The TV repairman
JIM NANTZ, CBS play-by-play man, studio host and all-around handyman, says there's absolutely no doubt about it: College football will have a playoff system, and fairly soon.
"Economics," he reasoned, saying the magic word. "The colleges are constantly looking for new sources of revenue and a playoff could be their last gasp.
"CBS is paying $143 million for the basketball tournament this year on the first year of a billion-dollar contract. Imagine what the network would pay for a football tournament."
But what of the bowls, oh great network seer?
"They are contributing to the situation that will see a playoff come about and have only themselves to blame," said Nantz. "They're choking themselves to death. Look, this year we've got eight bowl games on New Year's Day, including our [plug] Texas vs. Miami Cotton Bowl, and there's talk of the Blockbuster Bowl making it nine next year.
"All along the bowls have been shredding the ratings, so that now they're so bad they're just not going to get the money from TV."
Enter the major sponsors, who could care less what they're helping to support just so long as they get their name in front of the public. They've already taken over the names of even the hallowed old Jan. 1 festivals.
"I've noticed in my travels," continued Nantz, "that the hard-liners and old-timers [against a playoff] are coming around to the idea. I'm sure it's going to happen, but I should state that as a prognosticator, I leave something to be desired. I'd say I'm 25 percent in picking the games I've covered."
As for Nantz's assignment in Dallas come next Tuesday, he sees it as CBS's return to the limelight. Recall, for the last few years, the network, which has done the Cotton Bowl since before Texas became a state, has been stuck with a game pitting a weak Southwest Conference champion against an also-ran from the Southeastern Conference.
Rarely was the conference rep Texas and as Nantz explained, "There's a saying down here that when Texas is sick the SWC is close to death." The Longhorns went 10-1 this time around, though, are rated No. 3 and have the very visible Miami (No. 4) as a foe.
"As an announcer steeped in Cotton Bowl history [he graduated from Houston] and a guy with a wife who graduated from Texas, it will be tough maintaining my objectivity," he said. "But I've been doing games all over for a few years now and I've long since learned that you go in assuming nothing.
"We'll treat the game as a piece of a puzzle, which won't be completed until after the Colorado-Notre Dame [Orange Bowl] game at night. The other factor in the equation is Georgia Tech and Nebraska playing in the Citrus Bowl at the same time [1:30 p.m.] as our game."
With complete objectivity understand, Nantz sees Nebraska getting rid of No. 2-rated Georgia Tech and Notre Dame (5) beating top gun Colorado: "That will open it up for Texas to scoot through to the title with a win. Of the three games, I'm least sure the Longhorns are going to get the job done."
* The NFL, as usual, had the Gallup Poll ring up 1,235 adults in the dead of football season to ask what sport was the favorite to see live or on TV and football finished tops with a 35 percentile. Baseball pulled a 16, basketball a 15. What was it P.T. Barnum said about the public?
* The athletic director's job down at Davidson must be a breeze. Ex-Virginia coach Terry Holland, now Davidson's AD, just signed on with ESPN to serve as analyst on its Western Athletic Conference package.
* NBC did it again last weekend, asking Jim Brown about a modern day running back (Bo Jackson). Invariably and not too subtly, No. 32 points out how terrific he was and why do you guys keep asking me about these impostors?
* Is it my imagination or is Barry Tompkins about twice as good doing boxing as he was when he was doing the HBO telecasts?
* Memo to the nets and ESPN: Whether or not Jerry Burns coaches the Vikings next season is not what you'd call "stop the presses" stuff.