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Jayhawks and Irish set to open the 1999 season in the Robinson Classic

Notre Dame will open the 1999 season by playing host to Kansas in the second Eddie Robinson Classic on Aug. 28.

It will be the first time the Irish and Jayhawks have met since 1938, and the Aug. 28 season opener is the earliest in Notre Dame history.

The classic benefits the Eddie Robinson Foundation and honors the former Grambling coach who retired after 55 years following the 1997 season. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1998 with a career mark of 408-165-15 and won more games than any coach in college football history.

Bucs take steps to get improved play from Dilfer . . . they promote Christensen to QB coach

Tampa Bay may be making the last effort to make Trent Dilfer a top-flight starter. The Buccaneers have added a quarterback coach for the first time in the four-year tenure of Tony Dungy. Clyde Christensen will be shifted from tight ends coach to tutor Dilfer, who regressed last season after reaching the Pro Bowl in 1997. The Buccaneers apparently feel like some individual attention to detail will help Dilfer get over the hump and consistently harness his considerable talent. There is even talk that the Bucs may let Dilfer work from the shotgun, something they have not done to date. Up until Christensen's appointment, offensive coordinator Mike Shula served as the quarterback coach.

Iowa assistant, Bob Elliott, in fight of his life

Bob Elliott's life has always been about the game of football. He watched his father (Bump) coach and become the athletic director at the University of Iowa. Bob played the game and became a coach himself. Elliott seemed on the path to become a head coach, possibly of his Iowa Hawkeyes (many Iowa faithful believe the job would have been his after Hayden Fry retired had it not been for concerns over his health).

His life has now forever changed; his priorities are now different. This spring Elliott went into the hospital to battle a life-threatening blood disorder. He was recently released to homecare.

Elliott, the former top assistant at Iowa for 12 years, underwent a week-long series of chemotherapy and radiation treatments to prepare his body for a bone marrow transplant. "If I said I wasn't afraid, I'd be lying," said Elliott, who turned 46 in May. Elliott suffers from a blood disorder called polycythemiavera. The disease is one where the bone marrow is hyperactive, producing too many white blood cells, too many red cells, too many platelets, and left unchecked, the blood disorder could turn into leukemia, or, with too many platelets, blood clots could form and lead to a heart attack or stroke. The blood disorder led doctors at University Hospitals to remove Elliott's spleen in 1991 because of clotting.

Elliott is determined to return to coaching. "That's the goal, to be able to coach again," he said. "I think I'm a good football coach. I think that's what I was put on this earth to do." Elliott was discharged from the hospital in mid-May and is currently recuperating.

NFL releases preseason TV schedule and some highlight games for the 1999 regular season

The complete schedule of nationally-televised exhibition games (all times are 8 p.m. EST except the Denver-San Diego game, which begins at 9 p.m.):

Date Game Network

Aug. 7 Denver vs. San Diego FOX
Aug. 9 Cleveland vs. Dallas ABC
Aug. 13 N.Y. Giants vs. Minnesota ESPN
Aug. 14 N.Y. Jets vs. Green Bay CBS
Aug. 19 Seattle vs. San Francisco ESPN
Aug. 21 Dallas vs. New England ESPN
Aug. 23 Denver vs. Green Bay ABC
Aug. 26 Kansas City vs. Jacksonville CBS
Aug. 27 Atlanta vs. Tennessee ESPN
Aug. 29 Denver vs. Dallas FOX

To open the season, the new Cleveland Browns begin with an old rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers, on opening Sunday, Sept. 12, 1999, at 8 p.m., on ESPN. This season opener will be simply a warm up to Cleveland's Nov. 7 game with the old Browns- now the Baltimore Ravens- and their owner, Art Modell, the much-maligned former Cleveland owner who moved the team in 1996.

The Atlanta Falcons are in one of week one's best games, at home against the Minnesota Vikings, their victims in last year's NFC Championship Game. Another highlight comes at Thanksgiving, when Jimmy Johnson returns to Dallas for the first time with the Miami Dolphins.

The season opens a week later this year because of the calendar, which would have playoff games clashing with college bowl games if the NFL kept its traditional Labor Day start. One result of that will be only a one-week break between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl, to be played Jan. 30, 2000, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

NFL announces Monday Night Football back to 9:00 PM EST . . . last year's experiment is over.

The NFL announced the return of the 9 p.m. starting time for Monday night games, the first of which will be a rematch from last year's playoffs, Miami at two-time Super Bowl champion Denver on Sept. 13. Last season, the league went from 9 p.m. (EST) starts to 8:20 for Monday night games, but ratings were down, particularly outside the Eastern time zone. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said returning them to 9 p.m. was a joint decision between the league and ABC.

James Madison University hires Matthews to replace Wood

The lure of the NFL and the chance to work for Dennis Green proved too strong for former James Madison University head coach Alex Wood, who resigned from the school to take over as the quarterback coach for the Vikings on March 15.

