Don’t bother looking for good-vs.-evil matchups in this year’s Bowl Championship Series. There is no “good” in big-time college athletics, only evil and, well, lesser evil. Herewith, a brief visit to the dark side of the college football playoffs:
ROSE BOWL, January 1
OKLAHOMA (11-2) Honor Roll: Former coach Barry Switzer was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame over the summer. And why not? His 16-year tenure at Norman was marked by dozens of player arrests and ended in 1989 with the school on NCAA probation for recruiting violations.
Big Numbers: Current coach Bob Stoops’s brother Mike makes $350,000 a year as the team’s defensive coordinator. Even the team’s strength coach, Jerry Schmidt, makes nearly $140,000.
Off the Field: More than 200 OU and Texas fans spent the night in the drunk tank following OU’s win in the annual Red River Shootout in Dallas in October.
They Said It: Assistant coach Jonathan Hayes, on asking college players to deal with the media: “It’s not like they’re asking you to go arrest somebody or you’ve gotta dig a ditch for eight hours a day.”
WASHINGTON STATE (10-2) Honor Roll: In an apparent attempt to mock Pac-10 rival Oregon, which last year erected a billboard near Herald Square in Manhattan to tout the Heisman candidacy of QB Joey Harrington, the Cougars hoisted a 25-foot-high likeness of its QB, Jason Gesser, on a grain elevator.
Big Numbers: At $440,000 a year, Coach Mike Price’s salary nearly doubled that of WSU president Lane Rawlins. That was before Price took the Alabama job a few days ago. Next season, the Crimson Tide will pay him roughly $1.5 million.
Off the Field: Cornerback Jason David and linebacker Ira Davis brawled in the locker room in October, over what the coach termed a misunderstanding about a “third party.” The cornerback suffered a broken cheekbone; the linebacker attended an anger-management program and rejoined the team.
They Said It: Price, after the locker-room fight: “The most dangerous animal in the jungle is a wounded animal, and we’re wounded, so look out.”
SUGAR BOWL, January 1
FLORIDA STATE (9-4) Honor Roll: Coach Bobby Bowden selected “Let’s roll,” the reported final words of 9-11 passenger Todd Beamer, as the team’s 2002 slogan.
Big Numbers: Bowden is the highest-paid state employee in Florida, with a salary over $2 million annually.
Off the Field: QB Adrian McPherson was arrested last month on a charge of stealing a blank check and cashing it for $3,500. He was kicked off the team; charges are pending.
They Said It: After the Notre Dame game in October, describing Notre Dame’s ability to create turnovers, Bowden told reporters, “They work on it, they force them. . . . They’re serial killers.” He made the comment the weekend the alleged D.C. sniper was arrested, and the school had to make a hasty apology.
GEORGIA (12-1) Honor Roll: The school has sued Tulane for $1 million for allegedly using deceitful tactics to get out of a three-game contract. Georgia’s lawsuit claims that Tulane was using the change as an excuse to schedule a more profitable game against Texas.
Big Numbers: Head coach Mark Richt’s annual salary is $750,000.
Off the Field: During a search of defensive end Aaron Scranton’s room, school workers confiscated a 36-inch sword, and Scranton was charged with felony possession of a weapon on school property. Scranton left school.
They Said It: Scranton: “Some people collect stamps or cards. I collect swords.”
ORANGE BOWL, January 2
USC (10-2) Honor Roll: Angered by an Oregon recruiting billboard in downtown L.A. featuring the Duck receivers in action, and basking in their own 44-33 victory at Oregon, several Trojan players taunted the Ducks’ fans by”re-creating” the action figures on the field immediately after the game.
Big Numbers: Coach Pete Carroll, a flop as a head coach in the NFL, has a $6 million, five-year contract.
Off the Field: Junior defensive back Marcell Allmond had been banned from campus in 2001 after two fights with other students. After Allmond was suspended for a semester, Carroll welcomed him back to the team this fall.
They Said It: Carroll, after moving up in the BCS computer rankings earlier in the season: “I think it’s a statement about our schedule. . . . If you’re saying it’s a display of respect, what are we talking about, a computer?”
IOWA (11-1) Honor Roll: In the wake of last year’s coach-bio scandal at Notre Dame, coach Kirk Ferentz had to correct his bio, which had described him as an All-Yankee Conference player” as a collegian. He actually was an “All-Academic Yankee Conference” player. He blamed “a press-release guy” for the problem.
Big Numbers: Ferentz became Iowa’s highest-paid public employee when he received a contract extension through 2009 worth $910,000 annually.
Off the Field: A Hawkeye defensive back reportedly had to be subdued with pepper spray after police saw him push a woman up against a building.
Quote of the Year: Ferentz, on the necessity of his contract extension: “I have very good reason to believe that [a rumor of his candidacy for NFL jobs] has been used against us on the recruiting trail. Hopefully, this will take some of that out of the mix.”
FIESTA BOWL, January 3
MIAMI (12-0) Honor Roll: The school had to apologize after a student volunteer was pictured in Florida newspapers taunting Florida State’s Xavier Beitia after the kicker missed a potential game-winning field goal on the final play of Miami’s 28-27 win over the Seminoles in November.
Big Numbers: A new season-ticket policy requires fans to donate $1200 to the Hurricane Club for athletic scholarships or risk losing their seats.
Off the Field: Linebacker recruit Nate Harris had his scholarship offer revoked after he was arrested for armed robbery in June. He accepted a plea agreement and served a six-month bid in a Miami-Dade County boot camp.
They Said It: Coach Larry Coker, on recruiting: “You’ve got to have kids with ability, but we don’t have to dip down for kids that don’t have character.”
OHIO STATE (13-0) Honor Roll: Just before the season began, defensive-line coach Jim Heacock changed his bio, which had touted his “two-year” NFL career. Now it states that he “played briefly.”
Big Numbers: The team’s stadium underwent a $200 million facelift.
Off the Field: Linebacker Marco Cooper was arrested just hours after a spring scrimmage when he was pulled over in his SUV for a possible traffic violation and police found a gun and Ecstasy pills. He pleaded guilty in October to felony charges of drug possession and carrying a concealed weapon.
They Said It: Coach Jim Tressel on the coach-bio scandal: “You know what someone told me would be a great story? Take all of last year’s media guides and all of this year’s and do a study of the changes. But there’s got to be more important things to do in life than that story, right?”