Murray Sperber doesn't head the NCAA's most-disliked list--Jerry Tarkanian will forever hold that honor--but he's near the top.
Sperber, an English and American Studies professor at Indiana University, has written "College Sports Inc.," a book that trashes the august NCAA and also dispels several myths concerning major college football programs. For instance:
--True or false: More than 2,300 college athletic departments, many of which use football as their centerpiece sport, lose money every year.
True. According to Sperber, who spent four years conducting research for the book, only about 10 to 20 athletic programs yield an annual profit. That includes the 802 NCAA-member schools, 493 NAIA member institutions and 1,050 non-affiliated junior colleges.
Sperber also contends that athletic directors often "cook" their books, meaning they resort to creative accounting when completing their ledgers.
"Athletic departments should open their books," Sperber said in a telephone interview. "It's inexcusable that public universities won't reveal public records. If the books were open and the public could see the amounts of money lost, the waste and mismanagement, it would change people's minds about athletics."
Not surprisingly, few universities granted Sperber access to financial records. And only Stanford, a private school, allowed the author to study its ledgers. Indiana, his own employer, would not. Sperber's lawyer told him that Indiana would fight his request to see the athletic department's books "all the way to the state Supreme Court."
Sperber also guessed that UCLA and USC are making money with their football programs, "but I'd like to see their books. I bet you they're not making money across the board."
--True or false: Michigan, with its weekly sellouts at mammoth Michigan Stadium, its frequent appearances on national television and its annual bowl trips, doesn't have a financial worry in the world.
False. Bo Schembechler left Michigan with a $2.5-million deficit and the possibility of its growing to $5 million because of capital expenditures. This wasn't Schembechler's fault, Sperber said, but simply the reality of modern-day college athletics.
Sperber nominates Notre Dame's athletic department as the "best-run and best-financed."
--True or false: Blacks continue to make greater inroads on the collegiate coaching level.
False. Sperber's figures indicate that only 4% of the head coaches in football, basketball, baseball and track and field are black. Only 3% of all assistants in those sports are black.
"And of those assistants," Sperber said, "many are hired as recruiters. They're on the point, the dirtiest job in coaching."
Sperber saves some of his most pointed barbs for the NCAA. He calls it "a trade organization" for coaches and athletic directors. Worse yet, he said, the NCAA doesn't have the best interests of its member institutions in mind. Instead, NCAA committees fudge on graduation rates, refuse to recommend amending or abolishing antiquated recruiting and transfer rules and are incapable of truly addressing the ills facing college sports.
The season is still young, yet we have no qualms about making the following predictions:
Our reasoning: Oklahoma has been impressive but can't match the talent and depth of Colorado. Also, we think the Sooners will have a hard time winning at Boulder, Colo. Nebraska, as usual, is playing a flag-football schedule. The Cornhuskers' first difficult game doesn't come until Nov. 3, when they face Colorado at Lincoln, Neb. By then, the Buffaloes will have played Tennessee, Stanford, Illinois, Texas, Washington and Oklahoma. Barring major injuries, Colorado will win.
(2) Wyoming will upset Brigham Young in a Nov. 10 game that will help shape the entire bowl picture.
Our reasoning: For starters, undefeated Wyoming is a pretty good football team. The Cowboys have Mitch Donahue, 1989 Western Athletic Conference defensive player of the year, and an offense that has averaged more than 32 points a game this season. Donahue, a defensive end, caused a fumble, recorded one sack and had 11 tackles against Air Force last Saturday. He will cause the same kind of problems for the Cougars. Second, BYU quarterback Ty Detmer can't be perfect every game, can he? This will be the game in which he has a letdown.
(3) Boston College won't win a game this season.
Our reasoning: Coach Jack Bicknell should be playing Nebraska's schedule, not the one presented to him. Among his opponents are Penn State, West Virginia, Syracuse, Louisville and Miami. Good luck. The Eagles over-schedule and under-recruit. Most of his players, bless their hearts, are better suited for the Yankee Conference.
Our reasoning: This one's a reach: We figure North Carolina is better than it has played this year, and Maryland is better than anyone thought. Also, we picked Clemson to win the ACC title at season's beginning.
Can an offensive line contend for the Heisman Trophy? If so, we humbly submit the names of Michigan's Tom Dohring, Matt Elliot, Steve Everitt, Dean Dingman and Greg Skrepanek.
Dick Vermeil, the former UCLA and Philadelphia Eagle coach who is a color commentator on ABC's college telecasts, said the Wolverines have "the best collegiate offensive line in recent history." He might have a point. Against No. 1-ranked Notre Dame, these guys gave Michigan runners enough room to rush for 265 yards, including 201 by sophomore tailback Jon Vaughn.
The last time a player rushed for more than 200 yards against the Irish was in 1987. And Dohring, Elliot, Everitt, Dingman and Skrepanek didn't allow a sack, either.
As for last Saturday's game, well, UCLA can vouch for Michigan's blocking prowess. The Wolverines rushed a Nebraska-like 66 times, gaining 456 yards. Vaughn received the headlines--his 288 yards against the Bruins made him the first Michigan back to rush for more than 200 yards in consecutive games--but the Wolverine offensive line deserved the credit. Vaughn, no dummy, refused to meet the media after the UCLA game unless his blocking buddies were invited, too. The best people-mover of the five? Probably Skrepanek.
Virginia is celebrating. Never before have the Cavaliers reached No. 7 in the Associated Press football poll. Their highest AP ranking had been in 1952, when they climbed to No. 9.
Virginia quarterback Shawn Moore is the first player in ACC history to pass for more than 5,000 yards and rush for more than 1,000. His totals: 5,197 passing, 1,100 rushing. You don't suppose he will add a few more yards to his numbers when Virginia faces lightly regarded William & Mary Saturday, do you?
Tony Rice was a masterful option quarterback at Notre Dame, but newcomer Rick Mirer is proving the pass is mightier than the pitch.
For the second consecutive game, the Irish staged a fourth-quarter comeback, helped by a little luck and Mirer's passing ability. Mirer gives Notre Dame a weapon it didn't possess when Rice was the starter.
The Irish have an offense as balanced as any team in the country, but their defense continues to suffer breakdowns. Michigan State's Dan Enos completed 17 of 24 passes for 196 yards against Notre Dame, and the Spartans added another 117 yards on the ground.
In September alone, Detmer has thrown for 1,755 yards, which leads his next closest rival by almost 700 yards.
If Detmer can add 74 more yards to his total against Oregon Saturday--and he could do that on the first drive--he would become the NCAA record-holder for, ta-da, most passing yards in a month. Andre Ware, the Houston Heisman Trophy winner last year, holds the record of 1,828.
It isn't exactly a powerhouse program, but Gerry Faust's Akron team is undefeated.
Our top 10: (1) Auburn, (2) Notre Dame, (3) Florida State, (4) BYU, (5) Tennessee, (6) Virginia, (7) Texas A&M;, (8) Oklahoma, (9) Nebraska, (10) Washington.
Our waiting list: Florida, Houston, Miami, Colorado and Arizona.