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COLLEGE FOOTBALL : Francesa Stirs Fifth-Down Debate Again

November 15, 1990|RICK WARNER | ASSOCIATED PRESS

Like a nagging cold or a persistent salesman, the fifth-down controversy just won't go away.

The uproar over Colorado's disputed 33-31 victory over Missouri started to fade a few weeks after the Oct. 6 game. But CBS commentator Mike Francesa is stirring it up again.

Francesa, one of 60 voters in the Associated Press college football poll, is troubled by the fact that Colorado scored the winning touchdown on what proved to be an illegal extra down. So troubled that the second-ranked Buffaloes might not get his vote as national champion even if they beat No. 1 Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl.

"If it's a close situation, that (fifth-down) game could be a factor," Francesa says.

And what's a close situation? Francesa says that if Colorado barely beats Notre Dame and third-ranked Miami or No. 4 Georgia Tech rout their bowl opponents, he might vote the Hurricanes or Yellow Jackets No. 1.

"Think about it," Francesa says. "If that happens, you'd be talking about an unbeaten Tech team vs. a Colorado team with one loss, one tie and one shadowy game."

Francesa recently infuriated Colorado fans by making similar remarks on a Denver radio station.

"He's not going to win any popularity contests out here," says Dave Plati, the school's sports information director.

Like other Colorado defenders, Plati points out that the Buffaloes intentionally spiked the ball on the next-to-last play because they thought it was third down. It actually was the fourth down, but a mixup by the officials gave Colorado another play, which turned out to be the winning 1-yard sneak by Charles Johnson.

Plati says the Buffaloes wouldn't have spiked the ball had they known it was the fourth down.

"Doesn't he (Francesa) know the facts?" Plati says. "Why should we be punished for playing under the guidelines we were given? People think we're the villain because they think we cheated. And that's just not true."

Francesa considers the victory tainted even though it was upheld by the Big Eight.

Despite his reservations about the fifth-down game, Francesa says he would vote the Buffaloes No. 1 if they win impressively on New Year's Day and no other team makes a convincing case for the national championship.

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