MAJORING IN SPORTS AT ARIZONA
The Arizona Daily Star recently reported that 27 University of Arizona football players and nine members of last season's basketball team had remained eligible for intercollegiate sports even though they were on academic probation at the end of the spring semester. The Tucson newspaper said that on a 4.0-point scale, all 36 athletes had less than a 2.0-point, or C, cumulative grade-point average so far in their college careers. One basketball player reportedly had a 0.3913 overall average, roughly a D minus, and one football player had a 0.3158. Such grades would mean that those athletes had failed more courses than they'd passed. The Daily Star said that the grades of some of the athletes would have warranted expulsion from school had officials been so inclined—which they clearly were not.
The shockingly low grades reported by the newspaper raised the question of how strictly Arizona had enforced Pac-10 regulations specifying that athletes must receive passing grades in at least 24 semester units each year. Although Arizona officials tried to intimate that the stories were inaccurate, they failed to dispel the impression that the school had been extraordinarily lax in the matter of academic eligibility. Moreover, several of them responded to the startling evidence that their athletes had been coddled academically by suggesting, in effect, that those athletes be accorded even more special treatment in the form of a proposed new curriculum designed to prepare them for a career in sports. The program, in which a degree might be offered, would provide aspiring professional athletes courses in contract negotiations and how to select an agent and would also provide training toward careers in coaching and sports administration.
The main force behind the proposal was Thomas Chandler, president of the Arizona Board of Regents, which governs all three state universities—Arizona, Arizona State and Northern Arizona. Chandler expressed the belief to SI's Jill Lieber that some Wildcat athletes had faltered in the classroom because "we as educators haven't been practical enough in recognizing their area of interest. Suppose an athlete is enrolled in Chinese Mythology but is deficient in writing, math and oral skills. He should be taking English 141, Public Speaking 142 and Math 143 and be working toward a degree in, say, SID [sports-information director] work, sportscasting, athletic training or coaching." Chandler added: "The course of study would, not be fluff stuff. It would be a course of substance." Chandler's scheme won support from University of Arizona President John P. Schaefer, who noted that many colleges prepared gifted artists and actors for careers. He added, "Society has not come to accept the fact that some people have great physical talent and they're trying to parlay that into a professional career in athletics."
There is reason to question the avowed objectives of the proposed sports curriculum. Over the past decade the University of Arizona has seen perhaps 1,000 varsity athletes come and go, but only a score of them are now playing professional golf, football, basketball and big-league baseball. Jobs in coaching and sports administration are almost as tight. They presumably call for better-than-average verbal and other academic skills and are frequently filled by non-athletes, few of whom ever were D-minus students. In other words, although a sports curriculum might be tailored to athletes' "interests," it wouldn't necessarily be suited to their talents. It would simply perpetuate among high school and college athletes the already pervasive misconception that they will be able to make a living in sports, a notion that prevents them from acquiring a meaningful education or job skills they can actually use.
In their desire to attract and keep talented football and basketball players, Arizona authorities seem unwilling to weed out athletes incapable of doing college work, with the result that those athletes tend to be academic misfits. Revealingly, Chandler defended his proposal by arguing that athletes are "awfully important to us," an importance reflected, he said, in the "way we go out and recruit them to entertain for us." But the most telling remark was one uttered by another advocate of the sports-curriculum idea, Arizona's athletic academic advisor, Dan Winters, who said, "We recognize the farce of putting some of our kids into regular classes with regular students."
HIGHEST COURT IN THE LAND
Like other sedentary folk, the people who deal with the U.S. Supreme Court's staggering case load—secretaries and clerks, as well as the Justices—need their exercise. Not content with the workout derived from ascending the 53 broad steps leading to the colonnaded Supreme Court Building or, indeed, from negotiating the corridors of that block-square edifice, court personnel field two coed softball teams in local leagues for federal employees. One team is drawn from the ranks of the court's 80-member police force, the other from among law clerks, secretaries and messengers. The nine Justices have evinced no interest in entering the league as an entity, which is probably just as well. For one thing, softball teams are made up of 10 players. Besides, where would one find an umpire so bold as to rule against them?
