JUST DESSERTS FOR SWITZER
The Barry Switzer who should be remembered by Dallas Cowboys
fans isn't the coach who went 28-9 in his first two seasons and
won Super Bowl XXX in January 1996, but the coach who in his
last two seasons went 17-17 and won only one postseason game.
He's the coach who brought zero innovations to the Cowboys, even
after they began slumping last season. He's the coach who, aside
from an unsuccessful fourth-down gamble against the Philadelphia
Eagles in 1995, made no memorable calls. He's the coach who
deserved to be "allowed to resign," as Cowboys owner Jerry Jones
put it at the press conference last week announcing Switzer's
Switzer outdid other NFL coaches in two respects: a cavalier
attitude toward his job and a lax approach to team discipline.
He missed important team meetings on more than one Saturday, not
only to watch his son Doug play quarterback for Missouri
Southern but also to have dinner with old friends like David
Boren, a former U.S. senator from Oklahoma. He allowed Dallas
offensive linemen to get grossly overweight in the weeks before
Super Bowl XXX because, according to at least one Cowboy, he
stopped mandatory weigh-ins late in the season. And in the early
morning hours of the Saturday before that game, Switzer was
partying hard in his hotel suite.
The championship Dallas won under Switzer came about more
because of astute scouting and drafting before he got there than
Switzer's coaching. By and large Switzer relaxed in the
off-season; unlike his predecessor Jimmy Johnson, he rarely went
on scouting missions.
January 19, 1998
Switzer talked last week of wanting time to smell the roses in
his retirement. Well, that's pretty much what he's been doing
for the last four years. --PETER KING
ONE-MAN HALL OF INFAMY
At its meeting on March 31, the NHL Hall of Fame board of
directors is scheduled to consider whether Alan Eagleson, the
disgraced onetime czar of hockey, should be bounced from the
Hall of Fame. Why wait? Convene an emergency meeting and kick
the bum out now. Hall of Fame defenseman Brad Park, one of the
many players hurt by the blue line robber baron, said it
eloquently: "I will not be on the wall with that man."
With the plea agreement made last week in Boston and Toronto,
Eagleson, who ruled the NHL players' union from 1967 to '91,
gave up the arrogant protestations of innocence he had been
making since he was indicted on 34 charges of labor fraud,
racketeering, fraud, embezzlement, obstruction and attempted
obstruction in 1994. He pleaded guilty to three counts of mail
fraud stemming from his years of allegedly mishandling players'
funds as both an agent and the head of the players' union. The
plea resulted in a fine of about $700,000 and an 18-month prison
sentence. He could serve as little as three months.
Throwing Eagleson out of the Hall, into which he was inducted in
1989, won't compensate for those disgracefully light penalties,
but it would help. The manner with which he lined his pockets
with union funds and colluded with team owners to shortchange
his players in collective bargaining negotiations was one of the
greatest frauds in the history of sport. Eagleson, who not only
served as the union boss but also was the agent for dozens of
NHLers, stole from players who trusted him with everything from
car wash vouchers to million-dollar mortgages. Now his guilty
pleas will become the centerpiece of a class action by former
players (against Eagleson, former NHL officials and the owners
of the 22 teams then in existence) contending they lost more
than $300 million in salaries as a result of Eagleson's actions.
The players are asking for triple that amount in damages, and
Eagleson's admissions will make it difficult for the defendants
to maintain their innocence.
If the Hall needs someone to take Eagleson's place, we have a
nominee: Russ Conway, the investigative journalist from the
Lawrence (Mass.) Eagle-Tribune whose seven years of dogged work
finally brought Eagleson's malfeasance to light. --LESTER MUNSON
DESIGNS ON SUCCESS
Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is a bastion of
Southern elegance and aesthetic excellence, what with its
renowned art and architecture programs, its turreted, redbrick
campus and its collection of creative minds. All of which makes
last week's hiring of former major league pitcher Luis
Tiant--known more for his high-kick windup and tobacco-wadded
cheek than for his post-Impressionist landscapes--as coach of
the Bees' Division III baseball team, all the more startling.
Yet, is it any stranger than the hiring of Cazzie Russell, the
former Michigan and NBA star who is in his second season of
coaching the Savannah College basketball team? "People seem to
think getting a big-name coach is so difficult," says Richard
Rowan, the school's president since its founding 19 years ago.
"Sometimes it's just a matter of asking. There's no reason to
think a really good artist can't be a really good athlete. We
want to be a first-class institution all the way around. So why
not hire the coaches to do that?"
The Bees contacted Russell, who spent 12 years in the NBA, after
Rowan saw a CNN report that chronicled Russell's work as a
minister and high school basketball coach in Columbus, Ohio.
"I'd heard of the school," says Russell, whose team was 13-5 at
week's end, "but I didn't know much about it. I came down,
looked around and realized there was something special here. It
was a chance to coach in an academics-first environment, where
nobody would be breathing down my neck to win in two years."
That same thought enticed Tiant, a 229-game winner during his
19-year major league career, who last year worked as an
instructor in the Chicago White Sox system. Tiant never attended
college, which was one reason he was drawn to the job. "I've
seen how important education is," he says. "Athletes are great
when they're playing, but trying to get a job afterward, it's
always, Where did you go to school? Here, classwork is number
one, personal development two, baseball three. I like that."
But Savannah College of Art and Design? A school at which a
starting centerfielder's batting stroke might be no more
important than his brush stroke? Rowan says the school combed
through a list of more than 1,000 former major leaguers, seeking
those who were interested in coaching in college. Russell, who
was a finalist for the recent vacancy at his alma mater, knows
lots of NBA vets who would love the chance as well.
