This Comment Draws a Doubting Thomas

During the Orange Bowl telecast Wednesday night, commentator Bill Walsh no doubt raised the hackles of a lot of high school football coaches across America.

He said the fact that three Florida schools were in New Year's Day bowl games was proof that "the state of Florida plays the best high school football in the country."

It sounded as if he had crawled far out on a shaky limb with that line, but he might be right. A cross-check of home towns with the starters (including kickers and punters) of Miami, Florida State and Florida showed that 62 of 72 were indeed Floridians.

For Miami, 21 of 24 starters were from Florida; for Florida, 22 of 24, and for Florida State, 19 of 24.

But does it really prove that Florida prep football is better than that played in, say, California or Pennsylvania? No, says Stan Thomas, commissioner of athletics for the 485-high school Southern Section of the California Interscholastic Federation.

"Bill Walsh is a product of the L.A. City schools system (Washington High), and he should know better than to come up a conclusion like that," Thomas said.

"All it means is those three Florida schools--all of whom play in good weather--do a good job of keeping those prospects in Florida. California kids play for colleges all over the country. Just count the number of California kids who started for Washington in the Rose Bowl."

It was nine of 24.

Wait a minute: Once again, football people are stretching matters on 40-yard dash times. Miami claims that wide receiver Kevin Williams runs the 40-yard dash in 4.28 seconds.

Retorts longtime Times sportswriter Mal Florence: "Bob Hayes, who was an Olympic champion sprinter and world record-holder (and Dallas Cowboy receiver) once told me he never ran the 40 faster than 4.3."

Trivia time: Name the only other Pacific 10 football team to go 12-0, as Washington just did.

By a whisker?Newsday's Steve Jacobson, on why he will vote for the induction of former relief pitcher Rollie Fingers into baseball's Hall of Fame: " . . . He should be the first pure relief pitcher elected. He had a major league-record 341 saves and the best mustache in the modern era."

Professor Bubka's Economics 101: Sergei Bubka, the record-breaking pole vaulter from the former Soviet Union, was a first-rate capitalist even before the empire began breaking up. According to track and field promoter Al Franken, Bubka--the only man to clear 20 feet in the event--has an arrangement with his sponsor, Nike, whereby he gets a cash bonus every time he breaks his world record.

Naturally, he has chosen to do it a little at a time.

"He's broken the indoor and outdoor record 28 times, but usually by about a quarter-inch," Franken said.

"His indoor record is 20 feet 1 inch. That tells me he'll clear 20 feet 1 1/4 inches at our Sunkist meet (Feb. 15 at the Sports Arena)."

Uh, thanks, dear: Before his team lost to the Houston Oilers last weekend, New York Jet Coach Bruce Coslet said his wife had pointed out the team was better than its 8-8 record and could beat Houston (11-5) in the playoffs.

"Her theory was that Houston will take us lightly because we're 8-8," he said. "But she said we're really 11-5 because we beat Chicago, New England and Indianapolis."

So how did Coslet respond to his wife?

"I said: 'When's dinner?' "

Believe it or not: Washington's football team has the longest winning-seasons streak in the Pac-10, with 15. Second, with two consecutive winning seasons, is California.

Trivia Answer: USC, in 1972.

Quotebook: Former Dallas backup quarterback Babe Laufenberg, on Cowboy Coach Jimmy Johnson: "If he wanted me to run 26 miles through hills, I would. If he wanted me to carry water bottles, I would. If he wanted me to get my hair cut like his . . . well, you have to draw the line somewhere."

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