In case you missed it, the spring football season was completed at all WAC schools by last weekend. Spring ball has never taken off with the public in the WAC. There are places in America where spring practices, for some reason, aren't so anonymous. In Texas, for instance (except El Paso), and the deep South. And in Tennessee, where
they reportedly get huge crowds for the University of Tennessee spring game and everybody wears orange.Out here in the WAC, things are more laid-back, low-key. This year's attendance at BYU's Blue-White spring game was, in fact, the largest crowd for a WAC spring scrimmage; and it was only an estimated 9,000. Wyoming, with 7,000, tied for second with Hawaii. UTEP had 6,000 show up in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, while 3,500 showed up at San Diego State, 3,000 at Colorado State, 2,200 at the Air Force Academy, 1,500 at Utah, and 200 at New Mexico, most of whom reportedly got lost while looking for a women's field hockey match.
Still, even if a lot of people don't turn out, a lot happens in the spring. Coaches insist it's the time when squads mesh, bond, meld and unite. That and look forward to summer vacation. It's when junior college transfers show up, battles for vacated positions unfold, new offensive and defensive wrinkles are introduced. It's when, at some schools, new coaches meet old teams, and at other schools, where old coaches meet new teams.
Several possibly significant developments took place at the nine WAC schools this spring. As a service to those readers who didn't make it out to the stadium of the team of their choice, here's a capsulized, alphabetalized spring summary that can serve as Your First Primer to 1989 WAC Football:
At the Air Force Academy - Coach Fisher DeBerry tinkered with the Falcons' traditional wishbone offense and came up with something new: The forward pass. DeBerry told Dee Dowis, his senior quarterback, that now, instead of three options, he'll have four. He can keep the ball himself, he can pitch to the halfback, he can pitch to the fullback, or he can stop on a dime, step back four steps, and throw to his wide receivers. Thus unleashed, Dowis completed 10 of 20 passes in the Blue-Silver game, for 187 yards and a touchdown. Honest.
At Brigham Young - Ty Detmer went the entire spring as the Cougars' absolute, no-question-about-it, No. 1 quarterback. However, Sean Covey was recovering from knee surgery and did not practice. Coach LaVell Edwards didn't elaborate on the quarterback situation, but he did allow his mouth to drop when defensive end Rich Kaufusi, a transfer from Dixie J. C., sacked Detmer four times in the Blue-White game.
At Colorado State - Earle Bruce showed up as the new coach, replacing Leon Fuller who was fired. Bruce, of course, is the Ohio State coach who was run out of Columbus for averaging only nine wins a year. If he wins nine games in Ft. Collins they'll give him the keys to Estes National Park and declare him a NATIVE. Bruce inherits 18 starters from Fuller's 1-10 team. The first thing he told them was that their jobs are intact.
At Hawaii - Fourteen starters returned as coach Bob Wagner stressed the importance of there being no place like home, particularly if it's your home. The Rainbow Warriors play no less than 10 of their 12 1989 games in Aloha Stadium, and, as a greeting committee, they have their seven top defensive players back from a year ago.
At New Mexico - After last year's 2-10 season, the Lobos spent most of the spring learning the names of all the new juco transfers, that and trying to find wide receiver Terance Mathis at the campus of the Technical Vocational Institute in Albuquerque. Mathis, the No. 5 receiver in the country two years ago, went to TVI to make up a couple of courses, and hasn't been seen since.
At San Diego State - New coach Al Luginbill showed up, and last year's quarterback, Scott Barrick didn't. Barrick said he was burned out on football. No matter. Dan McGwire, a 6-foot-8, 235-pound transfer from the University of Iowa who is Mark-the-baseball-player's younger brother, is supposed to replace Barrick in the new Dennis Erickson-inspired quick-pass, one-back offense Luginbill installed.
At UTEP - Yet another new coach met his players. In this case, 35-year-old David Lee met the holdovers from Bob Stull's 10-3 1988 team. Stull took a job offer from Missouri, and took his entire staff with him. It didn't take long for Lee and his all-new staff to meet his returning offensive starters. There are three. His first public statement was this: "Obviously, there is no way we can match up to 1988's record-setting offense." Obviously, Lee is no fool.
At Utah - The Utes reported record sales of their "I Was There, Utah 57, BYU 28" T-shirts. Heisman Trophy, Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize candidate Scott Mitchell looked as strong as ever, and went through the spring unmarked by the defense. The Utes had an unwritten spring motto: "You toucha the quarterback, you losea your scholarship."
At Wyoming - As usual, Coach Paul Roach held a quarterback tryout camp, and didn't resolve anything. Three players - Tom Corontcos, Bobby Fresques and Peter Rowe - move into August still competing for the starting job vacated by wunderkind Randy Welniak. That strategy has worked well for Roach the past two years, when a quarterback controversy has led the Cowboys to 18 straight WAC wins and two titles.
What does all this mean? It means they're all planning to play in the fall, for one thing, and it means it's enough information to go ahead and quote the first early-season, don't-let-Pete-Rose-see-these odds on Who's Going To Win The Title.
To wit: Hawaii, 2-1; BYU, 3-1; Air Force and Utah, 5-1; Wyoming, 10-1; Colorado State and San Diego State, 50-1; UTEP, 75-1; New Mexico and the Technical Vocational Institute, 30,000-1. All figures subject to change, of course. To this point, one key question remains: How any of the above will behave in front of a crowd.