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Until now the NCAA has policed suspected wrongdoing in intercollegiate athletics in an atmosphere of utmost secrecy. Two court rulings have suddenly changed that. Last month the Tennessee Court of Appeals upheld a request of the Memphis Commercial Appeal for release of documents relating to an investigation that resulted in Memphis State University's being placed on NCAA probation for academic and recruiting abuses. Last week, in a similar suit brought by the Mesa Tribune, the Arizona State Supreme Court left standing a lower-court decision ordering release of documents involving the NCAA's probe into transgressions at Arizona State, which had been placed on two-year probation only the week before. The Arizona ruling came despite the objections of the NCAA, which had argued that release of the documents would have "a chilling effect" on its enforcement procedures.

The NCAA's alarums may or may not be justified. In both cases the courts ruled that the documents should be made public because they involved state-supported institutions. Because roughly half of the NCAA's 738 member schools are state-supported and because even private schools almost invariably receive some public funds, the two successful suits can only encourage the filing of similar suits elsewhere. And as the NCAA argued, the threat that its disciplinary proceedings may be made public could conceivably inhibit its future investigations.

But then those investigations are severely limited to begin with, a fact underscored by the documents released in Tennessee and Arizona. They reveal that after conducting a preliminary investigation into possible rule violations, the NCAA ordinarily submits a list of written allegations to the schools, which are expected to respond after, in effect, investigating themselves. Then the NCAA holds a hearing for assessing penalties. It appears, however, that the schools sometimes provide only the most perfunctory responses to the NCAA's allegations. Thus, the NCAA asked Arizona State to respond to an allegation that a Sun Devil football player, Gerald Riggs, had sold two complimentary season tickets in 1978 to a booster, Rick Lynch, for $100 apiece in violation of NCAA rules against scalping. Arizona State replied that it had interviewed Riggs, who said that as a matter of fact he had sold the tickets not to Lynch but to a former assistant coach, Don Baker, who had been mentioned at other stages in the investigation as having on various occasions 1) bought tickets from players and 2) sold tickets to Lynch. This would seem to raise the question of whether Baker might have resold Riggs' tickets to Lynch. But Baker declined to talk to Arizona State's investigators, and they in turn apparently didn't see fit to ask Lynch whether he might have received Riggs' tickets secondhand. But, of course, the NCAA hadn't specifically asked about that possibility. And there the matter was allowed to rest. It's hard to imagine anything having a chilling effect on that kind of detective work.


For the past 29 years San Franciscans have listened to 49er games over radio station KSFO. No more. Last week the city's NFL team abruptly awarded radio rights to a rival station, KCBS, touching off immediate speculation that 49er owner Edward DeBartolo Jr. was thereby settling a score with Gene Autry, the owner of KSFO. Autry also owns baseball's California Angels, in which capacity he voted last month to reject the well-publicized bid by DeBartolo's father to buy the Chicago White Sox. Thanks to Autry and other American League owners who voted with him, the elder DeBartolo's efforts to purchase the Chicago team were foiled.

Was the younger DeBartolo using 49er radio rights to wreak vengeance on Autry? Ken Flower, the 49ers' director of advertising, conceded that while Autry's vote on the White Sox controversy wasn't the principal reason for taking 49er radio rights away from KSFO, it did play a "significant" role in the decision. Jim Myers, KSFO's station manager, said he was told flatly by both Flower and the younger DeBartolo that because of Autry's White Sox vote, the 49ers would cease doing business with Autry's radio station. Myers said it would be inaccurate to say that KSFO lost its bid to renew its contract; the station, he complained, wasn't even afforded an opportunity to enter one.

The now-official 1980 census confirms a dramatic population shift over the past decade to the Sun Belt. That such warm-weather locales as California, Arizona and Florida are where the action is these days will come as no surprise to anybody, least of all fanciers of college swimming and diving. The NCAA championships were dominated by Michigan, Ohio State and Yale from the late 1930s until the early '60s and by Indiana in the early '70s, but in recent years schools representing the Pac-10, Southeastern and Southwest conferences have taken over. So complete is the swing that Swimming World magazine's Bill Bell says in his annual premeet forecast that at the NCAA championships beginning March 26 in Austin, the top 10 places in the team competition will be won by schools situated in what might be defined as the Sun Belt: Texas, UCLA, California, Florida, Auburn, USC, Arizona, Stanford, Miami and SMU. But that's not all. If Bell's usually reliable predictions are accurate, no competitor from a non-Sun Belt school will be among the top six finishers in any of the 16 swimming events.

Anyone who doubts that fame is fleeting need only talk to Al Bemiller, who played for the American Football League's Buffalo Bills for nine seasons, starting at guard when they won the AFL titles in 1964 and 1965. Two years ago Bemiller became the wrestling coach at St. Francis High in Athol Springs near Buffalo and was listed in his league's coaches' directory as L.B. Miller. His listing in this year's directory has been changed to Albe Miller.


It was basketball's answer to Affirmed vs. Alydar, two evenly matched Ohio high school teams battling down to the wire:


Make that beyond the wire. After a three-minute overtime period, the teams were still tied, 53-all. Franklin finally won in the second overtime, 58-56.

