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April 27, 1998
Bad Back Stops WhiteThe Soul of the Pack
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April 27, 1998


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50-loss Teams


Made Playoffs
Following Season


.500 or Better
Following Season



60-loss Teams


Made Playoffs
Following Season


500 or Better
Following Season


Bad Back Stops White
The Soul of the Pack

A week before the Super Bowl, Green Bay defensive end Reggie White said he was going to play two more years. "I think my back will hold out that long," said the 36-year-old White, "and by that time, I'll want to be around my kids full time." Two years turned into one game. A feeble one-tackle, no-sack, no-impact performance in the Packers' 31-24 loss to the Denver Broncos, coupled with persistent pain from a bulging disk in his lower back, caused one of the best players of this era to hang it up last week. And no, his racially, ethnically and sexually insensitive remarks to the Wisconsin state assembly a month ago, which slightly tarnished his legend, had nothing to do with his decision.

White, who had 176� sacks in 200 regular-season games, wasn't the best pass rusher of all time, an honor that belongs to Lawrence Taylor or Deacon Jones. But he should be remembered as the game's most versatile defensive end. Buddy Ryan, who coached White on the Philadelphia Eagles from 1986 to '90, often used him head-up against guards and centers to bull-rush quarterbacks or occupy two offensive linemen on running plays, a practice the Packers borrowed occasionally.

The 6'5", 300-pound White was, during his prime, a clutch player. In Super Bowl XXXI the New England Patriots, trailing 35-21, were trying to get something going late in the third quarter. On second down from the Pats' 30, White sent 305-pound tackle Max Lane sprawling five feet backward with a forearm and sacked Drew Bledsoe for an eight-yard loss. On the next play he deked Lane inside and sprinted around him to sack Bledsoe again. Those two plays were crucial as Green Bay won its first Super Bowl in 29 years.

Indeed, White had as much to do with the revival of the Packers as did quarterback Brett Favre, coach Mike Holmgren or general manager Ron Wolf. When White stunningly signed a free-agent contract in 1993, Green Bay was a relative wasteland with a 19-29 record in the '90s. "All of a sudden," Wolf says, "we weren't the end of the earth." The deafening ovation that washed over White during the post-Super Bowl victory celebration was louder than the one for Favre or MVP Desmond Howard. The fans knew how White, athletically and symbolically, had lifted their Pack back to greatness.
—Peter King

College Sports
The Road Less Taken

Across the country, schools with stars in their eyes are making the move to Division I-A football. Consider: At the University of Central Florida, in Orlando, once known as UFO, there have been fewer flying-saucer jokes since the Golden Knights started playing big-time ball in 1996. Idaho will liven up its cold autumns by moving to Division I-A this season. Florida Atlantic, in Boca Raton, plans to field its first I-AA team in 2001 and has already hired Howard Schnellenberger as director of football operations. Buffalo hopes to begin a I-A schedule in 1999, and I-AA Connecticut is talking about movin' on up.

At another institution of higher learning, however, an influential alumni group is sending a different message: Move on down. At Rutgers, whose football team went 0-11 last season and has gone 71-110-5 since it stopped playing Ivy League teams after the 1980 season, an alumni group called the Rutgers 1000 is bucking the wishes of the president, the athletic director and the coach and calling for the Scarlet Knights to drop out of the Big East and become a I-AA team. The group took out a full-page ad in the student newspaper on Monday to bring attention to its cause. One spokesman for the group is 85-year-old Nobel laureate Milton Friedman, Rutgers '32.

In the ad, Friedman, the celebrated economist, says, "Universities exist to transmit knowledge and understanding of intellectual ideas and values to students and to add to the body of intellectual knowledge, not to provide entertainment for spectators or employment for athletes." In a telephone interview Friedman, now a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford, said, "Athletes should receive no preferential treatment as candidates for admission."

Professor, the change that you and your colleagues advocate is right-minded, but it just isn't going to happen. Four years ago Rutgers opened a 42,000-capacity on-campus football stadium. Recently it welcomed a new high-powered athletic director, Bob Mulcahy, who has made no secret of his plans to keep Rutgers big-time. "The university made a decision to be an active participant in the Big East," Mulcahy told The Bergen Record, "and my appointment is specifically designed to increase that program and develop it."

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