Oklahoma not OK in NCAA's eyes; on ties and automatic insteps
Take a good look at the University of Oklahoma football team, because after the Florida Citrus Bowl on Jan. 2, people will be seeing the Sooners later - say, sometime in 1990. In-stadium fans will still be able to catch OU's wishbone offense sweeping down the plain, but the National Collegiate Athletic Association has decreed that Oklahoma is off limits for live television coverage next season.
The TV ban constitutes part of the punishment meted out for a number of recruiting violations and the school's failure to ``exercise appropriate institutional control over its intercollegiate football program.'' Translation: nobody was monitoring the activities of certain loose-cannon alumni, assistant coaches, and recruiters in luring players to Norman.
Head coach Barry Switzer, who claims the infractions are isolated and not symptomatic of an ``illegal recruiting machine,'' will retain his job. His involvement in the misdeeds appears relatively minor, and former All-American end Keith Jackson, now a rookie with the Philadelphia Eagles, has come to Switzer's defense, publicly stating that Switzer had no idea of some of the shenanigans going on. (Jackson says he accepted money and gifts from alumni.)
Ignorance, of course, is bliss in major college football, until the NCAA investigators arrive in town, and then all the dirt become's the university's responsibility. Better to police now than pay later, it seems.
In fact, David Swank, Oklahoma's interim president, is concerned about the financial impact the probation, which includes scholarship cutbacks and a ban on bowl play during the next two seasons, will have on OU sports. He figures the athletic department, which depends on football to fuel its budget, stands to lose between $750,000 and $1 million in potential revenue that could be generated through TV and bowl contracts. To tie or not to tie
Miami could probably be playing for a national championship now if it had settled for a tie with Notre Dame in mid-October. The Hurricanes went for the win, missed a two-point conversion try, and wound up a 31-30 loser. It would have been so safe and easy just to send placekicker Carlos Huerta out to knot the score, as he surely would have done. Huerta was 44-of-44 in the extra-point department this season.
If Miami's gamble looks as though it backfired, the 'Canes can only be grateful that Nebraska made the same decision in the 1984 Orange Bowl. Otherwise, Miami never would have won the national title, which heavily favored Nebraska let slip away by going for two in an attempt to complete a perfect season.
Playing it safe and accepting a tie is generally an unpopular choice with the fans, especially in bowl games, where a go-for-it atmosphere is supposed to prevail.
This unwritten rule was ignored a year ago by Auburn coach Pat Dye, who incensed Syracuse fans when in the Sugar Bowl he declined to try for a last-second touchdown pass from the 13-yard line and elected to order a successful, game-tying field goal try. The decision denied the Orangemen one last chance at a 12-0 campaign and possible national title.
Dye's preference ``to not get beat'' prompted irate Syracuse backers to send him a mountain of ugly ties in a clear sign of their displeasure. Auburn turned this ``message'' to its advantage, though, selling about 2,000 ties, autographed by Dye, to Tiger boosters as gag souvenirs for $100 apiece.
Auburn is returning to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. This time it can't spoil anyone's perfect season, since 10-1 Florida State will oppose the Tigers. Syracuse, meanwhile, is taking its 9-2 mark to the Hall of Fame Bowl against Louisiana State. The Orangemen enter the game with a record streak of 260 successful extra points, dating back to the final point-after of the 1978 season. This incredible run has involved six placekickers, including current specialist Kevin Greene, who was 37-of-37 this fall. Cowboys in Holiday spotlight
Use of the team nicknames no doubt will be assiduously avoided during ESPN's telecast of this year's Holiday Bowl from San Diego on Dec. 30 (8 p.m. Eastern). Otherwise a great deal of confusion could ensue in calling the game between the Wyoming Cowboys and the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
Four years ago this bowl showcased Brigham Young as it put the finishing touches on a perfect 13-0 season and a national championship. This time the attraction is little-seen Heisman Trophy winner Barry Sanders of Oklahoma State. Sanders was not seen on network television at all this season and made only one other appearance on national cable TV, in the Nov. 5 Oklahoma game also carried by ESPN. Surplus of bowl practice
In preparation for just one game, an Orange Bowl date with Nebraska, the University of Miami has scheduled 17 practices. Some of these workouts may be more for limbering up than serious drills, but the fact remains, getting ready to play in a bowl is often a labor-intensive experience.
One has to wonder if such a time commitment is reasonable for a student-athlete, and certainly the players should at least get Sunday off. The Hurricanes, however, have practiced the last two Sundays, and they probably aren't an exception.