We've really had it with playing for ties in college football. And Michigan is not the only culprit (page 59). Our long-standing objection to going for ties was further reinforced on Saturday when Clemson and Washington also took that route. The timidity of Clemson's Danny Ford is chronicled in SCORECARD (page 20). As for Washington, after stalling at the UCLA nine with :03 left, coach Don James decided to kick a field goal to tie rather than try one more real play to win. We don't want to hear about Pac-10 implications, polls, bowls or money. The point is, James didn't play to win but to avoid losing. Ditto Danny and Bo. Isn't playing to win what the game is all about?
Perhaps the time has come for the NCAA to consider an NFL-style tiebreaker.
GETTING A KICK OUT OF LIFE
Any connection between punters and real football players is coincidental. Take Cincinnati's Shaun Burdick, who has widened the gulf this season. When practice began last August, Burdick arrived in a chauffeur-driven limo. It cost him $35 but was worth it for the expressions on the faces of the other players. Especially stunning was the sight of the driver opening the door for the distinguished Mr. Burdick and then fetching a bag of balls from the trunk and escorting Mr. Burdick to the field. "It was my statement that football is supposed to be fun," he says, "and I'm having fun."
So, naturally, Burdick has an FM radio taped inside his helmet to keep him in tune with his favorite hard-rock and country songs during practice and particularly during games. After all, a guy has to have something to ease the boredom. "You punt for more than 15 minutes a day," says Burdick, "and there goes the old leg. Here is everybody out there killing themselves, knocking each other around and being gung ho, and there I am on the sidelines drinking water and chewing tobacco."
Oh, yes, Burdick also keeps his tobacco in his helmet. He also used to stash chocolate bars there, but they got too messy even for a punter. Not that Burdick really needs a helmet. He has never tackled anyone at Cincinnati, but he has, under pressure, fallen on top of a few guys after the play was over.
At the beginning of the season the kicking coach left, and since then Burdick has been in charge, which would seem to be a classic case of an inmate gaining control of the asylum. But be fair. Burdick is good. He averaged an NFL-enticing 42.0 yards per kick.
And what can Burdick, of all people, teach other punters? "I can teach them," he says, "how to have a good time." Which, before we got so sophisticated, was the reason for college football in the first place.
When asked about a playoff system for college football, Ohio State coach Earle Bruce said, "One guy suggested there be a one-game playoff with the two best teams from the bowls. But who picks those two teams?" No problem, Earle. We'll do it. Any other problems we can solve for you?
Before the start of the season, Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, the president of Notre Dame, invited Vice-President George Bush to attend a game in South Bend at his convenience. When the Vice-President picked last week's Penn State game, Notre Dame's director of information services, Dick Conklin, said, "Actually, it's kind of low-key. He's just coming for the football game and doesn't want any foo-foo."
Now let's be sure we've got this straight. A vice-president of the U.S. who would like to improve his Washington address just decided he would take in a good football game in Indiana—with no foo-foo. That the game was on national TV and he was interviewed on the tube at halftime didn't have anything to do with his visit. That he didn't show up the week before, when SMU was in town for a nontelevised game, was just happenstance. Hey, he loves the game—as long as there is no foo-foo.
THINKING SMALL IN THE BIG EIGHT
Telephone lines have been hot between Big Eight country and Boston. First, Oklahoma State coach Pat Jones called BC boss Jack Bicknell for advice on how to develop a young, smallish (5'11"), mobile quarterback named Mike Gundy. Then, Kansas coach Bob Valesente rang Bicknell to ask the same question about his young, smallish (6'1"), mobile signal caller, Kelly Donohoe. Bicknell has become the guru of little QBs because of his towering success with 5'9" Doug Flutie.
Predictably, Bicknell's advice was music to desperate ears. "Hey, if they're good enough, they're big enough," he told his Big Eight counterparts. Bicknell assured both coaches that they shouldn't adjust their offenses to compensate for an undersized quarterback. And, says Bicknell, "I told them there are advantages to being quick. You put a six-four, 275-pound guy on a paddle-ball court, and Flutie will eat him alive." Concludes Bicknell, "What good is it if they can pass rush if they can't catch you?"
Wandering out of his office the other day, Michigan coach Bo Schembechler said, "I'd give anything for a Diet Coke." An assistant, Tom Reed, informed him, "There isn't a Diet Coke in the building, Bo." Said Schembechler, "Then give me a graduate assistant with speed."
THE UNKINDEST CUT
Is it possible that Robb Johnston was just never meant to play football for Wisconsin? Readers of our 1985 College & Pro Football Spectacular may recall a short feature about how Johnston had undergone surgery to remove bone spurs in his left foot. Trouble was, the team physician, Dr. William G. Clancy, had operated on Johnston's right foot. A couple of hours later, Clancy operated on the correct foot.
Well, Johnston, a strong safety, recovered, and by this fall was playing with great enthusiasm. Too great. Seems that after he recovered a fumble against Wyoming he came off the field whooping and jumping. He encountered teammate Joe Armentrout and both leaped into the air for the de rigueur flying high five. But when Johnston came down, his right knee buckled. Efforts to rehabilitate it failed, and he had to be operated on for severe ligament damage. Called into action again, Dr. Clancy not only did a marvelous job, but also did it on the proper knee. Says Johnston, "He's one of the better knee surgeons in the country but apparently not one of the better foot surgeons."
Johnston, who missed most of the season, remains philosophical: "Everybody has got to be known for something, and if this is the way life is for me, well, O.K."
