-21 and, last Saturday, Boston College 52-20.
Virginia Tech, the league leader, has lost two of its last three
games. The best team in the Big East may be Syracuse, which
started the season 1-3 and lost to Virginia Tech by four
touchdowns. "We have to be competitive at a high level and be a
factor in the national championship race," Big East commissioner
Mike Tranghese says. "This year, we're not."
Yet the problems on the field are the least of Tranghese's
worries. In the three months since Big Ten commissioner Jim
Delany acknowledged that his conference would like to add a 12th
team, speculation has centered on a few candidates--one of them
Syracuse. That, in turn, has sparked officials of the nine-team
ACC to wonder aloud if the Orangemen wouldn't be a better fit in
Syracuse chancellor Kenneth Shaw said last Friday that a move by
the Orange from the Big East isn't afoot. "Not only have we not
been contacted to dance," he said, "but often there is an
intermediary who says, 'Would you consider dancing?' No one has
done that, either. I've heard the rumors, too."
If Shaw and athletic director Jake Crouthamel consider moving to
the Big Ten, they will have to think about the fact that
Syracuse is a private school with an athletic budget estimated
at about $22 million, while the Michigans and Ohio States spend
approximately $35 million. There's also a recruiting factor.
"Our roots are in the East Coast," Shaw said. "Do a New Jersey
kid's ears perk up when a coach tells him, 'You're going to Iowa
City?' Or when a coach says Miami and Boston?"
That line of reasoning is reassuring to the Big East, which was
born in 1979 as a basketball conference and began competing in
football only in '91--a marriage of convenience arranged to
convert Miami's dynasty into television and bowl dollars. In
addition to the Hurricanes, Rutgers and West Virginia were
eventually accepted as members in all sports, and Temple and
Virginia Tech were allowed in as football-only members. However,
Temple has been unable to compete on the field or at the gate,
and the Big East has adopted minimum standards for attendance
and stadium size that give it the leverage to show Temple the
door, should the conference schools' presidents decide to do so.
Now Connecticut, a charter Big East member in basketball and
other sports, says it wants to move up to I-A in football,
despite a mediocre gridiron record in Division I-AA. That's
hardly the cure for what ails the league.
"If we'd had a Top 10 team when Miami went on probation in
December '95," Tranghese said, "nobody would be focusing on the
other stuff." Virginia Tech dominated the Big East football race
the last two seasons, but the Hokies made Sugar and Orange Bowl
appearances without leaving any footprints. Syracuse has the
name and the tradition (alma mater of Jim Brown, '59 national
title, '61 Heisman winner Ernie Davis), but the Orangemen have
played poorly when the most was expected of them.
The Big East can't even catch a break on its syndicated
telecasts. Last Saturday, WABC-TV in New York left the
Pittsburgh-Rutgers game in the fourth quarter to show Ohio
State-Northwestern from the opening kickoff. Viewers of the
affiliate that serves the Rutgers campus didn't see the 0-7
Scarlet Knights ultimately lose 55-48 in double overtime.
TAKING THE EASY WAY OUT
Greed is about to win another decision over quality in college
football. The Division I board of directors was scheduled to
meet on Tuesday and was expected to approve a proposal that
would allow a I-A team to count, once every four years, a
victory over a I-AA opponent toward the six wins needed to
qualify for a bowl game. The NCAA imposed the six-victory
minimum in 1991, in part to restrict the number of teams that
qualified for postseason play and thereby put a cap on the
proliferation of bowls. By relaxing the minimum, the NCAA would
give athletic directors the freedom to schedule more home games
against I-AA opponents for, say, the $200,000 guarantee that
Iowa paid Northern Iowa this year instead of the $450,000 that
Nebraska paid I-A Akron. In addition to scheduling a sure win,
the home team makes a windfall in gate receipts and concessions.
The rule change was proposed by the Big 12, without the backing
of Nebraska. "Imagine being at Wyoming or New Mexico, building
your program up and trying to do things well, and then having
South Carolina go to a bowl instead of you because it has a
victory over Furman," says Nebraska athletic director Bill
Byrne. "It's not right. It's a distinct advantage for the SEC,
ACC and Big East because they live in a part of the world where
there are a lot of I-AA teams."
