The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on July 10, 1996 · Page 23
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 23

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Wednesday, July 10, 1996
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THE SALINA JOURNAL SPORTS WEDNESDAY, 10, 1996 D3< T BIG 12 CONFERENCE Is conference too good for its own good? ••^ • _«^& • • . ^^*^^^ Big 12 might consider cutting back on number of conference games By DAVE SUTLER The Daily Oklahoman CONFERENCE Could the Big 12 Conference, labeled college football's toughest league before it has played its first game, be too tough for its own good? Perhaps, Big 12 commissioner Steve Hatchell said. Hatchell says the new league might consider cutting back on the number of conference games in the future if Big 12 teams spend too much time beating up on each other and beating the league out of lucrative postseason bowl bids. "I think that's absolutely something we're going to have to watch very closely," Hatchell said. "I think we may have to look at maybe (playing) one less conference game." There are two reasons for the Big 12's concern with football schedules that include eight conference games. One is the worry that the rebuilding efforts of lower-division teams could suffer by playing too many of the Big 12 bullies. The second, and unquestionably the key reason, is the potential loss of bowl money. The Big 12, which consists of the Big Eight schools along with Baylor, Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech from the Southwest Conference, should reap more than $14 million in bowl payouts in its first season of operation. To continue to fill its coffers with millions of postseason dollars, however, the Big 12 must make sure it has the inventory of league teams available when bowls bids are extended. The Big 12 is divided into two, six-team divisions (North and South) for football. The scheduling format requires teams to play five games against schools within the division and three from the other division. That's one more conference game than they played in the Big Eight or the SWC. With NCAA Division I-A teams limited to 11 regular-season games per season, the Big 12's format allows its teams just three non-conference games. Most major-college programs long have scheduled some non- conference contests against beatable foes — including Division IAA schools — early in the season to prepare for league play. The importance of that tactic became paramount when the NCAA said teams needed six victories against Division I-A competition to qualify for bowl bids. Some teams have loaded up on four lightweight non-conference foes in an effort to rebuild. For example, Big 12 member Kansas State has been criticized by some for using that scheduling philosophy to rebuild the Wildcats' once-morbid program. Seven of the future Big 12 teams played in bowl games last season and an eighth, Baylor, had a record (7-4) that qualified for postseason consideration. The Big 12, which has been ranked as the No. 1 conference by several preseason football publications, is guaranteed at least six postseason bids this season. The potential for additional bowl berths exists depending on what happens with the Bowl Alliance's wild-card bid and two at- large spots in the Independence Bowl and the Haka Bowl, the new game in New Zealand. With nationally ranked programs such as Colorado, Texas, Kansas, Texas A&M, Kansas State and two-time defending national champion Nebraska, Big 12 officials believe the league could gain the alliance's wild-card bid. The winner of the Big 12's championship game on Dec. 7 gains an automatic berth in the Bowl Alliance, which consists of the Sugar, Orange and Fiesta Bowls. The six bowl spots already secured guarantees the Big 12 a payout of about $14.1 million. That could climb to $14.6 million if a conference team plays for the national championship and the $8.6 million payoff in the Sugar Nebraska easy preseason pick DAVID SITTLER The Daily Oklahoman File photo Coach Tom Osborne will lead the Nebraska Cornhuskers in their quest for a third consecutive national title this fall. Bowl. Another $8.3 million could be added if the Big 12 gains the Bowl Alliance's wild-card bid, and an additional $750,000 to $1 million could be realized if the Independence or Haka offer a bowl bid to the Big 12. "Our (Big 12) people weren't sure about the Haka Bowl," Hatchell said. "But we've kept in close contact with the Independence Bowl, and I think there's a good shot for us there." Is it realistic to think a 12-team league could send seven or eight of its members to bowl games? The Big 12 could have last season, but that was based on scheduling in the Big Eight and SWC. Because of the NCAA's requirement for six victories against Division I-A competition, Hatchell noted that "some conferences couldn't fulfill their bowl commitments last year and we had a 7-4 Baylor team that didn't have a (bowl) spot." But formation of the Big 12 currently means 12 less opportunities for 'sure wins' against non- NFL ROUNDUP Rison, Green, Morris released Salary, weight, legal woes send 3 veteran players on their way By The Associated Press BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Ravens released veteran receiver Andre Rison and linebacker Pepper Johnson on Tuesday, saying they could not afford to keep them under the NFL's salary cap. Ravens owner Art Modell said the team could not find a way to retain the two players as well as sign rookies and add veterans under the cap. The moves saved the Ravens somewhere around $3 million in salary cap room. "The door remains open to them to come back and talk to us if they test the market and do not find the market open to them," Modell said. "They have to come back on a new basis, obviously." Rison, one of the team's marquee players, signed a five-year, $17 million contract with the Cleveland Browns