SHAME AT THE GAMES
College football players are, ugly as it sounds, expected to be violent at games. Fans, however, are not. Yet fan violence, or the threat of it, marred three major games on Saturday.
During Oklahoma's 28-0 defeat of Colorado in Boulder, a Buffalo cheerleader, Jim Balding, was struck by a bottle thrown by a spectator and was knocked down. Fortunately, Balding was not seriously injured. But the obvious point is he easily might have been.
At Auburn, after visiting Georgia upset the Tigers 20-16, hundreds of Bulldog fans ran onto the field to celebrate their victory. They started tearing up the turf and several fights broke out, at which time grounds-keepers turned irrigation sprinklers on the vandals. Billy clubs were everywhere, and two spectators were struck with thrown bottles. There were 38 arrests.
Most frightening of all, an hour after the Iowa State-Kansas State game in Ames, an 11-year-old boy who was working as part of a clean-up crew discovered a live bomb beneath the north bleachers of Cyclone Stadium. Police removed the bomb to a nearby field and detonated it.
DUM QUOTE OF THE WEAK
Auburn coach Pat Dye on the difference between his 1986 offense and his 1985 offense: "The big difference is they're different."
DUM QUOTE OF THE WEAK, JR.
Texas A & M coach Jackie Sherrill: "We are not affordable to assimilate a game." We haven't the foggiest, either.
PENTHOUSE TO OUTHOUSE
Which college football program has fallen the farthest in the shortest amount of time? Answer: tie between Missouri and Houston. Missouri is years away from regaining respectability, and Houston is wondering if it should give up football.
The central problem at Missouri is coach Woody Widenhofer, who is 3-18 in two years on the job and has proved to be totally overmatched. Unfortunately, new athletic director Jack Lengyel says he won't fire Widenhofer, but the strong hunch here is that he will have to reconsider.
In 1982, Missouri led the Big Eight in both passing offense and passing defense. In 1983 the Tigers beat Oklahoma 10-0 and were first in the conference in rushing defense. Two weeks ago the Sooners slammed the Tigers 77-0. A few weeks before that a very average Syracuse team routed Missouri 41-9.
Mizzou has won 10 outright conference titles. Not bad in a league dominated by Oklahoma (24 titles) and Nebraska (27). After these three, the school with the most outright championships is Kansas, with two.
Tiger fans properly are staying home. Recruiting is suffering because little boys in Kansas City and St. Louis no longer dream of being Tigers. Which means Missouri is light-years away from the glory days of Dan Devine and Don Faurot.
The career of Houston's Bill Yeoman, the dean of major-college coaches with 25 years at the same school and sixth among active coaches in career wins (160), will reach an inglorious end at the conclusion of this season. Last week Yeoman announced his resignation in the face of allegations from 23 former players that they had received thousands of dollars in cash and other benefits from Cougar coaches. Further, 12 players flunked out after last season, and 10 of 28 1986 recruits were ruled academically ineligible before the start of the season. Yeoman insists there's no connection between the team's off-field problems and his resignation.
In any case, the Cougars are terrible (1-8). The average attendance in 1976 was 39,000; so far this year it's 16,727. Even Yeoman joked at a recent press conference, "There are more people here than at some of our games." What a horrible fall for a man who has been to 11 bowls, including 4 Cottons. Good heavens, as recently as 1984 Houston was co-champ in the rugged SWC.
Yeoman, the father of the veer offense, who will remain at Houston as a fund-raiser for the athletic department, simply stayed too long on the job. "I was doing my usual cheerleading bit at the homecoming bonfire, and I said to myself, 'What is a gray-haired man doing up here leading cheers?' " he says. And the image of Houston, which was never good, deteriorated. Yeoman has a sign on his desk that says EXPECT A MIRACLE. Perhaps he's still expecting. No one else is. Debbie Hanna, chairman of the Regents, says of athletics in general at Houston and of football in particular, "This is the last candle. We're on our last legs."
After Temple fell from the bowl picture, Owl coach Bruce Arians was philosophical: "If you dream about things, you get broken dreams."
...The word on Rumor Street is that Harvey Schiller, the new SEC commissioner, is a leading candidate to become executive director of the NCAA....
For the first time since 1967, the Big Eight probably will not have a 1,000-yard back....
The slickest team in the nation has to be The Citadel. Several of its offensive linemen were caught putting Vaseline on their arms for one game to make it harder for onrushing defensive linemen to grab them....
When normally subdued Nebraska coach Tom Osborne blew his top during halftime of the Iowa State game, Osborne watchers were impressed. They rank the tirade with his 1981 display of spleen during the Auburn game, and even with his heretofore all-world outburst during the 1977 Liberty Bowl against North Carolina. The Cornhuskers won all three games....
In what is claimed to be football's oldest continuous rivalry, William Penn Charter whipped Germantown Academy 28-18 on Saturday in the 100th meeting between the two Pennsylvania prep schools....
Although he's being ousted as of Jan. 1, by beating Vanderbilt 29-21, Virginia Tech's Bill Dooley became the winningest coach in Tech history (62-38-1). He's 8-2-1 for '86.
The cheering stopped in Boulder when a cheerleader got hit by a thrown bottle.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
OFFENSE: Quarterback Todd Ellis of South Carolina threw for 214 yards and two TDs in a 48-21 win over Wake Forest to set NCAA freshman marks for yardage (2,745) and TDs (19).
DEFENSE: In Georgia's 20-16 upset of Auburn, Bulldog senior linebacker Steve Boswell made 19 tackles and intercepted a pass with 54 seconds remaining to seal the victory.