The curtain has risen on a courtroom drama that could result in a precedent making colleges legally responsible for educating their athletes. A few weeks ago seven former basketball players from California State University at Los Angeles filed a suit for $14 million in punitive damages against the school. The suit is based on 10 causes of action, from breach of contract to fraud.
Essentially, the seven, none of whom ever graduated, claim that not only were they not given anything resembling an education at Cal State but that they are now being told they are obligated to pay for it because what they thought were scholarships were only loans.
Cal State has until the first week in March to make a response in court and until then there will be no word from that quarter. But the lawyer for the plaintiffs, Michele Washington of the Western Center on Law and Poverty, is willing to state the case as she sees it: the relationship of a scholar-athlete to his school and that school to the NCAA is a contractual one. The nature of that contract is that the college has a responsibility to provide and encourage education within its programs.
"The players got no education," says Washington. "They were discouraged from taking real courses and actually denied reasonable access to university services. They got nothing back for what they gave."
MAN BITES DOG
Mark Twain wrote: "If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man."
As if to prove Twain right once and for all, the New York Racing Association plans to ban all dogs from the back-stretch at Belmont, Aqueduct and Saratoga, beginning March 1, because 1) they run around loose and bite people and pester maintenance men, causing the maintenance men to lose eight manhours a week, and 2) they scare horses and cause accidents that result in insurance claims and lawsuits against the NYRA. The fact that they are also faithful night watchdogs and beloved companions to horse and man cuts no ice with racing officialdom.
As Mrs. Allaire duPont, the lady who owns Kelso, said to Russ Harris of the New York Daily News recently, "Dogs have been with horses ever since there have been dogs and horses.... Kelso had a little dog with him for 15 years and he was so fond of that dog that he grieved for him when the dog died."
We're with Kelso.
Buried in the financial pages last week was an item that would have been bigger news in the sports section. Colgate-Palmolive's chairman and chief executive officer, David R. Foster, 58, has resigned because of failing health.
Foster, English by birth and persuasion, though his parents were American, introduced Colgate to sports and in doing so made his and Colgate's names synonymous with big money in golf and tennis.
According to a Colgate spokesperson. "All of our sports events are continuing; there are no changes in the works. The tournaments have always been good business, and as long as they continue to be, we all expect them to continue."
But corporate turnovers often mean policy turnovers, and it will be a long time before the powers in golf and tennis stop listening for the other shoe to drop.
A TOUCH OF THE POET
The University of San Francisco basketball team was crushed by Notre Dame, 88-69, one night last week. Doug Jemison, a USF forward, explained it this way to Frank Cooney of the San Francisco Examiner.
"We had to take a bus from Chicago to South Bend because no planes were landing, but the bus broke down halfway and we had to hitch a ride on another bus, standing all the way while Notre Dame students sat down. We got to the Quality Inn six hours late without luggage and found the hotel didn't have any heat. It was 17 below zero outside, and I swear it was colder inside. We slept in our clothes. I put on two sets of sweat suits over my clothes. I put myself to sleep counting the little puffs of steam coming out of my mouth. The maintenance man told me this was the reason Notre Dame wins all its games at home. He said teams freeze at the Quality Inn and then go out on the court and play like frozen robots. He said he thought it was a conspiracy, and I'm not sure he's not right."
When press releases reached newspapers across the country announcing that Cadwallader University in Bunkerville, Nev. was conferring honorary degrees on Henry Ford II, David Hartman, Vice-President Mondale, Robert Merrill, Dolly Parton and basketball player Bernard King, reporters who had never heard of either Cadwallader or Bunkerville took to their phones. They discovered that though Bunkerville is real, Cadwallader is not, and the whole thing was invented by Columbia Pictures publicity people to stir up a commotion over a movie called Fast Break.
Columbia's lawyers called a halt to the prank when the publicity office was deluged with calls from students requesting admission forms. Before the flacks folded their tent, however, they fired off one more release. This one said that Cadwallader. "in the spirit of international friendship," had offered an athletic scholarship to Mu (no other name, just Mu), a 7' center from the People's Republic of China.
Mu, the athletic director was quoted as saying, "would add a new dimension to the Cadwallader attack" and "help clog up the middle."
The illegal drug of the moment in horse racing is Sublimaze, a chemical compound created to alleviate postoperative pain. In humans Sublimaze not only eases pain, it also produces pronounced euphoria. When rumors reached the back-stretch that it would do the same for horses, enabling the lame to run, and, more important, making them feel like racing, the rush to the drug was on.
As the use of Sublimaze increased, scientists at Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine set to work figuring out ways to detect it. Dr. George Maylin, director of the school's drug-testing and research program, said last week, "A test for Sublimaze has been in existence for two years, but it took years and thousands of dollars to figure out a test that would stand up in a court of law."