before the 1994 season, including a $5 million signing bonus, that made him the NFL's highest- paid receiver. He rejected the team's request to lower his salary by $1 million and add incentive clauses, according to his agent, Charles Tucker. The receiver had a career-low 47 catches for 701 yards and three touchdowns last season. Johnson led the team in tackles last season with 195. • STEELERS DUMP MORRIS — The Pittsburgh Steelers released running back Bam Morris Tuesday, nearly two weeks after he struck a plea bargain with Texas prosecutors on drug possession charges. Morris, 24, pleaded guilty June 26 to a felony marijuana MORRIS charge. In return, prosecutors will recommend that he not be imprisoned and will not pursue a felony cocaine possession charge. Morris and his passenger, Rodney Dwayne Reynolds, were stopped on March 22 on the way to their hometown of Cooper, Texas. After obtaining Morris' permission to search the car, an officer found about six pounds of marijuana in the trunk in a sports bag. A later search of the impounded car turned up one gram of cocaine, authorities said. Morris was the Steelers' third- round pick in 1994. After gaining 836 yards in a promising rookie year, he arrived at camp overweight in 1995 and wound up splitting his job with Erric Pegram, who rushed for 813 yards. • DOLPHINS, RELEASE GREEN —Eric Green, a former Pro Bowl tight end whose work habits and weight problem annoyed coach Jimmy Johnson, was released Tuesday by the Miami Dolphins. Johnson terminated the six-year, $12 million contract Green signed prior to last season, when he was among the most widely sought free agents. Green will try to collect his $1.5 million salary for this year in a grievance to be filed by the NFL Players Association. He underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in May and was expected to miss the first month of the regular season. Training camp begins Monday. Green and the Dolphins disagreed about how his knee injury occurred. He claimed it happened during mini-camp; the team said he hurt himself jogging at home. Royals / Team has 63 homers FROM PAGE D3 Lockhart, who spent much of the last 10 years bouncing around in the minors, is the leading hitter and has been over .300 all season. Damon has put up solid numbers, and has more than enough speed to hide some of his mistakes in center. Goodwin has stolen 37 bases, and is virtually uncatch- able. But none of the outfielders have arms that strike fear into the hearts of baserunners. The Royals have no power, and their 63 homers are the fewest in the majors. Pitching ace Kevin Appier may or may not have arm trouble. Starter Mark Gubicza is likely lost for the season with a broken leg. Stopper Jeff Montgomery, de- spite being named to the All-Star team, blew three of his last four save opportunities. Second baseman Bip Roberts has continued his tradition of getting hurt, missing more than a month with a strained hamstring. Offerman continued his error- prone ways at shortstop and the most brilliant move by Boone, who used 84 different lineups in 88 games, may have been keeping his bat in the lineup by moving him to first base. The Royals have been unable to reach a contract agreement with Appier, who becomes a free agent at the end of the season. Appier has agreed to take less money than he might make as a free agent, but the Royals have refused to bend to his demand for a no- trade clause. It was likely the Royals would trade him for more young players, but his last start was a bust and that may raise doubts in the minds of other teams. Gubicza was also mentioned in trade talks — until his leg was broken by a line drive off the bat of Minnesota's Paul Molitor. The good news for the Royals is they resume play Thursday with a seven-game homestand. The bad news is that the Royals are 17-25 at home, and the seven games are with AL Central powerhouses Chicago and Cleveland. "We are a better team in knowing the game and going about our business," said Boone. "I'm not pleased with last place. I'm expecting better in the second half, if we keep up the effort. "We have a lot of kids trying to prove they belong in the big leagues." conference Division I-A schools that don't field powerhouse football programs. The loss of those 12 contests, combined with the toll — both physical and in the numbers of wins — Big 12 teams might pay with the eight-game league schedule, could eventually force the scheduling change, Hatchell said. The idea, Hatchell said, of scaling back the number of conference contests "hasn't come up yet" in league meetings. "I don't know when it will," he said. "But I do think we are going to have to look at it." Elimination of conference games probably couldn't happen until after the 1997 season. The three opposite-division Big 12 games are already set on a home- and-home basis for the next two years. "Every week, we are going to have some great conference games," Hatchell said. "There are going to be great (Big 12) teams playing great (Big 12) teams. And it will make it very tough on everyone." Too tough? Only time and bowl money will tell. Oklahoma State coach says other 11 Big 12 teams playing for 2nd The Big 12 Conference's decision to split the league into North and South Divisions for several sports will have its first test run in the up- ^ coming football- season. But Oklahoma State coach Bob Simmons said there is no split decision when it comes to naming the Big 12's preseason football heavyweight. "I'd say Nebraska is the favorite in the North and the South," Simmons said of the two, six-team divisions. Nebraska will attempt to make college football history in the Big 12's inaugural season. SIMMONS Riding the momentum of a 25-game winning streak, the Cornhuskers could become the first collegiate team in modern history to win three consecutive national championships. With 12 starters back from a team that blasted Florida 62-24 in