•Dotting the i—it's the highest honor to be chosen as the dot—when the Ohio State band spells out OHIO before each home game. Sure, it sounds foolish, but you have to be there. Sensational.
•At Clemson the players enter the end of the stadium and rub Frank Howard's Rock (a sacred, basketball-sized boulder named for the former coach) for good luck, the cannon fires, Tiger Rag plays, and the players stampede down the carpeted hill, about five abreast, into Death Valley. Chills to the bone.
•Army, Navy, and Air Force. When the cadets or midshipmen march before a game on a splendid fall afternoon, it takes a cold, cold heart not to respond with a catch in the throat.
•Ole Miss players "walking through the Grove" on their way from the dorms to the locker room on game days while band members beat out a cadence on the drums.
•The ringing of the cowbells at Mississippi State when the visiting team has the ball. The bells were outlawed by an SEC edict half a dozen years ago, but Bulldog fans keep smuggling them in. Distractingly wonderful.
•Minnesota and Iowa play each year for possession of the Floyd of Rosedale Trophy. Floyd is a bronze pig.
•What better tradition can there be than to sell out the stadium, which is what Nebraska has done at Memorial Stadium an NCAA-record 149 times since 1962.
WHERE THE NOOSE MEETS THE NECK
•Missouri's Woody Widenhofer. No. 1 candidate for a necktie party. In two years Woody is 4-18 and has no excuse: Mizzou is the only major school in the state. Home attendance in 1979 averaged 69,867; last year it was 39,067.
•Michigan State's George Perles. Since he arrived in 1983 the Spartans have lost five or six games every year. Too many. A big problem has been Perles's inability to recruit a star quarterback. This year he has the talent, and expectations are high. Will the noose loosen?
•Alabama's Bill Curry. He hasn't coached a game yet, but you know Tide fans. They were appalled when Curry was hired from Georgia Tech. Says Curry, "Until I do the job for them, I expect them to remain skeptical."
Three years ago we said in this space that Texas Tech has the ugliest campus. An avalanche of mail disputed this assertion. So we have looked at the school again, rechecked the photos and consulted experts. We are not too proud to admit our mistakes. This, however, was not one of them.
WE WOULD LIKE TO HEAR LESS ABOUT...
1) How Notre Dame has the best recruiting class.
2) Drugs, including steroids.
3) General cheating, talking of cheating, obvious signs of cheating and lying about cheating. Which eliminates all mention of SMU—forever.
4) Proposition 48.
...AND MORE ABOUT...
1) How once a week a coach calls off practice because his team has better things to do.
2) University presidents who appreciate and understand football in its proper place.
3) Heroes. Like Blanchard and Davis, Red Grange, Doak Walker. Maybe, of course, they are heroes because nobody told us the dirt on 'em.
TV WAGS FOOTBALL
Last year Arkansas earned some $1.24 million by doing what it was told to do by television. No wonder when athletic director Frank Broyles is asked if colleges must accommodate the wishes of TV, he responds, "You'd better."
They all do, often to their own detriment and to the detriment of the fans.
Alas, money talks—and frequently screams and yells.
For example, Iowa and Tennessee will play in the Kickoff Classic on Aug. 30 at the urging of Raycom, an independent network, which anted up $550,000 for each team. Now you tell us: Ts Aug. 30 too early for college football?
For example, Miami moved its Sept. 19 game with South Carolina to Dec. 5 at ESPN's behest. This means the 'Canes will play Sept. 5, then have three weeks off. Plus, they will play two tough teams—Notre Dame and South Carolina—after Bowl Pick-'Em Day, Nov. 21. Miami could get shut out of a big bowl because of the fear that a bowl could be stuck with a team sporting two more losses. Is that worth the $295,000 Miami gets from ESPN?
For example, Boston College, which does not like to play at night because drunks in the stands can cause trouble, agreed to move its Sept. 26 afternoon game against Penn State to 7:30 p.m. Why? ESPN offered $295,000.
For example, Colorado was scheduled to play Nebraska at Folsom Stadium on Nov. 14. Then ESPN came calling and the game was shuffled back to Nov. 28. The weather in Boulder is real iffy on Nov. 14. And two weeks later? Wonder how the fans would have voted.
It's no accident that many schools no longer print game times on tickets. Soon the date of the game won't appear, either. And, ultimately, neither will the name of the opponent; blank pieces of cardboard will be issued to ticket buyers with the notation: (TO BE ANNOUNCED BY TV).
THREE STATES IN WHICH THE FOOTBALL PROSPECTS AREN'T TOO ROSY:
Kansas: Kansas State has had two winning seasons in the last 32, 6-5 in 1970 and 6-5-1 in 1982; Kansas has had one winning year in the last 10. Prognosis: hopeless.
Oregon: Oregon State has suffered 16 straight losing seasons; over the same span Oregon has been almost as bad. Prognosis: more rain.
