Speculation is here, too

Ray McAllister
Date Published: 
Daily Collegian

Football bowl bids are everybody's guessing game these days because there's so little which is really concrete to go on. But yesterday's NCAA soccer playoff bids also leave more than a little room for speculation.

The Tri-State (Pa.-N.J.-Del.) picked, no surprise, Penn, Penn State, St. Joseph's and Drexel from its 20 eligible teams. The only cause for argument, perhaps, rests in the three-man committee's seeding the Quakers first.

Penn had been running higher than its mid-state counterpart all year and stood third nationally this week, three notches above the Lions. And the Quakers pulled down eight of the Tri-State poll's ten first-place votes. But they trailed 101-99 in total points--the very area usually given heaviest consideration in seeding.

So up pops the speculation. The NCAA tourney, in addition to determining something resembling a national champion, is also pretty much a showcase for collegiate soccer and the boys from the NCAA are out for as much exposure as they can get. They are also not opposed, it might be noted, to make a buck or two out of the venture.

And where is the exposure and the money? A Penn-Penn State matchup in Philadelphia's Franklin Field, pulling in a buck from each of the students and two from the general public, is where. The Quakers, after all, drew 12,000 for a virtually meaningless game with Navy a month ago.

Of course, all this is assuming the Lions (8-0-1) get past St. Joseph's (10-2) and Penn (10-0-1) gets by Drexel (10-4) so the two can meet for the Tri-State championship. But that's almost a forgone conclusion which means, obviously, that either could be upset.

But assuming they aren't, the big showdown will be staged not in isolated Happy Valley but in big Franklin Field, a converted football field complete with an Astro-Turf-covered "crown." Of course, last year the Lions went up against the same thing and shocked everybody by upending the Quakers 2-1.

However, as Herb Schmidt undoubtedly will be drilling into his booters, first St. Joseph's has to be beaten. But that's not quite right. First St. Joseph's has to be scheduled.

Tourney games go to the field of the higher seed, the date being worked out between the two teams involved. This season's first-round games must be completed by the 21st, a week from today. But throwing a wrench into the works is State's Friday match at Pitt, thereby ruling out a game for a few days afterwards.

"We suggested Tuesday night," athletic director Ed Czekaj said yesterday, "and they refused to play at night. They also turned down Monday night; they want to play Monday at 2:30."

St. Joe's finished its regular season last Saturday and now looks to play its touney opener Monday, saying a Tuesday match and practice on the Lions' field the day beforehand would cause a loss of two school days. Undoubtedly the Hawks are not opposed to catching Penn State with too little practice either.

The decision probably will be thrown to Lehigh's Tom Fleck, Temple's Walter Bahr and Rider's Bob Pivornick this morning for a decision.

If the NCAA is thinking along its exposure-money lines, Penn State may have a shot at its night game, either Monday or Tuesday. The booters sure aren't going to draw at 2:30 Monday and besides Penn State Television (PSX) can work only a night game into its taping schedule. At any rate Fleck and company will get to decide.

"It's not a nice situation to have to make a decision that the two schools couldn't make themselves," Schmidt said, after his team voted unanimously in favor of a night game.

Assuming Schmidt's booter survice both St. Joseph's and Penn, they'll probably be facing bigger trouble. That comes in the form of the Southern champion who travels up to the Tri-State title holder's home grounds. At stake is a berth in the national semifinals in Miami's Orange Bowl in late December.

Last year Howard was the Southern champ and it stomped the Lions 8-0 on its way to the national championship. But the NCAA's checking into alleged irregularities at the D.C. university which could hurt it in tournament play. Still Howard was awarded the first seed in its area yesterday, followed by Clemson, West Virginia and Duke.

The NCAA reportedly is checking out the eligibility of Howard's star forward, Keith Aqui, as well as several other Bisons.

"As far as the situation about the NCAA is concerned," Howard coach Lincoln Phillips said by phone yesterday, "I've been advised not to give out any information because there are so many different versions around.

"I have no comment. You will have to talk with our athletic director."

Leo Miles, Howard's athletic director and sports information director, was somewhat more helpful. "Keith (Aqui) has been ruled ineligible until we answer some questions that the NCAA has asked us. Until we do he cannot play.

"The NCAA sent us a letter about three other players but I cannot remember just who they are right now."

Howard, meanwhile, was tied 2-2 by South Florida over the weekend, its first non-win of the season. Aqui's missing firepower could have been partially responsible for the Bisons usually pick up at least half a dozen goals an outing, even against the extreme prevent defences they face.

At any rate, carrying out all this unfounded speculation, one could see, perhaps absurdly, the booter down in the Orange Bowl just a few days before, again perhaps absurdly, Penn State's football team. It is something to speculate upon, anyway.