the Fiesta Bowl to capture the 1995 national title, coach Tom Osborne's team is the overwhelming favorite to represent the North Division at the Big 12's championship game Dec. 7 in St. Louis. While Texas is a strong preseason choice to win the South Division and advance to the title contest at the Trans World Dome, Simmons said the Longhorns and the league's 10 other teams might spend the season playing for second place. "I mean no disrespect to Texas and the other schools," Simmons said. "But Nebraska is the cream of the crop right now and everybody is trying to catch them." New Oklahoma coach John Blake agrees. "Nebraska's done an outstanding job," Blake said. "They just won a national title, so you'd have to say they are the favorite going into the Big 12." ; Iowa State coach Dan McCar- ; ney goes beyond the Big 12 race • in his assessment of the Corn- ! huskers. The Cyclones' second- year coach said he concurs with preseason polls that have Nebraska ranked No. 1. "They've got size, they've got strength, they've got speed, they've got depth and are just a tremendous program," McCarney said. When it comes to football, McCarney's description also could apply to the entire conference. Shortly after four Texas schools combined with the Big Eight Conference institutions to form the Big 12, many experts predicted the new league would be college football's top conference. "It has to rate very high," Blake said. "You have one conference team that has won the last two national championships, and Colorado won a national title in the last six years. "If you look at all the national championships, all the bowl wins, all the tradition ... it has to be one of the top conferences. Maybe it's the top conference." The football accomplishments ! of the Big 12 schools, both recent; and over the long haul, are in- < deed impressive: i • Fifteen national champi- j onships won or shared since The Associated Press started its poll ' in 1936, including six by Oklahoma. • Nine Heisman Trophy winners. • Four of the five major-college players to rush for 2,000 yards in a season played at Big 12 schools. • Five Big 12 teams are among the top 20 schools in all-time victories. • Three Big 12 teams are among the top eight schools hi all-time winning percentage. • A combined 228 bowl appearances. Seven teams compiled a 61 bowl record last season, led by Nebraska's national-championship victory. • Four Big 12 teams appeared in the final Top 10 poll last season, with three more in the Top 25. • Only three Big 12 teams had losing records in 1995, while five schools won at least 10 games. • The Associated Press' 1995 All-America team included eight Big 12 players on the first team. While the bulk of preseason attention has centered on Nebraska, several other Big 12 teams and individuals should be major players on the national scene. '• T MICHAEL IRVIN TRIAL Defense attacks police department By The Associated Press DALLAS — The tiny amount of cocaine found on the only item belonging to Michael Irvin could have been spread inadvertently by police's sloppy handling of evidence, a narcotics officer testified Tuesday in the drug possession trial of the Dallas Cowboys star. A test tube taken from atop Irvin's jewelry bag may have picked up the .0005 gram of cocaine found on it while lumped in a plastic grocery bag with other items taken during the drug bust, said Irving detective James Hallum, a narcotics investigator who helped with the case. "It depends how it was packaged," Hallum said. The items were not placed into standard evidence bags until re- turned to police headquarters. Hallum testified that officers could have called the office and asked for the bags to be brought to the scene. He added that it was not standard for beat cops to carry them. Hallum told lead defense attorney Kevin Clancy he couldn't put odds on whether loose cocaine in the plastic bag could have spread to other evidence, but he said it was possible. Clancy illustrated the point by pouring a package of artificial sweetener onto a plate, then putting it into a bag like the one used to carry away the evidence. The trial's ninth day also marked the first time Irvin's family from Florida joined him in the courtroom. His mother, an aunt, a sister and her 7-year-old daughter sat quietly in the front row, about eight feet from him. Irvin looked at them only during breaks and left the courthouse for the day with his arm around his mother. "I think his family is here because they love the man and they want to be here with him," defense attorney Don Godwin said. "They've traveled a long way to be here with him, and I personally respect that." Irvin, charged with second-degree felony cocaine possession, could receive probation or up to 20 years in prison if convicted. He also faces a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge that will be heard later. Irvin and topless dancers Angela Beck and Jasmine Nabwan- gu also face charges stemming from a March 4 incident at an Irving motel. Furn to us for logos. Turn to us for Turn to us for logos. Turn to us for Turn to us for logos. Turn to us foi i?ss cards Turn to us brochures, business cards. Turn in us brochures. b cards. Turn in us bro ch Purr !3iisi Pun xisi Tun 3usi 'Purr bust: Fun 3USJ Furr 3ii si Furr .nisi Fun 3usi Fun 311 Si Fun 3iisi Fun 3usi S Fi 1 Turn To The Salina Journal For "I believe the persistence of vision in such a competitive arena can allow advertisers to create a visual identity for themselves." - Vino Wong Advertising Photographer Call your Salina Journal Marketing Consultant Today! 823-6363 or 1-800-827-6363 holography. Turn to Turn to us for photography. Turn '-*<iun Turn tri n< for u< fr\r ornnliif* fif**tion Tnrn 1^ ne f res foil res. foil res. foi res. foil res. foi res. foil res. foil res. foil res. foi •es. foil res. foi res. foil res. foil res. foil res. foi

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