A Payoff but No Playoff
The bowl alliance established last week among most of college footballs major conferences and Notre Dame will cut down on New Year's Day channel-hopping and enrich the top programs, but it falls short of assuring a national championship game. Under the new deal, which will take effect for the 1995 season, the Fiesta, Orange and Sugar bowls will host the champions of the ACC, the Big East, the SEC and the Big 12 (a conference to be composed of the Big Eight and four schools from the Southwest Conference), as well as two at-large teams. The three bowls will be played between Dec. 31 and Jan. 2, with the fourth-and sixth-ranked teams within the group squaring off first, followed by a prime-time game between Nos. 3 and 5. The final game, between the top two teams, will rotate among the three sites.
The alliance severs conference tie-ins with the Sugar and Orange bowls that have impeded dream pairings in the past. And by spreading the games over several days, the alliance will heighten anticipation for the finale. But as long as the Big Ten and Pac-10 champs meet in the Rose Bowl, the three-bowl coalition may well not include the country's No. 1 or No. 2 team. Moreover, because the alliance calls for the coalition to lake the four conference champions, regardless of where they stand in the Top 20, it's possible that low-ranked teams will crack the lineup.
With the Rose Bowl contract up in 2000, the same year the new alliance deal ends, it is tempting to envision the next millennium as the dawn of a brave, new world—a national college football playoff. That prospect should appeal to the sport's powers. Even though the alliance can't guarantee a title game, TV executives like it enough to pump big bucks into the three bowls, raising their average payday from around $4 million per participating team last season to as much as $8.6 million. A playoff format would drive those figures much, much higher.
There's a problem, however, with that scenario: greed. Last week's alliance profits only those conferences and independents that participate. Under NCAA bylaws the dollars from any national-championship tournament must be divided among all member institutions, not just those that qualify for the tournament. So between now and the turn of the century, expect those bylaws to be amended. Says one source, "The schools that have equity in college football, that bring it the glitz, want to keep the money."
Comings and Goings
The Florida Marlins' 9-8 win over the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 3, in which Marlin reliever Robb Nen earned the save and Dave Otto worked 1‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬® innings for the Cubs, marked the first time in major league history that two palindromic pitchers appeared in the same game. Apprised afterward of the momentous event, Nen said, "Wow!"
Play It As It Flies
It was the best drive he had hit all day, but never did Randall Kemp imagine his ball would go as far as it did. Playing recently with four friends at the Highlands Golf Course in Bella Vista, Ark., Kemp, a 31-year-old physician from Wetumka, Okla., drove his tee shot on the 14th hole 250 yards down the middle of the fairway. Next up, George Miles sliced his drive into the woods.
That was when the black helicopter flew in low and fast over the trees and landed on the narrow fairway at the spot where Kemp's drive had come to rest. As the golfers looked on from the tee in amazement, a man none of them had ever seen jumped out of the copter, plucked Kemp's ball from the grass and climbed back in as the chopper took off and zoomed away. "It was just a regular old ball," says the still baffled Kemp. "I don't know why anyone would take it."
Kemp and his buddies reported the inexplicable ball-snatching to the course manager, who, after satisfying himself that none of the golfers had been drinking, called the cops. A foursome following Kemp's group also reported seeing the helicopter. The Bella Vista sheriff's department checked with every airport in the area, but none had any record of a helicopter either taking off or landing that day. So far, the mystery chopper has not been seen again.
Still, the incident didn't ruin the hole for Kemp. "After going over the rule book," he says, "the guys let me drop a ball without a penalty stroke."
When coach Bob Huggins arrived at the University of Cincinnati in 1989, a basketball season ticket cost $128. Huggins took the Bearcats to the 1992 Final Four and the '93 NCAA quarterfinals, and for 1993-94 the price rose to $192. This season, that same ducat can only be had with the additional purchase of a $70 season football ticket. But the big hit—unless you count having to be associated with the gridiron Cats, who haven't been to a bowl since 1951—comes in '95-96. Then, to keep a hoops scat, a fan will also have to join Cincinnati's booster club, at a cost of $550.