The rule could also hurt Division I-A schools such as some
members of the Mid-American and Big West conferences, which have
upgraded their schedules and increased their revenue by
traveling to play major-conference opponents.
BU PULLS THE PLUG
For most of the last two decades Boston University was a
Division I-AA power, reaching the playoffs five times from 1982
through '94. Four years ago the Terriers went 11-0 in the
regular season and advanced to the quarterfinals.
But BU has gone 4-27 since upsetting Army during the 1994
season, and a 28-7 loss to crosstown rival Northeastern last
Saturday stretched the Terriers' current losing streak to 11
games. Afterward, BU officials announced that the football
program would be disbanded after this season's finale, on Nov.
22, at James Madison.
It was an easy decision. BU will spend $3 million on football
this season and bring in $90,000. "It is a sad day for
football," coach Tom Masella said, "but I believe this is a sign
of the times."
The Terriers plan to increase funding of women's athletics by
$500,000 and add 23 more scholarships for women.
HOLD THAT TIGER
A year ago Auburn's offense was penalized 20 times for
holding--10 in the two games officiated by referee Mack Gentry's
SEC crew, 10 in its other 10 games. Last Saturday, when Gentry &
Co. called the Tigers' 26-21 defeat of Arkansas, Auburn was
flagged for holding four times in the first half, six for the
After the game, Tigers offensive line coach Rick Trickett, a
former Marine, chased Gentry and the other officials and gave
them his opinion of their work. He then offered his critique to
the press. "I've got something I want to say," Trickett said.
"That was a horrible job of officiating." Whatever punishment
the SEC doles out, it's likely he won't regret complaining.
The dance of the dead career appears to have started at Texas,
where athletic director DeLoss Dodds spent Monday denying a
Dallas Morning News report that quoted unnamed sources as saying
coach John Mackovic would be fired at the end of the season.
"What they're saying is not true," said Dodds in the wake of a
47-30 loss to Colorado that left the defending Big 12 champion
Longhorns 3-4. "It's in John's contract that at the end of the
season, the president and I will review the season with him.
That's the way it's going to be, period.
"It's times like these you need your family being around in a
supportive role," he added. "In college athletics it doesn't
happen that way anymore. When people are used to winning, they
jump off very quickly."
The Texas Exes, as the alumni are known, remained strangely
quiet during Saturday's loss. No planes carried messages above
Memorial Stadium demanding Mackovic's head on a nacho platter.
That was the most unsettling development in this ongoing saga:
The fans sat there and accepted the Longhorns' mediocre play.
Texas tailback Ricky Williams rushed for 201 yards, his third
consecutive 200-yard game and fourth of the season. However,
senior quarterback James Brown, in 15 attempts, threw four
completions and four interceptions, three on the first three
possessions of the second half. "I tried to play my best
football," Brown said. "It seemed as if I played my worst
football." After the game, Mackovic said that Brown and backup
Richard Walton would compete to start this week at Baylor.
Though the Bears (1-6) are the kind of team that can cure most
ills, they won't bring Mackovic much relief. No one is sure who
In the last two weeks Arizona, Boston College and Oklahoma State
all have lost in overtime after failing on a two-point
conversion attempt when a successful one-pointer would have
forced another overtime. Seems they've given up on the maxim
that defense wins games.... The Cincinnati-Miami of Ohio rivalry
is again as tough as it was in the 1950s, when a young Miami
coach, Ara Parseghian, matched wits with Sid Gillman at
Cincinnati. In their 102nd meeting, just as in last year's
101st, the Bearcats won in overtime, this time 34-31.... Texas
Tech still owns Texas A&M when the two teams play in Lubbock.
After beating the Aggies 16-13, the Red Raiders now have won
four of their last six games against the Aggies at Jones
Stadium, dating back to 1987. Over that same span Texas A&M
hasn't lost more than twice in any other road venue....
Mississippi State's chance of getting the sixth win it needs to
qualify for a bowl has improved now that senior defensive end
Greg Favors, the Bulldogs' alltime sack leader, has returned to
the lineup. He missed most of the last two games with a sprained
knee but played what amounted to strong safety in the scheme
that defensive coordinator Joe Lee Dunn cooked up to beat
Central Florida 35-28 last Saturday. Mississippi State (5-2)
plays its next three games on the road, at Auburn, Alabama and
Arkansas, before finishing at home against Ole Miss. That sixth
win may be tough to nail down.
