After leading Alabama's football team to a 10-1 record and its first Sugar Bowl appearance since 1980, coach Bill Curry figured to have quieted those Crimson Tide fanatics who have ripped him constantly since he was hired from Georgia Tech three years ago. Instead, in the wake of Alabama's 30-20 loss to archrival Auburn on Dec. 2, the embattled Curry is wondering anew about his job security.
The anti-Curry faction is suddenly arguing that Alabama's schedule this season was easy, that the Tide was lucky to beat Penn State and that Curry put quarterback Gary Hollingsworth and tailback Siran Stacy into the lineup only when injuries to others forced him to do so. Curry has even been blamed in advance for star junior linebacker Keith McCants's anticipated decision to forgo his last year of eligibility and turn pro.
Insiders say that if the Tide had beaten Auburn, Curry would have been offered the extension he has sought on his original five-year contract. But since the defeat, new Tide athletic director Hootie Ingram has dodged the issue and has created the impression that he's unhappy with Curry. Ingram, a former Alabama player with strong ties to the inner circle of the late Tide coach Bear Bryant, replaced Steve Sloan, a Curry backer who resigned under pressure in August.
Some observers close to Curry feel that he is getting so annoyed with the situation that he may look for opportunities elsewhere. One possibility is scandal-plagued Florida, which desperately needs a Mr. Clean coach and could turn to Curry if Gator alumnus Steve Spurrier takes another job or stays at Duke. If, as expected, Spurrier takes the Florida job, Curry could return to Atlanta as the coach of the Falcons, who are looking for a replacement for the retired Marion Campbell.
To many Alabama fans it seems to make no difference that Curry is a man of integrity who strives to teach his players to be students and gentlemen. Or that he has done a terrific job of coaching this season. One suspects that Bryant himself would have stood up for Curry, whose record for his first three years at Alabama (25-9) compares favorably with the Bear's (20-7-5) at the same stage.
COULD YOU REPEAT THAT?
Folks at the University of Texas are worried that Bevo XIII, their school's 1,500-pound longhorn mascot, may be going deaf from attending football games. During two years on the sidelines, Bevo XIII has been subjected to scores of celebratory blasts from a cannon that's shot off whenever the Long-horns score a touchdown or make some other big play.
No one is sure how much—or even if—Bevo's hearing has actually been damaged by the cannon's 120-decibel booms; bovine hearing tests aren't very precise. But disc jockey Mike Butts of local station KBTS-FM raised the issue on the air last month after watching a Texas-Texas Tech game, and the university's speech and hearing clinic took his concern seriously. Soon the campus was abuzz with talk of saving poor Bevo's tender eardrums.
A hearing-aid company offered to donate custom-made foam earplugs if the school could make impressions of Bevo's ear canals. But as graduate student Krista Blaesing, who works in the speech and hearing clinic, puts it, "Bevo's not that docile an animal. And he's got big horns. You would have to sedate him to make the impressions of his canals, sedate him to put the plugs in and sedate him again to take them out. You would have a pretty drugged-out mascot." Someone suggested leaving the earplugs in permanently once they were made, but that could lead to infection. Besides, the plugs would render Bevo, for all practical purposes, deaf.
Soundproof earmuffs were also rejected, because Bevo would shake them off. The speech and hearing clinic is open to other suggestions and has already made one to Bevo's handlers and the cannon crew: that they wear something to protect their ears, too.
THE A TEAM
SI's Clive Gammon on last Saturday's draw in Rome for the 1990 World Cup:
Ever since Nov. 19, when the U.S. soccer team qualified for the World Cup finals for the first time in 40 years, there had been speculation that the Americans would end up playing in the same first-round group as the championship favorite, Italy. Lo and behold, at the celebrity-studded, internationally televised draw at Rome's Palazzo dello Sport, Sophia Loren, the Cup's designated madrina, or godmother, picked a plastic ball out of a glass bowl and confirmed just that.
