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John L. Signs On For The Long Run

Utah State football coach John L. Smith has a new seven-year contract that will keep him at the Aggies’ helm through the 2003 season.

USU Athletic Director Chuck Bell said Wednesday that the new contract was in recognition of Smith’s success in building the program during his first two years as coach.

The 48-year-old Smith has compiled a 63-33 record in eight years of coaching. Prior to coming to Logan, he guided Idaho to a 53-21 mark over six seasons, becoming the Vandals’ winningest coach in the process. This year, USU finished 6-5 overall, and 4-1 in the Big West, where it was co-champion with Nevada.

Under the new pact, he will earn a base salary of $100,000 a year.

Ducks will pay to play

Oregon would be willing to pay $595,000 up front if that’s what it takes to get an invitation to the Copper Bowl in Tucson, Ariz., athletic director Bill Moos says.

To qualify for the Dec. 27 game, the Ducks would be expected to contribute $275,000, then purchase at least 10,000 tickets at $32 apiece.

“The cost for us would be a concern,” Moos said. “But I really feel the proximity of Tucson to our Southern California alumni base, and because of the ease of getting there from here, we could sell a lot of tickets, maybe all 10,000.”

Moos said he has been told that Oregon (6-5) is on a contingency list of possible Copper Bowl teams along with Michigan State, Wisconsin, East Carolina and Navy.

The game is scheduled to match the No. 2 team from the Western Athletic Conference against the No. 6 team from the Big 12. But if Texas A&M; loses to Texas on Friday, the Big 12 would have only five bowl-eligible teams.

OSU vacancy draws interest

Southern California offensive coordinator Mike Riley says he is extremely interested in returning to his hometown to take the head football coaching job at Oregon State.

“I’m excited about that, but I haven’t talked to anybody,” Riley told The Oregonian. “I hope they’re interested, because I want them to know I’m certainly interested.”

The newspaper quoted unidentified sources close to the program as saying the school is interested in Riley, who is finishing his fourth season at Southern California.

Athletic director Dutch Baughman has a list of about 20 names and plans to reduce it to about five by the time university president Paul Risser returns from the Far East in two weeks.

Others on the preliminary list include San Diego State coach Ted Tollner, Colorado State coach Sonny Lubick, Montana coach Mike Dennehey, former Montana coach Don Read and Oregon State offensive coordinator Denny Schuler.

Awards haul for Wuerffel

Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel, who has completed 164 of 277 passes for 2,862 yards and 30 touchdowns for the top-rated Gators, was selected winner of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and the Walter Camp Football Foundation Player of the Year Award.

The Unitas award, given annually to the top senior quarterback, will be formally presented in Louisville, Ky., Dec. 13.

The Camp award, which will be presented at a Feb. 15 dinner in New Haven, Conn., was selected by Division I-A coaches and sports information directors and honors the year’s outstanding college player. Since 1967, only four of the foundation’s players of the year have not gone on to win the Heisman Trophy.

Thorpe list pared to three

North Carolina cornerback Dre’ Bly, who broke the Atlantic Coast Conference single-season interception record with 11, was one of three finalists chosen for the Jim Thorpe Award, which honors the country’s best college defensive back.

Kansas State junior Chris Canty and Michigan sophomore Charles Woodson, both cornerbacks, are the other finalists.

Nagurski finalists named

Five finalists for the Bronko Nagurski Award, given annually to the nation’s top defensive college football player, were announced by the Football Writers Association of America and the Charlotte Touchdown Club.

Heading the list is Northwestern senior linebacker Pat Fitzgerald, the 1995 Nagurski winner. Other candidates include Arizona State junior defensive end Derrick Rodgers, Kansas State junior cornerback Chris Canty, Nebraska junior end Grant Wistrom and West Virginia senior linebacker Canute Curtis.


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