Publish date:



The NFL's realignment plans are mostly right on target

When the expansion Houston Texans enter the NFL in 2002, the
league will divide into eight four-team divisions. Here's what
you need to know about the eight plans for realignment that
owners are considering this week.

The discussions won't be ugly. In 1970 partisan bickering over
realignment drove commissioner Pete Rozelle to have his secretary
pull the winning plan out of a vase. That's how Dallas ended up
in the NFC East and Atlanta in the NFC West.

This year three factors make it likely that things will go more
smoothly. First, though any plan needs approval from three
quarters of the teams, commissioner Paul Tagliabue has four
proxy votes in his pocket from the Texans and the recently
relocated Rams, Ravens and Titans. That means he needs only 20
of the remaining 28 votes to pass a plan. Second, no team will
be paid to move, unlike in 1970, when the Browns, Colts and
Steelers each received $3 million to switch to the AFC. Third,
beginning next year the visitors' shares of the gate will be
pooled among all 32 teams, meaning that the clubs in
revenue-rich divisions won't earn extra road money.

Divisions will make geographic sense. No more forced rivalries
like Atlanta versus San Francisco. Each conference will be
divided into East, West, North and South divisions. In most plans
seven of the eight East teams are in the Eastern time zone.
(Dallas will probably remain in the NFC East to preserve its
traditional rivalries.) Six of the eight West teams will be on
Mountain or Pacific time, while all but one of the South teams
(Indianapolis) is below the Mason-Dixon line.

Great rivalries will remain, and good ones will be born. The
Bears, Lions, Packers and Vikings stay together in every plan.
We'll miss those twice-yearly Sunday brunches with Warren Sapp
and Brett Favre, but most proposals hitch Sun Belt neighbors
Carolina, Atlanta, New Orleans and Tampa Bay in a new NFC South.
Tradition will be honored too. In 1963 the AFL's Western
Division was composed of the Broncos, Chargers, Chiefs and
Raiders. Thirty-nine years later the AFC West will likely look
exactly the same.

The NFL's only misstep has been to reject an earlier scheme for
each team to play one game a year against a nearby rival from the
other conference. That means that only once every four years will
we get 49ers-Raiders or Giants-Jets. It also stifles the creation
of new rivalries such as Jaguars-Panthers, Bucs-Dolphins and
Bears-Colts. The game will grow only with the help of television,
and TV loves nothing more than grudge matches. It's plain bad
business that Baltimore will play San Diego more often that it
does Washington.

That miscue only slightly mars the long-term picture. Assuming
one of the current plans wins approval by June, give the NFL a B+
for solving a thorny issue fairly painlessly. --Peter King

Most Populous U.S. Cities Without an NFL Team*

Los Angeles (pop. 3,633,591) Raiders boss Al Davis's lawsuit
against NFL could set stage for return from Oakland.

San Antonio (1,147,213) Though it would love to lure San Antonian
Red McCombs's Vikings, city council has tabled plans to make
Alamodome NFL-ready.

San Jose (867,675) Proximity of 49ers and Raiders makes Silicon
Valley capital bear market for NFL.

Columbus (671,247) Ohio's largest city--and home of Ohio State
Buckeyes--failed to get Cardinals in 1987.

El Paso (612,770) Compared with booming San Antonio, its pro
prospects border on nonexistent.

*1999 estimates


The coaching matchup in the NCAA women's East regional basketball
final in Pittsburgh on Monday was intriguing in more ways than
one. On one bench was Geno Auriemma of reigning champion
Connecticut, which finished the season atop the AP poll. On the
other was Leon Barmore of No. 6 Louisiana Tech, the winningest
Division I basketball coach, men's or women's, in NCAA history.
"It's no accident," says Barmore of the fact that the sport's two
most successful male coaches should face each other before the
Final Four. "I've been around too long, seen too much. A few
years ago Andy [Landers, of Georgia] and I were ranked one and
two [in the USA Today coaches poll], and they placed us in the
same regional."