FIFA, soccer's governing body, has a knack for making the draw turn out the way FIFA wants. In this case, as a trade-off for being served up as an hors d'oeuvre to the Italians on June 14 in Group A, the U.S. will get the kind of exposure it needs to boost interest in its hosting of the Cup in 1994. The Americans will play in the high-profile venues of Florence and Rome.
That trade-off seems to have been lost on U.S. coach Bob Gansler. "We know we are dead ducks against Italy," he said after the draw. Gansler isn't quite as daunted by the other two Group A teams, Czechoslovakia and Austria. However, he exaggerated some in saying that the Czechs had had "a great qualifying run," and he compared Austria's style to that of powerful West Germany. In truth, Austria is probably the weakest of the second-level European teams to qualify.
The draw divided the field into six groups of four teams apiece. The top two finishers in each group plus the four third-place teams with the best records will advance to the round of 16. Not surprisingly, FIFA seeded England in Group F, which will play its games on the islands of Sardinia and Sicily. FIFA hoped that these relatively isolated sites would be out of reach of much of England's hooligan following. But a complication developed. Out of the bowl, along with Egypt, came the names of Ireland and the Netherlands. The Irish and English aren't exactly genial neighbors, and the Netherlands' soccer hooliganism may actually be worse than England's. Ajax, the most prestigious Dutch club, recently was banned from European competition for one year because of fan rowdiness. England and the Netherlands will meet on Sardinia on June 16, proving, perhaps, that FIFA's magic with the draw doesn't always work.
AT LAST, THE SOUTH POLE
A beleaguered Will Steger finally reached the South Pole on Monday, half a month late. The six men and 30 remaining dogs of his expedition, which set off in July on the first unmechanized crossing of Antarctica (SI, July 31), had hoped to hit this midway point of their 4,000-mile trek by Thanksgiving, but they have been beset by adversity.
In September the team was tentbound for 11 days during a ferocious storm that created a white-out of blowing snow. Temperatures dropped to—45°, winds gusted to 100 mph and the windchill hit a marrow-freezing—110°. The expedition finally resumed its journey but encountered several weeks more of continuous storms, which left every member of the team frostbitten. Three of the 10 food caches staked out in advance between the starting point and the Pole were buried by snow and never found.
The storms took an even graver toll on the dogs. Many of the dogs were suffering from exhaustion and had to be airlifted out for a temporary rest. "The dogs were losing enthusiasm and just giving up," said team member Geoff Somers on a tape given to reporters. On the night of Oct. 21, one of Steger's favorite dogs, Tim, died in an unexpected storm.
Next, a crisis arose. Because of weather and mechanical problems, the expedition's supply company was unable to fly in fuel and food needed for the second half of the trek. But with the expedition in jeopardy, the Soviet government came to the rescue last week, promising 12 tons of fuel from its own South Pole fuel cache. The expedition's supply company will now be able to lay out more food caches and, if an emergency arises, rescue the team members. The Steger team must complete its trek by early March, when the even more severe Antarctic winter sets in.
Steger's is the first dogsled expedition to reach the Pole since Roald Amundsen outraced Robert Scott in 1911. Because Steger purposely chose the longest possible traverse, he has already mushed more than 1,000 miles farther than Amundsen, who made a beeline to the Pole from the nearest inlet. "There [have been] some pretty black moments for me," said Steger. "I could see the desperation of other explorers—Scott, for instance, who with four other men perished on his way back [from the Pole]. The day he reached the Pole he wrote in his diary, 'Great God, what an awful place this is!' "
STETSON APA/BLACK STAR
Severe cold hasn't kept Steger (orange) and his team from an occasional sit-down meal.
THEY SAID IT
•Ed Temple, who has coached eight women's Olympic track gold medalists during his 38 years at Tennessee State: "I'm the only man alive whose wife approves of him going around with fast women."