PORT ARTHUR —
Numerous former Port Arthur/Thomas Jefferson High School football players were celebrating last week over the announcement that former Yellow Jacket coach Clarence “Buckshot” Underwood will be inducted into the Texas High School Coaches Association Hall of Honor. Underwood, a one-time Bear Bryant assistant at the University of Kentucky, had somehow been overlooked, despite a 73-33-6 record in Port Arthur that saw him take the 1957 Yellow Jackets to the state championship game and the 1959 and 1960 teams to the semifinals. The oversight was rectified thanks to an intensive letter-writing campaign speared by Dr. Jesse DeLee of San Antonio. Over 50 of Underwood’s former players, including Jimmy Johnson and Ronnie Thompson, wrote to the THSCA on behalf of Underwood. So did one of his Southeast Texas coaching rivals — Bum Phillips. “The THSCA people told me they had never seen anything like the support Buckshot got from his former players,” said DeLee. Underwood, who built a reputation as a hard-nose, no-nonsense, disciplinarian, left Port Arthur to return to Kentucky as offensive line coach in 1966. He passed away in 1985. Induction ceremonies will be July 31 in Fort Worth and DeLee says many of Buckshot’s former players will celebrate with a reunion.
Dating back to when Lamar first became eligible for the NCAA basketball tournament in the late 1970s, Selection Sunday has arguably never been more meaningless for Cardinal fans. Why? Because not only was Pat Knight’s second LU team no threat to get back to the NCAAs, the returning level of talent suggests a doomsday scenario for the near future. The 3-28 Cardinals were so devoid of quality Division 1 players they didn’t even have an honorable mention among 24 players on the All-Southland Conference teams. Knight can talk all he wants about hard work in the off-season but until he’s able to recruit a higher caliber player it won’t make much difference. And being ranked No. 345 out of 347 Division 1 teams, while losing more games (28) than any team in the nation, isn’t exactly going to attract good players . . . My nomination for the most likely winner of the Pat Foster “White Collar Criminal” NCAA victim in 2013 goes to Middle Tennessee State. For those who don’t recall, or aren’t aware of it, then LU basketball coach Foster called the NCAA selection committee “White Collar Criminals”, after they refused an at-large bid to a 25-4 Cardinal team with a 19 RPI in the 1984-85 season. Lamar didn’t get the Southland Conference automatic bid because it lost to Karl Malone and Louisiana Tech, 68-65, in the SLC tourney championship game. Two of the Cardinals other losses were by one point — at Wichita State and at Utah State, yet the NCAA snubbed them. Middle Tennessee, meanwhile, is 28-5 after losing in the semifinals of the Sun Belt tournament. The Blue Raiders have a 29 RPI and were rated to have played the 11th toughest non-conference schedule. Start packing for the NIT, guys. Give the NCAA, Foster’s regards.
I’d love to put Texas A&M football coach Kevin Sumlin on a lie detector and ask him how nervous he is over the off-field antics of Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Johnny Manziel. Manziel’s adventures as a fun-loving college kid seems to have redefined the term “pushing the envelope”, with the latest example being the spring-break photo from Cabo of him hoisting a bottle of tequila. It’s no wonder A&M’s athletic director had a heart-to-heart talk with Manziel’s parents about what would be expected of their son, but you wonder if they have been able to get through to him. Sumlin must jump every time the phone rings . . . Really sorry to see that Lincoln ex Jordan Babineaux got put on waivers by the Tennessee Titans. Babineaux, to me, is the most amazing NFL story to come out of Port Arthur. For a guy to play nine years in the NFL, after not getting a college scholarship offer, playing collegiately at Southern Arkansas and not being selected in the draft, is truly remarkable. He wasn’t just a fringe player either, as his nickname “Big Play Babs” underscores. Here’s hoping Jordan gets another NFL shot. If not, he’s a guy kids can look up to as one of those “against all odds” inspirational-types . . . Speaking of against all odds, PN-G ex Lew Ford seems hell bent on once-again proving you can’t count him out. Ford, who will be 37 in August, is in spring training with the Baltimore Orioles on a minor-league contract and was given little chance of being on the 25-man roster when the season starts. But he simply won’t act his age. After rapping out two doubles Saturday, Ford was leading the Orioles in batting average (.500 on 13-of-26) and on-base percentage (.536) and was second in slugging percentage (.846) and extra base hits. Among his six extra base hits are two home runs.
Haven’t talked to Jamaal Charles lately, but I’ve got to believe he’s thrilled with all the personnel moves the Kansas City Chiefs have made since hiring Andy Reid as head coach. Starting with trading for Alex Smith, who will be the first legitimate NFL quarterback Charles has shared a backfield with, the Chiefs have arguably improved their roster more than any team in the NFL. As the most below-the-radar star in the NFL, it looks like Charles may finally be part of a pretty decent team. Unfortunately, he’s stuck in the division with a Peyton Manning-led Denver team that looks like the AFC’s best . . . While NFC powers San Francisco, Seattle and Atlanta have all clearly improved their teams through free agency, and clearly separated from the pack, the Cowboys look farther than ever from being a Super Bowl threat. Jerry Jones’ most noteworthy off-season move was to hire a defensive coordinator — Monte Kiffin — who turned 73 in February and got fired by his son at Southern Cal. The Cowboys can’t sign free agents because foolish contracts have them in salary cap hell. And by the April NFL draft they will have probably cut former first round draft choices Felix Jones and Mike Jenkins. Decisions like that underscore what a genius Jethro really is . . . The power back seems to be a thing of the past in the NFL, although Adrian Peterson might want to argue the point. Chris Burke of Inside the NFL recently compiled a list of the 20 top power backs of all-time in the NFL. Nineteen of the 20 — Peterson was ranked No. 19 — are from previous eras. Jim Brown was No. 1, followed by Earl Campbell, Larry Csonka, Bronco Nagurski and Marion Motley. The game has indeed changed.
When Jim Nantz starts announcing the NCAA tournament brackets today at 5 p.m. on CBS, take note of how many of the good and most dangerous mid majors get paired against each other. Why? Because the more mid majors that take each other out, the fewer there are to embarrass schools from BCS conferences, and the fewer that have a chance to go deep into the tournament. Last thing the big dogs want is a situation like two years ago, with Butler and VCU at the Final Four . . . One of the major risks for the Astros in not getting a carriage deal worked out for Comcast Houston with Time Warner, DirecTV and Dish is that it will the door in this part of the state for the Texas Rangers. A total of 127 Rangers games are scheduled to be beamed into Houston and the Golden Triangle on Fox Sports Southwest. Included are April 2 and 3 games against the Astros from Minute Maid Park . . . The University of Texas’ basketball team solidified the school’s reputation for spending more and getting less out of its key sports teams than anybody in the country. With a 16-17 record, including a loss to Chaminade, a Division II school with an enrollment of less than 3,000, Rick Barnes’ Longhorns don’t even merit basketball’s equivalent of the Alamo Bowl. In other words, they are so unattractive that even the NIT is likely to turn up its nose. Rick and Mack Brown need to take their overstuffed saddlebags and ride off into the sunset together.
Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org