Coaching turnover picking up; goal post-less finish; 'On Wisconsin'
The old expression about needing a program to identify the players probably holds just as true for college football coaches.
According to a colleague's informal tabulations, 47 schools at the Division I or I-AA level have changed coaches during the last two years. This doesn't include Bear Bryant's decision to step down as Alabama's mentor at the end of the current season. Ray Perkins, presently coach of the New York Giants, will succeed the man who's become the game's winningest coach during 38 years on the job.
Not all of these changes have involved firings, but a good many have. Security, of course, has never been very great in the untenured world of coaching, where winning often, not running a respectable program, is what may count most.
A victory over an arch rival school can sometimes save a coach's job, but not even this was enough for Tulane's Vince Gibson, Duke's Red Wilson, or Indiana's Lee Corso, whose teams knocked off Louisiana State, North Carolina, and Purdue respectfully. Gibson's squad, in fact, beat Orange Bowl-bound LSU for the second year in a row, but a 4-7 season apparently didn't merit the contract extension he had requested. And Wilson was rewarded with the same treatment by Duke, despite leading the Blue Devils to back-to-back 6-5 seasons.
Coaches are in the unenviable position of having alumni, booster groups, and other outside parties scrutinize their performance. Such self-appointed jurors seldom know or care whether a coach is actually a good teacher, something the players are really in the best position to judge. And they, of course, are the ones who must adjust when a new coach arrives, who doesn't know them, didn't recruit them, and is unfamiliar with their capabilities. Case of the missing posts
With goalpost demolitions sadly in vogue these days, one wonders what would happen if the posts were leveled before the game ends. In such a case, it's the home team's responsibility to put up a spare set of wooden posts (not the metal, gooseneck kind that are valued at $3,000 per end zone). This situation arose in 1974, when Princeton played Rutgers to a 6-6 tie at Princeton's Palmer Stadium. The host Tigers scored a touchdown with 22 seconds left and could have won with a kicked extra point. But the uprights had been torn down and the referee, faced with an unprecedented dilemma, wanted to continue play right away despite Princeton's offer to bring out spare goalposts. As a result, Princeton tried a two-point conversion , but failed. Random observations
* Until last Saturday, Wisconsin was the only Big Ten Conference team never to win a bowl game. That changed in the Independence Bowl when the Badgers, who've been playing football since 1889, beat Kansas State, which was making its first bowl trip. Though a three-time Rose Bowl loser, Wisconsin's gallant effort in the 1963 game will long be remembered. Going into the final quarter, undefeated and untied Southern California held a commanding 42-14 lead. But the Badgers' offense, led by quarterback Ron VanderKelen, went on a rampage that left the Trojans clinging to a 42-37 victory.
* The nation's most improved teams this season were New Mexico (10-1) and Southwestern Louisiana (7-3-1). Both schools were six wins better than a year ago. Louisiana State would finish next with a 51/2-game jump by upsetting Nebraska in the Orange Bowl.
* Marching bands generally make music, not news. This season, however, Stanford's band was written up for its comical part in the California game, in which a Cal player crashed through the band for the game-winning touchdown. And at Iowa State a band member reportedly set his pants ablaze by backing into a portable heater. On a more serious note, the University of Michigan's band was named the recipient of the first annual Sudler Trophy for musical excellence and innovation. The award, sort of a Heisman Trophy for marching bands, was the idea of Louis Sudler, a Chicago real estate executive and chairman emeritus of the Chicago Symphony.