Miami Coach Jimmy Johnson tells a story that’s almost too good to be true.
He says he got a call at his office from someone identifying himself as a Notre Dame freshman. This was before Miami’s game with Florida State, about 6 weeks before the Notre Dame game, which is set for Oct. 15.
“I’m beating the rush,” the kid explained.
Johnson, puzzled, said, “Whaa,” or something like that.
“Yeah,” the kid said, “I hate you now.”
Few Notre Dame fans have been able to get that organized, even though Miami is a particularly hated rival. But Fighting Irish partisans are making up for lost time.
Johnson, whose teams have beaten Notre Dame by a combined score of 113-20 the last 3 years, reports 6 to 12 letters a day from last-minute haters. “Some of them are cute, some are irritating,” he said. “A lot of them I wouldn’t let my mother read.”
The top-ranked Hurricanes have had a week to catch up on their mail--they’re idle this weekend--while fourth-ranked Notre Dame continues in action at Pittsburgh.
Johnson has used the week off to beat the rush in a different way. Figuring that Notre Dame Coach Lou (“We are not a great football team”) Holtz will be bad-mouthing the Irish any day now, Johnson has gone on record with: “This is the greatest Notre Dame team we’ve seen since I’ve been here.”
He’s beating the rush. He loves them now.
Life in the Big Ten: It probably won’t figure as dramatically, but last week’s 10-10 tie between Iowa and Michigan State had Michigan Coach Bo Schembechler thinking about the Wolverines’ 10-10 tie with Ohio State, one that cost his team a trip to the Rose Bowl.
It was back in 1973, and because of the tie, both teams finished with records of 7-0-1 in the conference and 10-0-1 overall. Because Ohio State had gone to the Rose Bowl the year before, Schembechler fully expected the conference to send Michigan. But the athletic directors put it to a vote and, presumably because Michigan quarterback Dennis Franklin had a broken arm, decided to send Ohio State.
A year later, the Big Ten changed the selection procedure, even though Ohio State came through with a rare Rose Bowl win, more or less justifying their decision.
These days, most Big Ten coaches favor a tiebreaker, never mind a postseason vote.
“I’ve always been in favor of one,” Iowa’s Haden Fry said.
Added Michigan State’s George Perles: “Let’s have one similar to the one they have in the NFL.”
The only one hesitant was Ohio State’s John Cooper, whose team had just been walloped by Illinois.
“The way we’re playing, I don’t think it’s a very good idea,” he said. “When you’re 2-2 and 0-1 in the Big Ten, as Ohio State is, a tie sounds good.”
Life, cont.: The Buckeyes will play Indiana Saturday, a day that could be of some interest to cosmologists.
It was a year ago that the Hoosiers stampeded over Earle Bruce’s team, prompting the coach to call the defeat, Ohio State’s first by Indiana in 36 years, “the darkest day in Ohio State history.”
The Hoosiers (3-0-1) rank 5th in the nation in rushing, 10th in scoring and 12th in total offense. Ohio State, which has lost to Pittsburgh, 42-10, in addition to Illinois, 31-12, has had trouble on defense, you might say. This could be a veritable solar eclipse.
Oregon Coach Rich Brooks, following coach of the year Dick MacPherson of Syracuse to the podium at the National Collegiate Athletic Assn.'s football preview: “This is kind of like Twiggy following Dolly Parton.”
Twiggy apparently has filled out some. Brooks, who took over a disastrous program in 1977, has nursed Oregon to respectability. His team is ranked in the top 20 and is undefeated going up against USC Saturday.
Life in the Pac-10: The conference, which has the Nos. 2 and 3 teams in the country in UCLA and USC, is not just top-heavy. The league is 23-4 against outside opposition.
“This league is incredible,” Brooks said. “It’s always been a good league, but this year I don’t think there’s any question that from top to bottom, no league can come close to the Pac-10.”
This season’s great-running-back-you-never-heard-of is Oklahoma State’s Barry Sanders, a junior they hoped might someday fill in for the departed Thurman Thomas.
How about right now?
Sanders is leading the nation in rushing with 639 yards, an average of 9 a carry; all-purpose running with 309 yards a game, and scoring with 11 touchdowns. Thurman who?
Sanders’ strength is in his legs, which he developed by running stairs with his older brother, Byron, a running back at Northwestern. “I guess I’m built low to the ground,” he said.
His coach, Pat Jones, said: “He takes your breath away because you think he’s going to score every play.”