The battle between the NCAA and Big Football described in Frank Deford's recent article on the NCAA convention (SI, Aug. 25) broke into the open last week when the University of Alabama, which is about as Big as Football can get, filed suit against the NCAA. Alabama challenged the new rules adopted at the NCAA convention that limit the size of football squads. Specifically 'Bama said that athletes who had been given scholarships before Aug. 15, the date the limiting regulations were adopted, should not be affected. Because most incoming freshmen were recruited before that date, what the Alabama suit is asking is that full enforcement of the regulations be delayed for four years or until these incoming freshmen are through playing for the Crimson Tide.
Paul Skidmore, an attorney for the university, charged that the NCAA restrictions were "an unlawful abridgement of existing contract rights." The president of the NCAA, John Fuzak of Michigan State, replied indignantly. The reference to contracts was "curious terminology," he said, since the NCAA has always maintained that players on scholarship were not under "contract."
And there's the rub. The NCAA insists on regarding Big Football as an amateur sport. Alabama and the other powers approach it as a professional endeavor. As successful businessmen they know you have to spend money to make money, which is why they reject the NCAA's efforts to impose arbitrary restraint on the costs of operating a football team.
As Deford wrote, unless the colleges can isolate Big Football from the rest of the NCAA the conflict will go on. And Alabama's suit may turn out to be the Fort Sumter of this civil war.
AGED IN THE WOODS—AND IRONS
Four golfers in Bend, Ore. play nine-hole rounds together at least four times a week, their scores usually ranging from the low 40s to the mid-50s. Nothing very amazing about that—except the ages of the four players. William Stephenson is 90, Lyle Banks is 87, Oscar Glassow is 85 and the kid of the group, Elmer Panner, is 83. They call themselves the Antique Foursome and they believe they are the oldest regularly playing quartet of golfers in the world. Anybody want to argue with them?
A different sort of oldtimer, Henry Aaron, is winding down. He is batting only about .230 for Milwaukee, with barely a dozen homers and 50 runs batted in. This is probably his last season in the majors. As quiet as ever (the only time he ever has excited national attention during his 22-year career was when he broke Babe Ruth's home-run record), he is heading for his last curtain without notice.
That may be the way the unassuming Henry wants it, but it seems a shame that the extraordinary accomplishments of this gifted player are not being saluted in every town he appears in during these finals weeks of his career. For instance, he broke Ruth's record, yes, but the magnitude of that accomplishment makes us overlook the astonishing fact that he has hit 200 homers more than such Hall of Fame sluggers as Mickey Mantle, Jimmy Foxx, Ted Williams and Mel Ott, who are among the few (11 to be precise) who have hit at least 500 home runs. And Aaron has batted in more runs than anyone—more than Ruth, more than Lou Gehrig, more than Rogers Hornsby; Joe DiMaggio is justifiably praised as a superb player, but Henry has batted in 700 more runs than DiMaggio.
He has played in more games than any other player in baseball history, has been at bat more times, has had more extra-base hits (doubles, triples and home runs), more total bases. Only Cobb and Ruth have scored more runs, and only Cobb has more base hits; Aaron has 250 more hits than Honus Wagner, 400 more than Nap Lajoie, 500 more than Paul Waner.
There are certain hallowed names that ring through the halls of baseball memory. Henry's belongs with that select few, and perhaps it should come first: "Aaron, Ruth, Cobb, Wagner...."
Scientists released four timber wolves in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan last year to see whether or not the species could be re-established in that relatively wild area. The experiment ended eight months later when the last of the four animals was shot by a deer hunter. One of the others had been hit by an automobile, another had been snared in a coyote trap and eventually killed, the third had been shot.
Although there had been local objection to the experiment, the scientists insisted that the wolves were not a menace to human beings (indeed, wolves go out of their way to avoid man) and were not a threat to deer herds. The Michigan wolves—who were "watched" by radio-beam tracking collars—killed three deer, but the three were tired, physically depleted animals. This verified earlier findings that wolves prey on the sick and the old and the very young, rather than the vigorous, healthy animals that hunters prize. In the long run, wolves tend to strengthen the quality of the herds.
The scientists indicated it was unlikely the experiment would be repeated in view of the hostile attitude displayed toward the wolves. There were too many people around and the animals were too close to them for things to work out.