Wood told The Minnesota Star-Tribune, "I've always had an aspiration to get to the league in some position. I think it's something every coach would like to do, to get to the pinnacle of their sport. And the NFL is that. The biggest thing to me is to get a chance to work with Denny Green and such a tradition-rich franchise like the Minnesota Vikings."

Wood and Green have a long history dating back to Wood's days as a running back at the university of Iowa when Green was an assistant on the staff. Also, Wood has worked at the Vikings camp the last two Summers as a part of the NFL minority coaching program.

Wood, the former Miami Hurricane assistant, who was 23 and 22, in his four years at JMU, said, "it was a difficult decision, but one that I think is right for me, my family and my career."

JMU moved quickly to hire Baylor defensive coordinator Mickey Matthews as the Dukes' new head man. Matthews, with 21 years in coaching, had been hired in January to serve as the defensive coordinator at Baylor, after three years coaching linebackers and the secondary with Jim Donnan at Georgia. His background includes stops at Baylor, Georgia, Marshall, Southwest Texas State, TCU, Houston, UTEP and Kansas State.

Former Huskie QB sues his coach . . .

A former Washington quarterback Shane Fortney has sued former Huskie coach Jim Lambright. His lawsuit contends that his ex-coach mishandled Fortney's knee injury in 1996 and hurt his chances to play professionally. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for Lambright's "reckless, malicious and unreasonable treatment."

Fortney, now a builder in Maryland, told The Seattle Times he had not been inclined to file suit until Lambright threatened to sue the school for termination pay. Fortney has not sued the university.

Fortney alleges that he hurt his right knee during the second game of the 1996 season against Brigham Young, costing him the starting job. He played sporadically in three other games, but the injury caused a rift between Fortney and Lambright. The player then transferred to Northern Iowa, where he completed his eligibility.

The lawsuit names Lambright and not the school, Fortney's lawyer ,David Beninger, said, "He's the one there day to day, he's the one that made the decisions."

Fortney was injured when Lambright sent him into the game with less than two minutes remaining. He was tackled and sustained a partial tear of the posterior cruciate ligament.

The lawsuit says doctors knew or should have known the injury required surgery or four to six weeks to heal. Instead, it says, Lambright allowed Fortney to rest for less than two days before telling him to practice.

Fortney, who attended the NFL scouting combine a year ago but was not drafted, says he was not as fast or agile as when he was at Washington.

Bowden and Tulane agree on buyout . . . the divorce is final

Former Tulane football coach and current Clemson head man, Tommy Bowden says he has settled his buyout with the university, but will not confirm the amount.

University sources, who requested anonymity, told The Times-Picayune of New Orleans that Bowden paid Tulane $600,000 for breaking his contract December 3 to become head coach at Clemson.

Bowden had four years left on his Tulane contract with a buyout of about $720,000. His initial settlement offer of $100,000 was rejected by the university, the newspaper reported. Apparently, Clemson made the payment for Bowden as a part of his accepting the job with the Tigers.

NCAA's gotta' pay . . . Coaches to get $54 million

The NCAA approved a $54.5 million payment plan for the "restricted earnings" coaches who sued because they were not allowed to earn more than $16,000 a year.

The money will be distributed among about 2,000 coaches in various sports whose salaries were unlawfully capped by the NCAA at $16,000 a year.

The NCAA must submit the full cash payment of $54.5 million to lawyers for the restricted earnings coaches by May 7. The coaches probably won't see any of that money until about Christmas.

The coaches will be paid according to their sport, school and coaching tenure.

Vandy rejects DiNardo offer

Vanderbilt University plans to continue pursuing its breach-of-contract lawsuit against former football coach Gerry DiNardo, rejecting his offer to pay the school $91,781 (one year's base pay) to settle it.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati sided with Vanderbilt in finding DiNardo broke terms of his five-year contract when he took a coaching job at LSU in 1994.

But the court sent the case back to U.S. District Court in Nashville to determine whether DiNardo additionally violated terms of a two-year extension he signed that year and should have to pay the school the base value of that contract. So, the issue is, does DiNardo owe one year's salary or three?

"We have said all along that we are entitled not only to the last year, but to the two-year extension. We entered into them in good faith. We expect coach DiNardo to honor them in good faith," said John Callison, Vanderbilt's legal counsel.

In 1997, U.S. District Judge Robert Echols ruled that DiNardo owed Vanderbilt $281,886 for the final year of the five-year contract and the two-year extension. The figure came from the base salary of $91,781 per year for the three years, plus $6,541 for the time between DiNardo's Dec. 12, 1994, resignation and the Jan. 5 expiration date on his contract.

DiNardo said in a statement from Baton Rouge, La., he was "very pleased" with the appellate court decision. He also said he has offered to pay the school for the final year of his original contract. "I want to restate that I remain prepared to satisfy my obligations under the contract," he said.

