Seven out of twelve bowling

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 10, 2002

This turns out to be one of those football years when no Southeastern Conference team has a chance for the national title, but seven of the 12 member schools are going to bowls, and that isn’t too shabby.

Georgia, the SEC title-holder by virtue of its 30-3 victory over Arkansas in Atlanta last Saturday, might have been in the running except for its earlier 7-point loss to Florida.

So, under the Bowl Championship Series formula, it will be No. 1 Miami against No. 2 Ohio State for the big honor, to be decided Jan. 3 in the Fiesta Bowl.

Without NCAA problems, Alabama and Kentucky from the SEC also would be bowl-eligible, and Dennis Franchione would be preparing for a post-season game rather than high-tailing it to College Station, Texas.

The 8-4 Auburn Tigers, fresh off their victory over Alabama, drew a formidable opponent, 9-3 Penn State with its stellar runner, Larry Johnson, in the Capitol One Bowl in Orlando on New Year’s.

Even Mississippi, despite a 6-6 record, is a post-season team, an indication of the over-proliferation of bowls.

The Rebels will face 7-6 Nebraska (my, how the Cornhuskers have faded!) in the Independence Bowl on Dec. 27 in Shreveport.

Other SEC invitees are 9-4 Arkansas against 7-5 Minnesota in the Dec. 30 Music City Bowl at Nashville, 8-4 Tennessee against 10-3 Maryland in the Dec. 31 Peach Bowl in Atlanta, 8-4 Florida against 9-3 Michigan in the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl in Tampa, 8-4 Louisiana State against 10-2 Texas in the Jan. 1 Cotton Bowl in Dallas, and 12-1 Georgia against 9-4 Florida State in the Jan. 1 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.

What else can be said about Coach Fran’s defection to Texas A&M? Not much, except:

He has been called &uot;Fran the Phoney&uot; and &uot;Coach Ran,&uot; among other not very complimentary epithets.

Let’s try some more:

Coach Fran-chise, &uot;the right to market a product,&uot; in this case, himself.

Coach Fran-gible, &uot;breakable, fragile,&uot; his attitude toward his contract at Alabama and his pledge to the players who didn’t break their allegiance to the Tide.

Coach Fran-k, &uot;open and honest,&uot; two words that don’t quite gibe with the peripatetic perambulator.

Coach Fran-kenstein, &uot;any person destroyed by his own creation,&uot; which describes what probably will happen to him at Texas A&M, which won its only national title back in 1939 and which probably won’t ever win another, under him or anyone else.

Coach Fran-tic, &uot;wild with anger, pain, frenzied,&uot; descriptions that probably apply both to Franchione and to Tide people who trusted his word.

Not to mention Dennis the Menace.

Now, if you will permit a personal note.

This Friday night, Dec. 13, at 7 p.m. on ESPN Classic, and again on Tuesday, Dec. 17 at 1 p.m. on ESPN, there will be a retrospective on coach Bear Bryant, whose career ended about 20 years ago.

I happened to be one of those interviewed for the show, and possibly I made the cut and will appear on the show.

You might want to watch it, if not to see me, to at least see the coach.

This isn’t to be confused with &uot;The Junction Boys,&uot; which airs this Saturday night.

Hoyt Harwell is a retired Associated Press Correspondent who covered major sports in Alabama for 26 years. Harwell lives in Hoover. (e-mail: