SMU could take a flyer on the national championship. Most of its starting lawyers are back, and so is a core of FORTUNE 500 alumni who have reached deep into their tax shelters to provide a war chest fat enough to sue IBM, not to mention the NCAA, which has had the school under investigation. Those bucks could come in handy if SMU goes on probation, as seemed likely in mid-August.
You think the boys in oil and gas would jump through loopholes for a 6-5 team? No sir, Smooo is due, and come Jan. 1 its fat-cat alumni plan to be on the 50 to see the Ponies, no matter what kind of sentence the NCAA metes out. SMU's attorneys are likely to appeal and table and sue and countersue and Roberts' Rules of Order the NCAA to death, or at least until the final polls are out.
Two, four, six, eight
Who can really lit-i-gate?
Of course, after waiting 2½ years—the scarlet letter announcing the investigation arrived in March 1983, making this one of the most drawn-out NCAA fingerprint hunts in history—what's another year of haggling among friends, especially if you can polish the national championship plaque while you're doing your time. For three recruiting seasons now, every blue-chipper in the country has been kept well informed that SMU might wind up in the cooler. "Nobody can know what this has been like," says coach Bobby Collins. "There's no way of telling how much all this waiting has hurt our program, how many kids we've lost. From the first, we've been tried, convicted and hung out to dry."
In the three years Collins has been at SMU, the Mustangs have been the second-winningest team in the nation, behind Nebraska. He has won at least 10 games every season. Yet his disclaim to fame is that he has been rung up by the NCAA in each of his last two jobs, first at Southern Mississippi (which was found guilty as charged) and now in Dallas. "I guess that's what bothers me the most," Collins says. "I don't want to be remembered as Bobby Collins, the man who went through the longest investigation in history. I'd just like to be remembered as a pretty good football coach."
Were it not for the NCAA, Collins would be thought of that way, especially when you realize that the highlight film of last year's 10-2 season will be replayed in '85. Start with quarterback Don (Not That One) King, who led the SWC in passing and total offense. When not beating you with his arm he'll be dishing off to two of the best running mates in the country, Reggie Dupard and Jeff Atkins. If the parts Eric Dickerson and Craig James were better known at SMU by their sum—Dickerjames—then meet Dupkins, a phenomenon that has run up 4,000 yards in the last two years.
Like Dickerjames, Dupkins will rarely grace the field at the same time because both play tailback. The students can stamp their Topsiders all they want, it won't happen. "Got to share," says Dupard. But Doop, this is the same system that may have cost Dickerson the Heisman Trophy. "I know," Dupard says, "but I'm not worried. Besides, looks like Eric is still a rich man today."
The 3-4 defense is sound, too. It's anchored (and then some) by 6-foot, 260-pound noseguard Jerry Ball, who's also known as the Icebox, "because I freeze people up." Ball made between-meal snacks of SWC carriers last year and could wind up All-Appliance this season.
Of course, if the SMU lawyers can't hold that line against the NCAA lawyers, the Mustangs' chances at a national title may never thaw.
While the Icebox prepared to freeze up foes, SMU seemed headed for the NCAA cooler.