Mick Haley, the former University of Texas coach who took over the U.S. team in 1997, has been forced to lead a group of pups straight out of college into international competition. At the world championships the U.S. was eliminated after being thrashed in all three of its matches by more experienced teams from Cuba, Bulgaria and Italy. Opposing players openly mocked the Americans.
To make matters worse, Haley, who had little international experience before taking his current job, hasn't sought advice from more established coaches and has done little to try to coax veterans back onto the roster. To qualify for the Sydney Games, the U.S., which hasn't failed to qualify for the Olympics since 1976, needs to win next year's regional tournament or place in the top three at the '99 World Cup or the Olympic qualification tournament. With such a green team any of those paths figures to be a difficult one.
Tossing Out The Toss
The brouhaha that followed the disputed coin toss at the start of overtime during the Thanksgiving Day Detroit Lions-Pittsburgh Steelers game showed that even the flip's basic instruction—"Call it in the air!"—can lead to confusion. That makes a recent proposal by Micron Electronics, title sponsor of the Dec. 29 Micron PC Bowl (formerly the Carquest and the Blockbuster bowls), more sensible than it appears on first glance. In the spirit of its New Rules, New Tools marketing campaign, Micron has proposed replacing the pregame coin toss with a rock-paper-scissors showdown. "We've already gotten a raised eyebrow from the NCAA," says Mike Rosenfelt, Micron's marketing director. "But we're deadly serious about shaking up the boring corporate sponsorship thing at the bowls."
Now, just to make sure that everyone—are you listening, Jerome Bettis and referee Phil Luckett?—is on the same page: Rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper....
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