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Signing college basketball players to professional contracts has become something of a national pastime the last few years, so much so that collegiate officials concerned with the future of their game object fervently to the practice, usually on the grounds that it is unethical or "bad for the boy."

Bob James, commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference, is a bit more practical. "We're going to do something," he says. "We're not going to sit back and let the agents ruin the college game." James and the ACC say that while they will encourage student-athletes to finish college before turning to a professional athletic career, they recognize that "economic factors coupled with an unusual opportunity" are persuasive reasons for a collegian to sign a contract. James therefore has consulted lawyers, tax men, investment counselors and the like and has come up with a plan, which the ACC has approved and which James will personally explain to players at each school in the conference.

He will ask them to promise not to discuss a professional career with anyone but parents or coaches or athletic directors. In return, if a player is thinking of turning pro, the ACC will provide him with legal and financial guidance at no cost. It will not act as agent or representative, the ACC hastens to add. The service will be solely educational and will be designed to help the player understand contracts, tax problems and investments and thus enable him to make a reasonably intelligent appraisal of his future under a professional contract.


Amid the continuing flap about where and when the Joe Frazier-Muhammad Ali return bout will be held, a persistent anti-California note has been heard, despite the fact that Jack Kent Cooke, the Los Angeles sports entrepreneur, has both the contract for the rematch and an arena in which to hold it. Bob Turley, executive secretary of the California Athletic Commission, says, "I wouldn't be surprised if Frazier is backing away from a title fight in California because of the rigorous physical examination we require here." Turley thinks it significant that Yank Durham, Frazier's manager, saw to it that the champion's recent tune-up fights were held in Louisiana and Nebraska, where there is relatively little supervision of boxing, and suggests that Frazier might have a physical problem, possibly with his eyes.

Frazier denies this, saying, "Yank Durham don't want me to fight in Los Angeles. He's got some personal reasons. He don't like the rules, or something."

Turley says, "He doesn't like the physical examination rules. He doesn't want Frazier to be checked by our ophthalmologist."


Billie Jean King's defeat of Evonne Goolagong last Sunday in the finals of the French Open was sweet revenge for her loss to the Australian girl at Wimbledon a year ago. It also served to revive interest in the comments Mrs. King made a few weeks back after she won the $20,000 Indianapolis Tournament, last event on the women's winter-spring tour. Asked if she would be back in Indianapolis in August to defend her National Clay Court title, Billie Jean said no, she didn't think so, not if Evonne was in the field. Billie Jean is a bulwark of the professional women's tour. Evonne, a fledgling in the tennis-money game, has been reaping her monetary awards where she can, under the guidance of her coach, Vic Edwards.

"She always gets a guarantee," complained Mrs. King, "and that's illegal under our rules. I can't prove she'll get a guarantee here, but I'm positive she will. And I don't feel it's fair. She's not supporting our circuit, which is her privilege, but the future of women's tennis is in the tour. We do all the work and then she asks for a guarantee and comes boppin' in."

Stan Malless, USLTA secretary and director of the clay court tournament, angrily replied, "I resent Billie Jean's implications. Vic Edwards indicated Evonne might play in Indianapolis, but I promise you I haven't paid a guarantee to man or woman since prize-money tournaments began. And I've given no expense money to any player playing for money. This thing is a power play by the tour people. They've been trying to get Evonne for some time."

Malless said he would not bar the Australian girl just to appease Mrs. King and the lour players. "I won't turn her down because others threaten not to play," he insisted.


There is a disc jockey in the Kansas City area named Jimmy (The Greek) Morgan who likes to stir up his listeners with controversial comments. Morgan is a baseball fan and recently he spent a good part of his four-hour show criticizing John Mayberry, the Kansas City Royal first baseman. Mayberry, obtained from the Houston Astros in an off-season trade, had not been hitting well, and Morgan said over the air that he ought to be sent down to the Royals' Class AAA farm club in Omaha. An anti-Mayberry listener phoned in to agree but said Omaha was too good for him; he should be sent all the way down to the Class A farm in Waterloo, Iowa. Morgan endorsed that idea, but then a pro-Mayberry fan objected to the disparagement. "Morgan," he said, "suppose Mayberry hits two home runs tonight. Would you go to Waterloo instead?" Certainly, Morgan replied, implying that such a development was out of the range of possibility.

That night at the ball park some fans unfurled a bed sheet sign that read: "Go, John, Hit Two. Send The Greek to Waterloo." And, shades of Joe Hardy, Mayberry hit two home runs. Morgan, who had been out of the studio on a remote broadcast, was stunned. "When I came back to the studio and checked the news ticker," he said, "I couldn't believe it. But I knew I had to go to Waterloo."