About the same time that corn appears on roadside stands, football odds crop up in the Nevada sports books. Here are some late-summer specials on the upcoming conference races in the National Football League:
Before you rush over to bet your neighbor a six-pack on the Rams you should keep in mind that the prices the odds-makers set are not so much a product of football knowledge as a reaction to the prejudice of bettors. The Rams are favorites in the NFC mostly because there is a lot of Los Angeles money in Nevada (not to mention San Francisco money, or didn't you notice those optimistic odds on the 49ers?). L.A. loves the Rams, always expects them to make it to the Super Bowl and is astonished when they don't, which means the city is perpetually astonished. As for the AFC, well, there isn't much Oakland money in Nevada (there isn't much Oakland money in Oakland), and the Super Bowl Steelers are the choice over the powerful Raiders because bettors go for the chalk, the defending champ, the newest unbeatable dynasty.
Aside from the feeling that any genius who bets on New Orleans and wins deserves a lot better payoff than 50 to 1, the worst bargains for bettors (along with that San Francisco price) seem to be the 4-to-1 odds on Dallas and Denver. The still-shaky Cowboys are going through a sort of instant rebuilding after last season's egg in the face, and improving Denver isn't that good yet. On the other hand, the rejuvenated Bears might be worth a little flyer at 25 to 1, and the odds on the Bills, the Jets and the Patriots are tempting for those who feel that the zonked-out Dolphins are ready to be replaced as a conference power.
Come around again at Super Bowl time and we'll help you on that one, too.
With 70 thoroughbreds and 10 quarter horses at home on his range in South Africa, Gary Player is eager to build a reputation as a breeder to get back some of the money he has invested. Systematic as always, he has a plan. "I'll have a track on my ranch," he says, "and when a prospective buyer asks about a horse, I'll invite him to the ranch, tell him to bring along a jockey and work the horse, using his own watch. He'll see exactly what he's getting. Of course, I also will expect him to pay what I think the horse is worth."
OH, SAY CAN YOU SEE?
One of the more stirring 20th century battles for freedom reached a climax last Saturday on Cape Cod when defenders of the sacred right to run around on a beach with your pants off struck poses and voiced slogans reminiscent of the Minute Men rallying round at Lexington and Concord. These valiant supporters of the Constitution were outraged because a ban had been imposed on nude bathing at the Cape Cod National Seashore (SI, May 12 and Aug. 4). They made speeches, distributed fliers and, all in all, sounded as though they were defending the Republic, motherhood and apple pie. And because nudes make news, they got plenty of publicity.
Which is what caused the trouble in the first place. Nudity had been accepted on the more secluded beaches of the Cape, particularly in the town of Truro, for years. It was only when the inevitable publicity about it attracted more and more people that local antagonism arose. The narrow roads and sparse parking areas of this least-populated area of the Cape, the one that best retains the simple beauty of the past, were jammed. Delicate sand dunes were overrun, pristine beaches littered with filth.
So the ban was imposed, ostensibly against nude bathing but actually against an unmanageable influx of people. And it worked for a while, too. Because the publicity now said "No nudity," the mobs stayed away. Nude bathing went on, as always, but quietly, as it used to.
Until the Sons of Liberty got into the act with their cries of "Free the free beach!" and their call to assemble on the sand. A Truro man watched sadly last Saturday as a torrent of cars from Boston and other parts of the Northeast flooded into town. "This is a terrible thing," he said. "We're seeing a village trampled to death." A woman, more caustic, said, "We have no civil rights at all. All the rights seem to belong to the naked children of Worcester."
CHEWING OUT WRIGLEY
A letter from a Chicago Cub fan in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED last week praised "beautiful Wrigley Field." Now from St. Louis comes an opposite opinion. Reggie Smith of the Cardinals says, "Wrigley Field is a disgrace to baseball. It's degrading to play there. I mean the clubhouse, the bathroom, the area under the stands. There's a rancid smell down there. I don't see how the Cubs stand it." Smith mentions mildewed carpeting and exposed water pipes in the clubhouse, grime on the ceiling and damp earth alongside the cracked cement walk leading under the stands to the dugout.
"If we athletes were in some other kind of entertainment field, say like music," Smith says, "we could count on coming into much better quarters. We're performers, too. We shouldn't be subject to these conditions."
Of course, Smith's opinion may not be totally objective. Reggie is a .300 hitter, but in two seasons in the National League he has batted only .212 at Wrigley, which is considered a hitter's dream park. There's nothing like an 0-for-4 day to bring out the mildew in a carpet.
THEY SAID IT
•Joe DiMaggio, now 60, announcing his retirement as a player in oldtimers' games: "I can't take it anymore. I'm not in good enough shape."
•Sonny Randle, University of Virginia football coach: "We've stopped recruiting young men who want to come here to be students first and athletes second."
•Istvan Gass, Hungarian soccer star, on his job as a soldier: "It's not serious work. I don't do anything. In fact, I've never seen a gun."
•Lou Piniella, New York Yankee outfielder, on an argument he once had with Umpire Armando Rodriguez: "I cussed him out in Spanish, and he threw me out in English."