It's that time of year

Tuesday, April 10, 2001 at 12:00am

What an interesting time of year it is in the world of sports! The boys of summer have kicked off another baseball season. Plenty of excitement for football fans. Colleges are in the midst of spring practice. Pros are getting ready for the draft and mini-camps. NHL and NBA seasons are winding with playoffs just around the corner. The Masters Golf Tournament just ended this past weekend in Augusta. The Kentucky Derby is less than a month away. NASCAR,

in my opinion, is off to its best start ever for excitement and pure thrills.

I often feel a little sorry for those people who are not sports fans. In this hectic world we live in, sports offers the diversion that we all desperately need.

For a few brief moments we can forget about stock markets, tax talk, cold wars and hot wars...and whether Alex Baldwin and Barbara Streisand will actually leave the country as promised now that Bush is President. I would give up my tickets to the Cubs games if they would only leave.

And of course we're currently in a very exciting time..the "Name Your Basketball Coach" season. Things are at peace in the Bluegrass State as Tubby Smith signs a 4-year contract extension at Kentucky. Mark Godfried signs at Alabama after flirting with a couple of other schools.

Only South Carolina, at this writing, remains without a coach, but that should be settled within a couple of days. Remember the days when coaches used to resign with the statement, "I need to make more money for my family?"

Now the only way they can make more money by changing jobs is to become the head of General Electric or the Disney Corp.

Which brings us to the decision of Tennessee to hire Buzz Peterson as a replacement for Jerry Green. This would appear to be an absolutely perfect hire for the Vols. Tremendous college background, excellent coaching and people skills, and above all else, he obviously wants very much to be at Tennessee.

I think Vol fans will be thrilled with the play next year. First of all, you will see team play, you will see a team play hard, and if your looking for players to showboat, go see the Globetrotters because you won't see it at Thompson - Boling.

The only minus in Peterson's hiring seems to come from those criticizing his church-attending edict. The politically correct folks seem to object to that. First of all, it's not mandatory rule, it's not an attempt to get players to change denominations. It's merely an effort to build character and provide some constructive togetherness off the court. Those players not wishing to attend will be excused with no ramifications. Hey, folks, if you saw Tennessee at the free throw line at critical times this season, you'd think Divine Intervention might be the only cure. The biggest problem facing Buzz is he's now coaching in a league that's absolutely loaded with talented players and coaches. And he's in a division where two of his key opponents, Florida and Kentucky, will be ranked in the top 5 in preseason polls. So don't expect miracles the first year, but do expect an entertaining and highly motivated basketball team.

I thought Peterson really showed media savvy when during the course of the press conference, his $750,000 salary was mentioned, and he replied, "That may not be enough. What I need are some really good football tickets."

He must realize Tennessee can be a great basketball school, but that game they play in Neyland Stadium will always be king of the hill.

I was very pleased this week to hear that the BCS is considering doing away with "the margin of victory" in college football. The people who run college football want to eliminate that controversial element from the computerized formulas that help determine who plays in the championship game. The folks who run the computers are objecting to that move. And I can understand why...computers love to see a team win 70 to 0. It just makes the computer picking easier. But I think fans are tired of seeing starting players run up the score in the last five minutes of a 65-3 game. This will affect teams like Florida State, Nebraska, and Kansas State, among others.

These teams have piled it on hapless opponents in recent years. Now those lopsided scores would have far less meaning in determining a champion.

Speaking of Florida State. I'm going out on a limb and say the Seminoles could lose a couple of games this year, maybe three. Which by their standards would be a disaster. They've lost an awful lot of people, including some good coaches in the past 12 months. I can see them losing to the Gators, to Miami, and possibly Georgia Tech, and/or Clemson. My preseason pick is Nebraska, by the way. But don't tell anybody, I might change my mind later on in the summer.

I guess the Tennessee Titans made the right decision in trading with the Rams for defensive end Kevin Carter. With the 29th pick in the first round, it's a sure thing they couldn't have selected anyone as talented as Carter. But it does take away a little bit from the upcoming draft for us Titan fans. It's always a thrill to sit and wait for your team's big pick. Now we have to wait for round two. But certainly most of the Titans stars were at one time taken in later rounds, so we just have to trust in management's judgment. With tongue in cheek, here's a message to the Titans:

We have enough Gators on that team. Let's look somewhere else. If they sign as many as two more, we'll have to change the colors to blue and orange.

Just kidding.

Speaking of Florida. Steve Spurrier is like all college coaches - a little paranoid. During last Saturday's scrimmage, a few fans brought their camcorders. Those camcorders were confiscated by the head coach with the explanation, "We don't need people video taping practice and shipping it off to Knoxville." Hey, Steve...your scrimmage was open to the public. Good spies don't need camcorders. Most of my Tennessee and Vanderbilt friends who covered that practice said notepads were sufficient. They were able to easily jot down all your "ball plays." And, Steve...just kidding...or am I. Something to think about when you're on the golf course this summer.

Hey, everybody, enjoy this fine spring sports weekend. See you next week.

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