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If cotton bowl executive vice-president Jim (Hoss) Brock had been in a Notre Dame student hangout at three o'clock one Friday morning last fall, buying drinks for anyone upright, leading choruses of the Notre Dame Victory March and passing out Cotton Bowl pins as if they were cocktail parasols, he would have called just about everyone in the place "Hoss." We know this because Hoss calls everyone "Hoss"—except the ladies, whom he calls "Doll" or "Sweet Pea" and the priests at Notre Dame, whom he is careful to call "Father."
But if you're a secular male it will usually be "Hoss," the better to buy Hoss the few seconds he may need to come up with your proper name. Don't begrudge him this idiosyncrasy, for a man who knows nearly everybody in sports can hardly be expected to remember every one of those names, at least not right quick. And just because he doesn't know your name doesn't mean he doesn't know you. "Hoss," says a longtime friend, "never meets a stranger."
Now, we're not saying that Hoss was in that particular dive at that hour doing the aforementioned things. "Don't want none of that 3 a.m. stuff in print," Hoss says, squinching his florid features into a best-in-show scowl. "I get in a lot of trouble. People read that back in Dallas and don't know what to make of it."
We're only saying that if he had been so ardently romancing the Dome after hours—if he had made himself and his green blazer so irrepressibly, round-the-clock ubiquitous throughout South Bend that the Irish had to take their magical name and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown to Dallas on New Year's Day—why, so much goodwill might have been generated that any pantywaist back in Big D with the slightest quibble about the way the most successful bowl scout in the business gets the job done ought to sidle on down to El Paso and try out life flogging the Sun Bowl. Just listen to Terry Anne Wallmeyer, a Notre Dame coed, speaking around 3 a.m.: "I want to go to the Cotton Bowl, because I love Jim Brock."
And what's 3 a.m., anyway? "Ain't but 2 a.m., Dallas time," Hoss points out. Or might have pointed out.
Bowl scouts are the men who descend on college campuses across the U.S. for a couple of months during the fall, infesting press boxes and schmoozing and boozing, either to entice teams to play in their annual holiday games or, occasionally, to be enticed. The wheedling and cajoling ceases only when bowl bids are sealed and delivered—on November 19, this year. Inevitably, the scout takes on the character of the bowl he represents. The stodgy Rose Bowl, with both of its participants, the Big Ten and Pac-10 champions, preordained, is in the hands of austere elders who make the scene just to show the flag—the term "scouts" is, in their case, something of a misnomer—and who, in ESPN commentator Beano Cook's phrase, "look like waiters at the Last Supper." The genteel Sugar rests its case on hospitality, and the game's gracious, soft-spoken scouts—who usually travel in pairs—are enduring relics of the Old South. The arriviste Fiesta, with no conference tie-ins, is run by Sun Belt dealmakers flush with entrepreneurial hubris. The hoary Orange belongs to Miami's gin-and-tonic elite, while scouts from the Florida Citrus, mostly Orlando yuppies, would sooner order margaritas.
And the Cotton? "When you think of the Cotton Bowl," says Len DeLuca, director of program acquisitions for CBS, which has broadcast the game since 1957, "you think of people." Now that longtime Gator Bowl executive director George Olsen has retired, no one person is more closely identified with any single bowl game than is Hoss.
Like most other members of the bowl-scout species, Brock has several batteries-not-included blazers and a handshake that redirects blood flow. He's also outrageously outgoing, a quality he admits non-Texans grant him license to flaunt simply because he is a Texan. With apologies to the good gentlemen of the Rose Bowl, Brock is the granddaddy of them all. "Everyone knows the Hoss," says Freedom Bowl executive director Tom Starr. "If you were to pick a perfect bowl scout, you'd need a person who can talk to the student-athlete on his level, turn around and talk to college presidents, meet and talk with the coach. Then be able to converse with the media. That's Hoss."
There is no good reason why the Cotton Bowl should be staging a compelling game year after year. Dallas in January could just as well be Nome with a giant airport. The Southwest Conference, whose champion automatically claims a spot in the game, is mired in some of the most shamelessly crooked and abjectly mediocre big-time football of modern times. ( Texas A & M, the preseason Southwest favorite, which has a 4-0 conference record going into this Saturday's game with unbeaten Arkansas, was banned in September from participating in postseason play for one year for rules violations.) The New Year's Day television viewership, carved up now among seven bowls, is so soft that Brock and his colleagues decided this year to sell the Cotton's very name to Mobil Oil for an estimated $12 million.
Yet Brock continues to broker a good game. "Pullin' their horns," he calls the process of jawboning athletic directors, coaches and players to choose his bowl. Hoss has corralled three of the past four Heisman Trophy winners—Notre Dame's Brown, Bo Jackson of Auburn and Doug Flutie of Boston College—something no other bowl has ever done. And he seems to have a green phone on his desk: Telegenic Notre Dame has made three Cotton Bowl appearances since Brock took over in 1976. And last January, the SWC actually had a chance to feel good about itself when Texas A & M beat the Irish 35-10. In spite of the lopsided score, Brock, who has a vested interest in the host conference improving its gridiron fortunes, had every right to take out one of his Macanudo cigars and—he never lights up any more—chew on it.