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Close Games Spice Atlanta's Peach Bowl

GIVEN that there are 19 college football bowl games and many lack scintillating matchups, what's a bowl to do to gain distinction? The Peach Bowl in Atlanta has found a ready answer in its previous results. The last nine games have each been decided by five points or less, prompting organizers to call their bowl ``the nation's most competitive college football game.''

The 26th annual edition, to be played Dec. 31, involves representatives from two Southern conferences, Kentucky (6-5) of the Southeastern and Clemson (8-3) of the Atlantic Coast. Even if nobody tunes in ESPN's coverage, bowl officials are expecting good attendance and a big boost for the local economy.

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The Peach Bowl has been moved from Jan. 2 to New Year's Eve (6 p.m., E.T.) so that visitors can attend the game in the Georgia Dome, then take a short walk over to Underground Atlanta to watch the Big Peach drop at midnight. This is the South's version of the Big Apple's descent in New York's Times Square. Washington Bullets redux

Oops. An item in last week's Sports Notebook suggested that pro basketball's Washington Bullets might want to consider a change of name, to avoid the guns and shooting imagery. Blazers was given as a possible option, but that is not a viable alternative, given that the National Basketball Association already has the Portland Trail Blazers, or Blazers for short. Searching for something indigenous -

Filibusters, Monuments, Lobbyists - hasn't yet yielded anything with the right ring. Capitals, a natural, is already taken by Washington's National Hockey League entry, and Senators probably will always be associated with baseball and losing. Who can forget the immortal line once uttered about the city's woeful team: ``First in war, first in peace, last in the American League.'' If anybody has any good ideas on what the Bullets should change their name to, please write. Touching other bases

* Collecting 3,000 hits is considered one of baseball's greatest achievements. Even so, it's hard to appreciate the magnitude of this feat - accomplished by only 20 major leaguers - until seeing a player's hit-by-hit inventory. A large-format paperback on the career of Dave Winfield (``Dave Winfield: 3,000 and Counting,'' a Pioneer Book, $9.95) provides just such a hit-by-hit review. The list runs to 16 pages of fine print.

* Coach Johnny Majors may have experienced a rough ride, with a 3-8 record, during his first season back at the University of Pittsburgh, where his Panthers won the 1976 national championship. But Majors deserves high marks for folksiness for taping his weekly coach's TV show at local elementary schools.

* Ever wonder how tall the average NBA player is? The league probably thought you'd ask, because it has come up with the answer: 6 ft., 7.34 inches. That's the tallest since 1988. In related trivia: Only four of 27 teams are without a seven-footer. Atlanta has the most seven-foot players, with four, but the Hawks are second to the Miami Heat, who lead the league with an average height per player of almost 6 ft., 9 in. The New York Knicks are the most experienced team, the New Jersey Nets the heaviest, and the San Antonio Spurs the oldest.

* Before Florida State quarterback Charlie Ward collected this year's Heisman Trophy, presented annually to the nation's top college football player, Larry Kelley gave his Heisman away. Kelley won the trophy in 1936, the second year it was presented. This year he donated his trophy, not to Yale University, where he was an end, but to Peddie School in Hightstown, N.J., where he played his high school football and later taught.

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* Among the media descriptions of the scruffy Philadelphia Phillies at last October's World Series was this one by tennis writer Bud Collins: In a recent Boston Globe column he described burly first baseman John Kruk as an ``unmade king-sized bed.'' The free-spirited Kruk would probably love the line.

* What football running back wouldn't want to run behind a line that averages 6 ft., 6-1/2 in. and 277 lbs. per player, tackle to tackle? Would you believe that these dimensions are those for the high school All-America team selected by USA Today?

* Outside of New England, many people may have missed one of the most interesting career decisions made in college football this season. Tim Murphy turned down a five-year contract extension at the University of Cincinnati, where he led the Bearcats to an 8-3 season, their first winning record since 1982, to accept the head coaching job at Harvard University. He also reportedly will take a hefty salary cut - from $112,000 to $75,000 - and move down from a Division I-A program to the next level (I-AA). In explaining his decision, Murphy talked about Harvard being a ``unique opportunity'' because of its athletic and academic traditions. It also affords him more stability.

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