Next week ABC sports will preview the NCAA college football season. The hour-long telecast, a network release says, will "take an unusual and in-depth look" at the teams that experts predict will battle for No. 1—Notre Dame, Ohio State, USC, Alabama, Penn State and Oklahoma.
Oklahoma? The last time the NCAA was heard from on this subject it was going to pretend that the Sooners did not even exist, they were in such bad odor for alleged recruiting violations. They will not be seen in action on NCAA television games this year, they cannot go to a bowl and the college coaches will not vote for them in the weekly UPI Coaches Poll. And yet they are in the NCAA preview.
The ambiguous nature of Oklahoma's banishment puts us in mind of what, when we first heard of them after last season, struck us as two of the more bizarre schemes yet proposed for dealing with the three troublesome Rs of college football—Recruiting, Revenue and Reputation. Now we wonder.
One plan, developed by Dr. Milton C. David, a Modesto, Calif. orthopedic surgeon, and Dr. Jack Graves, professor of education at California State College in Stanislaus, proposes a college draft to replace the present recruiting of high school athletes. Like the pros, schools in a conference would draft in inverse order of their league standing at the end of the previous season. According to the plan's authors, this would save money, put a stop to dynasties and steer the less successful schools away from the unrespectable paths they have been forced to follow in order to become respectable. Best, it would take the pressure off the athletes by deciding for them where they will matriculate. They won't mind losing their freedom of choice, reasons Dr. David, who has recruited in California for 10 years, since star athletes "are being bought anyway, regardless of what people say."
William Wagner, a New Jersey buff, suggests that to help meet rising expenses the colleges should band together and negotiate agreements with the professional leagues, guaranteeing reimbursements to the colleges for any athletes signed to pro contracts. The colleges, Wagner argues, act as the pros' minor leagues, anyway, and should realize some gain from the arrangement. To get the professionals to go along, the colleges might have to drop big-time sports for three or so years, but in the end they would win. And they would do a good job training the athletes, since in preparing them for professional careers they would be more concerned with how they performed on the field or court than in the classroom.
There seems to be a maddening logic in all this to delight the sternest of casuists. But good sense?
The permit granted by the Idaho Land Board to Evel Knievel for his Sky-Cycle leap across Snake River Canyon is 1313.
Coach Rick Forzano gave a pep talk to the Detroit Lions before their exhibition game with the Oakland Raiders.
"President Ford will be watching," he said.
The team was impressed.
"Our president, William Clay Ford," Forzano added.
William Clay Ford's Lions lost 41-10.
If baseball is ever to have a black major league manager, the chances are growing mathematically that he will have to come from the ranks of the recently retired or the soon to be retired. The number of young blacks in the minor leagues has been declining steadily. Where five years ago 40% of the new talent was black, now the ratio has decreased to less than 15%.
Various reasons have been given for the trend—many more blacks are going to college; black athletes, in college and out, seem to prefer basketball and football. Could it be, however, that they see greater opportunity in the other two sports? It is a question that baseball people, who seem serious about wanting to expand, would do well to ponder.
That lumbering reptile, the diamond-back terrapin, possibly still outlegs a legendary hare or two in Cape May County, N.J., but more often it has been running a fatal second to automobiles steered by heedless or cruel drivers. Car and turtle meet when the female of the species crosses a road on her trek to the warm ocean sands, where she lays her eggs. The result always is thunk.
Marion Armacost, wife of the mayor of Avalon, erected turtle-crossing signs—like deer, turtles tend to travel along well-worn paths—but these were torn down as collectors' items. The county has now installed sturdier yellow signs that warn CAUTION—TURTLE X-ING.
But, hush, a friend of ours knows a guy who has heard of a guy who thinks more direct action is needed. He manufactures and places in strategic locations a fine imitation turtle that has under its soft, appealing shell a few nails driven through the baseboard and pointing up. Instead of a thunk, the sound is more like BLAM!
CLOAK AND STAGGER
The Spirits of St. Louis, relocated American Basketball Association franchise, reached a new high, or low, in plugging security leaks before announcing that their new coach would be Bob MacKinnon. They spirited the former assistant coach of the NBA Buffalo Braves into the Chase-Park Plaza Hotel and registered him as Rod Thorn, who happened to be the other top candidate for the job. Only one problem. When Spirit front office people tried to call MacKinnon, they had him paged as Thorn and MacKinnon did not answer. Moral of the story: take the hang-out route.
