WITH his combination of toughness and quotability, coach Bill Parcells has been a media darling, a Schwarzkopf-with-a-whistle, since taking over the New England Patriots two years ago. Many members of the local media seem to eat out of his hand. A case in point occurred earlier this season when the Patriots defeated the New York Jets, 24-13.
In the televised postgame press conference, an emboldened sportswriter dared to ask Parcells if he had outcoached New York's Pete Carroll. That set off an angry reaction from Parcells, who called the reporter a ``jerk'' for his no-no question. An apology followed - not from Parcells, but from the writer, who was granted a reprieve allowing him to attend Patriot practices in the coming week.
New England, by the way, sustained its late-season momentum and is entering the National Football League (NFL) playoffs Sunday for the first time since 1986. Fly-by-night coach
TOM OSBORNE, coach of the top-ranked University of Nebraska football team, surely arranged this season's most-hurried road trip, chartering a jet to Boston for a ``now you see him, now you don't'' November banquet appearance. The Center for the Study of Sport in Society presented him with a Giant Steps award for his efforts to emphasize academics.
Determined not to miss football practice, Osborne left campus at 5:30 p.m., flew to Boston, got stuck in a holding pattern, and only managed to spend 20 minutes at the banquet, where Muhammad Ali was the main attraction. Osborne immediately returned to Lincoln, Neb., arriving at 2 a.m.
This sort of commitment to his team and its successes on and off the field are not overlooked by the university's board or regents, who have voted him a $50,000 bonus if Nebraska is ranked No. 1 this year. Touching other bases
* Pop quiz: Two athletes were recently named grinders on a prominent women's team. What is the sport? (See answer below.)
* Penn State is going to the Rose Bowl, but not for the first time. Before the granddaddy of postseason games committed itself in 1947 to inviting the winners of the Big Ten and Pacific Coast (later Pac-10) conferences, Penn State played in the 1923 game, losing to Southern California. Other unexpected participants at past Rose Bowls are Harvard (1920), Navy (1924), and Notre Dame (1925).
* Tom Coughlin, coach of the latest NFL team, the Jacksonville Jaguars, has a radio talk show, and his team doesn't even begin play until next year.
* After reading the Army-Navy football item in the Nov. 29 Sports Notebook, Bonnie Hilton, a reader in Fort Worth, Texas, shared this anecdote: She and her husband were leaving the stadium one year, discussing how Navy had finally ended a victory drought begun in the 1940s. Mr. Hilton stopped a Midshipman to ask how long it had been since Navy beat Army. ``Five minutes, sir,'' came the reply.
* Quiz answer: Sailing. A grinder cranks the handles on the winches used to trim the sails. Two Olympic rowers, Amy Lynn Fuller and Anna Seaton-Huntington, were named grinders on the all-women's America3 crew bidding to represent the United States in the America's Cup races next May.