"I...uh...no," he said in the Mushy Denial of the Month. But Northwestern athletic director Rick Taylor admitted that UCLA had asked for and received permission to talk to Barnett. (The Wildcat coach is in the fourth year of a five-year contract, which was extended last season for an additional two years, and has discussed a new long-term deal of up to 12 years with school officials.) Then a Wildcat assistant coach called a USC assistant to ask about L.A.'s cost of living versus Evanston's. Well, you save on earmuffs. At press time Barnett was UCLA's No. 1 choice, but everybody was making like Joe Clam.
After the game, though, Barnett told his players, "I can't think of anywhere I'd rather be than standing in this locker room next year at the Rose Bowl."
Either way, USC was in a win-or-lose situation, which is to say, win or lose, the story was Northwestern. "I don't mind ruinin' their happy ending," Johnson said before the game. "They've had their fun. It's our turn now."
The Trojans had their fun and then some. "This saves our season," a defiant Robinson said in a jubilant USC locker room. "Let's see you all write that down."
"Everywhere I went, people wanted purple this and purple that," Johnson said. "They had Wheaties boxes with their pictures on it and all. I think they started to really believe it all." And then he shook his head and laughed, as if to say, Get real.
So it's time to face up to it. Ants can't carry away rubber tree plants, and rams don't knock holes in 1,000-kilowatt dams, and Northwesterns don't beat USCs in Rose Bowls.