NBC helps make case for replay officiating


After further review, NBC helped make a case for instant-replay officiating during its telecast of the Orange Bowl.

Maybe Nebraska coach Tom Osborne wouldn't have minded if there had been an official up in a booth to check out NBC's replay on Florida State's touchdown early in the second half. The network's shot certainly cast doubt on whether the Seminoles' William Floyd crossed the plane of the goal line before losing the ball.

Earlier, on an apparent punt return for a touchdown by Nebraska, NBC's cameras surveyed the scene and couldn't find an illegal block that brought the run back.

To start things off on a spirited note, analyst Bob Trumpy and sideline reporter O. J. Simpson sparred over FSU's decision to run its opening series with Charlie Ward under center rather than in the customary shotgun.

Simpson reported that Florida State was trying to see how Nebraska would react to the different look.

"That is a total lack of respect for your opponent," Trumpy harrumphed, "to give up a series [for information to use later in the game]."

Simpson disagreed, though perhaps he was near the Seminoles coaches and didn't want to insult them.

Osborne apparently didn't hold it against Simpson, though. Asked about losing some key Cornhuskers to injury, Osborne, on his way to the locker room at halftime, responded by asking Simpson whether the former Heisman Trophy winner wanted to suit up for the second half.

Let's suppose you didn't suit up for yesterday's bowl matinees and went right to the Orange. You would have missed so much.

There were hours of rumbling backs, gutsy quarterbacks, beefy linemen, draw plays and all-out blitzes. Overhead flew the Shamu, Blockbuster, Met Life and Goodyear blimps. Between plays, there were commercials with Bruce Smith, "Downtown" Julie Brown, John Ratzenberger and Rick Mirer.

Plus the Wisconsin band doing James Brown.

(I mean, why do marching bands even bother? If it ain't Sousa, it's a lose-a. "I Feel Good"? Anything cool that a marching band touches -- particularly a Big Ten marching band -- turns nerdy. Put Billy Dee Williams in a band uniform, and he's Steve Urkel.)

Anyway, it wouldn't have been a bad idea to skip the four early bowls, the Hall of Fame, Citrus, Fiesta and Carquest. Michigan rolled in the Hall of Fame, Arizona romped in the Fiesta, Boston College breezed in the Carquest and Tim Brant was doing analysis in the Citrus.

Actually, the Citrus wasn't close either. But a special citation goes to Brant, the former Maryland player working the game for ABC. Normally just a master of the obvious, Brant decided it was best to attack the lack of a Division I-A playoff system by ripping sportswriters.

Now maybe Brant has something against sportswriters because they have the annoying habit of pointing out that he's not a very good analyst. And there are lots of good reasons to pick on sportswriters. But listen to Brant:

"Most of the guys who vote in the poll, the sportswriters, they never played the game."

Later, he added: "I don't think it[the national title] should be decided in the newspapers, especially by people who never played the game."

I don't think it should be decided in the newspapers either. The national title should be decided on television in a championship playoff -- with somebody much better than Brant calling the game.

If major-college football ever comes to its senses and institutes a playoff, someone should make sure Keith Jackson is working the title game. New Year's Day, with its overload of bowls, just reinforces the notion that Jackson is the voice of college football.

He's a total pro. He's no showoff, but he's no soft touch. Jackson has a folksiness to him that wears perfectly.

Describing Wisconsin's effort in ABC's Rose Bowl telecast, Jackson spoke of how the Badgers were "Basilio-like, they just keep coming at you." (Would many current announcers even recall fierce fighter Carmen Basilio?) Jackson got on his soapbox a little after a fight between Wisconsin and UCLA, saying a game ejection wouldn't keep such antics from occuring. But Jackson has earned his soapbox.

Here are some other highlights and lowlights of the day, taking you from the morning cereal bowl to the evening pizza:

* For once, there was a reason to listen to sideline reporters. NBC's Paul Sunderland reported late in the fourth quarter of the Fiesta that Arizona running back Chuck Levy had decided to turn pro. In the aftermath of the Rose Bowl brawl, ABC's Lynn Swann said that Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez wasn't upset about ejections, but about an apparent missed offside call on the fourth-and-one play. And NBC's John Dockery talked about how Notre Dame's offensive linemen couldn't hear audibles in the Cotton Bowl and, two plays later, the Irish nearly drew a delay-of-game penalty when quarterback Kevin McDougal was checking off at the line.

* CBS' Verne Lundquist and Dan Fouts, working the Carquest Bowl, had better hope somebody will give them NFL jobs. They probably didn't endear themselves to college football people by joking that a Colorado high school matchup would draw more fans than were among the sea of empty seats.

* During ESPN's Hall of Fame telecast, play-by-play man Ron Franklin offered this variation on a cliche: "He wants the ball when the chips are in a situation where it's big-time." Big-time chips? Save that one for the Las Vegas Bowl.

* Is there anybody else out there who thinks that ESPN studio analysts Lee Corso and Craig James have stolen Siskel and Ebert's act? Maybe anchor Mike Tirico thinks so. Tirico's parting shot: "New year, same old act."

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