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  •   Berkowitz: Recruiting Has Hurt Maryland Football

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    Steve Berkowitz, The Post's college sports editor, said on Sports Online that the emergence of Virginia, Virginia Tech and North Carolina has made the competition for players from the Washington area tougher, contributing to Maryland's slide. Berkowitz discussed Maryland's situation as well as what should be expected this season from the top national and local teams.

    Chester County, Pa.: What are the chances of the Virginia Tech Hokie football program being accepted into the Atlantic Coast Conference in the near future? Would such a move help their reputation and future ranking?

    Steven Berkowitz: Virginia Tech is unlikely to be going to the ACC. The program and the Big East just announced that it will be putting all of its teams in the Big East, switching its teams from the Atlantic 10. I assume this will help it's men's basketball recruiting. Good morning, Steve, and welcome to Sports Online. Glad we were able to get that first burning question answered. The weather outside today feels decidedly like football weather and that has to mean that The Post's college football preview has to be nearby. Can you tell us when the preview is coming out and a little of what we should expect from the issue?

    Steven Berkowitz: The college and high school football preview sections will appear in the thursday paper. The pro section will appear a week from thursday. The high school section is a new undertaking for us, and we will provide team-by-team capsules of all of the area's high school teams, with the coverage being zoned – that is, if you live in Virginia, you get Virginia teams, in Maryland, Maryland teams, etc. As for the college preview, we will look at Maryland, Howard, Navy, Virginia Tech and Virginia, as well as around the nation. I think you will enjoy all of this stuff.

    Annandale, Va.: I've noticed that recently several good 1-AA teams like Marshall and Central Florida have upgraded to 1-A. Why? Is there more money in it for the schools?

    Steven Berkowitz: Yes, there is more money and more exposure at the Division I-A level. For example, Marshall has played in a bowl game and this year is likely to get into the national top 25. Also, because Division I-A teams are limited in the number of games against I-AA teams that they can count toward the required number of victories for bowl consideration, it makes sense for schools to move up if they want to keep playing big teams for big guarantees, which can help the athletic department as a whole. For example, UCF opens with games against Purdue, Florida, Georgia Tech and Georgia--games they wouldn't get as a I-AA school.

    Washington, D.C.: Okay, Steve, is Penn State really that good or is Arizona really that bad?

    Steven Berkowitz: Penn State is very good, make no mistake. But Arizona probably did not handle its travel situation very well. It left on Friday and then played a game that began at 10 a.m. by its players' body clocks, although this was something its coach, Dick Tomey, should have been familiar with since he coached at Hawaii for many years. Arizona also has gained renown for not playing well unless it is an underdog. Remember when they were picked No. 1, I believe, by Sports Illustrated? Still, the Cats will have a good chance of ending their distinction of being the only Pac-10 team not to play in the Rose Bowl.

    Baltimore, Md.: Thanks for your time, Steve. I always look for your byline. What are your thoughts on the quarterback situation at the University of Maryland? Considering where the Terps' seasons have been in recent years, a little "quarterback controversy" may not be a bad thing for the program.

    Steven Berkowitz: If you're looking for my byline, you'll have to look very carefully, since I'm working as an editor – but thanks very much. I think the Maryland QB hubbub mainly is a matter of Ron Vanderlinden just not being able to make up his mind between players of comparable styles and skills. All of the Arizona alumni in the Washington area have had to grin and bear it with those smug, unbearable Penn State fans who seem to cast some value in scoring 41 points in August.

    How do you account for Saturday's fluke game? Would it have been different if the game had been on the West Coast in November? After all it was early morning for the Wildcats – and, really, who is ready to play in August?

    Steven Berkowitz: Well, I wrote a bit about that game in response to an earlier question. It might be different on the West Coast in November, but we'll never find out because both of those are pretty much locked into conference play at that point. We might see this matchup again in the Rose Bowl, if not the Sugar Bowl.

    Woodbridge, Va.: Steve, Another reason that the Hokies aren't taken seriously in the rankings is because of their schedule strength. Why do such no-names as Alabama-Birmingham and James Madison keep showing up on the schedule of a rising national title contender?

    Steven Berkowitz: You'd have to ask the folks in Blacksburg that one. But keep in mind that football schedules are made about 10 years in advance, and 10 years ago, Tech was no powerhouse. On the other hand, people do like to win ballgames – and sometimes a weak-looking schedule can have little impact. Kansas State has been fabulous the past few years with an awful non-conference schedule and a less-than-imposing league. The reason it didn't play for the national title last season wasn't schedule--it was losing in the Big 12 title game.

    Washington D.C.: Steve, why do you guys cover the heck out of the Maryland football program when they have been so bad, year after year?

    Steven Berkowitz: Maryland is the biggest school in the area, so we cover it win, lose or draw – just like we cover the Redskins, Capitals, Wizards and Orioles win or lose.

    Gainesville, Fla.: Not everyone enjoys Steve Spurrier as much as we do here. What is your prediction on how the Gators will do this year? Also FSU, and is Miami that good or Ohio State that bad?

