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Weis captures coach of year award

Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis received the Eddie Robinson Award as the nation's top college football coach yesterday.

The award, given by the Football Writers Association of America, was presented at the final Fiesta Bowl news conference.

Weis guided Notre Dame to a 9-2 record in his first season at the school after being lured from the Patriots, where as offensive coordinator he helped the team win three Super Bowls in four seasons.

''I'll accept the award, but on behalf of the University of Notre Dame, not on behalf of Charlie Weis," he said.

He praised the school for providing him with the means to be successful.

''It all started after they hired me," Weis said, ''giving me the resources to go hire what I feel was the best group of assistant coaches. Those guys, together with me, I thought, provided some pretty good guidance for a great group of kids who really stepped up and had an admirable year."

Graham takes reins

Rice introduced Tulsa defensive coordinator Todd Graham as its new head coach, one day after he helped the Golden Hurricane win the Liberty Bowl.

Graham, 41, replaces Ken Hatfield, who resigned Nov. 30 after 12 seasons.

''This situation is one I've researched quite a bit," Graham said. ''There's no doubt in my mind we're going to build a winner here."

Tulsa, in its third season with Graham running the defense, was 37th overall -- allowing 342 yards per game. The Golden Hurricane were 42d in scoring defense, yielding 23 points a game, and fourth in the nation in turnover margin at plus-17. They defeated Fresno State, 31-24, in the Liberty Bowl to finish 9-4, including a 41-21 win over Rice in October.

A native of Mesquite, Texas, Graham coached at Allen High School, north of Dallas, before becoming the linebackers coach at West Virginia in 2001. He was promoted to co-defensive coordinator there in 2002, then moved to Tulsa in 2003.

Warming up

Forecasters in Miami are saying that temperatures for Tuesday night's Orange Bowl could be in the low 70s with a bit of humidity by kickoff, and Florida State is hoping they're right. The Seminoles are is well-versed in practicing and playing in warm conditions, something that Penn State hasn't played in for months. ''I've been really pleased with the weather that we've had," Florida State offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden said. ''One of the things that we really need to help us in this game is the heat, and you've supplied plenty of that." The Nittany Lions have been in South Florida since Dec. 20, and they believe they've had plenty of time to adjust to the climatic shift from the wintry northeast. ''We're not too concerned about it," Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said . . . Among the most popular questions with Penn State fans after ''How much longer will Joe Paterno coach?" is ''Who will replace him?" Paterno, 79, is in his 40th season as head coach and has outlasted many of his assistants. On his current staff, Bradley might be considered the top internal candidate to take over once the boss leaves. Bradley, a Penn State alum, has served as an assistant for nearly three decades and has assembled a defense that is one of the stingiest units in the nation . . . West Virginia running back Jason Colson has a sprained knee and is questionable for the Sugar Bowl. Backup wide receiver Jeremy Bruce is out with an ankle sprain. Several players are recovering from a stomach virus, including backup defensive lineman Johnny Dingle. Georgia starting nose tackle Gerald Anderson is questionable with a stiff back.

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