1. CORBY JONES The Missouri quarterback threw for four
touchdowns and ran for two more as the Tigers upset previously
unbeaten Oklahoma State 51-50 in double OT.
2. RONALD BAILEY The Georgia cornerback returned an interception
for a touchdown a week after returning a fumble for a score.
This season he has outscored his younger brother Champ, a wide
receiver and cornerback for the Bulldogs.
3. HAROLD SHAW The Southern Mississippi tailback (left) scored
three touchdowns, tying his career high, in a 34-13 rout of
Tulane that put the 5-2 Golden Eagles atop Conference USA.
1. WASHINGTON STATE FANS Their Cougars are 7-0 for the first
time since 1930, Washington State's last Rose Bowl season, but
drew only 31,137 to 37,600-seat Martin Stadium on Saturday.
2. BYU The Cougars are unhappy that they're bringing more money
into the league than they're getting out. Now BYU knows why the
Southwest Conference died. The favorite color of ink at Rice,
SMU and TCU, all of whom joined the WAC from the Southwest
Conference, is red.
3. LIZ HEASTON A week after becoming the first woman to play in
a college football game, the Willamette junior missed two extra
points in a 41-27 win over Southern Oregon. --I.M.
California, Florida, Pennsylvania and Texas might be considered
the top high school football hotbeds, but when it comes to the
college game, Ohio has the most Top 25 teams this season. The
Buckeye state has eight schools in the Division I-A, I-AA, II
and III polls, compared with five for Pennsylvania, four each
for California and Texas, and three for Florida. In addition,
the nation's No. 1-ranked high school team is McKinley, in
School (Division) Rank Record
Ohio State (I-A) 9 7-1
Toledo (I-A) 22 7-0
Youngstown State (I-AA) 4 6-1
Dayton (I-AA) 21 8-0
Mount Union (III) 1 7-0
Wittenberg (III) 7 7-0
John Carroll (III) 9 6-1
Baldwin-Wallace (III) 11 6-1
--WEST VIRGINIA (6-1) AT SYRACUSE (5-3)
If the Mountaineers win their last three conference games,
against Syracuse, Temple and Pittsburgh, they'll lock up the Big
East's spot in an alliance bowl. Unfortunately for them, the
Orangemen are healthy and, after a week off, rested. A victory
on Saturday could even get Syracuse--be still, Orange
hearts--back into the Top 25. Syracuse has too many weapons for
--PURDUE (6-1) AT IOWA (5-2)
One or both of these teams may be phony. The Boilermakers are
1-1 against opponents with winning records; the Hawkeyes are
0-2. This is Iowa's chance for redemption after the 28-24 loss
to Michigan two weeks ago. Purdue has no one on defense or
special teams to shut down running back Tavian Banks or return
man Tim Dwight. The Hawkeyes finally win an important game.
--WASHINGTON STATE (7-0) AT ARIZONA STATE (5-2)
The Cougars send quarterback Ryan Leaf and the Pac-10's best
passing offense against the conference's best passing defense.
Trouble is, Washington State coach Mike Price is 4-19 in
November. The Sun Devils have the benefit of a week off and the
home crowd. Their hope of returning to the Rose Bowl lives for
--MIAMI OF OHIO (6-2) AT TOLEDO (7-0)
The RedHawks must win this week to have a chance of reaching the
first MAC championship game--and most likely playing Toledo
again. Miami is the only visiting team in the league to have won
at the Rockets' Glass Bowl over the last three seasons, but last
year's 27-7 victory won't be repeated. Toledo quarterback Chris
Wallace has a long memory.
--HARVARD (5-1) AT DARTMOUTH (5-1)
Had it not been for last Saturday's 46-26 loss to Lehigh,
Dartmouth would be attempting to tie the Division I-AA record of
24 games without a loss. The Big Green should have no trouble
bouncing back, even though Crimson sophomore quarterback Rich
Linden has four 200-yard passing games this season. --I.M.
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