Playoff seeds may put super back in NFL's bowl

THE BALTIMORE SUN

There are some interesting things going on behind the scenes in sports.

In the National Football League, there's growing interest in the wake of the latest one-sided Super Bowl in adopting a playoff format that would seed the 16 teams, the way the NCAA seeds the 64 teams in its basketball championships.

The uncanny imbalance of the NFC vs. the AFC has NFL owners and officials wringing their hands. The NFC has won the last 11 games.

The 49ers-Chargers game should have been the culmination of 29 years of Super Bowling and promotion and publicity. But the TV ratings for the 49-26 San Francisco win are only 22nd on the game's all-time list.

People everywhere shrugged at the pre-game hype for Super Bowl XXIX. The 49ers-Dallas NFC championship game two weeks before was widely regarded as "the real Super Bowl."

When that happens -- when the TV audience shrinks and profits go down -- the league's moguls get serious about finding a better format.

"You hear more talk now about seeding the playoff teams," says New York Giants assistant general manager Ernie Accorsi.

"If the league had done that this year it could have seeded San Francisco No. 1 and Dallas No. 2. That way, the two best teams in the league could have met in the Super Bowl at a neutral site instead of in Candlestick Park in the semifinals.

"Seeding the teams works great for basketball. Nobody worries any more when an Eastern team like North Carolina is sent to the Western Regionals. We're used to that now."

That's not the only thing going on behind the scenes.

There's apprehensiveness at Loyola College over the school's first-year basketball coach, Brian Ellerbe.

That's not simply because of the Greyhounds' 6-12 record. Everyone expected this to be a down year after losing Michael Reese, Tracy Bergan and coach Skip Prosser from the team that took Loyola to the NCAA tournament for the first time last year.

The problem appears to be Ellerbe's inability to get along with people -- including his own players.

His second-leading scorer, Darius Johnson, was kicked off the team Jan. 20. Ellerbe's best player, co-captain B. J. Pendleton, has been benched for the start of the last two games.

What looks bad is that Pendleton and Johnson are gems.

Power forward Pendleton is a warrior. Johnson made the biggest shot in Loyola's recent history -- the three-pointer last season with 31 seconds remaining that gave Loyola the lead for good in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship game and put the 'Hounds on their way to the NCAAs.

In an interview in The Greyhound, Loyola's student newspaper, Johnson says one of his problems was that he wanted to spend more time on his studies while the coach thought he should spend it on basketball. The Jesuits at academics- conscious Loyola can't be happy with that.

People at the college say that the 31-year-old Ellerbe, who is in his first year as a head coach, complains about such things as the tiny office to which he has to bring recruits.

Joe Boylan, the athletic director who hand-picked Ellerbe (as an assistant basketball coach at Rutgers, Boylan recruited Brian), is going to be busy trying to smooth things out.

Loyola's next game is at Iona Saturday night.

Also, a lot of people are wondering where football coach Mark Duffner and his coaches and the academic support people at Maryland were when quarterback Scott Milanovich stopped going to classes last fall.

It's understandable that a young player would become unhappy and distracted when he loses his starting position and considers transferring, as Milanovich did after losing his job to Kevin Foley for a spell last season. He also considered turning pro after after a strong finish. But somebody has to snap the kid out of it and get him going -- to class.

Now, it turns out, Milanovich, to climb out of the hole he dug for himself and become eligible for football, has to pass 18 semester hours this spring and then pass summer school.

If he can't do that -- and 18 hours is not an easy load for a football player, or anyone else -- Duffner will have to go into the season without an experienced quarterback. Foley is now enrolled at Boston U.

If that happens, Duffner has himself to blame. For many years coaches have gone to athletes' dorms and pulled players out of bed to get them to early morning classes. Nobody at Maryland did that to the star player in the program.

It makes Milanovich look bad. It makes Duffner and his people look bad. And it makes the University of Maryland look bad.

A final behind-the-scenes note:

When Lake Clifton High's 5-foot-4 Shawnta Rogers comes out of college four years from now, NBA teams will have more interest in him than they would if it were not for another diminutive basketball player out of East Baltimore -- Muggsy Bogues.

People vilified then-Bullets general manager Bob Ferry when he drafted Bogues No. 1 in 1987. When Bogues dominated Charlotte's 97-88 win over the Bullets Tuesday night with 20 points, seven assists and six rebounds, the former Dunbar High and Wake Forest star made a powerful statement.

Somewhere, Bob Ferry must have been smiling.

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