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Mass exodus (cont.)

Posted: Wednesday January 11, 2006 11:15AM; Updated: Wednesday January 11, 2006 3:38PM
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Eight in the Box

1. Not the best week to be a high-profile Penn State coach. The National Organization of Women (NOW) wants Joe Paterno to resign immediately for insensitive comments he made before the Orange Bowl regarding Florida State linebacker A.J. Nicholson, who is being investigated for an alleged sexual assault (somewhere, Fisher DeBerry is smirking). NOW wants JoePa gone now. It sounds just like every sportswriter I know circa 2004.

Meanwhile, PSU women's basketball coach Rene Portland is fighting a two-front war. First, in his new autobiography, Geno: In Pursuit of Perfection (written with Jackie MacMullan), UConn coach Geno Auriemma lambasts Portland, a fellow Philly native, for her sour grapes concerning how the Huskies and the Lady Vols advanced to the Final Four in 2004. Geno reveals that on the day before the championship game between UConn and Tennessee, Portland received "some kind of lifetime achievement award." As part of her acceptance speech, Penn State's coach of 25 seasons said, "The only reason those two teams [UConn and Tennessee] are playing for the national championship tomorrow is bad seeding and bad officiating."

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Geno's response in the book? "My feeling is, 'Kiss my ass.'"

Meanwhile, Portland, who really is one of the pioneers of the sport (she and Illinois coach Theresa Grentz were the core of the first three AIAW national championship teams in women's college basketball, at Immaculata), is also being sued by a former player. Jennifer Harris claims that she was booted from the team following the Lady Lions' first-round loss in the NCAAs last March because she is gay. Penn State lost to Liberty (ah, irony).

On a recent ABC World News Tonight report, Harris claims that she was kicked off the team that very night. "I told her that I thought it was because she thought I was gay," said Harris, "and she told me, 'You know my views on that and I'm not changing. And I'm still gonna be the coach at Penn State and you'll still be gone.'"

Another former player, Cindy Davies, quit the team in her sophomore season in 1982 and also appeared in the ABC report. Davies claimed in the segment that she was pressured to quit the team because she was a lesbian.

2. Rose Bowl reminiscing: I stood behind the Texas bench as USC made its penultimate offensive drive (the fourth-and-2 series). There, seated on the bench, was Young, with Billy Pittman to his left and Selvin Young to his right. Vince sat calmly, as if he were a kid at a community pool waiting for the "adult swim" session to end. He didn't leave the bench until that fourth-and-2 play, and when he stood up, I noticed a quarter-sized tear in the left cheek of his football pants.

When USC failed to make the first down (and, yes, on the biggest offensive call of the Trojans' season, their 2005 Heisman Trophy winner was on the bench), I sprinted straight down to the end zone, just to the left of the goal posts, for what I hoped would be the best sight line if Texas did score.

3. On that fourth-and-5 play, by the way, one colleague pointed out that USC had three former walk-ons on the field playing defense: defensive back/twins Brandon and Ryan Ting and linebacker Collin Ashton. It's not that those three didn't deserve to be on the turf, it's just that when you consider how dominant the Trojans have been in recruiting the past few years, it's a little surprising. Then again, that's what happens when you recruit so well that your junior studs (can you say Lofa Tatupu?) declare early for the NFL Draft.

4. I like the idea of fraternal fisticuffs as displayed in the 1999 film Fight Club, but I don't care so much for the idea of permanent facial scarring. My solution: Pillowfight Club. I mean, who wouldn't enjoy that? The first rule of Pillowfight Club, by the way, is this: When we throw down, we throw down.

5. Time for some corrections: First, in my Rose Bowl review I reported that Trojan defensive back Thomas Terrell took off his shoulder pads and sat all alone on the Trojans' bench after the loss. Terrell wears No. 28, but so does Trojan running back Andre Woodert. And that's who I saw. Woodert was a senior playing in his final game. Terrell, who was injured and did not suit up, will be a redshirt junior next season.

Second, Mike Stoops was not the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma when the Sooners lost to LSU in the 2004 Sugar Bowl. Stoops had already left his big brother Bob's staff in Norman to tackle the job at Arizona.

Finally, in my piece on intriguing non-conference matchups next season, I omitted a Sept. 2 matchup between Washington State and host Auburn. The Cougs were only 4-7 last season, but the passing combo of quarterback Alex Brink and Biletnikoff Award semifinalist Jason Hill (62 catches, 13 TDs) returns. The Cougars must find people to step up in place of departing tailback -- and SI first-team All-American -- Jerome Harrison and linebacker (Good) Will Derting.

Auburn returns much of its offense, highlighted by tailback Kenny Irons.

Sorry I missed this game. I searched the Auburn Web site for a 2006 schedule but could not locate it and, to be honest, it gets tiresome phoning Stewart Mandel every five minutes and beginning each call with, "You wouldn't happen to know ... ?"

6. From the "I Am a Doctor, and I Play One on TV" files: Did anyone see the debut of The Bachelor: Paris on Monday night? Oh, c'mon, don't lie. The dude is a Duke doc named Travis whom the gals find dreamy (although SI's Mark Beech peevishly commented that he has "the Joker's jawline, but inverted"). The Nashville-based ER physician actually seems like a good egg.

In a voiceover early in the episode, the narrator had a cheesy line: "As an emergency room doctor, Travis has held many hearts in his hands, but now he'll have the hearts of 25 beautiful women." Something like that. I can only imagine the line they'd have written if he were a gynecologist (suddenly I'm Mike Tyson here).

Another doctor on the show was Allie G. (seriously, that's the billing they gave her), who informed Dr. Troy that she is ready to move to "the reproductive phase" of her life (girlfriend, you did NOT just go there!). Allie, geez! Cal had a better chance at the Rose last season than she did last night after that comment. And then she confronted him afterward for not picking her, which only validated his choice. Lord, I hope these two are doing a fellowship at Seattle Grace Hospital soon.

This handicapper's final three: Sarah B., cuz she's kooky and fun and an escape; Elizabeth, who seems to have recovered nicely from dating Charlie Salinger all those years ago; and Susan, cuz she's got the kind of figure that inspired the Black Eyed Peas' My Humps. And one wild card: Moana, cuz she has backbone and it's fun to say, "Moana" (Moe-ah-na).

7. Your leading returners for the 2006 season:

Leading rusher and all-purpose yardage guy? Garrett Wolfe, a 5-foot-7 senior-to-be tailback from Northern Illinois. Wolfe averaged 175.6 yards per game rushing to finish second this past season.

Leading passer? In terms of completions and yardage, it's junior-to-be Colt Brennan of Hawaii, whose favorite receiver, sophomore-to-be Davone Bess, is the top returnee in catches per game. For pass efficiency, it's Arizona State junior-to-be Rudy Carpenter, who replaced Sam Keller in midseason after Keller, who had done a great job, was lost to injury. Should be an interesting spring ball session in Tempe.

Giving the defense some love, two players stand out statistically. Mississippi senior-to-be linebacker Patrick "Whatchutalkinbout" Willis is the nation's leading returning tackler. For the down linemen, nobody else is in the class of Central Michigan's Dan Bazuin. The 6-3, 260-pound senior-to-be led the nation in tackles for loss, was second to Louisville All-America Dumervil in sacks (16) and is the top returning player in terms of forced fumbles. Bazuin's nickname is "Buzz," which is exactly what he'll be garnering in the preseason mags next summer.

8. Sign posted on every washing machine at my laundromat on W. 80th Street here in Manhattan: "DO NOT put person in this machine."


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