The question for the trial court to determine is whether or not the two-year extension was validly executed and therefore enforceable.

New Hampshire's Bowes retires after 27 years

Bill Bowes, the winningest football coach in the Atlantic 10 Conference, announced his retirement recently after 27 seasons at New Hampshire. Bowes resigned effective May 1 with 175 victories to his credit. He will be replaced by long-time assistant Sean McDonnell.

Bowes said he left after 34 years because he always wanted to retire at age 55, (he turned 55 in October). "It was just a question of when I would do it. I wanted to be 100 percent certain," he said at a news conference.

Bowes retires with a record of 175-106-5. His 175 wins ranks him fourth in number of victories among Division I-AA coaches.

McDonnell, 43, is a former Wildcats captain and team most valuable player. He has been Bowes' assistant for eight years, the last five as offensive coordinator.

University of Maryland owes former coach Duffner $89,000

The University of Maryland still has to deal with former football coach Mark Duffner (currently on the staff of Bruce Coslet and the Cincinnati Bengals). A Maryland Circuit Judge ruled that the school owes Duffner almost $89,000 ($88,699.05) for the sixth year of his secondary contract for radio and television appearances and consulting.

Maryland argued that it did not owe the money because once Duffner accepted the Bengals offer to coach linebackers, the primary coaching contract was terminated and, therefore, the school had no obligation to honor the secondary agreement. The judge disagreed.

Duffner was dismissed after the 1996 season. He had a 20-35 record in four years at Maryland after arriving from Holy Cross as one of the most successful I-AA coaches in history.

Former Cornhusker QB Frazier new RB coach at Baylor

Tommie Frazier, who led Nebraska to consecutive national championships, was promoted by Baylor head coach Kevin Steele to running backs coach. Frazier had been working as a graduate assistant with Bears quarterbacks since January, when Steele took over the Bears.

Frazier was recruited to Nebraska by Steele, then an assistant coach for the Cornhuskers. He went on to lead Nebraska to national championships in 1994 and 1995, compiling a 33-3 record as starting quarterback.

Steele, who came to Baylor after serving as the LB coach for the Carolina Panthers, said. "He (Frazier) can relate to players, particularly from the standpoint of what it takes to be competitive in the Big 12."

Jets owner Leon Hess dead

Leon Hess, the owner of the New York Jets who loved his team and desperately wanted to see his team return to the Super Bowl one last time, died March 7, at the age of '85.

Hess, who was one of the wealthiest owners in all of professional sports, made his fortune as an oil tycoon. He was in a group that bought the Jets of the American Football League in 1963, when they were the New York Titans.

Hess was known as a generous owner creating a family atmosphere for his team. For example, when DL Dennis Byrd was temporarily paralyzed in a career-ending on-field collision during a 1992 game, Hess not only provided financial and medical support throughout Byrd's recovery, he also, personally visited Byrd each night in the hospital. Not the expected behavior for a man worth an estimated $725 million. Hess will be sorely missed by the Jet family, over 1,000 of which attended his funeral.

NFL Europe

The Amsterdam Admirals, Barcelona Dragons, Berlin Thunder, Frankfurt Galaxy, Rhein Fire and Scottish Claymores make up the NFL Europe League. Playing its games from April through late June, NFLE has become the unofficial feeder system for the NFL, with 139 former NFLE players on the roster of league teams during the 1998 season. We thought it would be interesting to see who is coaching these players.

Amsterdam Admirals

Head Coach/Defensive
Coordinator: Al Luginbill
Offensive coordinator: Chris Allen

Barcelona Dragons

Head Coach: Jack Bicknell
Offensive coordinator: Vince Martino
Defensive coordinator: Red Klein

Berlin Thunder

Head Coach: Wes Chandler
Offensive coordinator: Robert Lord
Defensive coordinator: Steve Carson

Frankfurt Galaxy

Head Coach: Dick Curl
Offensive coordinator: Joe Clark
Defensive coordinator: Dan Daniel

Rhein Fire

Head Coach: Galen Hall
Offensive coordinator: Ken Karcher
Defensive coordinator: Pete Kuharchek

Scottish Claymores

Head Coach: Jim Criner
Offensive coordinator: Vince Alcalde
Defensive coordinator: Myrel Moore

NFL doles out the cash to playoff teams . . . almost $26 million

"Play for the rings . . ." That may be a nice sentiment, but the players are playing for the dough. No doubt about it. Last year the NFL paid out almost $26 million to the 716 players on the 12 teams that made the 1998 playoffs.

Check it out:
Team Share paid Total Paid Ave. Per Player
Broncos54$5.627 million$100,500
Falcons56$4.522 million $80,000
Vikings60$2.9625 million$49,375
Jets58$2.84 million$48,966
Jaguars68$2.09 million$30,735
49ers57$1.46 million$25,614
Cardinals62$1.5625 million$25,202
Dolphins64$1.59 million$24,844


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