Coach goes to court to keep job; Utah's sensational kick returner

Joe Yukica may have been fired as Dartmouth College's head football coach, but he is mounting a strong goal-line stand to fight the action. In a suit that could have major ramifications throughout the college coaching profession, Yukica has sued to keep his job. And from the looks of things, he is gathering support from some influential members of the sideline fraternity. Among those who have agreed to testify in Yukica's behalf are Joe Paterno, coach of top-ranked Penn State; Jack Bicknell, the Boston College coach who once was an assistant to Yukica at BC; and Bob Blackman, a retired Dartmouth mentor who had Yukica on his staff when the Ivy League school gained national prominence in the 1960s. In a hearing in Haverhill, N.H., today, Yukica will seek a temporary injunction to prevent Dartmouth from hiring another coach.

During the eight years that Yukica has guided Dartmouth, the Big Green has won or shared three Ivy titles, but the team just finished its third consecutive losing season. Hoping to generate new enthusiasm in the football program, Athletic Director Ted Leland decided a change of leadership was needed.

The school intends to pay the ousted coach for the remaining 11/2 years of his contract and give him a new position, but Yukica believes Dartmouth is obligated to keep him on as head coach until the terms of their agreement have been met. If he succeeds, it's quite conceivable more coaches will demand that their employers live up to terms of their contracts.

Most All-America teams consist of 11 men on offense, 11 on defense, a punter, and a placekicker. This year, however, the Football Writers Association of America felt compelled to shoehorn one extra player onto its 1985 team -- 5 ft. 8 in., 170 lb. kick returner Erroll Tucker of Utah, who led the nation in both punt and kick runbacks. Seldom has anyone ever made so many big plays in one season. Against Brigham Young in the Utes' last game, he returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, his second coast-to-coast runback of the season. He also scored two TDs on punt returns and just missed setting a new national record with 24.3 yards per return. (Sadly, he had one 81-yarder called back because of a penalty and a 92-yard kickoff return canceled out for the same reason.)

As an all-conference defensive back he was a terror too, picking off six passes and returning three for touchdowns on 86, 66, and 41-yard jaunts. He even is credited with a 22-yard gain on an offensive, end-around play. Amazingly, only running back Eddie Lewis, with 12 touchdowns, scored more TDs for Utah.

In Clemson's first year without ``The Refrigerator'' (aka William Perry), frustration got the better of Coach Danny Ford and some of his players. The week after a heartbreaking one-point setback to North Carolina, their fuses blew in a 34-31 loss to Maryland. Ford was guilty of erupting into an obscenity-laced tirade against the officials that was overheard on television. Then, after the game several Clemson players ganged up in pummeling an opponent. Ford, who later apologized for his outburst, ha s been disciplined along with the unsportsmanlike Tigers. The incidents left an ugly stain on a respectable if somewhat disappointing season for Clemson, which will take its 6-5 record to the Independence Bowl to face Minnesota Dec. 21. That is the school's least impressive record since winning the national championship with a 12-0 mark in 1981. Clemson followed that up with a pair of 9-1-1 seasons and last year's 7-4 campaign, but was ineligible for post-season play on each occasion because of a probation meted out by the NCAA and Atlantic Coast Conference f or recruiting violations.

Ford, incidentally, was placed on a one-year probation for his recent tantrum and has been barred from the sidelines during next year's Maryland-Clemson game. He still, however, could coach the team from the press box, where several assistant coaches are usually stationed. The move wouldn't be unprecedented.

Brigham Young University will not successfully defend its national championship, but the Cougars have had a good, long ``year after.'' Playing the longest season in college history, which started with the Kickoff Classic against Boston College Aug. 29 and ended against Hawaii Dec. 7, BYU has accomplished quite a bit, turning in an 11-2 record; grabbing the No. 10 national ranking; earning a berth in the Florida Citrus Bowl opposite Ohio State; and sharing the Western Athletic Conference title with Air Force, thereby claiming its 10th straight league championship. Oh, yes, and quarterback Robbie Bosco finished third in the Heisman Trophy balloting for the second straight year, this time behind Auburn's Bo Jackson and Iowa's Chuck Long.

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