Nebraska, which prides itself on its law-abiding image and talks excessively about its righteousness, is furious at being treated like a common crook. The brouhaha involves the stunning NCAA charges last Wednesday that 60 members of the Husker football team violated a provision that forbids athletes from giving their complimentary tickets to anyone except "family members, relatives and fellow students designated by the student-athlete." Apparently, the players were guilty of handing out their ducats to no-goodniks like girlfriends, fiancèes and neighbors. Later in the week similar allegations surfaced at Tennessee, which defeated New Mexico 35-21 without 10 players who were serving one-game suspensions for giving tickets to unauthorized people, and at Texas. The Austin American-Statesman reported that last year, 46 Longhorns had unauthorized people on their ticket list.
The intent of the NCAA rule is to prevent ticket scalping, but in none of the current cases was anyone charged with trying to sell their tickets. Still, year after year, tickets draw the attention of NCAA enforcers, who might better spend their time tracking major rule breakers. The answer is simple: Stop giving players comp tickets. They have demonstrated the responsibility is too much for them.
From Lincoln, where the mood is one of outrage, SI writer-reporter Armen Keteyian filed this report:
In the spirit of "openness and honesty," coach Tom Osborne advised all his players to tell NCAA investigators the truth. Osborne later estimated that 80% of his top 40 players had provided passes to unauthorized people. NCAA Eligibility Committee members said they were disturbed by the players' unethical conduct and by the "misinformation" presented by the school. These charges angered Osborne, who said that one investigator, Hale McMenamin, told him, "We've got an unenforceable rule; don't worry about it." So when the bomb dropped, Osborne labeled the episode a "travesty."
Husker fans expressed anger at being "singled out" by a "nit-picking" NCAA. Nebraska Democratic gubernatorial candidate Helen Boosalis dubbed the NCAA the "No-Class Athletic Association" and later said that after the NCAA finished with the Huskers it "planned on investigating Santa Claus for breaking and entering." At Memorial Stadium, where Nebraska—using all its players, pending an appeal to the NCAA—whipped Florida State 34-17 on Saturday night, one fan sported a button showing the letters NCAA and a chicken sitting on a toilet. Others wore NO CLASS AT ALL and NUKE THE NCAA T-shirts.
The controversy is rooted in a four-month-old NCAA investigation centering on Husker car leases, particularly one signed by senior I-back Doug DuBose, who underwent season-ending knee surgery last month. Whatever else Nebraska may or may not be guilty of—it has never been hit with a major sanction—this ticket case isn't worthy of the NCAA. Could it be that, after hundreds of hours of probing, the NCAA got skunked in Lincoln on its car investigation and turned to tickets to save face?
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Ed Bozik, AD at Pittsburgh, thinks universities frequently pay too much attention to generating revenues (indeed, Pitt agreed to play Maryland on Labor Day night to get $262,000 from ESPN) and not enough to curtailing expenses. Explains Bozik, "We don't need 10 full-time football coaches and 95 players on scholarship. We don't need spring practice. And we don't need recruiting, because I think most of them would come anyway."
DUM QUOTE OF THE WEAK
Alabama coach Ray Perkins says one of the problems with his players is that "school's going to be a distraction...."
Any attempt to clean up college football should start somewhere big. That's why two coaches have selected their players' mouths as targets to tidy. At Baylor, coach Grant Teaff has banned the use of chewing tobacco by his athletes, saying, "Tobacco is a drug that can cause great harm, and we're taking a stand against drugs. This is a place to start." And at Pitt, first-year coach Mike Gottfried has banned swearing. Says Gottfried, "When these guys chose to be players, they chose to be role models. I don't want wives, children and girlfriends hearing this kind of stuff. So it's over around here. All it is is an excuse and I don't believe in excuses."
Which raises the question: If you can't spit and you can't swear, is football even worth playing?
COACHING BLUNDER OF THE WEEK
After Rice took a 14-0 lead over Lamar in the second quarter, Owls coach Jerry Berndt called for an onside kick, which failed. That goof changed Demon Mo, and by halftime the score was 14-14. Rice ultimately overcame Berndt and prevailed 28-14 to gain its first season-opening victory since 1977.
MICHIGAN OPPONENTS: PLEASE POST
Wolverine middle guard Billy Harris, cautiously evaluating his team's prospects: "There's no doubt in anyone's mind that we're going to win the national championship. We're like the Chicago Bears—we're ready to make videos, do the Rose Bowl Shuffle. The guys on the offensive line are animals. The defense is sound. And the Big Ten is not as strong."
When Texas A & M meets LSU in Baton Rouge on Saturday night, it will be the first time the Aggies will have played on real grass since Jackie Sherrill took over as coach in 1982....
Most Unique Summer Experience Award (that we can talk about on these pages) goes to Arizona defensive tackle Jim Birmingham, who was picked out of an audience in Thailand to be the goalie while elephants tried to kick soccer balls past him. "They kicked the ball so fast," says Birmingham, "but they only scored once on me."