But the Justices don't just ride the bench, either. Chief Justice Warren E. Burger goes in for horseback riding, John Paul Stevens is an avid tennis player and small-plane pilot and other Justices let off steam playing basketball in the Supreme Court Building's fifth-floor mini-gym, which is known as the Highest Court in the Land. One rabid hoopster is Byron (Whizzer) White, an All-America football halfback at Colorado who at 67 is a spirited participant in pickup games. In a game a few years ago, White accidentally stepped on and broke the foot of one of Justice Potter Stewart's clerks.
Another habituè of the gym is Sandra Day O'Connor, who has assumed the retired Stewart's seat on the Court. An athletic woman who golfs, skis, plays tennis and rides horses and whose 24-year-old son, Scott, was a member of a Stanford 400-yard freestyle relay team that placed sixth in the 1977 NCAA swimming championships, O'Connor has joined 15 other women, mostly secretaries and clerks, in an exercise class held in the gym daily at 8 a.m. Pleading privacy, Barrett McGurn, the Court's public information officer, has turned down requests by TV crews to film the class. All McGurn will say is that the half-hour course is taught by a visiting YWCA instructor, who tries to make sure that participants are as judicious about their weight as they are about minding the scales of justice.
HE LOOKED LIKE A GALLOPING GHOST
Dave Butz, the Washington Redskins' 6'7", 295-pound defensive tackle, is one of those NFL hulks who are more accustomed to sitting on folks than running with the ball, but on Oct. 11, during a 24-7 victory over the Chicago Bears that put the Redskins into the win column after five straight defeats, Butz got a rare chance to make like O.J. The big moment came after he intercepted a Vince Evans, pass on the Bears' 27-yard line and began lumbering toward the goal line, an experience he later recounted in a succession of one-liners:
"I almost expected to get called for delay of game."
"The field got very long."
"I was trying to push the air behind me. I needed all the help I could get."
Recalling the shadow of the Bears' Dan Neal looming alongside him at about the 10-yard line: "I thought, 'Thank God. That means I'm moving.' "
On the fact that Neal tackled him at the one-yard line: "I'm a team player. I want to let the offense take it in."
When John Riggins punched over for a Washington touchdown two plays after the interception, Butz was safely on the bench, recovering from an ordeal of which he said, in summation, "I felt like I was running through time zones."
TAPPING A NEW MARKET
The 1981 World Series is the latest sports event to be "closed captioned" for TV, a process by which the audio portion of regularly scheduled television fare is "translated" into subtitles flashed on the screen for the benefit of deaf and other hearing-impaired viewers. Visible only on TV sets equipped with special decoding devices, the captions are prepared by the non-profit National Captioning Institute in Falls Church, Va. for a growing number of taped programs on NBC, ABC, PBS and independent stations. In the case of live sports coverage, captions consist of game-situation information—e.g., balls and strikes in baseball, downs and yards-to-go in football.
Events that have already been closed captioned include this year's Sugar Bowl, the Super Bowl and selected regular-season NFL games. Though the captions are designed primarily for fans with hearing problems, the National Captioning Institute is also trying to interest bar owners in using the service as a way of helping patrons get essential information despite the din of the crowd. Another new and potentially large market is suggested by a hearing-impaired Yadkinville, N.C. woman who related that her husband, who can hear, enjoyed the captions on a recent Monday-night NFL telecast as much as she did. She explains, "He says it's nice to turn down the volume so he doesn't have to listen to Howard Cosell."
BUT THERE ARE NO MORE ZASLOFSKYS
To update our last report on the subject (SI, Oct. 20, 1980), the number of players named Johnson in the NBA figures to grow to 15, or 5.4% of the league's players during the upcoming season. The expected addition of rookies Frank (Wake Forest) to the Washington Bullets and Steve (Oregon State) and Eddie (Illinois) to the Kansas City Kings will swell the ranks of a Johnson contingent already so potent that Atlanta Hawk Guard Eddie, a 19.1 point-a-game performer last season (and older brother of the Bullets' Frank), would be only sixth man on an all-Johnson team consisting of forwards Mickey and Marques, Center George T. and guards Magic and Dennis. Those five would have soundly whipped both the all-Smith team (there were five of them in the NBA last season, including guards Randy and Phil) and the all-Jones team (also five last season, the best being Bobby and Caldwell).
