It hasn't happened in a while, but this year's Army-Navy football game has some significance beyond the mere bragging rights of the two service academies.
For one thing, the winner of tomorrow's game (Channel 13, noon) will receive a berth in the Independence Bowl, but in the long term, CBS studio analyst Craig James thinks this is the start of the resurgence of both programs.
"Army and Navy have proven that they can play. They have fine systems with excellent coaching. Nobody can stockpile athletes like they used to, so why can't Army and Navy win six or seven or eight games each year?" said James, known in his Southern Methodist Mustangs days as "The Pony."
James, the best of the college football studio analysts, says the fact that coaches like Navy's Charlie Weatherbie and Gary Barnett at Northwestern are willing to resist offers from higher-profile programs means their current schools can count on some permanence.
"A few years ago, guys like that would have bolted, but Barnett stays at Northwestern and Weatherbie stays at Navy and they'll be consistent. You can't say enough about having the consistency of a coaching staff that's solid. You have to have that to succeed," said James.
More 'Pony' ramblings
James gives a thumbs-up to Maryland's tapping Ron Vanderlinden, the former Northwestern defensive coordinator, to be coach.
"He'll have a great story behind him when he goes recruiting. He can tell kids, 'I've been a part of rebuilding a program that was in the dumps.' A lot of people say they're rebuilding, but he was there when it was happening and was a big part of it," said James.
James is skeptical about the watchability of at least two of the ABC tripleheader of conference championship games tomorrow.
He said Alabama has little opportunity to beat Florida in the Southeastern Conference title match at 8 p.m., and gives Texas even less of a chance to derail Nebraska in the inaugural Big 12 game at 1 p.m.
"If anybody out there with a pen or microphone says that Texas has a chance to beat Nebraska, they're just throwing mud up against the wall. The only way Texas wins is if Nebraska falls apart and that would have nothing to do with Texas," said James.
The WAC is not one of the conferences guaranteed an Alliance bid, and some league and BYU officials have hinted that they might sue if the Cougars win the championship game, but are not invited into one of the at-large slots.
"In my mind, BYU has to win convincingly in order to strengthen their position. If not, they could take this to court, and to me that's a great deal of pressure that I don't think the Alliance
wants," said James.
You and BYU will find out who will go where in the Alliance in a special pairings show Sunday at 5: 30 p.m. on Channel 13.
Other big men on campus
The college basketball scene heats up in a major way this weekend. NBC (Channel 11) airs the John Wooden Classic from Anaheim, Calif., as Arizona meets Utah in the first game, and Louisville challenges Louisiana State in the nightcap. Coverage begins at 2 p.m. tomorrow, and will pick up the first game in progress, a situation brought on by the fact that the two games had originally been scheduled for two sites, but were later condensed into one location.
CBS kicks off its coverage with the Clemson-Virginia game tomorrow after football, and ESPN serves up a tasty tripleheader, commencing with North Carolina State playing host to Wake Forest at 12: 30 p.m. In the evening, Indiana takes on Kentucky at 7 p.m., followed by Arkansas and Missouri, which immediately follows.
Finally, ABC's college basketball series opens Sunday with Maryland meeting California in the first game of the Franklin National Bank Classic at 1: 30 p.m. Home Team Sports will carry Monday's consolation game and final, starting at 6 p.m.
Pub Date: 12/06/96