...Cal claims the college player with the longest name: defensive tackle Gerardus Mauritius Natuitasina Tuatagaloa. Broadcasters are so pleased....
The Harrisburg Patriot-News polled readers on who should start at quarterback for Penn State: erratic incumbent John Shaffer or his '85 backup, Matt Knizner. Shaffer got 73 votes while Knizner got 355. Coach Joe Paterno called the poll "bush" and named Shaffer the starter....
Family and friends of Jeff George, Purdue's highly touted freshman quarterback, have bought a block of 240 season tickets costing $20,160. With a Purdue scholarship valued at $4,279 a year, or $17,116 for four years, George repaid his debt to the school before he threw his first Boilermaker pass.
MAKING HIS MARK
Maryland linebacker Chuck Faucette is from Willingboro, N.J., and he played baseball in the Toronto organization for two years. So why does the Terps' senior co-captain have a UCLA tattoo on his right biceps? Seems that Faucette fell in love with the school during a recruiting visit and decided he wanted to keep UCLA with him always. So he went to Sunset Boulevard and spent $65 for the souvenir.
Then baseball lured him (for a $40,000 signing bonus), and he played outfield deep in the minors. The 14-hour bus rides when he was with Medicine Hat in Alberta cut short his baseball career. "I felt like I was going to turn 50 before I turned 18," Faucette says. So he headed for Maryland and a football scholarship. Does Faucette regret the tattoo? "I don't regret anything I do," he says. "Except maybe I should have gone to UCLA in the first place."
The possible suspension by the NCAA of 60 Nebraska players for unauthorized distribution of comp tickets drove the bookies nuts. At the Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas, the nation's largest legal sports book, oddsmaker Scott Schettler opened the Huskers as five-point favorites over Florida State, and the money poured in for Nebraska. In an effort to limit his losses, Schettler reduced the maximum individual wager from $5,000 to $2,500. Then word surfaced that Nebraska might play without all those players, so he took the game off the board. Finally, when the Huskers announced they would be allowed to play at full strength, Schettler put the game back on the board, with Nebraska as a six-point choice. He also regained his nerve and resumed taking $5,000 bets.
All the uncertainty in Lincoln didn't dissuade the bettors. The game attracted $86,467 at the Stardust, more than any other college game last week. In the end, the hotel lost a piddling $3,255 on the Huskers' 34-17 victory, and Schettler, good sport that he is, says, "It was a fun game."
NOT-SO-WILDCATS ARE SMILING
Spirits are high at Kansas State, home of the nation's worst major college football program. It's not that anybody really expects the Tamecats to win this season, it's that the explanations of their upcoming defeats will be so entertaining. That's because they come from the new coach in Manhattan, Stan Parrish, who has a way with words. Reflecting on last season, Parrish says, "When you are 1-10, you belong in the obituary column." Nor is he too sanguine about his new offense: "Last year it was run, run, run and punt. Now it will be pass, pass, pass and punt."
Of course, Parrish would love to make Kansas State a winner, but he won't. So it's best to laugh when tears are close. Still, Parrish, who had a 13-8-1 record in two years at Marshall, is demonstrating the spark and the spirit that make college football so appealing. Too often, dour coaches have stripped the game of its joy. You know who you are.
BACK TO NATURE
To play at Arizona, a player must submit to a preseason at Camp Cochise. The prospect culls out the faint of heart. This year's camp featured a flash flood, an invasion of tarantulas and nightly harassment by skunks at the players' dorm.
On the whole, it was a normal year. After all, in 1982 mosquitoes the size of some walk-ons attacked. In '83 gas heat was lost for nearly a week, making hot showers impossible. In '84 the electricity went. In '85 rattlesnakes invaded.
The camp is on a high plain in the Sonora Desert, 110 miles southeast of Tucson on the U.S.-Mexican border. Its closest neighbors are Douglas (pop. 14,000), 14 miles to the east, and the Bisbee-Lowell-Naco-Warren metroplex (pop. 8,000), 24 miles to the west. Not a lot of fans drop by for practice.
Predictably, coach Larry Smith loves Camp Cochise. The Wildcats are 28-14-3 in the four years he has taken them on this all-expenses-paid vacation. Asked how he liked Cochise, quarterback Alfred Jenkins said, "It stinks." Dang, you give kids a nice outing to a beautiful place and they just don't appreciate it.
JOHN D. HANLON
Husker fans were mighty teed off.
JOHN D. HANLON
Steve Taylor (9) had a hand in Nebraska's four TDs against Florida State.
GENE SWEENEY JR.
Faucette Jet UCLA get under his skin.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
OFFENSE: QB Steve Taylor rushed for 139 yards and 2 TDs and completed 10 of 16 passes for 130 yards and 2 scores to lead Nebraska to a 34-17 win over Florida State.
DEFENSE: Colorado State linebacker Dale Can intercepted a pitchout, forced two fumbles and returned an intercepted pass 38 yards for a touchdown in a 23-7 upset of Colorado.