The search ended last September. A definitive test for Sublimaze has already resulted in the suspension of several trainers at tracks across the country. A byproduct of Cornell's research was the surprising news that Sublimaze is not all it was cracked up to be. At the doses rumored to be used, the analgesic effects of the drug, said Maylin, "are potent in humans, markedly less so in horses."
No sooner does Cornell find a test that discourages the use of one drug, however, than another one pops up. It seems to be the nature of the racing business. Maylin and other concerned horse-industry officials believe that the solution lies in trackside labs where samples can be tested before as well as after a race. Not only would the labs act as visible deterrents, Maylin says, but also horses that test positive could be disqualified before they are raced.
"Because the results of the test [taken two hours before the race] would be available while the animal was in a secure area," Maylin says, "the animal could be isolated and resampled for confirmatory or independent testing if necessary."
The facilities and the experts to operate them are available. The money can be found. What is needed to maintain the integrity of the sport and the goodwill of the betting fan is the cooperation of the nation's tracks.
Revenge is sweet, and golfer John Mahaffey is getting a taste of it. A year ago, when Mahaffey had lost his exemption after a long siege of injuries and bad luck, he wrote letters to dozens of tournaments asking for one of the eight spots in every field known as sponsor's exemptions. Some wrote back and said yes. Others wrote back and said, sorry, we're filled up. Others did not reply at all.
Now Mahaffey is making up his schedule for 1979 and the shoe is on the other foot. As PGA champion and winner of the Bob Hope Desert Classic, the first tournament of the year, Mahaffey is a hot property and therefore in a position to make his absence felt.
"Those tournaments that wrote me back last year to say they were sorry but they'd given out all their exemptions, I won't discriminate against them," he said last week. "But the ones that didn't even bother to write me back, didn't have that courtesy, well, they won't see me."
College basketball fans who were befuddled by the absence of jump balls after the opening tip-off, in the Arkansas-North Carolina game two weeks ago, would have been further confused by the goings-on at the start of last week's Arkansas-Texas A&M game. Aggie Coach Shelby Metcalf sent 5'11" Dave Goff out to jump against 6'11" Steve Schall. Arkansas won the tip, of course, which is just what Metcalf wanted.
All of this is an experiment, begun in the Southwest Conference last season and extended this year to the Atlantic Coast Conference, by the NCAA's basketball rules committee. The committee had tired of listening to complaints from coaches about refs who couldn't toss the ball up straight. It decided to try eliminating all jump balls except the opener and giving the team that loses the opening tip possession of the ball out of bounds to start the second half. Metcalf had figured it mathematically, he said. "The team that wins the opening tip has a 1-in-4 chance of getting an extra possession. So does the team that gets the first possession of the second half. I'd rather have it in the second half."
As for tie-ups that would normally result in a jump ball, possession is awarded to the two teams on an alternating basis. The team whose turn it is puts the ball in play with an in-bounds pass.
The system can produce interesting tactics such as Metcalf's, but it also produces some lousy basketball. The trouble is, the team with the better defense is penalized, especially in the closing minutes of a close game. Those who watched Arkansas play North Carolina saw Razorback U. S. Reed tie up the Tar Heels' Jimmy Black with less than three minutes to play and Carolina leading by six points. It was a deft bit of defense in a crucial situation, but it did the Razor-backs no good because it was Carolina's turn to get the ball.
In the matter of the jump ball, straight thinking is even more desirable than straight tossing right now. For the good of a good game, why not declare the no-jump experiment a failure and try a clinic in tossing for referees instead?
NAME OF THE GAME
When the Major Indoor Soccer League began its season in December, the promoters promised a harder-hitting, faster-paced, more exciting game. With the season now more than one-third over, the statistics would seem to be bearing them out. In the first 20 MISL games there was an average of 11.85 goals scored per game. The season average for the North American Soccer League last year was 3.4.
Indoor soccer has a field half the size of a regulation field; hence, many more shots are taken. Houston's Summit Soccer of the MISL, for instance, has averaged 50 shots per game. A league P.R. man boasts, truthfully, that indoor soccer "leaves the midfield out in the cold."
Lively it is. Quick it is (60 minutes rather than 90). Small it is (small field, small goal, small team). But is it soccer?
THEY SAID IT
•Gordon Beard, Associated Press sports editor in Baltimore, on the proliferation of NFL playoff teams: "If Pete Rozelle had been in charge during World War II, Germany and Japan would still be in the running, and Ethiopia would have been a wild-card finalist."
•Marvin Barnes, Boston Celtic forward, on how he managed to earn so many college credits while in prison: "There was no place I could go to cut classes."