6-4-1 Irish can still fill the (dollar) bill for bowls

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Reading Time: Two Minutes.

Right on cue, those sportswriters who want to show how fiercely independent and objective they are while currying favor with the Notre Dame Haters and Bashers Society are at it again, whining that the 6-4-1 Irish don't belong in a so-called "major" Festa Bowl Jan. 2.

Yes, there are teams with better records around but, in the final analysis, the TV ratings, the excitement and revenue generated at the game site and the prestige all enter into bowl committees bending to accommodate Notre Dame. Michigan, Southern Cal, Ohio State, Oklahoma and a few more fall into this "special" category to a certain degree, too.

Let's hear no more of this hogwash that it's a bowl's duty to reward deserving teams. Fine, if the organization can sell the tickets, cover expenses and have a few bucks left over for charity while insuring fans want to come back year after year.

To hear some tell it, eighth-ranked Kansas State (9-2) is probably the most deserving to go against Colorado (10-1). The Big Eight rivals met during the seventh week of the season, the Buffs winning, 35-21. Hey, a rematch, what an attraction.

Besides, what's Southern Cal doing in the Cotton Bowl, what's Ohio State doing playing on Jan. 2, and how come Texas hasn't put the equipment away yet?

Remember, it wasn't Notre Dame's idea to extend the season a month. College football begged the Irish annually for 45 years (1925-1970) to reverse their decision not to take part in the bowls, and why is making money considered a cardinal sin only in South Bend?

* The quote from a player regarding the baseball strike that probably will stick around is Don Mattingly of the Yankees lamenting, "It, in many ways, is embarrassing to me that the owners and players are responsible for shutting down an industry that the acts of World War I and World War II couldn't do." It continues to be mind-boggling, doesn't it?

* Talk about "a class the stars fell on (West Point, 1915)": No sooner did Mater Dei High School of Santa Ana, Calif., win the mythical schoolboy football title by streaking to the top from No. 15 by beating a top-10er and previous No. 1 Bishop Amat, also of California, in the last month of the season, the school's basketball team also is No. 1 after winning a pair of invitational tournaments. DeMatha (Hyattsville), previously No. 1, cooperated by losing to Roman Catholic of Philadelphia last week.

* Acutely aware of just how popular and influential NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue is in and around Baltimore, this selected passage from his message to the masses in the NFL Report: "A recent survey confirmed an interesting thing about sports fans who attend games . . . fans care very deeply about the way they are treated at stadiums and arenas, customer service meaning more to fans than fielding a winning team."

As a result, the Commish says, he's going to push, push, push for bigger, better more grandiose and exciting stadia to benefit all (translation: NFL clubs).

* Maryland football coach Mark Duffner gazed at next year's schedule, which involves just one change, Louisville replacing Syracuse, and said, "It's a very competitive schedule, as we're accustomed to here at Maryland."

What else would explain 3-8, 2-9 and 4-7 seasons during his tenure? The Terps have six road games again as some astute schedule-maker, after ending a Syracuse series on the road, approved an away game with Louisville. Only twice in the past decade has Maryland had more home games, which is not only expensive but absurd.

* The question is, how come it took the NCAA so long to recognize Bob Mathias for its most prestigious "Teddy" (Theodore Roosevelt) Award? Forget the back-to-back Olympic gold medals in the decathlon, the first at age 17, Bob was an excellent football player at Stanford, served a dozen years in the U.S. House of Representatives, won the Sullivan Award, is a charter member of the National Track and Field Hall of Fame, was director of the Olympic Training Center in Colorado and the National Fitness Foundation and has worked tirelessly for youth for a quarter-century.

* The baseball writers, the people doing the voting for the most part, were as obtuse as the game's hierarchy in going along with the decision to pass out the individual awards (MVP, Cy Young, etc.) as though 1994 was just another season.

* You have to wonder of whom Lou Harris asks his questions when, in a recent Harris Poll to determine the nation's favorite sports stars, O. J. Simpson finishes up in eighth place after not making the top 10 in 1993 and being retired from football for 15 years. Michael Jordan repeated as No. 1, Joe Montana was runner-up again and Troy Aikman moved into the show spot.

And while on the subject of polls and despite constant carping about officiating in the NFL this season, more than half the 28 teams (15) said they saw no difference from previously while a dozen said it had gone downhill. One team, probably Irsay Institute of Indianapolis, said the refereeing was better,

* For you guys who are putting off Christmas shopping until the last minute, there's still a couple of limited-edition porcelain dolls of tennis vamp Gabriela Sabatini, put out by the clothier Sergio Tacchini, around at $2,500 per. Gabby already has a rose and three perfumes named after her.

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