Of Texas, Tar Heels, Tigers and other things

I’m not sure you see these quite as much any more, but I always loved the random notes columns that old-school sports writers used to turn out near the end of a week to make use of those odds and ends which didn’t fit anywhere else.

Blackie Sherrod of the Dallas Morning News had his “Scattershooting while wondering whatever happened to…..” pieces and New York’s legendary Jimmy Cannon would preface his with “Nobody asked me, but…..”

So here are a few things that I haven’t had the inclination even to turn into full-fledged blog posts, but which I should use before they get too old:

I recently enjoyed a trip to Austin, Texas, where I took a couple of members of the staff of The Weekly Triangle, our student newspaper, to the annual fall convention of the Associated Collegiate Press and College Media Advisers. It was quite a nostalgia trip, as Jayne and I used to make Austin an occasional weekend destination when we were newlyweds and I was a graduate student at rival Texas A&M. It’s still a beautiful city with great music, Mexican food and barbecue and a great college atmosphere around the University of Texas.

One thing Texas doesn’t have any more that I still miss is the old Southwest Conference, gone since 1995, but not forgotten by Lone Star State football fans. A columnist in the Austin American-Statesman bemoaned that fact in a piece I read while we were there. He noted that if the SWC were still intact, we would have seen a game this football season between Texas, ranked No. 2 in the nation this week, and TCU, which moved up to No. 4 — for at least the mythical Texas college football championship and probably a game with BCS implications. Instead, Texas played Central Florida last weekend. Too bad.

I’ve made this point before and the previous item underscores it — “big-time” college football programs should use that 12th game that’s been added in recent years to renew natural rivalries that have fallen by the wayside for one reason or another. In addition to Texas and TCU, fans would also embrace games like Clemson-Georgia (last played in 2003) and Florida-Miami (met five times this decade, but didn’t play at all between 1987 and 2001). Unfortunately that extra date has more often become a home game against a beatable opponent — pay a lower-tier Division I or a Division I-AA foe a modest guarantee, pocket the rest and add a “W” to the record. Good deal for the athletic budget, too bad for the fans.

Tonight was opening night for regular season college basketball, and I read with interest this piece on the Sports Illustrated website making an argument for an official opening night for college hoops. I’m thinking that this would be as out of place as tailgating in the culture of college basketball, but it’s an interesting idea.

One of tonight’s opening games was North Carolina vs. Florida International in the Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament. I’ve told several people that I hoped that defending national champion North Carolina would soundly beat FIU tonight at Chapel Hill. That’s a departure from my usual position about the Tar Heels, generally my least favorite team in any game in which they play.

But I’ve felt the Golden Panthers deserved a whipping (which they got tonight, 88-72) since the FIU athletic administration whined and threatened to back out of this game when tournament organizers matched them up against UNC instead of original opponent Ohio State. This after school officials crowed about how they were going big time with the hiring of new coach and former NBA great Isiah Thomas over the summer.

As the saying goes, “To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man.” Seems FIU’s powers that be wanted to skip the middle step — to beat the man, you first have to play the man.

And speaking of the Tar Heels, one story I won’t miss hearing as this season progresses is the one where my alma mater, Clemson, has never won a basketball game at Chapel Hill. That NCAA record 54-game losing streak will neither be extended nor broken this season. The Tigers and Tar Heels play just once in 2009-2010, on Jan. 13 at Clemson, where solid orange hope springs eternal.

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About theoldperfessor

I'm a college professor, teaching journalism and public relations classes at a small private university, and a freelance writer.
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