    Steven Berkowitz: The Gators are going to be very good – as usual. Also, as usual, their biggest game in the SEC will be in September, against Tennessee. But this year, that game is at The Swamp, when the Vols haven't won, I think, since 1971. So if the Gators win that one, they'll be in control in their division of the SEC. Beyond that, as a Gator fan, you have to like that they are not playing as favorite this year, which will keep Spurrier very motivated. If they get decent quarterback play, they'll be able to take advantage of some really fast wide receivers – watch John Capel, a world-class sprinter. After that, it'll be up to the defense. Florida State is every bit as good as its No. 1 ranking. It has most of its defense back from last season, when it led the nation in total defense, Chris Weinke is healthy, Peter Warrick is terrific and they have Georgia Tech and Miami at home. Florida is a road game this year, though. As for Miami, I was really impressed by Kenny Kelly, but I was more unimpressed by Ohio State's lack of offense. Still, Miami and Virginia Tech look like the best of the Big East and while the Hokies host the Canes, the Canes should have the motivational edge from last year's loss.

    Reinholds, Pa.: Is there any logical explanation why the University of Maryland football has been so unsuccessful over the past decade?

    Steven Berkowitz: The problems, like so much of Maryland's recent history, go back to Len Bias' death and the ensuing souring of fans on the entire athletic program. That caused problems with the program's image, which hurt recruiting at a time when Virginia, Virginia Tech and North Carolina began getting very good on the field and very good at getting players out of the Washington area. Also recruiting became more national, so you saw several good players from this at UCLA at the same time. Suddenly, Maryland wasn't just going up against Penn State in recruiting and Clemson was no longer the only other very good team in the ACC. All of that made Maryland's slide deeper and has made it that much harder for the Terps to recover.

    Saginaw Mi.: Good morning Steve,The Michigan-Notre Dame game is coming up. What are your thoughts on Notre Dame scheduling another game after the schedule was already out, and who does that benefit Notre Dame for playing another game or Michigan for scouting purposes

    Steven Berkowitz: If you're Bob Davie, you do the same thing 100 times out of 100. It's probably a wash as far as who it benefits. Obviously it helps Notre Dame to have gotten a win at home, and Michigan gets to see what's happening in South Bend--although it isn't much different than last season. Jarious Jackson is a huge part of their offense. Steve,
    How many games does Ron Vanderlinden have to win this season to save his job? And, if he does get fired, would Maryland be tempted to go out and get a "name" coach this time around after experimenting with so-called up-and-comers?

    Steven Berkowitz: I have no idea if there is a set number of games Maryland must win this season, although keep in mind this is the third year of Vanderlinden's five-year deal, so if he is fired, he, in all likelihood, has to be paid. And getting a ''name'' coach isn't as easy as it sounds--Erickson, Robinson and Holtz cost big bucks.

    Charlottesville, Va.: What do you think of last year's coach of the year, Tommy Bowden -Tulane-, and his move to Clemson? Will it inject some excitement into that school's moribund football program?

    Steven Berkowitz: I think Tommy Bowden is a very, very good coach. You don't go undefeated at Tulane otherwise. Clemson made a good move in getting him, but it probably will take some time to get that program cranked all the way up again. There are fewer than 10 scholarship seniors on this year's team, and South Carolina's hiring of Holtz will keep recruiting competitive in-state. But Clemson should be exciting--the Tigers may throw the ball a bunch this season.

    Arlington, Va.: Poor, poor, Arizona alumni. Would they be downplaying the importance of the game if they'd won by the same score? Sounds like sour grapes to me. Here's my question- What kind of statement did Miami make on Sunday?

    Steven Berkowitz: Miami stated that its quarterback has a lot of promise, re-stated that its wide receivers are very good, and showed that its defense has the ability to be very good. It also showed that the Canes have the confidence to go out and beat a big-time team. That victory at the end of last season over UCLA was huge from a confidence standpoint. I will be very interested to see how the Canes fare against Penn State in a couple of weeks. Steve,
    How long will it take Lou Holtz to make South Carolina competitive in the SEC again?

    Steven Berkowitz: It could take Lou a couple of years. He wasn't left with a lot of real good players, and Clemson will be attractive to players in the state now that it has Bowden. In addition, it is very tough to go from the bottom to the top in the SEC. But never underestimate Lou Holtz. The guy wins.

    Cambridge, Md.: How soon will we be able to tell whether Notre Dame owes its recovery more to Davie than to Holtz? And will Notre Dame actually suffer serious penalties for recruiting violations? Or will its association with NBC bail it out?

    Steven Berkowitz: Since this is Davie's third year, we're beginning to get to the point where Holtz's recruits are leaving the program, so everytime you see a first- second- or third-year player doing something, credit or fault Davie. As for the penalties, it's hard to say. The NCAA hasn't been coming down as hard on any schools these days as it did five to seven years ago, when it really hurt Maryland and Kentucky basketball. The association with NBC, I think, is irrelevant. NBC has very little going on in college sports other than Notre Dame, and the network is already committed to the school for several more seasons. If you were coaching at Maryland, who would you start at quarterback, Calvin McCall or Randall Jones? Why?

    Steven Berkowitz: I really don't think it matters. They are very similar in style and experience, although McCall may be the better passer. What would be interesting to see would be having them both play at the same time, regardless of who is playing QB. They are two of the best athletes on the team, and this team needs its best football players on the field as much as much as possible – although I can't imagine that a position switch this late in the preseason would be real popular with either player.

    Annapolis, Md.: Steve,
    With Georgia Tech coming into Annapolis this weekend to play Navy, does Navy have a chance?

    Steven Berkowitz: A very small chance. Georgia Tech should be terrific this season. We want to thank Steve for spending time with us. Join us again next week for Sports Online and don't forget to look for The Post's college and high school football preview sections on Thursday.

    Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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