Stanford's Two-Sport Star
Decision Time: Pitch or Pass?
Chad Hutchinson, Stanford's top quarterback, has been remarkable this spring, good enough to make him a consensus top 10 draft pick—in baseball. While his football teammates wrapped up spring practice last week, Hutchinson continued toiling as the No. 2 starting pitcher for the second-ranked Cardinal. There's no quarterback controversy though, because coach Tyrone Willingham named Hutchinson the starter after last season, and Hutchinson's absence at spring practice isn't unusual. But Hutchinson, who coming out of high school was picked 26th by the Atlanta Braves in the 1995 draft and turned down more than $1 million to attend Stanford, is again eligible for the baseball draft. Will he sign a lucrative contract or return for another football season?
If he could have his way, Hutchinson, a 6'5", 230-pound junior, would sign a baseball contract and work out a provision under which he could play football for the Cardinal next fall. Hutchinson realizes he may not have that option, which could thrust a tough decision on an athlete who believes he has the credentials to play in the NFL or the big leagues. Through Sunday, Hutchinson had a 23-9 collegiate pitching record, including an 8-3 mark in 1998, and his fastball had been clocked at 97 mph. A two-year starter in football, Hutchinson has thrown for 4,235 yards and 20 touchdowns.
"I really don't have a preference," says Hutchinson, 21. "I love baseball, and I could see myself playing professional baseball. But I love football and could see myself playing professional football too. I've thought about it a lot, but I'm not even close to making a decision. I probably won't decide until after the draft."
Gator Quarterback Woes
Canadian on The Spot
Now that Florida junior quarterback Doug Johnson is out indefinitely, the Gators are down to sophomore Jesse Palmer and a prayer. Johnson, who had been preparing to report to the Devil Rays next week for minor league assignment as a third baseman, learned last week that he had a small cyst on his right shoulder. Surgery to remove the cyst in addition to rehabilitation apparently would keep him off baseball and football fields this year.
Palmer, who is from Nepean, Ont., showed potential last fall, but more often than not he looked like a freshman playing American football for the first time. In his one start, at Auburn—which he got only because Johnson had been suspended for breaking curfew-Palmer completed 8 of 14 passes for 92 yards and two interceptions. Spurrier relied on Johnson and senior walk-on Noah Brindise the rest of the season.
Now Palmer is virtually Spurrier's only option. Redshirt freshman Tim Olmstead completed just 4 of 19 passes in the spring game, and Florida didn't sign any other quarterbacks this off-season. Palmer went 14 of 30 for 174 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in that game, but it appears that the Gators' veteran defense will test that old bromide that defense wins championships.