When the National Football League's Seattle Seahawks fired Jack Patera last week, the name of Don James popped to mind. As the architect of the University of Washington's top-ranked and undefeated Huskies, James is a popular figure around the city and the logical choice for the Seahawk vacancy.
One local headline even read: ''James destined to become Hawk coach.''
If that's the case, destiny will have to wait for a while. James has made it a rule not to to discuss other jobs during the season, and the Seahawks obviously respect this position. They have hired Mike McCormack to serve as the team's interim coach for what remains (if anything) of the strike-riddled season. The Seahawks have made it plain, however,that McCormack will return to a management position.
James likes the Seattle area, and some believe it's the only place he would consider becoming a pro coach. Certainly recent history indicates that college mentors can jump to the NFL and be successful, particularly ones with James's credentials. A proven winner at both Kent State and Washington, he was named Coach of the Year in guiding the Huskies to a 10-2 record and Rose Bowl victory last season. He could probably provide the Seahawks with the same kind of quiet , stable leadership that Bud Grant provides the Minnesota Vikings. Cowboy running sensation
Take it from Oklahoma State's sports information office, Ernest Anderson is just as anonymous as his name sounds. ''Who is this guy, anyhow?'' is the stock question increasingly asked by reporters. Their curiosity stems from the fact that Anderson, and not Herschel Walker or some other heralded runner, is the nation's leading rusher with a 208-yard average.
Until this, his third full season with the Cowboys, Anderson had gone unnoticed, gaining 390 and 698 yards the last two years. Now, after only five games, he's surpassed the 1,000-yard mark. The only other players to reach that figure as quickly were Ed Marinaro, Ricky Bell, and Marcus Allen.
If Ernest keeps going at his current clip, he would break the school's single-season rushing record set by Terry Miller, who was a serious Heisman Trophy candidate in 1977.
Unlike Miller, though, Anderson didn't arrive in Stillwater as a marvelous talent. He came from Orange, Texas, with average written all over him. As a freshman he could bench press only 150 pounds; today he hoists double that.
At this point Anderson's most important asset may be his durability, which reminds Cowboy rooters of Walt Garrison, another gritty OSU product. Ernest can take a pounding and keep right on going, which is just the type of resilience required to play in Oklahoma State's new I formation, which relies primarily on one runner (the team's second leading rusher has only 142 yards). Anderson averages about 35 yard carries a game, which is a lot for someone on t. 11 in. and 190 pounds.
On his first carry this year he raced 74 yards against North Texas State and finished with 220. He followed this with outings of 152, 195, 270, and 205 yards against Tulsa, Louisville, Kansas, and Colorado, respectively. If Anderson's efforts have gone largely overlooked by the public at large it's because the Cowboys haven't been winning. They are 1-2-2 and now face Oklahoma, Missouri, and Nebraska. For Anderson to gain 200 yards against any of these opponents would be a real feather in his battered helmet. Educated insteps
It seems like every time you turn around another placekicker is sailing a game-winning field goal through the uprights, and not necessarily from chip-shot range. Just last Saturday, for example, Arizona's Max Zendejas cooly hit a 48 -yard field goal that beat Notre Dame as time expired. There have been numerous similar instances, leading to the conclusion that kickers are getting better and more poised all the time.
A phone call to the National Collegiate Athletic Association in Shawnee Mission, Kansas, basically confirms that hunch. Until the season's over and all the data digested, NCAA statisticians won't have information on field goal distances or the number of game-winning kicks. They do know, however, that nearly 64 percent of all field goals attempted have been good in Division I-A play this season. The best season-long accuracy mark is .603, and that was set last year. The percentage has improved consistently since 1969, when the statistic was first logged and kickers were missing slightly more field goals than they made.
The foot may really have been placed back in game in 1959, when the goal posts were widened by nearly five feet. Kicking specialists and a higher kicking tee soon followed, as did the trend toward soccer converts, who have proliferated since the Ivy League days of Charlie and Pete Gogolak. Last year, soccer-style kickers outnumbered conventional, head-on booters 138 to 50. This disparity continues to grow.
By the mid 1970s some kickers were regularly attempting field goals from midfield. In fact, the average miss of Southwest Louisiana's Rafael Septien in 1974 was 51.9 yards. To encourage teams to drive closer to the goal line, the rules were changed in 1978 to return the ball to the line of scrimmage after a miss, rather than bring the ball out to the 20 yard line.
During the four following seasons, fewer 60-yarders were tried and made (2 of 28) than in all of 1977 (6 of 40). The collegiate record of 63 yards is held by three players, Russell Erxleben of Texas, Steve Little of Arkansas, and Joe Williams of Wichita State. Eric Affholter of Oak Park High School in California just broke the schoolboy record with a 64-yarder that bounced off the upright.