Williamses should be coupled or removed

March 27, 2001 7:23 AM
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There’s the pungent odor of Limburger coming from tournaments in which both Venus and Serena Williams are playing. Oddsmakers offering lines on tournaments in which both are entered might find it prudent to either couple them in the betting — at a prohibitive price — or else take them off the board entirely. As for their father, Richard Williams: enough already.

College hoops

The hiring of Rick Pitino by the University of Louisville will have a positive ripple effect well beyond the boundaries of his new employer. Pitino’s joining Conference USA instantly gives the conference a tremendous boost in prestige. And that will translate into the other teams in the league recruiting better players and raising the league’s level of competition. Incidentally, Conference USA has a deal in place with ESPN to showcase league games on Wednesday and Friday nights next season.

The firing of college basketball coaches is proceeding at a rapid rate. Many of those dismissed are coaches with winning records. Most notable among those let go was the University of Tennessee’s Jerry Green, who was cast into the darkness despite four successive 20-win seasons concurrent with four NCAA tournament appearances.

Faced with mounting financial commitments — many coming from Title IX — college athletic directors have added a new element in evaluating coaches. A winning record and decent graduation rates are no longer the measuring sticks. Athletic directors want coaches who can put people in the seats. Such is life in big time college sports today.

When a coach is fired, his assistants also get the gate. And as the NCAA Final Four is the Mecca for all basketball coaches, backstage at the Final Four is an ongoing job fair. Out-of-work coaches scurry through hotel lobbies, resumes in hand, buttonholing old buddies in a desperate search for employment. It’s not a pretty picture.

The end of the college basketball season means (thankfully) that Dick Vitale will go into hibernation. His frantic screeching has grown stale. As they used to say in vaudeville, "Change your act or go back to the sticks."

Drawing power

The greatest individual drawing card in American sports today has to be Tiger Woods. With Woods in contention in the Bay Hill Invitational — he won the tourney by sinking a 20-foot birdie putt on the final hole — the last 90 minutes of golf outdrew the NCAA basketball tournament, 6.9 to 6.4 in the Nielsens. You can bet Woods will be the focus of attention at the Masters next week. If he plays well (does he ever play any other way?), the TV ratings will soar. He’s the man to beat in any event he enters. Bet against him at your own peril.

Taking no chances

When early, early lines on college football are posted, it might be advisable to jump all over Nebraska against Notre Dame. Last year at South Bend, the Cornhuskers were forced into overtime before finally prevailing. They don’t want it that close this year, so they’re taking no chances by setting up a favorable schedule.

When Notre Dame plays at Nebraska on Sept. 8, it will be the third game of the season for the Cornhuskers, but the season’s opener for the Irish. Nebraska will host Texas Christian in the Pigskin Classic on Aug. 25, a game in which the Horned Frogs are guaranteed $700,000 to ease the sting of the battering they will take.

The next week, Nebraska entertains Troy State (Ala.), a Division I-AA school in a game that will be little more than a public scrimmage. The week after that, the Irish come to Lincoln. By that time the Huskers should be fine-tuned.

Rules for writers

Larry Felser, sports editor of the Buffalo News and one of eight writers who have covered all 35 Super Bowls, is going into semi-retirement. One of his colleagues, Vic Carucci, who traveled with him for 17 years, made a list of what he learned from the Felser School of Expense Accounts. Based on the premise that everything tastes better when the company pays, it should be must reading for all sportswriters.

1. Eat light before taking a trip.

2. Always answer yes when the waiter asks, "Will you be having any appetizers?"

3. Never be intimidated by the term, "Market price."

4. Never eat anywhere that doesn’t have valet parking and men with tuxedos showing you to your table.

5. Never eat anywhere that offers a menu that doesn’t require translating.

6. Always answer yes when the waiter asks, "Did you leave room for dessert?"