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

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.”

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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.

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“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?

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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.’ ”

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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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Pitt’s Craig (Ironhead) Heyward, the Panthers’ designated whaleback, will start this week against North Carolina State, pretty much against Coach Mike Gottfried’s wishes. Heyward reported to camp weighing 258 pounds, which might be a lot for a tailback but was certainly too much for Gottfried. Gottfried’s mandatory diet hasn’t done much for Heyward’s figure in the meantime, but with fullback Tom Brown injured, Gottfried will have to start ol’ Ironhead anyway. On another subject, Gottfried said: “About 622 kickers from all parts of the country called, looking for a scholarship” in the aftermath of three missed field goals by Pitt’s Mark Brasco in the team’s loss to Maryland. Gottfried said one prospective kicker called him 15 times. “He even called campus police looking for me,” Gottfried said. “I called the guy back, but the number was a restaurant in Delaware. He must have had lunch and left.”

Not everybody’s forum is the newspaper when it comes to criticism. Clemson end Terence Mack says a woman who sits behind his bench every home game is driving him crazy. “It’s ‘Why don’t you do this? Why don’t you do that?’ ” Mack said. “Every game she is sitting there, hollering at me. I tried to ignore her for a while, but she won’t stop until I turn around.” If Mack had thought it would be different this season, he was wrong. He saw her at a shopping mall, and she told him, “I’ll be hollering at you this year.”

Kenny Lambiotte completed 24 of 34 passes for William and Mary last week, making him the most successful quarterback ever to transfer from Virginia’s basketball program. . . . Penn State quarterback John Shaffer, who led the Nittany Lions’ 45-15 defeat of Temple, may be his coach’s choice, but not the fans’. Still miffed over Shaffer’s performance in Penn State’s only loss last season, fans voted for his backup, Matt Knizner, in a newspaper poll, 355-73. . . . College football’s longest winning streak will be challenged this week when Augustana plays at Elmhurst in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin. Augustana, the Division III champion the last four years, has won 37 straight games.


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