MOST WOULD AGREE there are too many college football bowl games, but it's a good thing for the University of Maryland that the NCAA didn't adopt Don James' plan to reduce the number.
"I'd like to see them require a team to have seven victories before it could be chosen," said James, the University of Washington football coach.
James' plan not only would have kept Maryland from playing in the Independence Bowl; it also would have kept Air Force, California, Indiana, North Carolina State and Syracuse out of this year's bowls. All of those, like Maryland, won six games in the regular season.
* David Zimmerman, father of a Maryland band member, asks if the Terps really helped themselves by going to a relatively obscure bowl and tying Louisiana Tech, 34-34. Answer: You bet they did.
To appreciate why, you have to remember where the Maryland program was at the beginning of the season, when everything looked so negative. Now the Terps can say they've had a winning season (6-5-1) and gone to a bowl game -- which they didn't lose. Looking at the overall picture, that's a lot of progress in four months.
Maryland freshman running back Mark Mason proved he's more than a one-game flash when he ran for 93 yards against Louisiana Tech. In the final two games, Mason ran for more than 200 yards and the moribund Terps' offense came to life with 69 points. And to think that for 10 games Mason languished on the bench.
* The Washington Capitals' brass tempered its original enthusiasm for newly arrived Soviet center/left wing Dimitri Khristich after seeing him play here last weekend for their Skipjacks farm team. In three games, Khristich failed to score. In the third, Sunday night, nobody scored as the Jacks were shut out by Moncton. Caps GM David Poile and director of player personnel Jack Button left the Arena scratching their heads.
* The Christmas spirit abounds in good ol' Chicago. Just ask Cubs pitching star Rick Sutcliffe.
Sutcliffe annually at this time of year spends several days giving out thousands of dollars in gifts and grants from his foundation to worthy social agencies in poor neighborhoods. When Rick came out of one stop this year he found his car windows smashed and his radio stolen.
* Having won against previously unbeaten Rutgers, the undefeated (7-0) Princeton basketball team now sets its sights on No. 1-ranked and defending NCAA champion Nevada-Las Vegas tomorrow night (9:30 on ESPN). Coach Jud Heathcote, whose Michigan State team was beaten, 95-75, by UNLV Saturday, says the Runnin' Rebels "may have the best group of starters since the Wooden era at UCLA." Nobody would say anything like that about Princeton's talent. But what the Tigers have is a coach, Pete Carril, who knows how to slow it down and beat superior talent. The UNLV coach, Jerry Tarkanian, is no slouch either. He's the most successful coach in college basketball history with a winning percentage of .827.
* Really good coaching is evident when a team improves, week by week, as the Johns Hopkins football team did this season under first-year coach Jim Margraff. In their first five games, the Blue Jays had 25 fumbles. In their last five, they fumbled three times. Keep your eye on Margraff. Just turned 30, he's going to go a long way in coaching.
* Don't you just love the exuberance of 22-year-olds? Sunday, after Eric Dickerson gained 100-plus yards against the Jets for Indianapolis, the 60th time he has run for the century mark, Colts rookie quarterback Jeff George gushed: "Eric is by far the best running back who ever lived." Personally, I'll take Jim Brown or Gale Sayers. But then they played before Jeff George was born.
* Opinion: The NFL should not have put the Redskins at Patriots game last weekend on TV. The league hasn't looked that bush since the '40s.