This year Landers's Lady Bulldogs finished No. 4 in the AP and
were also placed in the East. That three of the country's top six
teams were put in the same regional is curious enough. That all
three are coached by men raises the troubling question of whether
the tournament selection committee of 10 women set up the
brackets to limit the number of male coaches in the Final Four
and, beyond that, whether a subtle reverse discrimination is at
work in women's basketball.

"Absolutely not," says committee member Carol Sprague, associate
athletic director at Pitt. "It's ridiculous that people even
bring up this conspiracy theory regarding gender."

"I don't know if there's a conspiracy," says Colorado State's
Tom Collen, one of eight male coaches in the East regional (out
of 20 men in the field of 64). "I do know that I'm 105-26 in
four seasons and have never gotten a call when a job opened up.
You know what every list of up-and-coming coaches in women's
college basketball has in common? No men are on it."

Were the top male coaches placed in the same bracket so that they
might kill off one another before reaching this weekend's Final
Four? "You can look at it that way," says ESPN basketball analyst
Vera Jones. "Then again, you can look at it as if it's a virtual
guarantee that at least one male will reach the Final Four."

One male coach, Auriemma, did advance to St. Louis. That may or
may not be fair, but it's one more man in the women's Final Four
than women in the men's Final Four. --John Walters

burning Question

Q In light of California's electricity crisis, might the state's
sporting events go dark?

A There's no guarantee that crowded sports venues will be spared
California's rolling blackouts, but it's unlikely one will lose
power unexpectedly. "For public safety, large arenas are lower
on the list [of places to be shut down], and efforts would be
made to advise them if we felt blackouts might occur," says
Marcie Edwards of Anaheim Public Utilities, which serves
Arrowhead Pond, home of the Mighty Ducks, and the Angels' Edison
Field. Juice for the Staples Center and Dodger Stadium is
supplied by L.A.'s Department of Water and Power, which has an
ample supply and doesn't foresee blackouts. Northern California
teams aren't so fortunate. The Warriors' and A's stadiums in
Oakland shared a circuit with a facility that was exempt from
rolling blackouts, but the exemption was expected to be lifted
this week. The Kings' ARCO Arena in Sacramento and the Sharks'
San Jose Arena have suffered temporary power shutdowns, though
not during a game.

Big arenas have generators strong enough to keep concourse
lights on. Since most blackouts occur during the day and last
less than an hour, teams can wait things out, as they would a
rain delay. The Giants are devising a long-term plan that would
let them play through an outage. Says team spokeswoman Staci
Slaughter, "We need to be prepared, because we're obviously
going to get much busier."

And the Oscar Goes to...

What if the sports world had its own Oscar night--and we don't
mean an evening at a De La Hoya fight. Here's how the Academy
might honor figures from the jock set.

BEST ART DIRECTION Art Howe, for guiding the unpolished Athletics
to within a game of upsetting the Yankees in their American
League Division Series.

BEST ANIMATED SHORT Doug Flutie, for his continuing role as a
vertically challenged but astonishingly mobile quarterback.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE Connecticut and Long Island University, for
their opening-round game in the women's NCAA tournament, which
the Huskies won 101-29.

BEST SCREEN PLAY Karl Malone and John Stockton, for their classic

BEST MAKE UP Tiger Woods and PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem,
for reconciling after Woods complained the Tour exploited him.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN The XFL, for its cheerleader outfits, player
uniforms and...cheerleader outfits.

BEST FILM EDITING NBC, for its Olympic coverage from Sydney, in
which tape-delayed events were stitched together and presented as
if they were live.

BEST DIRECTOR Texas Tech athletic director Gerald Myers, who
lured Hall of Fame coach Bobby Knight to the boondocks.

BEST ACTOR Roger Clemens, for claiming with a straight face that
he thought he was fielding the ball when he heaved Mike Piazza's
broken bat back at him during the World Series.

