North Texas State, which tied for the title in '73, is an enigma, although Coach Hayden Fry has a lot of transfers who were Texas high school hotshots. The Mean Green welcome back Walter Chapman, a defensive lineman who was MVC freshman of the year.
Peacocks are known for strutting, but Louisville has a Peacock (Walter, a junior from Indianapolis) who flies. He carried 290 times in 1973 for 1,294 yards and 72 points. He also averaged 32.9 yards per kickoff return. The school insists, however, that its nickname will remain Cardinals. Coach T. W. Alley has lost 14 starters, and the Cards do not figure to improve on last year's 5-6 record.
The fact that the MVC is still primarily a basketball circuit—or that the teams are evenly matched—is proved by the '73 won-lost records: Tulsa 6-5, North Texas State 5-5-1, Louisville 5-6, New Mexico State 5-6, Wichita State 4-7, Drake 2-9 and West Texas State 2-9. The eighth MVC school, Bradley, does not field a football team. Commissioner Mickey Holmes hopes that the new NCAA rule limiting a school to 30 football grants a year will pep up the MVC. Presumably, prospects not vacuumed up by the Big Eight, Big Ten and SWC will be more plentiful and more talented.
While most of the attention is focused on Arizona and Arizona State, the rest of the widespread WAC is planning upsets. Three schools have new head coaches—Tom Lovat at Utah, Bill Mondt at New Mexico and Gil Bartosh at Texas-El Paso. And Brigham Young promises to continue its aerial show with Quarterback Gary Sheide, second-leading passer in the nation last year, and his favorite receiver, Jay Miller. The Cougars also had a pretty good defense in '73, and many of the key men are back, including two-time All-WAC Tackle Paul Linford.
Coach Sark Arslanian had a creditable 5-6 record his first year in charge of once-impotent Colorado State, but he now has gaping holes to fill in his offensive line and he must find a passer capable of getting the football to Flanker Willie Miller, who somehow found his way to Fort Collins from Birmingham, Ala. The best newcomer in the whole league might be Middle Linebacker Kevin McLain, a California JC transfer, who will call defensive signals for the Rams.
Bartosh, who was an assistant at Texas A&M, will have his hands full bringing respectability back to UTEP. What he has done so far is assemble lots of new talent, including 25 freshmen. The Miners were 0-11 in 1973, so it is doubtful Bartosh can get over .500 his first season. Wyoming promises to run more, partly because Lawrence Gaines and Charlie Shaw were impressive in the spring. Utah gets back its leading rusher, Ike Spencer, and two good linebackers in John Huddleston and Rick Bareness. Too bad new Coach Lovat has UCLA and LSU on his schedule and the last three games on the road. Bill Mondt's New Mexico Lobos will use the pro set instead of the Wishbone.
Any way you cut it, which at San Diego State is long, deep and often, the Aztecs are overwhelming favorites to win their third consecutive conference title. Yes, the San Diegans have lost Quarterback Jesse Freitas, the 1973 national leader in passing and total offense. And yes, eight all-conference players have departed. But no, Coach Claude Gilbert is not fretting one bit.
There are even some who say that Quarterback Craig Penrose, a classy transfer from Colorado, will make everyone forget old Jesse What's His Name. All four of the Aztecs' top rushers—Frank Geary, Dave Darden, Bill Kramer and Tim Thorn—are back, along with their most effective blocker, All-PCAA Guard Tony Bachman. Linebacker Bobby Henderson and Back Monte Jackson, both all-conference veterans, are stars on a defense that is, as Gilbert says, "awesome."