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These Days, the Product Sells Itself

The making of a Heisman Trophy winner through a public relations campaign, once standard procedure for college sports information directors, is fast fading from the football scene.

In the age of CNN, ESPN, USA Today and telephone conference calls that accommodate 50 or so reporters at a time, the best PR campaign is one that does almost nothing, letting the candidate and his statistics do the talking, several sports information directors told Natalie Meisler of the Denver Post.

So it was that Michigan did little in the way of promoting wide receiver Desmond Howard, who is expected to win this year’s Heisman tonight.

Michigan didn’t even point out that Howard’s scoring output this season--23 touchdowns--surpassed that of last year’s Heisman runner-up, Raghib (Rocket) Ismail, for his entire Notre Dame career.

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“No need to,” Michigan’s Bruce Madej said. “Everybody’s writing about it.”

Madej became worried, however, that his campaign of understatement would be harmed when Howard struck the Heisman statue pose in the end zone after scoring against Ohio State.

According to Meisler, Madej later told Howard: “Don’t do those things to me. We don’t want anything to goof it up.”

Add Heisman: Perhaps the worst case of Heisman hype occurred in 1989, according to Meisler, when West Virginia flooded news outlets with weekly postcards promoting quarterback Major Harris. Wrote Meisler: “Ostensibly written by Harris, with messages such as ‘Watch me on ESPN,’ the messages came each week with different handwriting.”

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Trivia time: Only three college football coaches have had five consecutive 10-victory seasons in the modern era. Who are they?

Cashing in: Even though he has been banned from baseball because of his gambling activities and has spent time in prison for tax evasion, Pete Rose is still a big draw on the autograph circuit, where he earns about $10,000 for a three-hour signing session, according to Newsday’s Steve Marcus.

“He even signs the Dowd Report (the document that said Rose bet on baseball),” a New York promoter, Harvey Brandwein, told Marcus.

Rose told Marcus that his oft-criticized appearance on the Home Shopping Network to sell memorabilia on the night his banishment from baseball was announced in 1989 was a matter of necessity.

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Said Rose: “I lost a $750,000 job that day as manager of the Reds. . . . I needed the money. . . . Why is it OK for Johnny Bench or Reggie Jackson or Ted Williams or Joe DiMaggio to do card shows or the Home Shopping Club, but when I do it, I’m a whore?”

Late night: Rice basketball Coach Scott Thompson got more than he bargained for when his team held a “midnight madness” practice session on Oct. 15, the official start of college basketball practice. Thompson arrived home after the practice barely in time to drive his wife, Rebecca, to the hospital for the 3 a.m. birth of Aubrey Ann, the couple’s second child.

Jolly good fellow: Ed Sherman of the Chicago Tribune offered this Christmas wish: “Just once, please let (Florida State Coach) Bobby Bowden win a national championship. On a nice scale, Bowden is the Santa Claus of coaches. He’s unfailingly polite, always has time for everybody, and in a profession where insincerity is the standard, this coach is the king of sincere.”

Trivia answer: Bud Wilkinson of Oklahoma (1954-58), Bear Bryant of Alabama (1971-75) and Bowden (1987-91).

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Quotebook: Bowden, when asked to explain the 9-2-1 success his Seminoles have enjoyed in bowl games: “Pure luck.”


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