After 18 years gathering dust in our national attic, the Smithsonian Institution, Exhibit No. 16020 will be returned to its rightful place in the Hall of Osteology, the natural history museum.
Exhibit No. 16020 is the skeleton of Lexington, the best thoroughbred of his age (1852-55) at two, three and four years and afterward America's finest sire. His 16 crops of 533 reported foals produced 238 winners. Lexington led the sire list from 1861 until two years after his death in 1875. One of his sons was Preakness, for whom the classic was named; three others were Preakness winners—Tom Ochiltree (1875), Shirley (1876) and Duke of Magenta (1878).
In 1878 A. J. Alexander, owner of Kentucky's Woodburn Stud, agreed to let the Smithsonian have Lexington's skeleton. The bones were disinterred, assembled, mounted, and for about 78 years displayed in a corner of the museum.
Then, in 1956, there was a reorganization of exhibits and old Lexington was packed away with other mammals under its rafters. One of the first to miss him was a racing writer for the Washington Post who went looking a few years ago and wrote a piece for his paper about Lexington's exile. Talk ensued of lending the bones to the racing museum at Saratoga, but nothing came of that. Finally, responding to the urging of the American Horse Council, Dr. Henry Setzer, curator of the Smithsonian's Division of Mammals, announced that Lexington would be dusted off and brought back downstairs. In October he will be once more on display.
There have been more dramatic stories of equine rescue, from Black Beauty to Disney's The Miracle of the White Stallions, but the Rehabilitation of Exhibit No. 16020 has the rattle of truth.
When Heather McKay turned professional earlier this year, she said, "I intend to retire without another loss." This was hardly good news for her competition, which might gladly have preferred a simple declarative sentence like, "I quit." Mrs. McKay, you see, has not lost to another woman since 1962.
Heather McKay's game is squash. The London Times, which called her "one of the greatest figures in the history of sport," said, "It is doubtful that anyone has dominated a sport to such an extent as the Australian girl." It is hard to argue with the Times. Now 33, Mrs. McKay, whose husband Brian is a professional squash coach in Brisbane, has won the British Women's Squash Championship 13 years in a row. This year she took the finals in 23 minutes, 9-2, 9-1, 9-2. The year before she lost only two points in the final and the year earlier, four. Generally, she wraps up title matches in a quarter to a half an hour.
She was honored with a Member of the British Empire in 1969 and last year the Helms Athletic Foundation struck a special medal for her, the first time that squash had been recognized in its Hall of Fame. She will go after her 14th-straight world title this winter and bids fair to become this era's Pierre Etchebaster, the court tennis king who retired for lack of competition in 1954 at the age of 60 after dominating his sport for 26 years. For anybody itching in the wings, a word of advice: try a new sport.
For the record, Gerald Ford is no Dwight Eisenhower when it comes to presidential golf. That is the conclusion of Arnold Palmer, who played frequently with the 34th President and has gone an occasional pro-am with No. 38. "Ike was better than President Ford," said Palmer, "but Ford could be pretty good if he got to play more." Looking on the brighter side, Palmer added, "He's still a lot better than Spiro Agnew."
BATTLE OF THE BULGE
John Merritt, football coach at Tennessee State, thinks he has solved the problem of overweight players. None of the football pants he ordered this season has a waist size larger than 34 inches.
FUGUE FOR TINHORNS
The Justice Department has reported to a Congressionally appointed commission that in 1973 Americans bet between $29 and $39 billion illegally. That is approximately equal to the combined budgets of California, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas. Surprisingly, only 10.9% of that amount was bet on horses and only 64.02% on sports of any kind.
In New York City alone the annual illicit handle was $4.2 billion. Average that out to $531.99 for every man, woman and child. And New Yorkers have more than the usual number of opportunities to gamble legally—a state lottery, the Off-Track Betting Corporation, two major thoroughbred tracks and two important harness tracks.
If the Big Apple is an indication of the way things arc, the urban American bookie is not about to be placed on anybody's list of endangered species.
THEY SAID IT
•Sparky Anderson of the Cincinnati Reds, asked why his players don't sing the national anthem: "Most of us have such bad voices we respect the national anthem by not singing it."
•Larry Crosby, informed that Bing could not invite women to the Crosby because the PGA contract specifies males: "It wasn't too long ago the PGA bylaws said 'Caucasian Males.' "
•Ilie Nastase, asked if peace will ever come to tennis: "Too much money involved. When not so much money in tennis, not any problems."