- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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Al Conover, the Rice football coach, is a highly visible individual with a decided penchant for memorable quotes and fascinating suggestions. Part of Conover's success—he moved Rice up to a 5-5-1 record last fall in his first year—may lie in his somewhat revolutionary attitude. He is the youngest head coach in the Southwest Conference and is aware of it. "Kids are looking for a new approach," he says. "When they go to college they are fired up at first about the idea of playing football. Then they go through a few practice sessions and realize it's the same old thing they went through for four years in high school." To break the monotony and gain his charges' attention before their game with Arkansas, Conover threw a chair through a dressing-room window. Inspired, or awakened, the team went forth and won 23-20. Conover also introduced a "Popsicle break" at practices, and one day wheeled in a hearse and coffin so that the team could bury the mistakes it had made the previous Saturday.
"You can go around the dormitory at 11 and make bed checks," says Conover, "but that's the old style. That's insulting a guy's intelligence. When I first started coaching it was considered a sin to give a player a drink of water on the practice field. I used to be stationed near the water supply to make sure everybody spit out the water they took in to rinse out their mouths. Now isn't that stupid? Today in coaching you've got to be different in every respect to be successful."
Conover's success is still modest, but his relations with his players seem exceptional. They address him as "Big Al," and on his 34th birthday last October they celebrated by trying to take off his trousers. He won that battle—he still possesses authority—and chances are he'll win a lot more.
Notre Dame fans watching Nebraska rout the Irish 40-6 in the Orange Bowl felt that what was happening on the field was a crime. In truth, the crime was happening up in the press box, which Miami police raided during the first quarter of the game. They had heard that drinking was going on, an apparent violation of a Miami ordinance barring the serving of alcoholic beverages in the city-owned Orange Bowl. After a quick search the cops confiscated two cases of rum and four of beer.
Well, now. You can do a lot of things to a newspaperman and get away with it, even to the point of sending him to jail for not revealing confidential sources. But mess around with his drinking and you have a tiger by the tail. The upshot of the outraged protests:
1) A man in the city attorney's office said he was not exactly sure if booze was illegal in the press box, which is off limits to the public.
3) The police returned the rum and beer to the Orange Bowl committee.