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Published: Thursday, 3/21/2002

Marlin's quick rise is no surprise

Grandstand-ing:

  • Sterling Marlin, who began the season seeing red courtesy of a couple red-flag controversies that cost him dearly, has since become NASCAR's dominant driver, with two wins in the last three Winston Cup races. But it hasn't come out of the blue.

    Since affiliating himself with Chip Ganassi Racing and falling in with Dodge Intrepid crew chief Lee McCall, then something of an unknown, at the start of the 2001 season, Marlin has never been out of the top 10 in the point standings.

    Going back to last year, Marlin and McCall have posted eight straight top-10 finishes, either winning or finishing second in five of those races.

    That's downright Gordon-esque.

    Incidentally, Marlin credited Jeff Gordon with aiding and abetting his win last Sunday at Darlington.

    Starting 39th because his crew was forced to switch engines after qualifying, Marlin had moved into position to make hay when a pileup wiped out 14 cars on the 226th lap. Gordon dodged the wreckage and Marlin sneaked through on his bumper.

    “Gordon's really good about missing wrecks and I just followed him, “ Marlin said.

    By the end, though, as has been the case of late, the good old boys were all following Marlin past the checkered flag.

  • Bob Huggins has long claimed that his dream coaching job is at West Virginia, his alma mater and the program in which he first worked as an assistant coach.

    That job is open for the first time in many years, and WVU has received permission from Cincinnati to pursue the Bearcats' coach for what is sure to be a very stiff price.

    We imagine there are mixed emotions in Cincinnati.

    On one hand, Huggins built a powerhouse, the premier program in Conference USA and an annual entry in the NCAA Tournament.

    On the other hand, his team's virtually non-existent graduation rate has been an embarrassment to those UC supporters who still cling to that silly notion that universities, being academic institutions and all, should insist its athletes pursue degrees.

    Wonder where West Virginia's administration stands on that subject.

  • Last summer, LPGA player Laura Diaz suggested that the tour should better market its sex appeal. She may or may not have had the ultimate “skins game” in mind. Visitors to Playboy.com recently voted on which female pro golfer they'd most like to see in the rough - er, the buff - with Playboy magazine prepared to offer the winner a photo spread.

    Carin Koch topped the survey, but turned down the opportunity. The offer then went to Jill McGill, who finished second and, at last check, said she was still thinking it over. The 6-0 blonde might actually end up wearing little more than spikes, a golf glove and a smile.

    Move over Jan Stephenson and Laura Baugh. You were considered risque for your time, but times they are a changin'.

  • Speaking of golf, the proposed Major Champions Tour for major championship winners age 37-55 has reached a tentative agreement with Fox to televise its tournaments. It is tentative because the independent tour's formation, far from a done deal, is contingent on drawing enough big names who are willing to resign their PGA Tour memberships. It received a setback the other day when Greg Norman, perhaps the major drawing card in this age bracket, said he was unwilling to commit to the new tour.

  • It was a salary cap move, sure, but the Lions will suffer a setback on the field and take a major public relations hit off of it if Johnnie Morton, their most productive receiver the last several seasons, cannot be enticed to accept a new contract and return to the team. A player of his caliber must be awfully attractive to the expansion team in Houston.

  • Can't imagine why the NFL's competition committee is having such a difficult time getting a handle on the “tuck rule” and making the needed changes in its interpretation. But apparently they need our help. So here goes:

    IT WAS A FUMBLE!

    Dave Hackenberg is a Blade sports writer.



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