The NCAA, the ranking authority in college sports, may be coming apart at the seams. It has been openly challenged by the 4-year-old College Football Association, a splinter group of 61 major football schools that includes all the top teams in the country except those in the Pac-10 and the Big Ten.
The CFA has long expressed discontent with the NCAA's football TV policy, feeling that a disproportionate share of revenues has been spread among all NCAA schools (even those without football programs), that all schools shouldn't have equal votes in football TV matters, and that the big football schools should be allowed to negotiate their own television deals (which will be increasingly valuable with cable TV growing so rapidly).
So last week the CFA defied the NCAA and signed a four-year, $180-million TV deal with NBC, one that will pay the NCAA 8% off the top for administrative costs and so on, but which gives control of televised football to the CFA member schools, promises more TV appearances and guarantees each team at least $1 million in revenue. The CFA action could cause the cancellation of a four-year, $263.5 million contract the NCAA had agreed to two weeks earlier with ABC and CBS, which promises those networks exclusivity.
CFA members seem certain to ratify their new contract when they vote on it Aug. 21, even though the NCAA has warned that it may suspend, or even expel, any college that appears on football telecasts other than those it approved. The suspension or expulsion would cover all sports at the schools being penalized, not just football. If that happens, the NCAA championships would be watered down, and the NCAA would no longer be the dominant force in college athletics.
In short, the NCAA seems to be facing one of the greatest crises of its 75-year existence.
THIN EDGE OF THE WEDGE
Is baseball's split season fair or unfair, a travesty or just common sense? Bob Verdi of the Chicago Tribune says, "If ever a baseball season begged for a semblance of normalcy, it is this one. Baseball cannot handle another jolt to its time-tested ways." Calvin Griffith, owner of the lowly Minnesota Twins, counters, "Without a split season we might as well not have opened our gates." But Steve Jacobson of Newsday asks, "Is anybody going to be fooled into thinking the teams that were boring before the strike are going to be entertaining after it?"
Critics came down particularly hard on the proviso that if the same team wins both halves of the split season, it won't get a bye into the pennant playoffs. First it must meet the team with the second-best record overall in a best-three-out-of-five playoff. But suppose the Orioles, who finished second to the Yankees by two games in the first half, finish a close third in the second half behind Boston and New York. The Yankees trail the Red Sox by a few percentage points going into their last game of the season, which is against Baltimore. If the O's beat the Yanks, Boston wins the second half and meets New York in the playoff. If the O's lose to the Yankees, the Yanks win the second half, too, and meet the team with the second-best record overall in the playoffs—the Orioles. The loser wins. A bad situation.
Think for a moment, too, about the real significance of the split season and a revealing remark made by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, baseball's chief of marketing. Kuhn, his eye ever on the TV dollar, said that normally he would be against a split season but added, "Of course, if there were tremendous enthusiasm after this year, you would have to take a new look at the factors next year."
"Factors" is Bowie-ese for ratings—in this case, how well the super-mini eight-team playoffs will do on TV before the regular four-team playoffs before the old-fashioned two-team World Series, not counting the odd tie that may have to be played off before the super-minis begin. There are people in baseball who yearn for endless playoffs, à la football, basketball and hockey, and the commissioner itches from the same rash. The split-season gambit gives him a chance to scratch it. That is, test it.
And if tests are good—if TV likes the super-minis—watch how fast baseball splits each league into three divisions and deals itself that old wild card.
HERE'S BUD IN YOUR EYE
Anheuser-Busch, Inc. and the Miller Brewing Co., the nation's two largest brewers, have taken turns lately upstaging a smaller producer, Stroh Brewery Co. First there was the Stroh's slo-pitch softball Tournament of Champions near Atlanta, which the Detroit brewery sponsored only to have a team backed by Miller come up the winner. Then there was the Stroh's Silver Cup hydroplane race in Detroit. The victor in that one was Miss Budweiser.
Stroh's may find comfort in the knowledge that Anheuser-Busch and Miller Brewing also sometimes upstage each other. Two of their lesser-known promotional involvements became hopelessly entangled this summer when Busch of St. Louis, a team sponsored by Anheuser-Busch, defeated Bayern of Philadelphia 3-2 for the U.S. Soccer Federation Senior Men's amateur title in Philadelphia, thereby winning a trophy presented by one of Miller's brands, L‚Äö√†√∂‚Äö√†√áwenbr‚Äö√†√∂¬¨√üu. Manager Bob Brunette proceeded to celebrate his team's victory in a manner calculated to make both companies slightly uncomfortable. He guzzled Budweiser from the L‚Äö√†√∂‚Äö√†√áwenbr‚Äö√†√∂¬¨√üu Cup.
