Bolder in Boulder
This much is certain about Colorado's first-year coach, Rick Neuheisel: Either he will revolutionize the way players are coached, or it will be another millennium before an athletic director dares to hire someone like him. During the summer Neuheisel threw a party for members of the athletic department, boosters and friends at his house outside Boulder. When the guitar-playing Neuheisel and his band got too loud, the cops arrived to quiet things down. During a post-practice run last month, he ordered a group of freshmen to pull over above Boulder Creek, and the rookies spent an hour inner-tubing. Doesn't exactly conjure memories of Bear Bryant's "march to the desert."
For now, Colorado fans just smile and shake their heads at the Camp Rick shtick. "When people see us doing something like inner-tubing, they probably think, 'There goes that crazy guy again,' " says the 34-year-old Neuheisel, who debuted with a 43-7 victory over Wisconsin last Saturday. "But having some fun doesn't mean you're not preparing your team to play." Says junior quarterback Koy Detmer, "I think it's the right approach. If he acted like an older coach, I think we would have a harder time relating to him. And we know he can coach."
Nobody questions that Neuheisel can coach quarterbacks. And in Koy Detmer, the younger brother of 1990 Heisman Trophy winner Ty, Neuheisel believes he has someone special. He is so smitten by Koy that he was telling audiences during the off-season that Detmer is "the next Joe Montana." "He sees a football field and pass patterns in his head," Neuheisel says. "Even Kordell Stewart and Troy Aikman, whom I coached and who are phenomenal players, needed time to acquire that skill."
Indeed, despite the attention surrounding Neuheisel's debut, Detmer's reemergence might have been the more highly anticipated event by Colorado fans. Against the Badgers, Detmer threw for 267 yards and three touchdowns, numbers that recalled his freshman season, in 1992, when he passed for 418 yards in an emergency starting role against Oklahoma. But he felt he wasn't ready to push for the starter's job; he redshirted the next year and spent 1994 as Stewart's backup. "It was the right decision," Detmer says of the redshirt year. "There was no need to rush."
He has kept folks waiting before. When Koy was four, Ty and some of the older neighborhood kids conscripted him to play center. Later he was forced to play on the defensive line because, says his mother, Betty, "The older kids enjoyed dragging Koy around while he clutched their ankles." Despite his precociousness as a passer, Koy nonetheless grew so attached to playing in the line that he repeatedly resisted attempts by Pop Warner coaches to switch him to quarterback. When Betty would suggest he reconsider, Koy would cry. After he collected himself, he would fold his arms and say to his mother, "Then tell them I'm never coming back to practice."
Koy finally relented, and by the time he graduated from Mission ( Texas) High School, where he played for his father, Sonny, he had broken the state career passing record. Now his eyes are on a bigger prize. When Ty went to New York to accept his Heisman five years ago, Koy was the only family member not to make the trip. "I had a basketball game," says Koy, "and my father is of the philosophy that when you belong to a team, you don't skip anything." But Betty says there was another reason for leaving Koy at home: "Sonny felt that Koy would someday get his chance. Just a hunch."
Play or Nay?
When a judge denied an injunction two weeks ago that would have allowed Alani Pahulu to play this season at Kansas, a couple of questions were raised: At what point does the injury risk inherent to football become unacceptable? And what control should a player have over whether or not he plays?
Pahulu, a senior defensive tackle, was born with cervical spinal stenosis, a developmental narrowing of his cervical canal. The congenital condition came to the attention of the Jayhawk coaching staff in the spring of 1994, shortly after Pahulu transferred to Kansas from Ricks Junior College in Rexburg, Idaho. While converging on a tackle with Jayhawk defensive back Tony Blevins during the final spring scrimmage, the 6'5", 290-pound Pahulu was struck on the head by Blevins's helmet. According to Kansas team physician Stephen Munns, that hit caused an episode of transient quadriplegia, a temporary loss of sensation and motor control below the neck due to a contusion to the spinal cord. Although Pahulu regained feeling quickly and walked off the field, three weeks later, after a thorough examination revealed the cervical stenosis, Munns ruled him ineligible to play. Pahulu sat out the season and was limited to weight training and conditioning.