After chat with Landry, Pitt's Majors isn't bowled over by playoff possibility

Phil Jackman

November 16, 1993|By Phil Jackman

The Mourning Line (the coaches speak):

You can't tell it by the team he coached this season, oft-battered and constantly bruised Pitt (2-8), but there was a time in the immediate past and before when Johnny Majors was a player in the national title picture.

This being the time of the season when conference titles, polls, the bowl coalition and lots of other things are being determined/arranged/politicized on the collegiate front, Majors, as an expert bystander, was asked his thoughts on the subject.

Welcoming the opportunity not to expound on his Panthers being pounded by Boston College, 33-0, at home Saturday, the coach started, "There's no way all the arguments about which team is best will ever be settled unless there's a playoff . . . something I'm not an advocate of, by the way."

The long-ago Tennessee tailback seemed to be reversing his field here. What gives?

"I was the beneficiary of the mythical championship here at Pitt in 1976 and, despite that, I thought a playoff might be the way to go," said Majors. "Then, a while back, I was talking to [ex-Dallas Cowboys coach] Tom Landry.

"He said, 'You guys [the colleges] would be crazy to vote for a playoff system.' We talked of what a good feeling there is after the bowls; what are there, 18 of them? That's a lot of happy people. Bowls are so much fun for everyone -- the staff, the support people, the fans, people in the host cities.

"Not only is it a great reward for a team providing a healthy paycheck, there's the cultural advantages and the pluses of the games not being until a month or so after the regular season.

"You get time off to rest, to enjoy a bit of Christmas vacation and still have plenty of time for game preparation. As Landry said, 'Playoffs would do away with all that.' It seems to me, the bowl coalition is probably the way to continue."

Besides, in addition to getting rid of a bunch of traditional anlucrative bowls, who's to say the NCAA would ever come up with a playoff system that fit the needs or satisfied a healthy majority of the people involved?

* The drill sergeant and coach at Boston College, Tom Coughlin, is a straight-edged, no-nonsense kind of guy. The only time he wants his Eagles to lift their noses from the grindstone is to reposition their shoulders on the wheel. B.C. has won seven straight games after clubbing Pitt Saturday and the next assignment is a dandy: at Notre Dame Saturday.

Of course, Coughlin is aware the top-rated Irish are a load, athey were last year when the Eagles visit ed South Bend, Ind. That one was embarrassing, Notre Dame taking no prisoners, 54-7. But the coach isn't making with the "that was then, this is now" routine.

"I hope [quarterback] Glenn Foley and the rest of our players take it [the humiliating loss] personally. That game told us something about ourselves. We went out there without anticipating playing well, or anticipating victory. I hope our players feel they have something to prove, that we'll assemble a solid plan and that they believe in it and themselves."

* One of these days or victories, Don Nehlen may just get around to admitting he has quite a team up in the mountains of West Virginia. But he hasn't wavered yet even though his Mountaineers are 9-0 and rated seventh and ninth in the polls.

"We were pleased to win the Temple game Saturday [49-7], no question about it," said the coach humbly as though the issue ever was in doubt against the 1-9 Owls.

The biggie Saturday (3:30 p.m., ABC) sees West Virginia home to Miami, a team Nehlen refers to as being "light years ahead of everyone in our league when the Big East Conference was formed. You guys [the media] know everything, so I don't know what you missed in not rating us too highly in the preseason.

"Then, everyone was talking about Syracuse and Boston College challenging Miami, but it didn't happen. We're going to see if we've been able to close the gap any."

In defense of "us guys [the media]," maybe the reason the Mountaineers were overlooked slightly is because the coach is constant in his woe-is-me pronouncements regarding his team.

Asked repeatedly to match this gang with his 1988 Fiesta Bowl aggregation that lost the national championship to Notre Dame, the coach says, "That team had more depth and more size. This one's together, is a step quicker and has better special teams."

Mountaineer Stadium holds 63,500. They're expecting 70,000 (and probably a citation from the fire marshal's office).

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