BEST ACTRESS Marion Jones, for her turn as an unflustered wife
despite revelations of husband C.J. Hunter's steroid violations
that surfaced at the Olympics.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR Denzel Washington, for inspiring football
players from peewee level to the pros in Remember the Titans.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS Bridgette Wilson, for tying the knot with
her favorite tennis player, Pete Sampras.

Lost Classics

I know that for many people, tetherball evokes fond memories of
suburban backyards and lazy afternoons at the swim club. But for
me it dredges up feelings of humiliation and anxiety. Most of all
tetherball brings back images of Howard Ham.

Howard was the tetherball king of my third-grade class at Leal
Elementary in Cerritos, Calif. In a time when your degree of
coolness was determined by how good you were at wrapping a length
of cord attached to a volleyball around a 10-foot pole, that
meant something. I, on the other hand, played horribly.

Howard had a simple strategy that rarely failed. He would swipe
the ball downward at a severe angle so that it popped skyward,
making it impossible for his opponent to return. Usually I just
stood there, helplessly looking up as the ball orbited in a near
vertical plane around the pole. When I served, Howard deployed
the monkey bump, a cruel attack in which he used two clenched
fists to spike the ball directly back at me. I got monkey bumped
a lot, mostly in the face.

For some reason tetherball was considered a sport--at least it was
in the 1980s, when I played it. Like all sports it was supposed
to build character. After building enough character to last a
lifetime, I finally caught a break following fifth grade. I
transferred to a new school. The blacktop was thankfully
tetherball-free. --Yi-Wyn Yen

A Moment to Savor

The NCAAs have just ended, and CBS's end credits have started
rolling. As posttournament depression starts to set in, you hear
a familiar piano preamble and realize there's still One Shining
Moment, the thrill-of-victory, agony-of-defeat montage with which
CBS has wrapped its tournament coverage for 15 years. Moment has
become as synonymous with the NCAAs as first-round upsets. Here
are the facts and figures on what Pistons guard Mateen Cleaves
calls "the best three minutes of March, maybe the year."

--The montage has attracted a cult following over the years. CBS
gets thousands of letters and e-mails on Moment, some of which
describe it as "a spiritual event." Copies of the song are widely
available on Napster.

--The tune was written by David Barrett, 44, a folk singer from
Ann Arbor, Mich. In 1986 inspiration struck Barrett after he saw
some Larry Bird highlights on TV. He went on to write Moment in
20 minutes.

--Barrett gave a tape of the song to a high school friend,
current CBS Sports correspondent Armen Keteyian. He passed it to
Doug Towey, creative director of CBS Sports, who decided to use
the piece to accompany a highlight reel at the end of the 1987
Super Bowl. (Towey changed the now-famous first line, "The ball
is tipped," to "The ball is kicked.") But the game went long, and
the reel never ran. Towey then plugged in the song for the NCAAs
later that year.

--For star power a CBS producer had Teddy Pendergrass record
Moment in 1997. Pendergrass's soulful cover had purists up in
arms. The network returned to Barrett's version last year.

--CBS has received numerous requests to use the song for
birthdays, bar mitzvahs and other events. One time, recalls
Towey, a young bride-to-be scheduled her wedding for Final Four
weekend, upsetting her fiance. "The maid of honor called me in a
panic," says Towey, "saying the only thing that would appease the
groom was to have One Shining Moment as his wedding song." Towey
obliged, and the couple, presumably, went on to have its own
shining moment. --Will Lee


For Sale
The personal possessions of the late Chiefs linebacker Derrick
Thomas. Items include a $10,000 bed, videos prepared by Kansas
City coaches on opposing offenses ($5) and a $1 handkerchief, as
well as 120 ties, swimming trunks ($20), 170 pairs of shoes and
520 T-shirts. Thomas's estate will distribute the proceeds of
the sale to his seven children by five women.

