TELLING IT LIKE IT IS
Ohio State rebuked John Mummey, an assistant football coach, for asking alumni to contribute to a special fund for assistant coaches, those vital but not extravagantly paid members of the school's football program. Mummey defended his efforts, saying, "I realize this is a state-run university and that a lot of people get jealous and upset, but we're a big business. Anytime you take in $4 million through the gates and turnstiles, that's what you are. You don't have 87,000 people at a spelling bee."
Well, the NCAA did vote in favor of a liberalized amateur rule at its convention in San Francisco (SCORECARD, Jan. 7), a radical step for that often stodgy body to take. An athlete at an NCAA school now can compete as an amateur in one sport even if he is a professional in another. This means that a man who has signed a professional contract in baseball can, for example, play college football or basketball. This is in direct contradiction to the Olympic premise, which holds that an athlete who even competes against professionals is no longer a true amateur.
The sharp men, the cool men, are already figuring ways to take advantage of the new rule—signing a man to an inflated contract to play exhibition tiddledywinks in order to make sure he will bring his amateur talents as a running back to good old Subterfuge U. Perhaps such manipulations will prove a minor enforcement problem. The bigger difficulty lies in international competition. Even though Lord Killanin, president of the International Olympic Committee, hinted that a change in the Olympic definition of amateur might result from the NCAA action, some authorities felt there was little chance that other countries, particularly those where there is no parallel to our high-paying professional sports, will agree to relax international standards to accommodate the NCAA ruling. In other words, an Olympic champion turned pro footballer, such as Bob Hayes a decade ago, would not be allowed to continue as an amateur runner in international competition. It also means that an athletewho competes with or against these sometime pros runs the risk of being banned by international sports bodies.
In brief, the rule is a plus for domestic competition, but international approval will be a while coming. Even so, it is a welcome step toward reality.
Speaking of amateurs, cross-country skier Mary Lee Atkins of Durango, Colo. is one who got into trouble for not paying attention to commercial considerations, which shows you how confusing standards can be. Miss Atkins, ranked first last year in the Samsonite series of cross-country races and second this year, has been named Colorado's outstanding female athlete of the year, but when she did not wear the U.S. ski team's official uniform (which is supplied by Sears) to a banquet in Michaywe, Mich., she was sent home by Coach Martin Hall.
"I didn't wear the pants because they didn't fit," the 19-year-old skier said. "They're uncomfortable and I don't like them." She admitted she had had similar trouble before. "It was at a banquet in Aspen," she said. "There were a lot of heavies from Sears and Samsonite there, and I didn't wear all uniform clothes. I wore a pair of pants that looked like the uniform pants. Because I did, Coach Hall told me I'd have to pay my own way to Michaywe, but later on he gave me my ticket." When Hall sent her home from Michigan she said she thought at first of quitting, "but then I realized I had been wrong and that quitting wasn't the right thing to do."
Hall said, "I certainly don't think the punishment was too strict. They have more combinations of clothing to wear than you could shake a stick at. On that night in Aspen the president of Samsonite was there, and he's worth a cool $80,000 to the team. And the chairman of Sears was there, and he's worth $200,000 to the team. We have an image to present. We represent those people. They've given us money. The least we can do is wear their clothes.
"These kids like to run around the country, but they don't seem to have a sense of responsibility of where the money comes from. I don't think it's too much to ask them to wear their uniforms. I don't think running around in red corduroy pants and clogs without socks is the right image."
Miss Atkins has since had her uniform pants tailored to her own taste. "They look different now," she said. "I hope I don't get in trouble for this, too."
One of the advantages of being the worst team in the National Football League, as the Houston Oilers were this season, is the right to pick first in the draft of college players. However, in its wisdom, Houston already has dealt away that choice, and quite a few others besides. As a result, when the NFL draft is held later this month the lowly Oilers will have no picks at all through the first three rounds, and only 11 through the first 17 rounds. Compare this with the Super Bowl rivals. Miami will have 22 picks, Minnesota 20, including two first-round choices. Oh my, how the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
But Houston fans can offer a counter-argument. In their frantic trading, the Oilers acquired a bevy of top-draft players from other teams. This past season they had a dozen first-round picks on the roster, a rather impressive total. Still, that hasn't done the Oilers much good, at least not so far. So why worry about the draft?
