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College Football / Richard Hoffer : NCAA Now Under Fire for Making Much Ado About Nothing

September 12, 1986|RICHARD HOFFER

If all the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. found at Nebraska was the use of complimentary tickets by players' girlfriends, then the governing body has indeed surrendered its common sense. No school in the country can guarantee that only students and relatives get the players' allotted four tickets, even with the enormous amount of bookkeeping they're supposed to do.

The NCAA's seemingly disproportionate penalty, that Nebraska bench 60 players for a week, was ultimately lightened to the suspension of season ticket privileges for the athletes. This softened the outrage some. But coaches across the country were still venting their astonishment.

Michigan Coach Bo Schembechler said: "It's a ridiculous rule. You can't dictate who is using your tickets. . . . I didn't even know you had a regulation that selects the people the players can give tickets to."

Through the whole affair, the NCAA has been under fire more than Nebraska. "Some of these rulings are so far in left field," Iowa Coach Hayden Fry said, "you have to back off and laugh."

When the ruling was announced, after Nebraska had gone so far as to turn itself in, there was a knee-jerk reaction among some coaches to form their own governing body. Later in the week, coaches modulated their outrage, calling simply for a revision of the rules.

Certainly the NCAA looks silly, especially after having just made charges at Alabama that players used unauthorized team transportation to attend a funeral. Much ado about nothing has been the theme of their enforcement.

On the other hand, you can understand why the NCAA scrutinizes anything to do with tickets and perhaps why, this time, it went zealously overboard in penalizing the wrongdoing. Complimentary tickets have long been used to pay off players, who have sometimes sold them not just at scalpers' prices but for Corvette money. It's the privilege easiest to abuse and probably deserves the most attention.

UCLA Coach Terry Donahue acknowledges that particular history in college football but frets that even the innocent distribution of the free tickets could get any team, maybe every team, in trouble. He says his athletes must specify in a form to whom the tickets go, student or relative, but that the procedure hardly guarantees that a friend or neighbor won't end up with the tickets.

"I think it extends to aunt or uncle, I don't know," he said. "I don't think you need a blood test to get the ticket."

Anyway, said Donahue, echoing comments from most of his colleagues: "The NCAA has much bigger problems, things that give teams competitive advantages, forms of open cheating. Steroids are a much bigger concern, for example. That's the heavy talk among coaches this year, a problem that's overlooked."

Maybe it's, first, complimentary tickets and then lick the steroid problem.

It's barely a week into the season, and coaches and players are getting gun shy. How bad has it gotten?

Well, Oklahoma's irrepressible Brian Bosworth, who accused the Bruins of playing "girls' football" last week, issued UCLA an apology, claiming that he was incompletely quoted. Had he said " real good girls' football"? No matter, when the Boz worries about what gets into print, well, it's gotten real bad.

At Tennessee, for another example, the players refused to talk to the press because a newspaper report got them in Dutch with the NCAA, something about complimentary tickets.

But really steamed is Ohio State Coach Earle Bruce. A Columbus Dispatch columnist wrote that the Buckeye was a bellyful.

Wrote Mike Harden, after comparing Bruce's profile to that of semi-svelte Alabama Coach Ray Perkins: "I have to believe that somewhere in Manhattan or Topeka or Bakersfield, someone else was saying, 'Good Lord, Eunice, come in here and get a look at the pot on this coach.' "

Elsewhere in the column, Harden wrote, "(Bruce) looked like some character lined up for seconds at the fried dough booth at the Ohio State Fair."

Asked if he was hurt by the column, Bruce sniffed: "Hurt? Me? You have to know there are some cruel people in the world who say the doggonedest things in the world to a football coach after you've lost a football game."

Ohio State will play Washington this weekend. Presumably, Harden gives Bruce a fat chance.

College Football Notes The Colorado wishbone offense just ain't what she used to be. After Coach Bill McCartney installed the triple option attack last year, the Buffaloes rolled over rival Colorado State, 23-10, amassing 358 yards rushing. In this season's opener, Colorado State held the Buffaloes to 191 yards on the ground, upsetting them, 23-7. "Just a case of McCartney not having his players ready," McCartney said. "You don't play like that unless you're not coached right."

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