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College football briefs

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 18, 2000

Aggies mourn tragedy

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- A 150-foot circle cordoned off in a field at Texas A&M was a place no one wanted to enter.

"This is a most horrible thing to remember," Nancy Braus said.

Braus' son, Dominic, had his right arm crushed exactly one year ago as he worked on the Aggies' bonfire.

The 59-foot stack of logs, weighing more than two jumbo jets and being assembled for the school's annual pep rally on the eve of its football game against archrival Texas, collapsed Nov. 18, 1999, killing 12 and injuring 27 others.

With thousands of Aggies assembling at the bonfire site to participate in a candlelight memorial at 3:42 this morning, the special circle was reserved for families of those who were killed. An adjacent area was set aside for those who were hurt and survived.

"Some parents will not be there because they feel this is an affront by people in leadership and feel this is a media event," Braus said.

At a place where tradition and precision go arm in arm, the ceremony was scripted for 30 minutes: A memorial flame at the circle center. An unseen speaker making brief remarks.

Then the calling of individual names, the lighting of a candle, a blast from an off-site cannon. Twelve times.

Even before darkness, the mood was somber. The field was muddy and soggy from days of rain, the weather gray and cold.

SYRACUSE: Dwight Freeney, Syracuse's standout right defensive end, won't play in the final two regular-season games because of a viral syndrome. According to the school's Department of Sports Medicine, Freeney has been fighting the condition since the last week of October. He will miss tonight's game against Miami and the season finale against Rutgers. Blood tests and X-rays revealed a viral illness and a contusion to Freeney's spleen. Further evaluation by medical specialists determined that it is not advisable for him to play until his spleen heals.

WEST VIRGINIA: ABC's college football studio analyst Terry Bowden said he's turned down an offer to become coach at West Virginia. Bowden said Mountaineers athletic director Ed Pastilong had asked the former Auburn coach last week if he'd replace Don Nehlen, who's retiring at the end of this season. "I'm not interested in coaching right now. I'm very happy doing my job in television," Bowden said. "I appreciate the interest from the school where I played football."

INFLUENCING THE BCS: Remember the Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech game? The one that was postponed because of lightning and not rescheduled because officials believed it wouldn't affect the national title picture? Think again. It could cost No. 2 Miami a spot in the national title game after the final Bowl Championship Series standings are released Dec. 3. A factor in the strength of schedule formula -- one of four components used to determine the BCS standings -- is the record of your opponents' opponent. Miami, which still needed to beat Syracuse today and Boston College next week to stay in the title chase, has beaten Virginia Tech, and Georgia Tech is 7-2. For every spot a team rises or falls in the strength of schedule rankings, there is a .04 point difference.

TOP PLAYER FINALISTS: Two finalists from last season and six newcomers are candidates for the Harlon Hill Trophy, presented to the Division II player of the year. The repeat finalists are Virginia State receiver Damon Thompson and quarterback Justin Coleman of Nebraska-Kearney. Joining them are quarterbacks Drew Folmar of Millersville (Pa.) University, Randy McKavish of Slippery Rock (Pa.) and Dusty Bonner of Valdosta (Ga.) State; running back Lamar Gordon of North Dakota State; and receivers Tony Miles of Northwest Missouri State and J.T. O'Sullivan of California-Davis.

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