A man of his word and a bear for publicity, Morgan boarded a bus the next morning at 7:30. It took 7½ hours to get to Waterloo. The disc jockey had a cup of coffee and a quick look around and got on the first bus back to Kansas City. He arrived home at 2 a.m. Of Waterloo, he said, "A nice place but strictly one horse. The best thing I can wish for John Mayberry is that he never has to play ball there. I hope he hits 50 homers this season."


John Montague, who died the other day in California at the age of 67, was one of the true folk heroes of the 1930s. Stories about a fabulous golfer in Hollywood kept surfacing in columns and in conversations around golf clubs. He was not a professional and did not play in amateur tournaments, but the things he could do on a golf course were phenomenal. He was called the best golfer in the world, someone you had to see to believe. He could land a chip shot on a handkerchief. If he found his ball behind a tree, he would deliberately hit a 90° slice so that the ball would curve directly toward the green. He won $1,000 from Bing Crosby, then a low-handicap player, using a shovel, a rake, a baseball bat and a hoe. And so on. He was a marvel but he avoided publicity and his golf was essentially a private affair. Inevitably, he became known as the Mysterious Montague.

Late in 1937 pressure from his celebrity friends and the assurance of a substantial fee brought him into the light. He played a charity game on Long Island with Babe Ruth and Babe Didrikson. Exposed to the press and public, the Mysterious Montague's golf game proved merely competent. He was good but not great, proficient but not at all amazing. The bubble burst.

Publicity undid him in another way. Police in upstate New York, hearing the stories from California, suspected he was really La Verne Moore, wanted for robbery. He was arrested and went on trial. He was acquitted, but it made little difference. Montague was no longer a mystery. The legend had ended, 35 years before the man did.


There will be no ties in high school football in Ohio this fall. The state high school athletic association is going to experiment with a sudden-death tie breaker, mostly to make it simpler to select teams for the state championship playoffs. If regulation time ends with the game tied, the winner of a coin toss has the choice of taking the ball on the 10-yard line (10 yards to go for a touchdown) or giving it to the other team on the 10. The offensive side gets four downs to score a touchdown or a field goal, and it can kick for the extra point or try for a two-point conversion.

Once a team scores, or if it fails to score in four downs, or if it loses the ball on a fumble or an interception, the other team gets the ball on the 10. (The teams take their four downs at the same end of the field in order to keep wind and field conditions for both sides as much alike as possible.) If the score is still tied after each has had its turn, they go through the same thing again. And, if necessary, again, until the tie is broken.

Should be fun to watch. Or excruciating.


The Big Ten, once the firmest and strongest athletic conference in the country, seems to spend most of its time bemoaning its fate, which is hard times, athletically and financially. At the conference meeting late in May, Athletic Director Don Canham of Michigan, one of the most stable schools in the group, cried, "We have to start some form of de-escalation or pretty soon we'll go under." Canham was reiterating the general concern about high costs. He noted that even though Michigan drew a record crowd of 105,000 to one football game last fall and averaged near capacity for basketball games at its 13,609-seat Crisler Arena, the athletic department was in a financial bind.

He cited the expense of athletic scholarships ($700,000), recruiting ($30,000 for telephone calls alone), operation (heating and lighting Crisler Arena runs about $100,000); he said there were too many assistant coaches and too much scouting. He declared that since it was impossible to raise ticket prices much higher than they are now, there was no choice but to cut back on expenses. His argument faltered when he indicated he felt the university administration might absorb more of the costs of running the athletic department, but the gist remained: the Big Ten was in trouble.

And, lo, the representatives at the meeting did something, although something that appeared on the surface to be penny-wise and pound-foolish. They proposed that football and basketball scholarships stay the same (120 in football and 24 in basketball over a four-year period) but that those in minor sports be cut from 34 a year to 15. James (Doc) Counsilman, swimming coach at Indiana, whose teams have given the Big Ten its only NCAA championships over the past few years, screamed in pain. "The mandate to cut budgets came from the university presidents," he argued, "but this is kind of in reverse. Football budgets run about $1 million, minor sports about $30,000 to $50,000. It seems logical to me to cut back in football, where the big money is.

"Indiana was against these proposals," he said. "Maybe we should get out of the Big Ten. If you can't get along with your wife, you divorce her."



•Muhammad Ali: "You can see Joe Frazier's fights on home television. When I fight, they need four satellites to broadcast it."

•Billy Grabarkewitz, Los Angeles Dodger in fielder, on the name on the back of his uniform: "Unless I spread my arms, you can't see the G and the Z."

•Paul Brown, Cincinnati Bengal coach, on the decision to move in the hash-marks on pro football fields: "It's going to affect the game more than is generally realized. It takes the sidelines away from the defense. I think we'll have more passing, more teams gambling on third down, fewer field goals."

•Don Zimmer, San Diego Padre manager, watching rookie Derrel Thomas talking to his boyhood idol, Maury Wills: "That's what's wrong with the world today. Thomas is asking Wills for advice and he's doing 90% of the talking."