BLUE JAY BLUES
Along with all their other problems, the Toronto Blue Jays—baseball's worst team in Part I of this season—have to wrestle with foreign exchange. When Toronto joined the American League in 1977, the Canadian and U.S. dollars were about equal in value, but since then Canada's has slumped to about 80¬¨¬®¬¨¢ against the U.S. dollar. The Blue Jays are obliged to pay their players, none of whom are Canadians, in U.S. money, but about 85% of their revenue is Canadian. This means the Jays have to pay a $100,000 ballplayer the equivalent of $125,000 in Canadian money. Because spring-training, scouting and farm-system costs, as well as travel expenses on road trips to the other 13 teams in the league (all of which are in the U.S.), must also be paid in American money, the Jays in effect are continually being socked with a 25% surcharge.
"It's a factor in doing business," says Toronto President Peter Bavasi, "and we had provided for it." Stiff upper lip, Bavasi, but the Jays need to draw 25% more than an equivalent U.S.-based team just to stay even. Now, with more than a third of the season shot....
Although no one knows yet whether major league players will suffer a loss of form because of their long layoff, first returns indicate otherwise. American League player-representative Doug DeCinces and his National League counterpart. Bob Boone, were too involved in negotiations to keep their batting strokes honed, but when the Orioles and Phillies met in an exhibition game last week, DeCinces got the game's first hit and Boone knocked in the winning run.
TRIAL BY JURY
If you were wondering why the jury seemed so hopelessly confused last week during the Al Davis-Pete Rozelle trial (at one point, after eight days of deliberations, the jury foreman [a woman] reported that so far they had discussed only one of the three key issues), read part of Judge Harry Pregerson's clarification of his original 52 pages of instructions to the jurors:
"As you remember from the instructions I read to you last week and on Tuesday, plaintiffs must persuade you that every essential element of their claims is more probably true than false. This simply means that each of you must be convinced or satisfied that a certain situation is more likely true than false. When you stop to think about it, all of us in our daily lives are faced with decisions that require us to consider probabilities. Let's say you want to catch a park-and-ride bus that will get you downtown by 8:00 a.m. You know that the distance to downtown from the terminal is 30 miles. You know that it's summertime and traffic is somewhat lighter because people are on vacation. You know that the weather is clear and dry. So you would figure that it is more probable than not that you'll make it downtown by 8:00 a.m. On the other hand, if it is raining, and if, as you leave, you hear the radio newscaster announce a sig alert on the freeway, you would decide that it is more likely or more probable that you won't make it on time. This is the same mental process a person goes through in deciding whether, based on the evidence presented in court, some fact or situation is more likely true than false. It is a matter of coming to a decision based on probabilities. If it's more probably true that something happened than that it did not happen, you would find that it happened by a preponderance of the evidence—even if in your mind the probabilities or odds of it happening are 51% yes, 49% no. If, on the other hand, the probabilities are 51% no and 49% yes of something happening—or even 50-50—then you could not conclude that the situation in question happened by a preponderance of the evidence."
All clear? Next case.
It was a singular achievement when North Carolina State distance runner Julie Shea was named the AIAW's top athlete for 1979-80. After all, the three previous winners of the award, Delta State's Lusia Harris, UCLA's Ann Meyers and Old Dominion's Nancy Lieberman, were all basketball players. In winning the Broderick Cup as a junior, Shea was honored for finishing first in 16 races, including AIAW championships in cross-country and 3,000, 5,000 and 10,000 meters.
In 1980 Shea became the first woman to win the McKevlin award, bestowed annually on the Atlantic Coast Conference's outstanding athlete. "Who has won more races this year than Renaldo Nehemiah, Genuine Risk and Richard Petty combined?" North Carolina State's sports information office teased in its campaign for Shea, who proceeded to finish ahead of two basketball players, Maryland's Albert King and Duke's Mike Gminski, in the balloting by the predominantly male Atlantic Coast Sports Writers Association. Then came 1980-81, during which Shea repeated as AIAW cross-country champion, won the 5,000 for the third straight year and placed fourth among women runners in the Boston Marathon. Only two other athletes—basketball players David Thompson of North Carolina State in '73 and '75 and Phil Ford of North Carolina in '77 and '78—had ever won the McKevlin award more than once. This year Shea became the third, this time beating out North Carolina Linebacker Lawrence Taylor and Virginia basketball star Ralph Sampson. As she had the year before, Shea said she was "stunned" at out-polling rivals she refers to, chummily, as "the guys."
Here's a letter sent recently to the Cincinnati Reds' Johnny Bench:
Dear Mr. Bench:
My name is David Greenbaum. I am 10 years old. I am writing to you because you are my favorite player since I was born. I am also writing to you for a very big favor. The favor is that on December 4, 1983 I am having my Bar-Mitzvah. A Bar-Mitzvah is a big party for Jews on their 13th birthday. I would love if you could come. Since you are not Jewish and don't know Hebrew you could stay out of the synagogue if you want.
P.S. Please give me your autograph.
THEY SAID IT
•Lee Corso, Indiana football coach, explaining why USC was on the Hoosiers' schedule this year: "When I took this job I promised our fans I'd show them a Rose Bowl team."
•Brian Oldfield, U.S. shotputter, asked if he were afraid of his impressive European opponents: "Nah, we don't throw the shot at each other, do we?"