But the Johnsons had better watch out. There were three players named Williams in the NBA in 1980-81, Ray averaging 19.7 points, Freeman 19.3 and Sly 13.2. They will return this season along with Ray's brother Gus, a 22.1-point scorer in '79-80 who sat out last season in a contract dispute with Seattle, and three rookie Williamses—Buck (Maryland) and Sam (Arizona State), first-round picks of New Jersey and Golden State, respectively, and Herb (Ohio State), who scored 24 points in just 27 minutes for the Indiana Pacers in a recent exhibition game and who has apparently sewed up the backup center job, forcing the man who previously held that spot to move to forward. His name: demon Johnson.
ONLY IN AMERICA
Item from the Oct. 5, 1981 Princeton Alumni Weekly: "Andrea Leand '85, the [women's tennis] team's top recruit, made a name for herself even before arriving on campus. At the U.S. Open she won three matches, including an upset of Andrea Jaeger. In the first round Leand defeated Renee Richards, who as Richard Raskind had played on the tennis team with her father at Yale...."
Not since Jack Nicklaus won the Cajun Classic to finish $81.13 ahead of Arnold Palmer for the 1964 money title had the pro golf tour seen anything quite like it. Going into last weekend's Pensacola Open, which has long since replaced the Cajun as the tour's final stop, there was a four-way battle for the 1981 earnings title among Tom Kite with $364,099, Ray Floyd with $354,926, Tom Watson with $345,660 and Bruce Lietzke with $336,146. Because in recent years most of golf's major awards had been wrapped up long before the tour's end, the Pensacola usually attracted a lot of nobodies. But this year was different. All four of the above-mentioned worthies were on hand.
Well, it was a dogfight, just as you would have expected. Jerry Pate won the tournament with a 17-under-par 271, with Kite, Lietzke and Floyd finishing, respectively, four, five and seven strokes back. Then there was Watson, who was playing Pensacola for the first time in hopes of winning PGA Player-of-the-Year and top money honors for the fifth straight year. He sank an 80-foot putt on the 18th hole for an opening 64, but then blew up with a second-round 76 and finished 10 strokes behind Pate. He thus failed to get the win he needed to overtake the absent Bill Rogers for Player-of-the-Year honors. He also was supplanted at the top of the money list, which he headed in 1980 with a record $530,808. This year it wound up as follows: Kite $375,699, Floyd $359,360, Watson $347,660 and Lietzke $343,446. So who needs Nicklaus vs. Palmer, anyway?
The weekend of Oct. 10-11 was a rough one for Brigham Young quarterbacks, past and present. While Heisman hopeful Jim McMahon (BYU '82) was in street clothes nursing an injured knee, his replacement, Steve Young (BYU '84), was throwing four interceptions in a 45-41 loss to Las Vegas that snapped the Cougars' 17-game winning streak. The Oakland Raiders' Marc Wilson (BYU '80) completed just two of 11 passes with two interceptions while filling in for Jim Plunkett in a 27-0 loss to Kansas City. The Houston Oilers' Gifford Nielsen (BYU '78), who had been expected back in action, missed his seventh straight game with an injured shoulder that was healing more slowly than anticipated. And former Chicago Bear signal-caller Virgil Carter (BYU '67), who puts out a computerized tip sheet, was having his worst week of the year, picking just seven winners in 14 NFL games.
THEY SAID IT
•Chuck Shelton, Drake football coach, whose team is a surprising 6-0, discussing the fun he had being carried off the field after one of those victories: "When I die, I want to be embalmed in a sitting position and carried to my grave by two football players."
•Ron Meyer, SMU football coach, on his 5'9", 220-pound guard, Harvey McAtee: "He's so short his breath smells of earthworms."
•Bill White, New York Yankee television announcer, after Dave Winfield reached into the leftfield stands to catch a ball hit by Tony Armas in the second game of the American League playoffs: "Winfield robbed Armas of at least a home run."