Who's No. 1? They Both Are : Washington: After some early-morning tension, James is brought to tears by his first national title.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

"A great day in the life of a football coach," as an emotional Don James described his Thursday, didn't start out so well.

About 15 minutes past midnight, James took a call from Don Borst, a reporter for the Tacoma News Tribune, who told him that Miami had been voted No. 1 in the Associated Press sportswriters' and broadcasters' football poll, with Washington finishing second.

More than six hours later, James still hadn't heard the results of the USA Today/CNN poll, and he feared the worst.

He turned to his wife of almost 40 years and said: "Carol, it's 9:30 back East. We haven't won it. No one's called us (because) no one wants to give us the bad news."

For 11 agonizing minutes, they relived the pain they had experienced after the 1984 season, when a once-beaten Washington team finished second behind unbeaten Brigham Young in both polls.

"You can't imagine what we went through," Carol said. "We just felt every kind of bitter disappointment. . . .

"It was almost like somebody in the family had died."

Then, at 6:41 a.m., the phone rang in the couple's Anaheim hotel room. Husband and wife looked at each other. Carol asked, hesitantly: "Shall I get it?"

Said Don: "You may as well."

On the other end was Rob Roller, a representative of the company that makes the $35,000 trophy awarded to the winner of the USA Today/CNN poll.

The news was good: Washington had won its first national championship, beating out Miami by a narrow margin in a vote of James' peers, his fellow coaches.

Carol screamed, handed the phone to her husband and, she said, "just started going berserk, knocking on the children's doors and getting everybody up."

Roller said later that James seemed to be out of breath.

"You could tell it was emotional, so I just hung up," Roller said.

Carol ran back into the room, where she and her husband "hugged and kissed and cried."

Three hours later, James was still emotional.

"It's so difficult to express the feeling I have for these kids," James said, his voice cracking and tears streaming down his face as he spoke at a news conference. "For them to not get a piece of (the national championship) would have been a tragedy.

"I don't mind sharing it. Miami's got a great team. We've got a great team. Everybody can argue forever about who's the best. That doesn't matter."

Washington and Miami both wrapped up 12-0 seasons Wednesday, Washington crushing Michigan, 34-14, in the Rose Bowl and Miami overpowering Nebraska, 22-0, in the Orange Bowl.

Several Husky players seemed satisfied with the voting.

"It wouldn't have been fair if one of us would have gotten shut out," said Dana Hall, a senior cornerback from Ganesha High in Pomona.

Washington's senior center, Ed Cunningham, thought the Huskies might win both polls after their dismantling of Michigan.

"In my opinion, if we played like we did in the second and third quarters, there isn't any team in a long time that could even play on the same field with us," he said.

Still, he couldn't find fault with Miami sharing the title.

If two teams finish unbeaten, they both deserve to win the national championship, Cunningham said, "unless it's a team that's playing a bunch of high school (opponents)--unless it's BYU playing a bunch of WAC teams.

"For us to do it, and for Miami to do it against quality opponents, it's a really tough thing to do.

"I'd like to play Miami, but it's just not going to happen. The fact is, we're both 12-0, we're both great football teams. To share it, it's kind of like kissing your sister, but it's part of the deal."

Quarterback Billy Joe Hobert said that, to a man, the Huskies believe they are better than the Hurricanes, and would love to get a chance to prove it.

But Hobert added: "I'm not going to dog Miami in any way. They had a great season. They beat Florida State at Florida State. They deserve it as much as we do."

Hobert wasn't even expected to be a starter this season, but he took over when Mark Brunell injured his right knee in spring practice, led the Huskies to their first unbeaten season in 75 years and shared Rose Bowl player of the game honors with Steve Emtman, the Huskies' All-American defensive tackle and winner of the Outland Trophy.

When Brunell was injured, James didn't believe an unbeaten season was possible.

"I thought we had received one of the most severe blows that any team could get," James said.

But Hobert played as well as any first-year quarterback he has coached, James said, and the Huskies were doggedly determined after an upset loss to UCLA cost Washington a possible national championship last season.

The Huskies dominated almost every team they played, using an aggressive, attacking defense.

"It fed more motivation to them," James said of the loss to UCLA last season. "You say, 'We're just inches away. We've got the ability. Let's crank it up.' And we came back bigger and stronger and faster than we were last year."

Carol James said that she and her husband talked throughout the season about what it would mean to win a national championship.

"I can't say we felt that we'd go to our grave a failure if we didn't get it, but it's every coach's dream," she said. "He really wanted this, but he's so stoic, he doesn't show his emotions. He was willing to split it. That didn't matter. We weren't selfish about it at all."

Anything less, however, would have been difficult to take.

"There were 11 minutes there where Carol and I were about as low as you can get, and then we were as high as you can get," James said. "You talk about the outhouse to the penthouse. We made that run."

Final Polls

A look at the season-ending college football polls that produced a split vote for the national championship.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Voting by sportswriters and sportscasters. First-place votes in parentheses. Total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote.

No. School Record Points 1. Miami (32) 12-0-0 1,472 2. Washington (28) 12-0-0 1,468 3. Penn State 11-2-0 1,342 4. Florida State 11-2-0 1,310 5. Alabama 11-1-0 1,216 6. Michigan 10-2-0 1,151 7. Florida 10-2-0 1,119 8. California 10-2-0 1,039 9. East Carolina 11-1-0 1,024 10. Iowa 10-1-1 883

USA TODAY/CNN

Voting by coaches. First-place votes in parentheses. Total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote.

No. School Record Points 1. Washington (33 1/2) 12-0-0 1,449 1/2 2. Miami (25 1/2) 12-0-0 1,440 1/2 3. Penn State 11-2-0 1,321 4. Florida State 11-2-0 1,292 5. Alabama 11-1-0 1,191 6. Michigan 10-2-0 1,071 7. California 10-2-0 1,027 8. Florida 10-2-0 1,020 9. East Carolina 11-1-0 1,003 10. Iowa 10-1-1 944

A Close Call

A closer look at the final AP college football poll.

CLOSEST FINAL POLLS

The five closest polls, by points, for the AP's top ranking.

Year Margin Result 1991 4 Miami over Washington 1961 16 Alabama over Ohio State 1984 20 BYU over Washington 1989 22 Miami over Notre Dame 1960 22 1/2 Minnesota over Mississippi

THE VOTE

Regional breakdown of first-place votes:

* EAST: Miami (6); Split (2); Washington (1)

* SOUTH: Washington (7); Miami (6);

*Split (1)

* MIDWEST: Miami (6); Washington (6); Split (3)

* SOUTHWEST: Miami (4); Washington (2); Split (1)

* FAR WEST: Washington (8); Miami (6); Split (1)

* SULLIVAN TO COACH TCU

Pat Sullivan, Heisman Trophy winner in 1971, is named coach at Texas Christian. C3

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