Majors is a throwback to the days when coaches cast long shadows over their campuses. But today football coaches have become robots who don't so much coach teams as "run programs," like so many CEOs in pin-striped suits.
Why are the Bears and Woodys and, yes, Johnnys a dying breed? The answer is complex. The parity brought on by scholarship limitations, increased scrutiny by the press and the NCAA, and pressure to succeed nationally—instead of just regionally—have combined to make it difficult for coaches to survive long enough to become cult figures. Who out there still qualifies as an icon? The list is certainly shorter than it was 20 years ago, and it's one shorter than it was last week.
Punters are usually relegated to the coffin corner of the sports page even though games often turn on their toes. This year, however, there are several men whose legs are worth noting—and whose stories are interesting, to boot.
•Before transferring to Texas-El Paso in 1991, Ed Bunn punted for Los Angeles Valley Junior College. He put himself through school there as a repo man, reclaiming cars from owners who were behind on their payments. Bunn earned as much as $600 a night, but the job was not without its hazards: Insolvent car owners broke Bunn's ankle once, fractured his wrist four times and stabbed him on three occasions. Once, after hooking up a car to his tow truck in South Central L.A., he heard gunshots, "I gave it the gas and ran a couple of red lights and four stop signs," says Bunn, who escaped unscathed but later counted 12 bullet holes in the driver's side door of his truck. Before breaking his left leg against New Mexico last Saturday, Bunn was averaging 48.3 yards per kick.
•Kansas junior Dan Eichloff was born in Germany and didn't see an American football game until he was 12, when his family moved to Fort Lauderdale. Last season Eichloff became only the fourth player to rank among the top 12 nationally in both field goals (second) and punting (12th). This year he's averaging 41.0 yards per punt, and his 15-for-17 record in field goals includes a 61-yarder—the longest in the nation in '92—against Ball State.
•As a redshirt freshman at North Carolina. Mike Thomas is the leading punter in the ACC, with a 43.3-yard average. If Thomas doesn't make it to the pros with his foot, there's always his arm—he is the Tar Heel's backup quarterback. Then again there's his bat—he hit .301 last summer for the Bluefield Orioles, a rookie league team in the Baltimore chain.
•Texas A&M senior David Davis comes from Loop, Texas, a farming community 60 miles southwest of Lubbock. Loop High is so small—there were six students in Davis's senior class—that it plays six-man football. Davis, who's averaging 45.1 yards per kick, is only the second product of a six-man football program to play for the Aggies. The first was Jack Pardee, the Houston Oiler coach who was an All-America in 1956 before he went on to a 15-year playing career in the pros.
•Ordinarily a punt returner loves to have only the punter remaining between him and the end zone, but that's not the case with Brigham Young's opponents. The Cougars' punter is 6'7", 280-pound senior Brad Hunter, who's also one of their defensive tackles. Against New Mexico, Hunter boomed a 50-yarder and then tackled the return man at the BYU 15 to save a touchdown. Hunter the punter is averaging 47.5 yards per boot.
Rice, 5-4 after its 34-31 defeat of Baylor, needs to win only one of its last two games, against Navy and Houston, for its first winning season since 1963.... Wofford retired Shawn Graves's number before his last home game, a 24-22 win over Bowie State. Graves holds nine NCAA records, including most rushing yards in a career by a quarterback (5,128).