Football, to paraphrase the old saying, will be a great game if they ever finish inventing it. That day, judging by the newspapers and SPORTS ILLUSTRATED mail of recent weeks, is not close at hand. Here from a veritable freshet of suggestions for improving the sport are a few that seem particularly cogent.
Bowl Games: Two plans have been offered to retain the bowls and have a playoff for the national championship, too. The Reverend Edmund P. Joyce of Notre Dame would first have a playoff, then bring on the bowls. Reader Jerry Miller of Pasadena proposes that the bowl season continue as usual but that the NCAA, perhaps in conjunction with the wire services, then select the two most impressive winners for a playoff two weeks after the last bowl game. Opinion: Penn State will still go home angry.
Two-Platoon: Reader David R. Schryer of Newport News, Va. suggests that the colleges continue using two platoons but reduce the number of athletes recruited, say from 30 new scholarships each year to 15 or 20, which should be quite adequate. Opinion: Financial difficulties will force the colleges to this or a similar solution.
Ho-Hum Finishes: Joseph Brinton III of Howard Beach, N.Y. thinks that during the last two minutes of a game the clock should stop after every play—no time-outs, no stalling, no hasty calling of plays, no shenanigans with the clock, no dismal spectacle of a game ending while players unpile. Opinion: Overdue.
Outsized Coaching Staffs: Eddie Sutton, basketball coach at the University of Arkansas, would like to see coaches doubling up, with basketball assistants helping the football staff and vice versa. Opinion: It worked before, it could again.
Turning on the Off-ense: The Los Angeles Times would have all defenders within five yards of the line of scrimmage come to a set when the offense does. The only player permitted to move after that would be the one covering a man in motion. Opinion: Worth a serious try, if more offense is the goal. Certainly blocking would be improved.
Protecting the Quarterback: Apply the rules used for punters, again an L.A. Times idea. Defenders would get 15 yards for intentional roughing, five yards for unintentional. Opinion: By all means. At the present rate of attrition there will be no quarterbacks left in another season or two.
Spearing: Outlaw it, says the American Medical Association. Football's most serious injuries occur when a blocker or tackler uses his head as a battering ram. Opinion: The inventor of spearing should have been treated by the AMA long ago.
Spiking: Outlaw it, too, says reader Will Peterson of Kirkland, Wash. It is no more than a taunt, says Peterson, and as such poor sportsmanship. He sees a lowering of standards in all sport and believes, "The larger question of sports ethics could perhaps be improved if all physical education majors were required to take a course in sports ethics as a prerequisite for graduation." Opinion: Amen.