New Mexico: New Mexico State has had one winning season in the past 19; New Mexico managed one winner in the last eight years. Prognosis: continued drought.
Colorado: From 1979 through 1984, the Buffs were 14-51-1. Then in '84 and '85, thanks to the arrival of doggedly optimistic coach Bill McCartney, CU rose in NCAA stats from 105th (and last) to ninth in rushing offense; from 102nd to 37th in rushing defense. Last year, Colorado whipped Nebraska to finish second in the Big Eight.
North Carolina State: Last year the Wolfpack was 8-3-1 with mediocre talent but brilliant coaching from young Dick Sheridan. More good times ahead.
Indiana: From 0-11 in 1984 to 6-6 last year says it all. In Knightland, there are now those who know Bill Mallory is a coach, too.
BEST LITTLE COACH IN THE U.S.A.
The second-winningest college football coach in the land is John Gagliardi, 61, at Division III St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn. His 243 victories over 38 years—34 of them at St. John's—put him second only to Grambling's Eddie Robinson, with 336 victories, among active coaches. How long does Gagliardi plan to keep coaching? "As long as I can walk and see to the field." Secret to his success? Gagliardi allows no physical contact in practice.
BY THE NUMBERS
If administrators at colleges from around the country are not beating a path to the door of the University of Arizona's athletic director, Cedric Dempsey, they should be ashamed of themselves. Five years ago, Dempsey inherited an athletic department with a $417,000 deficit; in the just-completed fiscal year, the department was $845,000 in the black. In 1982, $500,000 was raised to support Wildcat athletics; today it's more than $2.5 million a year. And five years ago, radio and TV rights were sold by the school for $50,000; today, $340,000.
•Best fight song: Notre Dame, of course, followed closely by Michigan and a distant third, Wisconsin, which needs a team worthy of its tune.
•Best rivalry nobody has heard of: Appalachian State vs. Western Carolina. When these two get together—this year on Nov. 21—it's an old-fashioned mountain feud, with possession of the 28-inch-high, four-gallon-capacity Ole Mountain Jug at stake.
•Most Boring Schedule: Kansas's. The Jayhawks play three straight at home against Kent State, Louisiana Tech and Southern Illinois. They could win all three. Who cares?
•Worst college football mascot: That goofy, stupid leprechaun that leaps to and fro in support of Notre Dame. Even Irish students boo him.
•Best turf: Tie between Purdue's Ross-Ade Stadium, birthplace of Prescription Athletic Turf, and Arizona's practice fields. The field in Tucson has sod that looks like a golf course. That makes sense, since the sod was taken up in the mid-1970s from Tucson National Golf Club.
•Winner of the Futility Trophy: Dartmouth, under deposed coach Joe Yukica, did not win a non-Ivy League game in nine years, a record of 0-23-1.
•Best idea if football is truly to be part of the educational process: Boston College's plan to play Army on Nov. 19, 1988, in Ireland. That, friends, is a stroke of genius and perfect for two institutions that will take full advantage of the opportunity—educationally.
•Good enough for the Heisman but don't play for good-enough teams: Oklahoma State running back Thurman Thomas and Florida quarterback Kerwin Bell.
•Not Heisman prospects: Ohio State linebacker Chris Spielman, because he plays defense and Heisman voters watch offense, and Holy Cross's Gordie Lockbaum, because being wonderful against inferior competition is not truly wonderful.
•Most innovative drug program: The University of Cincinnati requires all its athletes to take a substance use-and-abuse workshop during their first year. It's a one-hour course for full credit. What's best about the program is that it comes before any kind of drug testing, the theory being you have an obligation to educate before you punish.
•Albatross around the neck award: To Nebraska for coach Tom Osborne. Despite being the third-winningest active coach (137-32-2) and tops in winning over the last five years (50-7), Osborne is 4-11 against Oklahoma. If you include the Nov. 21 game against the Sooners, 4-12.
•Dum Quote of the Preseason: "We might have to outscore people to win the early games."—Iowa head coach Hay-den Fry.
JOHN D. HANLON
No greater glory could befall a Buckeye than to be given the task of dotting Ohio's "i."
Coach Curry isn't rehearsing a farewell speech, but some Tide fans might urge him to do so.
Were Grange (left) and Walker truly virtuous, or were their adoring fans simply looking the other way?
[See caption above.]
DAVID E. KLUTHO
And how many Jayhawks does it take to make a tackle? Kansas football is a joke.
With a little Irish luck, Notre Dame's mascot will magically vanish.
In the race for the Heisman Trophy, playing for Florida is certain to take its toll on Bell.
The scouting reports on the following pages were written by Bruce Anderson, Morin Bishop, Duncan Brantley, Jaime Diaz, John Garrity, Hank Hersch, Douglas S. Looney, Ivan Maisel, Austin Murphy, Rick Reilly, E.M. Swift, Rick Telander and Alexander Wolff.