You can't accuse Woody Widenhofer of playing it safe.
The first-year Vanderbilt coach, who has four Super Bowl rings from his days as a defensive coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers, has signed a player who didn't play high school football.
You read correctly. Not a down.
Reggie Washington practiced every day with the football team at Avon Old Farms School in Windsor, Conn., but couldn't play on Fridays or Saturdays because he is a Seventh Day Adventist.
What impressed Widenhofer, however, was Washington's dedication and his athletic ability, which was gleaned from watching his basketball games and track meets. Plus, Washington is 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds.
"It takes a lot - I don't think you or I could do it - to practice every day, knowing you're never going to play," he said. "We signed him, because who knows, maybe he's a gamer. We hope he'll play. I can't afford to sign players just for practice."
Washington, who will be tried at tight end, is now 18 years old and has made the decision to play on Saturdays.
SHOW ME THE MONEY: Florida coach Steve Spurrier gave only a hint of his new contract at the Southeastern Conference's Kickoff '97 last Wednesday.
When asked about new Kentucky basketball coach Tubby Smith making more money than himself, Spurrier responded: "I'm being taken care of, believe me."
Oh yes he is. On Thursday, Spurrier, already the nation's top-paid college football coach, agreed in principle to an estimated 6-year, $12 million contract extension that will make him one of the top three highest-paid coaches at any level.
The new numbers - which would average nearly $2 million per season through the year 2002 - will place Spurrier third among all football coaches in annual salary, trailing only the New York Jets' Bill Parcells ($3.3 million) and the Miami Dolphins' Jimmy Johnson ($2 million).
The majority of the money will come from the University Athletic Association and its $34 million annual budget, with the rest reportedly coming from the school's shoe and apparel contracts.
"This has been ongoing for a couple months," Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said. "With Steve Spurrier, we're competing against the NFL for his services."
NO SCOTT FOR SCOTT: South Carolina signee Brian Scott, one of the nation's top high school receivers, will not be eligible for his freshman year.
Scott, a 6-4, 190-pounder from Darlington, S.C., would have offered immediate help at receiver, a position that lost Corey Bridges and Marcus Robinson. Zola Davis is the only returning experienced receiver for Brad Scott's team.
TITLE TICKETS: The SEC said fewer than 500 general seating tickets remain for the Dec. 6 title game in Atlanta.
The SEC makes about 39,000 seats available to the general public, then holds back most of the rest for the schools who make the game. The championship game has been sold out four of its five years, including the last three in Atlanta.
SNOW BOWL: What's so great about a bowl game in Boise, Idaho, in late December? Well, if you're the Big West champion and your league's previous bowl trip was axed, what's great is the payday.
The Sports Humanitarian Bowl, scheduled for Dec. 29, will pit the Big West champ vs. an at-large team - and maybe both teams against a harsh snowstorm.
"There are concerns about the weather," Big West Commissioner Dennis Farrell said. "Obviously, Boise is not a Sun Belt location. Our idea is to sell the winter sports opportunities there, make it a positive instead of a negative."
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