The Army-Navy football basketball telecast of Saturday, Nov. 26, turns out to have been feeding crow to cynics while the rest of us were watching the contest over leftover Thanksgiving turkey.
The grand old interservice rivalry, supposedly in peril in recent autumns of being scrubbed from the NCAA television schedule for no longer being attractive, merely outdrew every other college football game on the whole ABC-TV season.
The network's Don Bernstein, admitting to some amazement among his colleagues when the Nielsen people passed the word, says Army-Navy was watched in 13,560,000 homes.Only that classic in Philadelphia's JFK Stadium and the USC-UCLA thriller of the night before (13,050,000) broke 13 million. Next came Ohio State-Michigan at 12,100,000 on Nov. 19 - with benefit (?) of Sadat's arrival in Israel as lead'in. The Pitt-Penn State game that led into Army-Navy drew 11,960,000 turned-on sets.
It was tough on the freezing crowd as dusk settled on Philadelphia that evening, but the academies' accession to the network idea of moving the game to the 4-7 p.m. time slot proved a winner: "the time of day really made a difference," Bernstein figures.
The 17-14 twilight victory turns out to have meant a new dawn for West Point coach Homer Smith. He was awarded a contract renewal yesterday, through 1978 . . . And no word out of Annapolis, at this writing, to shush the report from Wisconsin that Navy's George Welsh might be named Badger coach at Friday's media conference in Madison . . .
The president of World Team Tennis' Phoenix Racquets, Jimmy Walker, isn't sure whether Jimmy Connors and Chris Evert are or aren't Mr. and Mrs., but he reckons he will be losing Chrissie to the Losg Angeles String next year.
"Some very reliable sources have told me they are married," Walker said, "but other reliable sources have told me they don't believe it."
Walker said he had offered Evert a three-year contract, more money and benefits to return to Phoenix, where she played the past two WTT seasons - and noted he also holds WTT draft rights to Connors. But after meeting for 11 hours Tuesday night with Strings owner Jerry Buss, Walker added that chances are, "Despite what Connors has said, I believe he will play World Team Tennis next year, and I believe he and Chrissie will play together, but in a larger city than Phoenix."
Wimbledon, where Virginia Wade earned $23,900 for dethroning Evert in 1977, boosted its prize money yesterday by about 30 per cent - the men's singles champion will collect $34,200, the women's $30,780 in '78. In making the announcement, All-England Club chairman Sir Brian Burnett groused, "surely it is time this escalation of prize money came to and end." The club made a record $720,000 profit on this summer's tournament but Burnett said admission prices are going up, too: a Center Court seat now is $9.54 instead of $8.64: admission to grounds and outer courts, $2.34, up from a bargain $1.80 . . .
There has been only one 20-game winner on the Texas Rangers since the Washington Senator franchise established business in Arlington, Tex.: Ferguson Jenkins, 25-12 in 1974, in the 20-game style to which he had grown accustomed (six times) with the Chicago Clubs. Here come Jenkins, traded a day after his 34th birthday, back to the Rangers. That wheeler-dealer team now boasts the No. 2 and 3 pitchers on the career victory list: Gaylord Perry, 246, and Jenkins, 213. The Phillies' Jim Kaat leads, 253. For Jenkins, the Red Sox accepted minor league pitcher John Poloni, 23, and about $25,000. Has Jenkins' value diminished that much? Well, Ranger owner Brad Corbett has sentenced him to the bullpen -" a long reliever, and he can do it."
Steve Canthen received Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year award yesterday, then completed his New York racing season at Acqueduct with his 477th winner in 2,039 mounts this year, for total purse winnings of $6,046,900. After a 10-day vacation at home in Walton, Ky., the 17-year-old jockey will fly to Santa Anita, there to work with the 2-year-old champion Affirmed.
Former pro quarterback Joe Gilliam was arrested on that armed robbery charge in Nashville, Tenn. - and a marijuana charge was tacked on when the arresting officer alleged Gilliam was found with pot and two syringes. Gilliam was released on recognizance in custody of his old college coach at Tennessee State, John Merritt . . .
STILL KICKIN' - Don't give up yet on Maryland's Phil Waganheim as an NFL punter. The Pittsburgh Steelers had him, and former Seattle Seahawk Rick Engles, in for tryouts yesterday in case Bobby Walden can't work Sunday in San Diego because of the knee injury he sustained on the icy Cincinnati turf . . .