Mercy! Jackson unloads on mercenaries, trash talk


No matter who you are or where, that word only sounds natural coming from ABC's Keith Jackson, the unchallenged voice of college football.


Jackson, 65, begins his 28th season calling the action on the college game with Sunday's Kickoff Classic (Channel 13, 2 p.m.) between Nebraska and West Virginia at Giants Stadium.

This season finds Jackson as folksy and as spry as ever, with more than a few opinions about his sport of choice and the direction it's headed.


For example:

* Jackson believes student-athletes who have taken college football scholarships, only to up and leave for the pro ranks at the first opportunity, are "mercenaries."

"That university is entitled to be reimbursed by somebody. The university has committed a monetary value to that scholarship and after two years or three years, there goes the commitment on the other side," said Jackson.

* The new Bowl Alliance, of which ABC is a partner, is a "contrived circumstance" as long as the Big Ten and the Pac-10 are not involved, according to Jackson, who believes the best way to settle the national championship issue is to gather four teams after the bowls are completed, and let them play.

* Trash-talking has no place in the college game, as Jackson sees it. The referees in last year's Rose Bowl botched the brawl that broke out between UCLA and Wisconsin by not eliminating the woofing from the Bruins from the very beginning.

"Sports is supposed to bring some degree of gentlemanly decorum. The referee should have gone to [UCLA coach] Terry Donahue and said, 'Tell your guys to knock it off or I'll throw the whole bloody bunch of you out.' "

As for Sunday's game, both Jackson and his partner, Bob Griese, see Nebraska as a big favorite, since it returns more than 20 seniors, while the Mountaineers suffered big graduation losses and have no experience at quarterback.

Jackson sees Miami as a team that will be "hell on wheels," but believes Florida, the consensus preseason favorite, "will have to hunker down with big fast people and prove they can beat them. Pretty soon, you've got to jawbone with the big people, and I'm not sure the Gators have proven they can."


Surf's up

Let's be frank for a moment:

Don't you half expect one of Charlie's angels or David Hasselhoff from "Baywatch" to come busting through one of those beach volleyball meets to catch this week's appointed crook?

Look for Sabrina, Kelly, Kris or Bosley in the crowd of the AVP International Championships from Hermosa Beach, Calif. (Channel 2, Saturday, 5 p.m.; Sunday, 4:30 p.m.) this weekend.

The only game in town

You'll probably hear a lot of holier-than-thou blather about the Little League World Series being the last pure form of baseball, what with the big-leaguers on strike.


Once you've stifled the urge to hurl the TV set, do check out the championship game tomorrow (Channel 13, 3:30 p.m.) for what is likely the last live televised game of the year.

Profile of a champion

The Lifetime cable channel isn't a traditional spot for sports programming, what with its self-appellation of "television for women," but the channel is offering what should be a fascinating profile of Martina Navratilova, one of sports' most forthright and courageous figures, Sunday at 10 p.m., on the eve of the U.S. Open, which Navratilova has passed up in her final season of competition on the tennis circuit.