A Payoff but No Playoff
The bowl alliance established last week among most of college footballs major conferences and Notre Dame will cut down on New Year's Day channel-hopping and enrich the top programs, but it falls short of assuring a national championship game. Under the new deal, which will take effect for the 1995 season, the Fiesta, Orange and Sugar bowls will host the champions of the ACC, the Big East, the SEC and the Big 12 (a conference to be composed of the Big Eight and four schools from the Southwest Conference), as well as two at-large teams. The three bowls will be played between Dec. 31 and Jan. 2, with the fourth-and sixth-ranked teams within the group squaring off first, followed by a prime-time game between Nos. 3 and 5. The final game, between the top two teams, will rotate among the three sites.
The alliance severs conference tie-ins with the Sugar and Orange bowls that have impeded dream pairings in the past. And by spreading the games over several days, the alliance will heighten anticipation for the finale. But as long as the Big Ten and Pac-10 champs meet in the Rose Bowl, the three-bowl coalition may well not include the country's No. 1 or No. 2 team. Moreover, because the alliance calls for the coalition to lake the four conference champions, regardless of where they stand in the Top 20, it's possible that low-ranked teams will crack the lineup.
With the Rose Bowl contract up in 2000, the same year the new alliance deal ends, it is tempting to envision the next millennium as the dawn of a brave, new world—a national college football playoff. That prospect should appeal to the sport's powers. Even though the alliance can't guarantee a title game, TV executives like it enough to pump big bucks into the three bowls, raising their average payday from around $4 million per participating team last season to as much as $8.6 million. A playoff format would drive those figures much, much higher.
There's a problem, however, with that scenario: greed. Last week's alliance profits only those conferences and independents that participate. Under NCAA bylaws the dollars from any national-championship tournament must be divided among all member institutions, not just those that qualify for the tournament. So between now and the turn of the century, expect those bylaws to be amended. Says one source, "The schools that have equity in college football, that bring it the glitz, want to keep the money."
Comings and Goings
The Florida Marlins' 9-8 win over the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 3, in which Marlin reliever Robb Nen earned the save and Dave Otto worked 1? innings for the Cubs, marked the first time in major league history that two palindromic pitchers appeared in the same game. Apprised afterward of the momentous event, Nen said, "Wow!"
Play It As It Flies
It was the best drive he had hit all day, but never did Randall Kemp imagine his ball would go as far as it did. Playing recently with four friends at the Highlands Golf Course in Bella Vista, Ark., Kemp, a 31-year-old physician from Wetumka, Okla., drove his tee shot on the 14th hole 250 yards down the middle of the fairway. Next up, George Miles sliced his drive into the woods.
That was when the black helicopter flew in low and fast over the trees and landed on the narrow fairway at the spot where Kemp's drive had come to rest. As the golfers looked on from the tee in amazement, a man none of them had ever seen jumped out of the copter, plucked Kemp's ball from the grass and climbed back in as the chopper took off and zoomed away. "It was just a regular old ball," says the still baffled Kemp. "I don't know why anyone would take it."
Kemp and his buddies reported the inexplicable ball-snatching to the course manager, who, after satisfying himself that none of the golfers had been drinking, called the cops. A foursome following Kemp's group also reported seeing the helicopter. The Bella Vista sheriff's department checked with every airport in the area, but none had any record of a helicopter either taking off or landing that day. So far, the mystery chopper has not been seen again.