The final regular-season AP and UPI college-football polls show unbeaten Penn State ranked first and Alabama (10-1) second, which should make ABC happy, because it will televise the Sugar Bowl game between the two teams on New Year's Day. It must also please Bear Bryant, because he can envision another national championship if Alabama wins. It's all very neat, very tidy.
Except for one thing. What about Southern California, the No. 3 team in both polls? USC is 11-1, and it has beaten such Top 20 teams as Notre Dame, Michigan State, UCLA and, lo and behold, Alabama. On the afternoon of Sept. 23 in Birmingham, the Trojans defeated the Crimson Tide convincingly, 24-14. Two weeks later USC lost its only game of the season, to Arizona State at night in Tempe. Any coach, Bryant and Penn State's Joe Paterno included, will tell you that Tempe on a Saturday night is no picnic.
The object here is not to discredit Alabama, but merely to point out that if the national championship of college football is worth anything, the situation this year demands closer inspection than it has been getting. To understand why the AP panel voted as it did, we asked many of its members to explain their reasoning. The answers were generally mystifying and emphasize the need for a true playoff system.
Generally speaking, in ranking Alabama over USC, most voters chose to ignore the Trojans' victory over the Tide because it was "early in the season." One West Coast balloter even made Alabama No. 1 because he felt if the two teams played now, " Alabama would win because Bear Bryant would coach the pants off John Robinson." Another Californian made USC No. 3 because it was unimpressive in beating Stanford, evidently ignoring the fact that Stanford nearly defeated Oklahoma. A Providence balloter said, "Picking in these polls is a pain," but rated Alabama No. 2 because it beat Nebraska and Nebraska was highly ranked.
There is a suspicion among some voters that the reason Alabama is rated ahead of USC is that the Southern bloc deliberately downgraded the Trojans, although the AP denies that the ballots show any such manipulation. Perhaps the saddest commentary on the system of choosing a national champion, however, is that of the AP's 68 voters, nine neglected even to cast a ballot in the final regular-season poll.
KATZ GOT THE KITTY
Last Tuesday evening Pete Rose sat on the edge of a bed in the Orlando, Fla. hotel room of his agent-lawyer, Reuven Katz, waiting to see his favorite character on the CBS Evening News—himself. That afternoon Rose had announced at baseball's winter meetings that during the next four years he would be running out walks and sliding into bases headfirst for the Philadelphia Phillies for $3.5 million. But Rose and Katz were also in Orlando because Rose was being honored as baseball's Man of the Year. While awaiting his appearance on TV, Rose noticed Katz affixing a red Phillies "P" lapel pin to his favorite Reds tie. "No," commanded Rose, "put it on your lapel, where everybody at the banquet will see it." Katz did.
Finally, Walter Cronkite got around to Rose's signing. When a film clip showed recently deposed Cincy Manager Sparky Anderson praising his former third baseman, Rose's eyes misted. Cronkite then announced that Rose would not come under the new government wage controls because "he's a business unto himself and Pete raised a fist in the air and said, "You tell 'em, Walter." Then Rose and Katz went down to the banquet room, where Joe DiMaggio approached Katz and shook his hand. "It was one of the biggest thrills of my life," says Katz, a native Cincinnatian and longtime season-ticket holder to the Reds' games. "He congratulated me."
Everybody should. Katz guided Rose's voyage through free agency in a manner that made it both tasteful and entertaining. For his work Katz will get between $20,000 and $30,000 instead of the agent's usual 10% or more. "I'm just a lawyer," he says. "I get paid by the hour. I also represent Johnny Bench and some others, but now I want to go back and practice law. I enjoyed doing the thing with Pete, but it was like raising a family. When my children were grown, I didn't turn to my wife and say, 'Let's start another family.' "