Only two schools have achieved victories in each of the six oldest surviving college-football bowls—the Rose, Sugar, Cotton, Orange, Gator and Sun. Brace yourselves, you Trojan, Buckeye, Fighting Irish, Longhorn, Crimson Tide and Sooner fans. Would you believe Georgia Tech and Georgia?


It might be called the Great Anti-Starter's Gun Crusade, and it all began on Dec. 14, the day of the silent vigil in memory of John Lennon, who had been slain by gunshot six days earlier. To symbolically protest the use of handguns, Fred Lebow, the 48-year-old president of the New York Road Runners Club, decided to forgo use of a starter's pistol at a 10-mile road race in Central Park and send the runners off instead by means of a digital clock. The 1,000 competitors watched as the clock ticked off 40 seconds—one for each year of Lennon's life—and then took off. Later, Lebow says, he was deluged with so many letters, phone calls and personal comments favorable to his anti-gun gesture that he decided to ban the use of starter's pistols at club events permanently.

"It was a force not to be resisted," says Lebow. "I've never in my life believed in any sort of gun. And it doesn't take any outstanding logic to figure out that handguns are for one purpose only—to kill people. We shouldn't be glamorizing them at our races. Our objective is to make a statement. Runners have been shot and killed, too, you know."

Lebow says he will urge other running clubs to enact similar bans, a prospect that can scarcely please manufacturers of starter's pistols. A spokesman for Massachusetts-based Harrington and Richardson, Inc., which makes starter's pistols plus a full line of firearms, somewhat lamely insists that because they fire blanks, such guns should more properly be referred to as "starting devices." More to the point, he notes that guns, which were used to start horse races in the earliest frontier days, have traditionally been used for starts at swimming and track meets because, as he puts it, they "provide a sharp, definitive, readily recognizable sound that has the added value of overcoming crowd noises." He adds that such pistols are also used in dramatic productions, to test the reactions of Seeing Eye dogs and, not least, to signal the end of football games.

One can only guess what effect, if any, Lebow's move might have. Contrary to what he implies, some runners have responded to his innovation with guffaws. While his digital-clock countoff worked well enough, subsequent experiments with other alternatives to pistols have been fiascoes. An attempt by his club at starting a five-mile run on Jan. 4 by popping a large balloon was a flop; the balloon didn't pop but merely deflated gradually, spoiling the start. Undaunted, Lebow says he intends to experiment with gongs, which have been used to start road races in England, as well as with air horns and exploding photo flashes. But he concedes that the club will continue to fire a cannon for the start of the New York Marathon, because of the need for a tremendous report that all 17,000 runners can hear. "A cannon isn't a concealed weapon," says Lebow. "Very few homes have one. Although if I felt that in some small way we could stop world wars, I would try banning cannons, too."

At the end of each NFL season, the G.C. Murphy store in downtown Pittsburgh customarily holds a clearance sale on discontinued Steeler T shirts, beer mugs and other such paraphernalia. But the Steelers' surprising failure to make the playoffs for the first time in nine years has apparently had a depressing effect on this year's sale; the store manager, William Bader, reports that some of the Steeler-related merchandise is selling only one-third as well as last year. The marked-down items include a Steeler coin bank (reduced from $7 to $2.50), a tam (reduced from $5.95 to $3.95) and a mirror (reduced from $9.95 to $6.95). But the biggest bargain is a button bearing Mean Joe Greene's prediction that the Steelers would win their fifth Super Bowl ring this year. Originally priced at $1, buttons carrying the slogan "One for the Thumb in '81" are now going for two bits.

Another disappointment of the '80 NFL season was the showing of the Baltimore Colts, who wound up with a 7-9 record and in the season finale, a 38-28 loss to Kansas City, drew only 16,941 fans at Memorial Stadium, the smallest home turnout in the franchise's 28-year history. What's worse, some fans started leaving as early as the closing moments of the first quarter, by which time Bert Jones and the Colts had stumbled to a 21-0 deficit. Bob Cairns, an assistant information director at North Carolina State, attended the game and overheard one man mutter as he headed for the exit: "Hit the lights and lock it up when you leave, Bert."



•Sam Rutigliano, Cleveland Brown coach, who grew up in the same Brooklyn neighborhood as Oakland Raider Managing Partner Al Davis: "He's Mr. Intrigue. He knows the serial number of the Unknown Soldier."

•Barry Switzer, Oklahoma coach, on the ballot he cast in UPI's final college-football poll, which awarded the mythical national championship to Georgia: "I voted for us No. 3, Pittsburgh No. 2 and Herschel Walker No. 1."

•Al Smith, the Colorado Rockies' backup goaltender, after being thrown out of a game in which he left the bench and exchanged punches with Boston Bruin Goalie Jim Craig, hero of the 1980 U.S. Olympic champions: "I felt like I was punching the American flag."

•Jim Tunney, NFL referee, offering his whistle's-eye view of the typical fan: "He'll scream from the 60th row of the bleachers that you missed a marginal call in the center of the interior line and then won't be able to find his car in the parking lot."