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Wimp's half-life with the Tide

If you think Wimp Sanderson is Alabama basketball, you're half right.

Tonight, the Crimson Tide plays the 1,832nd basketball game in the program's history. And Sanderson will be courtside for the 916th time _ exactly half of all the games Alabama has ever played.

Does that make Sanderson an Alabama institution?

"You mean like an insane asylum," Sanderson asked. "I don't know, I guess I'm an institution to some people around here."

He's an institution in a plaid sport coat and the Crimson Tide will honor Sanderson prior to tonight's game against Vanderbilt. Fans are encouraged to wear plaid and a Wimp-A-Like contest will be held at halftime with cash prizes going to the best Sanderson imitators.

Sanderson showed up in Tuscaloosa as a graduate assistant in 1960 and has yet to leave. He spent 20 years as an assistant coach and the last 12 as head coach. With five more victories, he will become the winningest head coach in Alabama history. He is currently 260-115 (.694) as head coach.

"I came here for one year and stayed 32," Sanderson said. "I had opportunities to leave, but Alabama was the place for me. I thought one day I might have the chance to be head coach so I rolled the dice and stayed."

10, 9, 8, 7 . . .: The countdown on Ed Murphy's career at Ole Miss has begun. You can tell, because Murphy himself has begun addressing the subject.

In his sixth season at Ole Miss, Murphy is still looking for his first winning record in conference play. It probably won't happen this year. The Rebels are 11-10 overall, but are in last place with a 3-7 league record.

"I have one year left on my contract. I'm under the assumption that I'm going to be here," said Murphy. "I think the worse is behind us. They stuck with (football coach Billy) Brewer and it paid off. I think if they stick with me, it'll pay off."

If Murphy, who has a 75-92 career record at Ole Miss, was looking for support from the administration, he didn't get it.

"I'm not going to talk about that during the season. It would be inappropriate," athletic director Warner Alford said. "I will address those things at the end of the season."

Get in line: Tickets for the inaugural SEC football championship game in December are now on sale _ if you don't mind paying a premium price.

More than half of the 82,000 seats in Birmingham's Legion Field are reserved for fans who will pay more than $100 for VIP-style tickets. The premium tickets run from $105 to $280 each. The $530 and $780 luxury-box seats are already sold out.

For those with more inexpensive tastes, approximately 8,000 seats at $30 each will be sold beginning in April. Another 20,000 tickets will be reserved for the competing teams to sell prior to the game.

The championship, the first of its type in Division I football, will match the winners of the Western and Eastern divisions. The winner of the championship game will go to the Sugar Bowl. For more information on the tickets, write to the Championship Club, P.O. Box 11304, Birmingham, Ala. 35202 or call (205) 939-3278 or 1-800-277-1700.

_ JOHN ROMANO

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