By an 8-0 vote of the NFL's competition committee, a proposal
to prohibit players from wearing bandannas and skull caps during

By Stanford, its April 7 rugby match with archrival Cal. In an
e-mail to members of both programs, Cardinal coach Franck Boivert
cited Stanford's injuries and the Bears' recruiting advantage in
claiming that the Cardinal could not be competitive. "Stanford
has no fear of losing versus Cal, as they have done so every year
but one for the last 20 years," he wrote. "They are, however,
very afraid to get injured and indeed fear for their safety."

By former Saints linebacker Pat Swilling, a runoff election to
represent eastern New Orleans as a Democrat in the Louisiana
House of Representatives.

During a visit by Jazz forward David Benoit to J.A. Taylor
Elementary School in Davis County, Utah, a publicity photo of
Benoit in which the tattoo of a topless woman on his arm is
visible. After students noticed the image, principal Rod Green
confiscated as many of the shots as he could. The next day the
Jazz sent the school a John Stockton portrait.

A wayward dove, by a Randy Johnson fastball during a
Diamondbacks-Giants game in Tucson. Said Arizona catcher Rod
Barajas, "I'm expecting to catch the [ball], and all I see is an

the Beat

Maybe we should call him Hollywood Henderson. Hawks forward Alan
Henderson is executive producer of an independent feature called
Sacred Is the Flesh, which began filming last week. Henderson
cowrote the script with rapper Nas, who will also star in the
movie. Flesh is a dark comedy about a talent agent from Indiana
who heads to L.A. and quickly finds himself in over his head in
the Hollywood scene.....

Tim Hasselbeck, Boston College's starting quarterback last
season and a likely NFL draft pick, is dating Elisabeth
Filarski--a.k.a. "the cute blonde one" on Survivor: The
Australian Outback. The two met at BC, where Filarski captained
the softball team....

According to a publishing insider, Dan Marino is shopping his
autobiography; he's looking to get around $400,000 for the book,
says the source. Marino's ghostwriter will be Peter Golenbock,
coauthor of The Bronx Zoo....

Former NBA forward Wayman Tisdale released an album last week
entitled Face to Face. While most hoopsters cum musicians have
tried their hand at rap, Tisdale (above) is an accomplished bass
player who lines up in the contemporary jazz vein. "It's smooth
urban," says Tisdale of Face. "I like to do records that tell
full stories, especially about relationships and love. I'm big,
but I'm sensitive." Tisdale has released three previous albums,
one of which, 1995's Power Forward, reached No. 4 on Billboard's
contemporary jazz chart. So who's driving this musical success?
"Women," says Tisdale. "Women are my fan base, from 25 to 80.
I'm especially big with the 80-year-olds. They love me."

B/W PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER OLD SCHOOL Rivalries such as Bears-Packers will survive the shuffle.

COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER Barmore thinks male coaches were pitted against each other.







COLOR PHOTO: RICH CLARKSON (MOMENT MIDDLE) And there you are, You're running for your life...




Go Figure

Combined NBA winning percentage through Sunday of the four
former or current coaches who played for Bob Knight at Indiana:
Quinn Buckner (.159), Butch Carter (.442), Isiah Thomas (.449)
and Randy Wittman (.384).

Combined NBA winning percentage through Sunday of the three
former or current coaches who played for Dean Smith at North
Carolina: Larry Brown (.562), Billy Cunningham (.698) and George
Karl (.599).

Months in advance that Tiger Woods's 16 outfits for this year's
four majors were chosen by Woods and Nike Golf, to ensure that
what he wears coincides with what's in stores.

Votes cast for Kings center Vlade Divac in balloting for the
presidency of the Yugoslav Olympic Committee; incumbent Dragan
Kicanovic won reelection with 44 of 68 votes.

This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse

A Milwaukee pool and spa company is touting a "not guilty hot
tub super sale" with ads claiming, "With a little common'll enjoy the relaxation of your new hot tub for 20
years to life," among other veiled references to Mark Chmura's
sexual-assault trial.

"Is reverse discrimination at work in women's basketball?"

They Said It

Los Angeles guard, on the Lakers' attitude toward him following
his five-game suspension for violating the NBA antidrug program:
"They're not really high on me."