Auburn-Oregon game may test couple

Oregon boy meets Auburn girl. In Las Vegas. And here you thought Appalachian State over Michigan was a major upset.

They fall in love, get married, raise a family, write books, design jewelry, live happily ever after.

That was the plan, anyway. Then the football teams representing their alma maters spoke. And the peace between them no longer could be held until the Bowl Championship Series standings came out, much less forever.

But I think Jack and Carol Sheehan’s marriage will endure beyond tonight’s BCS championship game between top-ranked Auburn and No. 2 Oregon, if for no other reason than Jack went to Oregon during the turbulent 1960s and managed to survive, and Carol attended Auburn during the 1980s when coach Pat Dye was playing for ties, and somehow she got through that, too.

The Vietnam War, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, the struggle for human rights, settling for a 16-16 stalemate in the 1988 Sugar Bowl that denied Syracuse a perfect record … these are all crosses to bear.

“I’m way more into everything about Oregon than she is about Auburn,” says Jack Sheehan, who has authored 18 nonfiction books mostly about Las Vegas and Las Vegans, including three published by Stephens Press, a subsidiary of the same company that owns the Las Vegas Review-Journal. His most recent, “Forgotten Man: How Circus Circus’ Bill Bennett Brought Middle America to Las Vegas” hit bookstores in November.

At one time, Carol Sheehan was into Freddy Weygand, a starting wide receiver on the Auburn football team who was drafted by the Chicago Bears. They dated for a while, which made Carol very popular, especially when her sorority sisters needed tickets for the Iron Bowl game against Alabama.

Freddy Weygand was pals with a guy named Bo Jackson. Sometimes when Freddy and Bo and the other Auburn football players wanted to spend some … um, quality time … at the sorority house, they’d first throw their fishing poles and tackle boxes into their pickup trucks. That way, if Dye caught them out in the wee hours in the morning, they could say they were only goin’ after some Alabama redfish.

Jack Sheehan, who played on the Oregon golf team, counters by saying he once hit the great distance runner Steve Prefontaine in the shin with a practice 5-iron shot.

Good anecdote. Just not as good as Carol’s.

Jack, a native of Spokane, Wash., talks about all the great football coaches who got their starts at Oregon: John Robinson, George Seifert, Gunther Cunningham, Bruce Snyder, Norv Turner. Dan Fouts was the Oregon quarterback when Jack was at Oregon. Bobby Moore — you know him as Ahmad Rashad — was the Ducks’ star running back.

Yeah, sniffs Carol, who grew up in a football-playing family in Lakeland, Fla. How many Heisman Trophies did those guys win?

Her Tigers have produced three Heisman winners: Pat Sullivan in 1971, Jackson in 1985 and Cam Newton this year.

“I’m used to seeing Auburn players get the Heisman. No big deal, darlin’,” Carol says, breaking into a Southern belle drawl for effect.

Carol Sheehan, who designs jewelry made from items used in wars to support U.S. troops (she has two brothers in the Army’s Special Forces), says the best thing about the Auburn experience, besides watching Charles Barkley run up and down the basketball court in his tighty-whitey Auburn home uniform, were the football games.

“When Auburn would win, we’d all pile into the car, go down to Toomer’s Corner and toilet paper the oak and magnolia trees,” Carol said of a longstanding Auburn landmark and tradition.

When Oregon would win, there also was a postgame tradition on the Eugene campus.

“The University of Oregon was pretty liberal back in the 1960s, with anti-war demonstrations going on and our fair share of hippies on campus,” Jack said. “When the Ducks won, we’d just go back to someone’s apartment and take bong hits until the brownies were done cooking.”

I like Carol’s nod to tradition. But if you wore your hair long or a flower in it, I can see where you might give Jack a slight edge in time of possession.

The Sheehans, who met at a local Neiman-Marcus department store, have been married for 16 years. They have a 14-year-old son, J.P., and an 11-year-old daughter, Lily.

J.P. probably will wear an Oregon sweatshirt during tonight’s game. Lily probably will wear an Auburn one. Their parents have made a friendly wager on the game that has nothing to do with taking out the trash or doing the dishes. If I revealed it here, I probably would be penalized 15 yards by various Big Ten officials.

“If Oregon has to lose the national championship,” Jack Sheehan says, “then I will be happy that it is to my wife’s alma mater.”

And they will live happily ever after, at least until spring football starts.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at
rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352.

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