TURF MADE OF GRASS?
Arguments still rage about artificial turf. The new rug in Miami's Orange Bowl has been under criticism ( Larry Csonka said, "They should bring in a jackhammer and rip this whole thing up"), and there has been flak about the carpet in New Orleans' Sugar Bowl. Meantime, Dr. William H. Daniel, a turf specialist in the department of agronomy at Purdue, feels he may have solved the problem with a grass system for sports he calls PAT, for Prescription Athletic Turf. PAT, which is based on underground drains and pumps, has already been installed at Grand Valley State College in Michigan and at Goshen High School in Indiana.
PAT uses regular grass on the surface, but the turf rests on a foot of sand. Beneath the sand is a maze of plastic piping, and under that a solid sheet of poly-ethylene. Richard Kercher, a landscape contractor who put in the PAT field at Goshen, says, "What we've got is a tank filled with sand, with grass on top." The suction pump controls the level of the water. "If it rains during a game," says Dr. Daniel, "just turn on the pump."
"What it amounts to," Kercher says, "is control. Moisture is the key to a good football field. If there is too much, it's slippery. If there is not enough, the field gets hard." With proper moisture, the turf seems to hold up better under use. "We had an average of only one divot per thousand square feet," said Dr. Daniel after the first football game played on the Goshen PAT. "And we can even control soil temperatures by putting in a heating coil."
Daniel estimates it would cost between $50,000 and $70,000 to install PAT in a large stadium, as opposed to perhaps $500,000 for artificial turf. Thus far no one has jumped at the idea, but Purdue and Notre Dame have expressed interest. Notre Dame's Ara Parseghian said earlier this fall, "Our grass people have been watching it. We have an artificial surface going in on one of our practice fields, but I still feel it is not perfected as yet. I'm concerned about heat and abrasiveness and firmness problems. In the meantime, we're watching the Goshen field very closely. It looks like a doggone good idea. It may be we might go that way."
WATCH OUT FOR WOFFORD
It takes all sorts of teams to make a football season. At the moment a favorite in this year's kaleidoscope is Wofford College of Spartanburg, S.C. Wofford can be called the big-play team of small-college football, even though it is not having a big season. Wofford averages fewer than three touchdowns a game, and its won-lost record is only 4-4. But what it does have is an admirable talent for the spectacular moment. It has had scoring pass plays of 76, 75 and 53 yards. It has had touchdown runs of 72, 61 and 57 yards. It has run back blocked punts 50 and 45 yards for touchdowns. It has had five interceptions in one game, one of which was run back 103 yards for a score. It has also had a 61-yard run for a touchdown on an interception.
Even Wofford's punting is something special. It is done by a little fellow named Scooter White, who is only 5'7" and 165 pounds. Scooter averages better than 40 yards per punt and the average run-back is barely five yards. Usually all he does is punt, but against Davidson a few weeks ago he switched gears and completed a fourth-down pass for 59 yards and a touchdown. Unhappily, there was a flag on the play and it was called back. Later in the game, again on fourth down, White made up for the lost score by running 57 yards down the sideline for the game-winning touchdown.
When you go to a Wofford game, never duck outside for a minute to grab a hot dog. There's no telling what you'll miss.