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SWC champ may not have to go to Cotton Bowl

The Southwest Conference unanimously approved a proposal that would send its runner-up to the Cotton Bowl if its champion is ranked No. 2 and has a chance to play for a national championship in another bowl. "What we said is, if you have a chance to play for the national championship, we want you to take it," SWC commissioner Fred Jacoby said. The Cotton, Orange and Sugar bowls are discussing a proposed alliance with Notre Dame and the Atlantic Coast and Big East conferences to produce better bowl matchups. The new twist could open better opportunities for a national championship game among teams from conferences committed to specific bowls: the SWC to the Cotton, the Big Eight to the Orange and the Southeastern to the Sugar. Without the new feature, teams such as Florida State from the ACC, Miami from the Big East or independent Notre Dame would have a better chance of getting a national title game, because they would have their pick of bowls in the alliance. A fourth bowl, as yet undetermined, may be added to allow for a national title game involving the Big East or ACC champion or Notre Dame, should teams from that grouping be ranked 1-2. . . . Auburn coach Pat Dye walked out of Emory University Hospital on Saturday, eight days after an operation to reduce pressure on his spleen. NHL: The Pittsburgh Penguins are still basking in the glow of their first Stanley Cup. Now comes the hard part _ getting everyone back for next season. Three of the Penguins' key players _ Kevin Stevens, Mark Recchi and Ron Francis _ are among 214 players under contract to NHL clubs who'll become available to the highest bidder on July 1. "It is certainly a possibility, I would think, that we couldn't keep everybody," Penguins general manager Craig Patrick said. "But we're going to do everything we can to keep them." . . . Rick Ley says tennis star Ivan Lendl may have had something to do with his firing as Hartford Whalers coach. Ley said Richard Gordon, the team's owner, too often heeds advice from non-hockey people on the advisory board, such as Lendl or former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach. "And I know Lendl doesn't like me," Ley said.

Bowling: Del Ballard Jr. and Bob Benoit captured the PBA Beaumont Doubles Classic on Saturday, beating Steve Hoskins of Tarpon Springs and Philip Ringenar 243-200 in the title match. Ballard and Benoit never trailed, rolling five consecutive strikes to open the final game. The team received $28,000 for the win. Hoskins and Ringenar won $14,500.

Et cetera: An Italian judge ordered disgraced Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona to go on trial June 26 on charges of using drugs and supplying them to others. . . . Vladimir Pulnikov of the Soviet Union sprinted ahead in the last seconds to win the sixth stage of the Tour of Italy cycling race. Italy's Franco Chioccioli kept his overall lead. American Greg LeMond finished 41st, dropping 2 minutes, 32 seconds further back in the standings. . . . World recordholder Tom Jager edged Matt Biondi in the featured 50-meter freestyle at the International de Monte Carlo swim meet. In the invitation-only event, Jager was timed at 23.16 seconds, well off his 21.81 world mark, but just in front of Biondi at 23.36.

_ Compiled by Kim Pendery.