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October 13, 1997
Coach Cooper's dignity and decency have won him my long-standing support.SHERI HART, COLUMBUS, OHIO
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October 13, 1997


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Coach Cooper's dignity and decency have won him my long-standing support.

Tennessee Oilers
In your article about the lackluster attendance at the home opener of the Tennessee Oilers (Home Alone, Sept. 8) you missed two fundamental aspects of the situation. First, Nashville hates Memphis, and Memphis hates Nashville. This is an ongoing family feud that unfortunately must now be played out in the national spotlight. The lack of support for the Oilers derives from Memphis's lack of enthusiasm for supporting a team that will ultimately be Nashville's.

Second, we are new to this NFL thing. You're talking about a state that has for years migrated to Knoxville every fall Saturday, wearing orange and white. Allegiances don't change overnight, but I am proud to have the Oilers in my state.
C.D. WOLFE, Nashville

Had the Oilers played their home games this season and next in Nashville instead of in Memphis, the issue of no support would never have come up. The majority of the Oilers' 42,000 permanent-seat license holders come from the middle Tennessee area, and the 41,000-seat Vanderbilt Stadium would have been sold out for the season in advance. However, the Liberty Bowl had about 21,000 more seats in addition to more luxury suites, and greed won over common sense.

Also, asking fans in Nashville to make eight round trips of 420 miles each to Memphis is absurd. When the Oilers actually play in Nashville, in 1999, they will play before enthusiastic, sellout crowds.

Coach Cooper
Despite your glowing piece on Ohio State coach John Cooper (Cooper's Town, Sept. 8), his horrendous record in games that really count—1-7-1 versus Michigan and 3-13-2 in the final two games of the season—would lead most observers to conclude that he is the Dan Reeves of college football, i.e., its most overrated coach. However, those of us who have seen both coaches in action know that Cooper is more comparable to former Colorado coach Bill McCartney: a superb recruiter, organizer and planner whose abysmally boneheaded tactical decisions on game day could usually be overcome by his wealth of on-field talent and able assistants.

Cooper may be an honest, decent, industrious and genuinely likable guy, but he is a mediocre football coach.

It has become clear that anyone wishing to be the football coach at Ohio State should have his head examined. Even after a terrific season last year, the local paper was deluged with sage advice for the Ohio State trustees, such as, " John Cooper can't beat Michigan. Fire him and hire Lou Holtz." Cooper is a winner who has built an excellent program, but some fans would trade all of last year's victories for a win against Michigan. Maybe when the fate of Western civilization ceases to ride on one game, the players will be able to settle down, and winning will take care of itself.

One football coach who beat the Buckeyes' tradition of leaving under a cloud was Paul Brown. Before becoming Ohio State's coach in 1941, Brown led his alma mater, Massillon High, to four mythical national championships. After a three-year record at Ohio State of 18-8-1, including a national title, he left Columbus after the '43 season on good terms to enter the Navy. He coached there for two years before going on to become a Hall of Fame coach in pro football.

Wells and Palmeiro
It's fitting that your story on New York Yankees pitcher David Wells went on for eight pages (The Unvarnished Ruth. Sept. 8) and your article about Baltimore Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro (A Star in the Shadows) was only half as long. This is an example of the kind of respect that Palmeiro has received. What I can't believe is that you would spend so much space on Wells—and also that I read it.
JOHN CUMMINGS, Stafford, Va.

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