If college football gets another year of publicity like last year's, the sport is likely to be doomed altogether to coverage in Crimewatch, or wherever police blotters are published.
Drug use, police actions, the flouting of academic requirements, cheating--it all went well beyond the boys-will-be-boys stage. It went far enough that one school's program was given the death sentence.
But college football probably won't get that kind of press.
If you've noticed, there's been a rediscovery and celebration of old-fashioned values, or so it would seem. It's an interesting swing of the pendulum. From Brian Bosworth's purple hair to Gordie Lockbaum's crew cut. From Miami's jungle fatigues to Penn State's blue blazers. This is the year that Alabama--win-crazy Alabama!--hires a new coach and gives him this strange mandate: Graduate your players.
Whether this backlash, this return to the wholesome '50s, survives the first kickoff is a good question.
Here are 15 more:
1. IS THIS THE YEAR OF THE QUARTERBACK?
You asked that last year, as if you'd never heard of Vinny Testaverde. But this season, it's a fair question. Oh, you'll hear about Kerwin Bell at Florida and Todd Santos at San Diego State. Probably more of Santos, who has a chance to break Kevin Sweeney's record for passing yardage. But, for once, you may hear more about catchers than passers.
Both of the returning consensus All-Americans on offense are receivers--Oklahoma tight end Keith Jackson and Stanford running back Brad Muster. A third would have been Ohio State's Cris Carter.
Almost certain to eclipse the above, however, is Notre Dame's Tim Brown, who averaged 15 yards every time he touched the ball. And Brown touches it a lot. His coach, Lou Holtz, has said that the only way to keep the ball out of Brown's hands is to intercept the pass from center.
That's a good one, Lou.
2. SPEAKING OF LOU, IS THIS THE YEAR THEY WIN ONE FOR THE QUIPPER?
Probably not. The best little 5-6 team in the country last season--the Irish lost five games by a total of 14 points--once again has a tough schedule, third-toughest as rated by the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. And although they have Tim Brown, there is some question as to whether there is anybody to give him the ball.
Quarterback Terry Andrysiak can run the option, but can he pass it? Terry Rice, a sophomore, may be the man to do it.
"They tell me he can throw the ball 80 yards," Holtz says. "I just don't know whether it's to our guys or not."
Lou, you kill us.
3. WHY IS PENNSYLVANIA FOOTBALL THE WAY TO BET?
Because Penn State, the defending champion, has the longest winning streak in big-top football at 12 games, and Pennsylvania has the longest in Division I-AA at 11. However, the longest unbeaten streak is 50 games and that belongs to Augustana of Rock Island, Ill. It's been four years since Augustana lost a game or didn't win the Division III football championship.
Poor Columbia is the flip side. The Ivy League team hasn't won in three years, during a 31-game losing streak. Coach Larry McElreavy said he "did not find the season at all fulfilling." If this season is any less fulfilling, Columbia will break the all-time losing streak of of 34--set by Northwestern--Oct. 11 when it plays Princeton.
4. HOW COMICAL WILL THIS YEAR'S PUSH FOR THE HEISMAN TROPHY GET?
Not as comical as last year's when Temple put out a comic book for Paul (Boo Boo) Palmer, but there are possibilities. At Florida, they have invested $5,000 in a campaign for Kerwin Bell, most of the money going into a color poster titled "For Whom the Bell Tolls." Well, we know where he toils, anyway.
Bell, actually, is a deserving candidate, with the kind of hook that pulls in votes. He's a walk-on fifth stringer who not only cracked a big-time lineup but who has thrown for an awesome 5,816 yards and 47 touchdowns. However, because of previous NCAA sanctions at his school, Bell has yet to play a televised game or be seen by a bowl crowd.
Highest returning vote-getter, fifth, is Holy Cross' Gordie Lockbaum, whose hook is that he was a Division I-AA All-American on offense and defense. The campaign is low-key, although Holy Cross publicist Greg Burke invested bus fare to take Lockbaum to the big city--"The Clampetts go to New York," Burke snorted. Most of the attention has come to Lockbaum unbidden, but he will do more magazine and network interviews than other candidates combined.
Other, more likely candidates such as Michigan State's Lorenzo White, UCLA's Gaston Green and Notre Dame's Tim Brown apparently intend to campaign on their own merits. Nobody--yet--has contacted a New York PR firm as Oklahoma's Bosworth did last year.
5. WHO'S ON THE HOT SEAT THIS YEAR?
Would you believe Miami's Jimmy Johnson, whose Hurricanes came within one bowl win of a national championship in each of the last two seasons?