Thus in six years the cost of one season ticket will have shot up 534%, to $812, and most of that markup will have nothing to do with the quality of Bearcat basketball. Already some fans have given notice that they won't re-up. For them, the cost of success is prohibitive.
And the Tony Goes to...
Before the 1991 NFL season, defensive tackle Tony Casillas engineered his own departure from the Atlanta Falcons. Tired of feuding with Jerry Glanville, Atlanta's coach at the time, he announced his retirement but mentioned that a trade to, say, Dallas might coax him back into action. Two days later he was swapped to the Cowboys for a pair of draft picks, and he soon became a mainstay in the middle for the two-time Super Bowl champs.
As the '94 season nears, Casillas is up to his old moves, and we don't mean the swim or the rip. Citing "personal reasons," he failed to report to the Kansas City Chiefs, with whom he had signed a four-year, $6 million deal as a free agent on April 6. The Chiefs then terminated his contract, took back his $1.2 million signing bonus and declared him an unrestricted free agent. Casillas once again seems to be searching for a back door to Big D, where his coach at Oklahoma, Barry Switzer, is now in charge. As Casillas told The Dallas Morning News last Friday, "You'd have to be stupid not to play for Dallas if you had the opportunity."
But he may not have that chance—nor should he. Kansas City has asked that the NFL investigate whether Casillas has been tampered with, and commissioner Paul Tagliabue has already written to Tom Condon, Casillas's agent, inquiring into the matter. While Dallas hasn't been implicated, Switzer does acknowledge chatting with Casillas on July 11, when players from the 1993 Cowboys received their Super Bowl rings at Texas Stadium. According to Switzer, Casillas then said he would rather return to the Cowboys than suit up for the Chiefs.
Dallas owner Jerry Jones denied interest in Casillas early last week but later conceded he would like to have him back. But unless he releases players, Jones can offer Casillas only $125,000 under the salary cap. Those were the same circumstances that prompted Casillas to sign with Kansas City in the first place. "There is a possibility of something having taken place that could be embarrassing to the league," says Carl Peterson, president and general manager of the Chiefs.
You mean something more ridiculous than Casillas's signature on a contract?
As we celebrate our own 40th anniversary and relied on the year Roger Bannister first broke the four-minute mile (page 30), it is worth noting that on Aug. 2 in Monte Carlo, Noureddine Morceli of Algeria lowered the world record in the 3,000 meters to 7:25.11. According to the International Amateur Athletic Federation scoring tables, that time translates to an 8:00.8 for two miles, which means Morceli was within a heartbeat of running two four-minute miles back-to-back.
Just Say Neigh
Did you hear about the huge outdoor rock concert in New York that really shook up the neighbors? No, we're not talking about Woodstock. We mean the Lollapalooza music festival held Aug. 2 at the Saratoga trotting track.
The nine-hour concert, featuring such alternative bands as the Beastie Boys. Smashing Pumpkins and the Breeders (who have nothing to do with the Cup of the same name), was so raucous that several racehorses stabled nearby had to be tranquilized, and at least two were scratched from races the next day.
"All I know is it was very, very loud," says trainer Richard Schosberg of the music that rendered his stable anything but stable. "Everything was vibrating."
Schosberg says that three of his horses were upset by the din but that 4-year-old filly Personal Bid took it the hardest. "She was bug-eyed, tearing around the stall, charging the webbing, spinning and kicking at the walls," he says.
Dude, sounds like she was in the mood to mosh.
Casillas knows where he wants to go, even when blockers—or contracts—stand in his way.
DAVID K. SHELDON
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
Artist David Barsalou has created an exhibit at the Holyoke (Mass.) Community College art gallery entitled 4,256: The Rose Garden, which consists of 4,256 identical images of Pete Rose reproduced across 700 square feet of wall space as a way to "visualize Rose's career hit total."
They Said It
Milwaukee Brewer infielder, after being hit in the face by a pitch from New York Yankee righthander Melido Perez: "I opened my eyes to see if I was in heaven or if I was in Milwaukee."