Thursday, August 30, 2001

Miami pals don't always stay in line

        OXFORD — The whole story will have to wait. Joe Costello and Paul Thaler have not yet finished with Miami football, and there could be consequences if they come too clean too soon.

        But in the fall of 1997, when the two linemen were redshirt freshmen, they escaped severe repercussions with a resourceful story.

        When the RedHawks go on the road on Fridays, the redshirts report to lift weights at 6 a.m. If anyone is absent, or even late, the next session starts earlier.

        On the Friday in question, Costello was absent. He was asleep. Thaler attempted to rouse his roommate, but the big guard wouldn't budge. There are conflicting versions of who concocted the cover story. What's amazing is that it worked.

        Costello: “There was a water main break on campus.”

        Thaler: “I told Coach (Dan) Dalrymple, "I think Joe had some bad water.' ”

        Costello: “I don't know if (Dalrymple) knows the truth. I'm not going to officially tell him 'til I get out of a Miami uniform.”

        Thaler: “It may have been that Budweiser water.”

        Costello: “No comment.”

2 good reasons for hope

        Schoolmates since the fifth grade — first at St. Martin's Elementary, later at LaSalle High, and now at Miami — Costello and Thaler have collected enough dirt on each other to replicate Mount Rumpke. They have played together so long their line calls often can be communicated by a facial expression.

        Thaler, No. 77, will be at center Saturday when Miami opens its season at Michigan. Costello, No. 78, will be riding shotgun at left guard. The two seniors are not inseparable, but their shared experience and cohesive play is one reason to believe the RedHawks could be better than the 24 1/2-point spread.

        This is not another overmatched Mid-American Conference team sacrificing its players for the sake of a big payday, but a physical bunch with the ability to play ball-control. Miami's offensive line averages slightly more than 302 pounds, and its running backs averaged 6 yards a carry last season at Ohio State.

        The RedHawks might get beat, but they shouldn't get bullied.

        “My first college football game, we played North Carolina, and I was in awe,” Costello said Wednesday afternoon. “By the time I got around to Ohio State, they were just guys. Your friends and family think you're going to Michigan and they're untouchable. (But) I'm looking at film and it's: "What's the big deal?' ”

Abbott and Costello?

        Costello is the more light-hearted of Miami's LaSalle alumni. Thaler, more tightly wrapped, concedes, “I need to loosen up sometimes.”

        Asked for a glimpse of Costello's dark side, Thaler clings to polite euphemisms. Costello is less careful.

        “Paul hasn't grown out of that fad of wearing his Superman undies,” he said. “He doesn't wear them around the locker room, but when he's at home in the dorm and stuff.”

        They bunked together just one year, in a Simmes Hall dormitory room built for three. Whatever became of their third roommate is an unsolved mystery.

        “It was freshman move-in day,” Thaler said. “The guy met Joe and he got scared. He left a note on the bed.”

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