Sports Insider

Jan 17, 2001 3:04 AM

The chutzpah award of the year goes to Dick Vermeil. At a time when his negotiating with the Kansas City Chiefs was public knowledge, Vermeil called the St. Louis Rams and asked for six Super Bowl tickets. The Chiefs paid a high price to get Vermeil””$500,000 to the Rams, along with two draft choices. And they gave Vermeil a three-year contract worth $10 million. All this for a 64-year-old coach who, except for one great season, posted a 9-23 record with the Rams and had to be overruled by his superiors when he wanted to get rid of running back Marshal Faulk, his team’s best player. There’s something screwy here. Maybe Carl Peterson, the big boss of the Chiefs, should be given a Rorschach test”¦

So who runs college football? Not the college presidents who, except when one of their schools gets involved in some scandal, have more important things to worry about. And not the NCAA which in the final analysis has only peripheral control over the game. The real power of college football is in the hands of Jim Delany, Tom Hansen, Roy Kramer, John Swofford, Kevin Weiberg and Mike Tranghese. They are, respectively, the commissioners of the Big Ten Conference, the Pacific-10 Conference, the Southeastern Conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big 12 Conference and the Big East Conference. They control the Bowl Championship Series and all of the other major bowls. Impervious to overwhelming public opinion and media criticism, their object is to keep the present bowl system intact and, above all, prevent a playoff system for a genuine national championship, which would of necessity come under the aegis of the NCAA and thus deprive their clients of the millions of dollars they now control through the current set-up. And the situation will not change. The current BCS contract with ABC-TV runs through the 2005 season and will be extended beyond that at a meeting scheduled for April. College football is destined to remain the only major sport without a championship playoff”¦

It won’t take much for new coach Marty Schottenheimer to make the Washington Redskins a winning team. Despite all their travail this past season, they would have won four more games and their divisional championship if they had an adequate placekicker. Look for Schottenheimer to remedy that situation and for the Redskins to be the team in 2001 they were supposed to be in 2000”¦

And speaking of place-kickers, you can bet that ancient Al Del Greco will be cut loose by the Tennessee Titans. Coming at the end of an erratic season, his three misses in four field-goal attempts in the AFC divisional playoff game sealed his fate”¦

Longshot play of the week: Astra Ridge at Santa Anita, Saturday, January 20”¦

Best bet of the week: Platinum Tiara at Gulfstream Park, Sunday, January 21”¦

Football’s version of musical chairs continues with full vigor. A day doesn’t pass when the sports pages carry reports””both for the NFL and the colleges””of head coaches, offensive coordinators, defensive coordinators and sundry assistant coaches being fired or changing teams. No less than 22 Division I-A college teams will have new coaches for the 2001 season. It seems that the only person failing to land a new job is Linda Chavez”¦

One person who won’t have trouble finding a new job is Rick Pitino. But it will be in the college ranks, not in the NBA. Pitino, along with recent and notably, John Calipari and P.J. Carlisimo, discovered that life in the pros is much different than life in the colleges. Aside from working with a different strata of athletes, the schedule is much tougher. In the colleges you can schedule some early-season cupcakes and there are always some weak sisters within a conference that enable a team and its coach to build a winning record. Not so in the pros where you can’t pick and choose any of your opponents and where every team, even the weakest ones, has quality players and no game is an automatic win”¦

Pitino’s late team, the Celtics, along with the Red Sox, the NHL Bruins and the NFL Patriots, make Boston the hub of losers”¦

Talk about desperation, how about the Red Sox signing David Cone? Last year, pitching for the champion Yankees, the 38-year-old Cone posted a 4-14 record with a 6.91 ERA. To put it bluntly””and accurately””the guy’s washed up”¦

Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Reeves, on the outs with team president Taylor Smith, is in the final year of his contract and won’t be back after it expires. He has told his assistant coaches to feel free to look elsewhere.