The regular season almost complete, we offer you a seat at our very own college football awards banquet. The envelopes, please:
COACH OF THE YEAR--Bobby Ross, Georgia Tech.
Our other nominees include David McWilliams of Texas, Steve Spurrier of Florida, Howard Schnellenberger of Louisville, George Welsh of Virginia and Curley Hallman, formerly of Southern Mississippi. Ross edged Hallman, who was hired Tuesday as the new coach at Louisiana State, because he did the most--a 9-0-1 record, a No. 2 ranking--with the least. The Yellow Jackets have won as many as nine games only twice in the last 20 years. And they haven't won 10 games since 1956. Ask opposing coaches to list their top five peers, and Ross' name is almost always mentioned.
BEST DEFENSIVE LINEMAN--Russell Maryland, Miami.
With apologies to Chris Zorich of Notre Dame (a close second), Moe Gardner of Illinois, Kenny Walker of Nebraska and Mitch Donahue of Wyoming, Maryland is simply the best.
BEST LINEBACKER--Alfred Williams, Colorado.
Offensive linemen refer to him as Mr. Williams. Honorable mentions went to Miami's Maurice Crum and Notre Dame's Michael Stonebreaker.
BEST DEFENSIVE BACK--Darryl Lewis, Arizona.
Georgia Tech's Ken Swilling is a magnificent player, but he's only a junior and he was hobbled by an ankle injury for part of the season. Florida's Will White and Michigan's Tripp Welborne are stars, but week in, week out, no defensive back played better than Lewis.
BEST OFFENSIVE LINEMAN--Joe Garten, Colorado.
There are reasons why running back Eric Bieniemy gained all those yards this year. Garten is one of them. Tennessee's Antone Davis, Clemson's Stacy Long and Auburn's Ed King weren't far behind.
BEST RECEIVER--Herman Moore, Virginia.
No contest. Moore is a slightly slower version of Jerry Rice. Second place went to Stanford's Ed McCaffrey.
BEST RUNNING BACK--Eric Bieniemy, Colorado.
Tough choice. Greg Lewis of Washington, Chuck Weatherspoon of Houston, Darren Lewis of Texas A&M and Mike Mayweather of Army all had remarkable seasons. We chose Bieniemy over Lewis by the nose of a football.
BEST QUARTERBACK--Ty Detmer, Brigham Young.
As tough as year-old beef jerky, Detmer, a junior, is only 744 yards short of becoming the NCAA career passing leader. Virginia's Shawn Moore deserves mention, as do Houston's David Klingler and San Diego State's Dan McGwire.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR--Ty Detmer, BYU.
It is as simple as this: Notre Dame flanker Raghib Ismail is the most talented and exciting player in college football, but Detmer had, all things considered, the best season. Detmer didn't miss a game; Ismail missed a game and a half. Detmer accounted for 4,869 yards and 38 touchdowns this season, with one game remaining; Ismail handled the ball only 125 times for 1,537 all-purpose yards and five touchdowns. There is no doubting Ismail's impact on a game--he redefines the way it is played. But Detmer's record-breaking performances were too good to ignore.
Our apologies to George Allen. We didn't think Cal State Long Beach would win one game; the 49ers won six. Go figure.
With that said, a story about Allen, courtesy of Louisville Coach Howard Schnellenberger:
In 1961, Alabama's Bear Bryant hired Schnellenberger as an assistant coach. Bryant paid him a salary of $9,000. In 1965, after helping Bryant win three national championships, Schnellenberger was earning $13,000.
Along came Allen, who was coach of the Rams. Allen offered Schnellenberger an assistant's job and about a $6,000 raise.
"That's fine," Schnellenberger said, "but I also need a car."
Allen replied: "Oh, we'll get you a car. Don't you worry about that."
Schnellenberger said: "OK, if you can guarantee me that salary and a car, I'll come to Los Angeles."
Said Allen: "It's guaranteed."
So Schnellenberger left Alabama and, as promised, got a new job, a raise and a wonderful new car.
One day, after the season ended, Schnellenberger's phone rang. "Is this the person who drives a 1966 Chevrolet, license plate number CRZ 193?" asked the voice.
"Yes, it is," Schnellenberger said.
"Well, this is the rental car agency. We need our car back."
"You what?" Schnellenberger said.
"The car . . . we need the car back. You need to come in and pay the bill."
"How much is that?" Schnellenberger asked.
Allen had rented the car. By the week.
Schnellenberger presented the bill to Allen, who presented it to a stunned Ram front office, which paid the tab. By the way, Schnellenberger also got another car.
We aren't afraid to admit our many mistakes. Here's our scorecard of preseason predictions:
--Allen, you know about. We'll never doubt him again.
--We said Georgia, Houston and Louisville would be the three surprise teams of the year. Two out of three isn't bad.
--We said Ismail would win the Heisman Trophy but that Detmer was most deserving of the statuette. The award ceremony is Saturday.
--We said the winner of the Auburn-Florida State game would determine which team finished the regular season ranked No. 1. We weren't even close.