Rowan is even talking about elevating SCAD to Division I. Good
luck on that score. It's a private school with an enrollment of
3,500, hardly a foundation for the "very competitive" program
Rowan envisions. But the college has made some surprising moves
before, witness the acquisition of the two old pros.
"Maybe we're defying the definition of an arts and design
school," Rowan says. "If that means succeeding in sports, I
British Prime Minister Tony Blair made headlines last month when
he welcomed Gerry Adams, the head of the IRA's political arm,
Sinn Fein, to No. 10 Downing Street. Next month another historic
meeting is set to take place in Phoenix, this one between a
former British P.M. and a former leader of the Irish.
Advertisements for Peter Lowe's Success 1998, a one-day business
seminar scheduled for America West Arena, promise that among the
speakers appearing "live and in person" will be Margaret
Thatcher and Lou Holtz.
Try as he might, Gary Coupal just can't contain his emotions.
Three years ago Coupal, then a 20-year-old forward for the
Sudbury Wolves of the junior Ontario Hockey League, let go with
a bit of reckless stick swinging, whacking an opposing player
over the head, and earned himself a 46-game suspension. In
December 1996, as a member of the Columbus Chill of the
professional East Coast Hockey League, he reached around a glass
partition and knocked out an opposing player with his stick.
That cost him 49 games, a league record. "I was immature back
then," he says now, with a sigh.
Recently, the mature Coupal exploded yet again. On Dec. 28,
while playing for the aptly named Muskegon Fury of the United
Hockey League, he argued a spearing call and received a
10-minute misconduct penalty near the end of a game against the
Quad City Mallards. While being escorted off the ice by an
official, Coupal broke his fiberglass stick over his knee and
tossed it into the stands. Although no one was hurt, less than a
week later league commissioner Richard Brosal banned the King of
Pain for life, without appeal, saying, "It is a priority of this
league to clean things up and not let the old-school ways
"I think I got a bad deal," said Coupal a week later, after
returning home to Capreol, Ont. "I thought it was going to be 10
games, not life. I've tried hard to change my reputation this
year. I was playing well. I'd only gotten in four fights. It
seems like they used my past against me, and I'm not sure that's
Muskegon coach Paul Kelly also has his doubts, calling the ban
"inconsistent with hockey." Maybe so, but the penalty sounds
perfectly consistent with Coupal's record of Slap Shot thuggery.
Says Brosal, "I believe Gary is a good person. But I hope he
gets a chance to work on controlling his anger before he joins
He'll have to work fast. Last week Coupal, who had seven goals,
five assists--and 101 penalty minutes--in 25 games with the
Fury, signed to play with the Belton, Texas-based Central Texas
Stampede of the Western Professional Hockey League.
Free throws attempted, by, respectively, La Roche College of
Pittsburgh and host Muskingum College of New Concord, Ohio, in a
recent men's basketball game won by Muskingum 87-74.
Times his weight bench-pressed by 218-pound Seattle Seahawks
punter Rick Tuten, whose 445-pound lift made him the NFL's
"strongest dude," according to FLEX magazine.
Winners of at least $1 million in prize money in 1997 on,
respectively, the ATP men's tennis tour and the PGA Tour.
Million-dollar winners in 1997 on the WTA and LPGA tours.
Percentage of Republicans and Democrats, respectively, in a
recent survey who said they grill hot dogs at tailgate parties.
Percentage of indoor U.S. ice rinks in which the level of
nitrogen dioxide from ice resurfacing vehicle exhaust exceeds
the World Health Organization's exposure guidelines.
With Firestorm (far right), starring Howie Long, opening in
theaters last week, yet another jock has responded to the urge
to become an action hero, strutting and fretting his hour upon
the celluloid stage. If the question is "To be or not to be?"
recent results have provided a resounding "not."
HOWIE LONG Firestorm (1998)
Muscular tough guy with heart of gold
Protagonist thwarts bad guys by throwing chain saw backward from
his motorcycle into a truck window.
Asked how he plans to enter locked building, Long pulls out ax
and says, "I've got a key."
SHAQUILLE O'NEAL Steel (1997)
Muscular tough guy with heart of gold
Shaq tosses rolled-up towel toward garbage can, hits dog in face.
Shaq pins criminal to pole, cracks, "Tell the cops he's hanging
around the corner."
Double Team (1997)
Muscular tough guy with heart of gold
Plummeting toward certain death, Rodman opens parachute that
resembles giant basketball.
"It's time to get off the bench. The best defense is a good
HULK HOGAN Mr. Nanny (1993)
Muscular tough guy with heart of gold
Aiming to please bratty girl, protagonist dances ballet in pink
tutu and tights.
Asked if he knows anything about (computer) chips, Hulk
responds, "I'm a nacho cheese man myself."
Once again golfers are off on the road to the Bob Hope Chrysler
Classic, which was set to tee off on Thursday in Indian Wells,
Calif. No pros will be wielding this high-profile putter, nor
will the nonagenarian comedian, who is expected to make only a
token appearance. But an amateur with $99.95 to spend just might
try using this to nose out the competition.
THIS WEEK'S SIGN THAT THE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US
High school teams in Jefferson County, Colo., will be playing
home games in a stadium named for U.S. West Communications as a
result of the Baby Bell's 10-year, $2 million sponsorship deal
with school officials.
THEY SAID IT
Australian tennis player, assuring his countrymen that his U.S.
Open victory hasn't changed him: "I'm still the same old sack of