Duffner gets ACC sympathy

July 24, 1995|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Sun Staff Writer

PINEHURST, N.C. -- "I'm glad it ain't me."

The subject was scrutiny at the Atlantic Coast Conference Football Kickoff media event, and Florida State coach Bobby Bowden was remarking on how nice it was that the hard questions were being aimed at Mark Duffner instead of him.

A year ago, the cause celebre in all of college football was the revelation that several Florida State players had received gifts from agents. The gambling suspensions at Maryland haven't received as much national attention as the Seminoles faced last year, but Bowden couldn't help but notice them.

"It's a sign of our times," Bowden said. "Every time I look in the paper, there's another athlete's name in there for something that happened off the field. I went through it last year, and [Notre Dame coach] Lou Holtz had it the year before that. Now, Mark's got to deal with it."

It will be another two months before Duffner gets Scott Milanovich back from the four-game suspension the NCAA slapped on the senior quarterback for violating its rules against gambling on intercollegiate athletics. Milanovich's early absence is one reason the media picked the Terps to finish eighth in the nine-team conference.

The coaches said that if players wanted to gamble, there was little they could do to stop it.

"Mark's just like the rest of us," Clemson coach Tommy West said. "You can talk about gambling, and you can talk about drugs, but when you've got close to 100 players, all you can do is hope they all listen. I don't see it [gambling] as a major problem in college football. Then again, sometimes coaches are the last to know."

Another made a correlation to the Florida State scandal of 1994.

"There is no way to police this," North Carolina State coach Mike O'Cain said. "It's almost like the agent situation. There's no way I can keep a player from gambling if he wants to or from dealing with an agent. You hope that you recruit the kind of kid who, that won't be a part of his life, then you pray they don't get into something like that.

"I'm not saying Scott Milanovich is a bad person either. I know a lot of good people who gamble. Some of them are probably in this room."

When the ACC all-star team was chosen last year, the closest balloting occurred at quarterback, where Florida State's Danny Kanell edged Milanovich. Kanell, who has a four-game head start in that competition this year, said it's up to the players to follow the rules.

"Dan Kendra [a high school All-American quarterback] just got to school, and I told him he's got a lot of responsibility now," Kanell said. "You're put under a microscope, and you have to be careful with everything you do. Whether it's fair or not is beside the point. The coaches can't put surveillance cameras on us."

Had Milanovich not gotten into trouble with the NCAA, he surely would have been the Maryland player brought here. His place was taken by senior linebacker Mike Settles, a captain who was asked if he was mad at Milanovich.

"No, everyone makes mistakes," Settles said. "Scott made a mistake, and he's going to pay for it. The team's going to pay for it."

For his part, Duffner stood by Milanovich and said that the rest of the Terps weren't distracted by the adverse publicity and attention.

"Their focus has been good all spring and summer," Duffner said. "We're a much closer team. We're older, even though we'll start some young kids. But they understand what has to be done."

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