It takes a long horn to band Texas, Coppin

March 16, 1997|By John Eisenberg

PITTSBURGH -- They will each use five players at a time whe they meet today in the second round of the NCAA tournament at the Civic Arena, but any similarities between Coppin State and Texas end there.

The tournament is famous for matching up teams from different states and circumstances, but this is ridiculous.

The Eagles and Longhorns might as well come from different planets.

The University of Texas has 120 buildings, 2,232 faculty members and 50,000 students.

It has one of the largest endowments of any university in the world, thanks to oil-rich alumni.

Coppin, which was a teachers' college until 1970, has 3,540 students and "nine buildings, including the president's house," Coppin coach Fang Mitchell said yesterday.

Few of Coppin's alumni are in the oil business.

"Our alumni are teachers," Mitchell said.

Texas has a famous "strip," a collection of bars and stores near campus.

Coppin has North Avenue, where the word "strip" has different connotations.

Texas has a football stadium, a basketball arena, a baseball stadium, a world-class natatorium, a tennis facility, a volleyball venue, a soccer stadium and a softball stadium under construction -- all on campus.

Coppin has a nice, small on-campus gym for its men's and women's basketball teams.

The baseball Eagles play at a city stadium in Druid Hill Park.

The Texas athletic department has a $26 million budget.

Coppin's budget is $1.6 million.

"The first call I made this morning was to find out how much money we made" by winning a first-round game against South Carolina on Friday, said Mitchell, who also is Coppin's athletic director.

The Longhorns will fly back to Texas after today's game on a chartered plane, as they often do.

The Eagles will take a bus back to Baltimore.

"We would take the bus to California," said Coppin senior center Terquin Mott.

Actually, that's not true. The Eagles might bus as far as North Carolina, but they often fly and then rent cars to get to the hotel and gym.

"We usually rent four cars," said Dave Popham, Coppin's sports information director. "The [three] coaches and I drive."

Texas has three sites on the World Wide Web with information about the team.

Coppin still doesn't have carpeting in its locker room at the Coppin Center.

"It's your basic high school locker room," Mitchell said.

Texas has a sports radio network with 19 affiliates in three states.

Coppin not only doesn't have a radio contract, but also doesn't have a band.

"Or a fight song," Mitchell said. "If you don't have a band, you can't have a fight song."

Actually, the Eagles are a band unto themselves.

"We sing in the bus all the time," senior forward Reggie Welch said. "We're our own band."

They were a little too busy to sing during the game Friday, so Mitchell rented Morgan State's band.

"We paid their way here and bought them Coppin T-shirts," Mitchell said. "It's one of the best things I've ever seen. We used our rival's band."

The band members drove home after the game, but they're coming back today.

Texas has a marching band with more 200 members.

It also has 17 people working to promote and market the Longhorns.

Coppin has Popham.

"And an intern," Popham said yesterday. "We're feeling a little undermanned right now."

Especially considering that Popham's NCAA credential identifies him as being from Coppon State.

"I've seen Coppins, Copping, Coppon and Choppin," Popham said.

Who's writing this stuff, Dr. Seuss?

Texas coach Tom Penders is helped by three assistant coaches, a trainer, an equipment manager, a strength coach, a video coordinator, two administrative assistants, a student trainer and five student managers.

Mitchell has a trainer and two assistants.

"We tell kids, 'If you want big buildings and all that fancy stuff, don't come to Coppin,' " Mitchell said. "The education is great and the faculty really cares. But we want kids who are down to earth."

The down-to-earth Eagles played at Nebraska earlier this season and stared in wonderment at the Cornhuskers' enormous weight room.

"It had to be a million-dollar weight room," Mott said. "Our weight room is in a closet."

Texas has the same kind of weight room as Nebraska, including exercise bicycles equipped with televisions.

"We don't even have the bikes, much less the TVs," Mott said.

Playing in the sponsor-driven NCAA tournament allows the Eagles to drink Gatorade on the sidelines and use all the towels they want.

"Back home," Mott said, "we get water during the games. And when they throw us a towel, they wait for us to throw it back."

In other words, they keep track of their towels at Coppin.

L Texas? Rest assured that it can buy all the towels it wants.

"I spent most of my career coaching at smaller programs like Coppin, so I can appreciate what they have gone through," said Penders, who worked at Tufts, Fordham and Columbia in the '70s and '80s. "I had to drive the bus and sweep the court and make the travel arrangements. Not until I got to Texas did I see how the other half lived."

The other half is, indeed, Texas, which has more money than it can spend.

Coppin doesn't quite have that "problem."

"My sports information director has advised me to talk to anyone who wants to talk to me today [in the wake of the South Carolina upset], to better our chances of possibly raising money somewhere down the line," Mitchell said yesterday with a smile. "We need that, so I am taking that advice. And I am getting tired."

Meanwhile, Mitchell's players are floating along on the possibility of beating another "rich" team and advancing to the Sweet 16.

"We love playing teams like that, in fact," Welch said. "Because when we beat them, we don't just send the players home. We send the band home, too."

Pub Date: 3/16/97

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