The casual sports fans first heard the name of Kansas University quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus when ESPN’s Beano Cook predicted before Powlus took a snap for Notre Dame that he would win the Heisman Trophy twice.
Cook was one of three sports characters who died during the week, joining former NFL player and color commentator Alex Karras and Chicago Tribune sportswriter/TV panelist Bill Jauss. I asked Powlus last winter if he had ever met Cook, whose prediction many blamed for adding unfair pressure and expectations to Powlus. He said he had not.
“People always say, ‘Are you mad at Beano Cook?’ ‘Do you blame Beano?’ I don’t,” Powlus said last winter. “The guy, his job is to make ridiculous statements. That’s what he does. That’s why people know his name, because he makes the statements and predictions. It’s not his fault. That’s his job. As a player, I was flattered. It was a nice thing to say. But I’m not mad at Beano. I don’t know Beano.”
Powlus never finished in the top 10 in Heisman voting, but did start 42 games for Notre Dame, set single-season school records for completions (182) and attempts (298) as a senior and set the ND record for touchdown passes in a game with four (three times).
As a coach, Powlus and KU receivers coach/recruiting coordinator Rob Ianello are in danger of enduring a third consecutive 1-11 season. Powlus worked as quarterbacks coach at Akron for Ianello, who had back-to-back 1-11 seasons in his only two years as Akron’s head coach.
Powlus has a tough challenge ahead of him this season. Dayne Crist entered the Oklahoma State game ranked 119th among 122 rated quarterbacks. Interestingly, Garrett Gilbert, more highly touted coming out of Lake Travis High in Texas than his predecessor, Todd Reesing, is ranked 121st. Gilbert, a bust at Texas, now plays for SMU. Tulane’s D.J. Ponder is ranked last.
Crist was off to a good start (4 of 5 for 55 yards) against Oklahoma State when lightning struck.
*Alex Karras isn’t the only athlete noted for punching a horse, but at least Karras only portrayed Mongo punching a horse in “Blazing Saddles.”
Arthur Long, who played at Cincinnati for Bob Huggins and is from my hometown of Rochester, N.Y., really punched a horse and was arrested for it. According to an old friend who was an assistant coach at a Division I school recruiting Long, he punched more than horses. During a junior college practice, Long punched a teammate during a scrimmage, was not disciplined for it and was allowed to continue playing in the scrimmage. That’s when my friend stopped recruiting Long.
*Really enjoyed covering DePaul with Jauss in the early ’90s, but the funniest DePaul-related story about Jauss came long after that.
In 2006, Jauss visited Ray Meyer on his deathbed and the coach was so weak he could barely whisper. As Jauss was leaving, Meyer motioned him closer, closer, close enough to hear him and then whispered in the sportswriter’s ear: “Hey Jaussy, you don’t look so hot yourself.”