Australis, the Australian America's Cup yacht, has been launched officially, but it is not Australis. That is, it was Australis before it was launched, but it isn't anymore. Owner Alan Bond decided Australis wasn't gutsy enough. What he wanted, according to reports, was a tough, aggressive, even menacing name. So he picked Avenger. That, according to Australian yachting writer Bruce Stannard, "would have created merry hell among the crusty old conservatives of the New York Yacht Club. Races may be won at sea, but Bond believed a little gamesmanship on land would be useful."
Apparently, Bond decided all this was as silly as it sounds, for he changed course again and settled on Southern Cross, which is rich in Australian tradition. The Southern Cross is the beautiful constellation of the southern hemisphere that appears on the Australian flag. It also was the name given to the famous airplane in which Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith made the first transpacific flight from the U.S. to Australia in 1928.
Besides, a boat by any other name is just as fast—and just as likely to scare the New York Yacht Club.
The third annual Wiseman Trophy has been awarded to Lynn Swann, USC's exemplary flanker. The Wiseman, created as an antidote to the Heisman Trophy, is given annually to the college player who the proprietors of the Victoria Station restaurant in San Francisco decide is the best in the country. Their selections are based on clear, cold logic. When Cornell's Ed Marinaro was picked in 1971 (the Heisman went to Auburn's Pat Sullivan), it was discovered that the three partners in the restaurant were all graduates of Cornell. When they went for Brad Van Pelt of Michigan State in 1972 instead of Johnny Rogers, it seemed only fitting that Publicist Glenn Dorenbush turned out to be a Michigan State man.
This year's selection of Southern California's Swann was more puzzling, since nobody on the selection committee had gone to USC. The restaurant duly announced that the selection of Swann was a completely objective one, adding, "The fact that we have one Victoria Station open in Los Angeles and three others under construction in that area had nothing whatever to do with the choice."
TOOMEY THE SWIMMER
They're gathering in Florida for another Superstar competition, the one at which Bob Seagren won a $39,700 prize a year ago. You remember the setup: star athletes from different sports compete in a variety of activities (running, swimming, cycling, weight lifting, tennis, hitting a baseball, and so on), with the provision that a man cannot compete in his own specialty. More than a dozen stars, from Pete Rose to O.J. Simpson to Larry Mahan, will battle this year, and the self-styled favorite is Bill Toomey, the 1968 Olympic decathlon champion. Toomey was not in the event last year, and when he heard that Seagren had won, he said, "If they had let me in, I would have cleaned Seagren's clock."
Now track coach at the University of California at Irvine, Toomey turned to coaches in other sports to help sharpen his skills. His extraordinary athletic ability was soon evident in most areas, but there was one glaring exception. "I'm sure he'll learn fast," UCI swimming coach Ed Newland told Earl Gustkey of the Los Angeles Times after Toomey's first workouts in the pool, "but he has absolutely no feel for the water. Right now, he couldn't finish the 100-yard freestyle, let alone win it. But in time I think I can get him under a minute for the distance."
In an effort to encourage Toomey, Newland jokingly disparaged the swimming talents of the other competitors.
"Carl Eller is in it," Toomey said.
"Eller is dogmeat," Newland said.
"What about Roger Staubach?"
"Staubach is dogmeat."
"Pete Rose is dogmeat."
Thus inspired, Toomey labored on, although later he said philosophically, "There's no way I can win in this thing. I mean, if I do win, people will say an Olympic decathlon champion should have won it. If I lose, they'll say how can an Olympic decathlon champion lose to those guys?"
THEY SAID IT
•Gerry Cheevers, who defected from the Boston Bruins to the Cleveland Crusaders of the World Hockey Association, on the difference between the two teams: "Well, it did seem a little strange to discover that the No. 4 carrying the puck was Ralph Hopivari, not Bobby Orr."
•Chuck Tanner, manager of the Chicago White Sox, on whether his team liked the designated hitter: "We had a meeting with Lee MacPhail, the new president of the American League, and he told us we liked it."
•Dan Bouchard, Atlanta Flame goalie, complaining that NHL referees do not give goalies the protection to which they are entitled: "They never seem to make the call when the opposing team hits a man in the crease. One night while we were playing Minnesota, Dennis Hextall even checked me from behind."