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Auburn's ineligibility leaves league a team short

Surely 1993 was an aberration for the Southeastern Conference. Surely it was a fluke that the league did not have enough eligible teams to fulfill its post-season bowl commitments, and a scenario like this never would arise again.

Surely you jest.

Here it is mid-October and the SEC again is waiting and worrying about having at least five eligible teams with the required six Division I-A victories. All together now: "Go Vanderbilt."

The Commodores (3-3) are among the SEC teams in the running for the league's fifth post-season bid, the Carquest Bowl. Last season, the Carquest had to go to the Atlantic Coast Conference since the SEC had no team to offer.

Now, of course, this would be a moot issue if Auburn were not ineligible for post-season play because of NCAA violations. But isn't that like saying the Buccaneers would be okay if they hadn't hired Leeman Bennett in 1984?

"I don't think the SEC will ever be down," LSU coach Curley Hallman said. "The state of the SEC is awfully good right now."

Says who?

The SEC has three teams in the AP Top 25 poll, the same number as the WAC and one fewer than the ACC and Big East.

The league can point to a 17-5 record against non-conference opponents, but who are we really talking about? Tulane, Tennessee-Chattanooga, Northeast Louisiana, Southern Illinois? Thus far, SEC teams have played two _ count 'em, two _ non-conference teams in the current AP Top 25.

Contrast that with Michigan, which started the season against Boston College, Notre Dame and Colorado _ all outside of the Big Ten.

Perhaps the question is not whether the SEC will have a fifth team eligible for a bowl, but whether it deserves a fifth team.

Has the Dye been cast?: No one could possibly be surprised that Georgia's Ray Goff might be on his way out, but how 'bout this one for a shocker:

Is Pat Dye on his way in at Georgia?

In a recent ESPN interview, the former Auburn coach hinted that he might be agreeable to returning to the sidelines.

Immediately, rumors began that Dye was a candidate at his alma mater.

"I didn't open any door," Dye said of the ESPN interview. "I didn't say Georgia. I didn't say anything. All the guy did was ask me if I ever intended to get back into coaching. And I said never is a long time. I didn't mention Georgia. I didn't mention LSU or Ole Miss or anybody who might be looking."

The NCAA investigation that forced Dye out as Auburn's coach did not totally wipe out his reputation. He remains employed as a special assistant to the Auburn president.

"I'm still a football coach. People still call me Coach Dye. They sure don't call me a cattle farmer and I have 160 cows," Dye said.

I've got to be me: Ole Miss coach Joe Lee Dunn had to be happy with the first 50 yards of Roell Preston's 70-yard touchdown reception Saturday. The last 20 yards, however, left him miffed. Preston high-stepped for 20 yards, dived into the end zone, then got up for a little celebratory dancing.

He got hit with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and Dunn sent him to the bench for the rest of the quarter. If it happens again, Dunn said Preston will sit out the rest of the game. Preston hardly seemed contrite.

"You see it every week and it ain't called," Preston said. "I'm tired of being the nice guy. I'm tired of losing.

"I want to win pretty and I want to be myself."