THE CLEMSON AFFAIR
Thanks for your views on the ABC-TV report concerning Clemson's possible recruiting violations (SCORECARD, Dec. 14). With one exception, we are South Carolina natives—and all of us are students at or graduates of Furman—and we applaud your support of ABC. The way the fans in our state and the NBC radio affiliate in Greenville reacted the week after the report, you would have thought that ABC had announced God was dead.
Regardless of a team's ranking, it is a newsworthy event when recruiting violations—a problem that plagues college sports—are suspected at a school. We feel that fans who are as avid as Clemson's appear to be should be concerned enough to face the question of possible illegalities on the part of the school's athletic program.
We're also sure that those fans who cried "bad journalism!" in response to the ABC report weren't concerned about NBC's coverage at about the same time of UCLA's then impending basketball probation.
After observing the local media coverage of the ABC-Clemson affair, I found it refreshing to read a more objective account in your Dec. 14 issue.
DAVID G. ELLISON
I take exception to your defense of ABC-TV for its treatment of Clemson during the telecast of the Penn State-Pitt game. The charge by two former Knoxville high school stars that they had been given money to attend Clemson was essentially old news, which had been reported by the South Carolina media before the football season even began. Indeed, even SI made no more than a passing comment about the situation in its Nov. 16 article on Clemson (The Paws Have Given Cause for Pause).
You say that ABC commentator Jim Lampley was "bending over backward to suggest that [James] Cofer and [Terry] Minor [the two players in question] may have had axes to grind," because they were trying to secure a release from their commitment to Clemson. If so, why did ABC include in its nine-minute report an interview with former Clemson Basketball Coach Tates Locke, who resigned under pressure in 1975 in the midst of an investigation of Clemson for basketball recruiting violations? How was Locke's contribution relevant to this situation? To many Clemson fans, ABC seemed to be saying that because Clemson was guilty once, it must also be guilty this time.
Beyond the Cofer-Minor report, ABC was guilty that day of yet another journalistic inequity in the eyes of Clemson fans. Arguably the biggest story in college football this year has been the inability of No. 1-ranked teams to hold on to the top spot. With a Penn State victory over Pitt a foregone conclusion early in the fourth quarter and ABC's dream Sugar Bowl matchup between then No. 1 Pitt and No. 3 Georgia in shambles, the announcers were silent about which team—Clemson, of course—would be likely to rise to No. 1 in the polls the following week. This omission was reminiscent of ABC's coverage of the 1978 Gator Bowl, during which the announcers made no mention of the fact that, as millions looked on, Ohio State Coach Woody Hayes had punched, yes, a Clemson player.
Whether there was any "Machiavellian intent" by ABC to denigrate the Clemson-Nebraska Orange Bowl game is debatable. But what is apparent is that ABC's presentation of Clemson wasn't totally objective or ethical, and certainly wasn't deserving of SI's praise.
The real losers in this story are the members of Clemson's undefeated football team. Theirs is a story of dedication, team effort and fan support. It's a pity ABC didn't see that.
You failed to mention several pertinent facts:
The stated reason that ABC didn't air its Clemson report during its telecast of the Clemson-North Carolina game was that the network wanted to talk to other sources. The most notable other source to appear in the report was Tates Locke. Locke was forced out as basketball coach at Clemson nearly seven years ago at a time when his basketball program was being investigated for recruiting violations. Did ABC expect him to say anything relevant to the current situation? His news, which didn't amount to a hill of beans, was old news indeed.
You stated that the claim by the chairman of the Orange Bowl's selection committee that ABC was trying to promote the Sugar Bowl was "far-fetched." Why, then, during the rout of Pittsburgh, did the announcers not mention No. 2-rated Clemson? This was either extremely sloppy reporting or an intentional omission. Either way, it was unbecoming and unprofessional.
Granted, ABC has the right to investigate whatever it pleases. It also has the responsibility to make an accurate and fair presentation. In this ABC has failed. And that is what the uproar is all about.
I was outraged upon reading your editorial approving of ABC-TV's airing of the now infamous nine-minute report accusing—in my opinion, just short of convicting—Clemson of recruiting violations. ABC's report was deplorable journalism, and SI's backing of it was just as bad. In light of the fact that it is the policy of the NCAA not to comment on unsubstantiated charges and that the member school, in this case, Clemson, cannot comment because these charges are under NCAA investigation, ABC-TV was left with but one-third of a story that was old news at best. The audience got the players' side of things, but couldn't hear the NCAA's or Clemson's views. To my mind that doesn't make for a quality investigative report. If ABC-TV is so determined to uncover, investigate and report recruiting violations of NCAA member schools, where was it during the recent Miami and UCLA investigations?
Your support for the media investigating alleged violations, your suggestion that our university president, Dr. Bill Lee Atchley, was denying the press its right to examine ethical transgressions and your implication that this incident compares in some way to Watergate are certainly below your usual high standards of sports journalism.
The innocence or guilt of Clemson and SI's and ABC's right to investigate alleged violations are not the issues. The issues are whether a news organization has the right to broadcast or print partial stories that tend to imply guilt and the possible use of such a story to promote one network over another.
JOHN C. LEMACKS JR.
As an avid University of Florida football fanatic and alumnus, I found it heartwarming to see your Dec. 14 cover. Cris (Cadillac) Collinsworth not only deserves that honor but he also deserves to be NFL Rookie of the Year.
No other rookie has contributed as much to his team this year as Collinsworth. For four years Gator fans had enjoyed and benefited from his leadership and talents, and now we're getting to share one of our finest products with the rest of the nation. The orange and blue's loss was definitely the orange and black's gain. Here's to Collinsworth's continued success as a Cincinnati Bengal.
REY A. PALMA
Merritt Island, Fla.
Judging by the way Cris Collinsworth handles the press, one would think he was an NFL veteran instead of a rookie. It's good to see a man become successful and be able to deal with his success in the manner Cris has.
That was a great cover and article on Cris Collinsworth. But as for Ronald N. Campbell's untimely slam at the Bengals' new helmet (ART TALK, Dec. 14), don't knock the stripes. They seem to be working!
I enjoyed Ronald N. Campbell's comments about the illustrations football teams use on their helmets. I agree that the design on the Los Angeles Rams helmet, originated by then Ram Halfback Fred Gehrke, is distinctive and artistic, but my choice for the best logo is that of the Pittsburgh Steelers. It is esthetic and instantly recognizable. My second choice would be the gold helmet with the red and white SF emblem worn by the 49ers. However, I love Campbell's description of the awful Bengals' headgear: "Something that looks like a varicose pumpkin."
HAROLD O. CHRISTENSEN
In view of the tenor of Ronald N. Campbell's article, I was surprised at his criticism of the helmet of the Cleveland Browns. Campbell should have hailed the Browns as the only professional sports team in America free of the sort of show-biz mentality that has brought us garish team emblems. Surely, the unadorned orange helmet of the Browns is as recognizable to true football enthusiasts as are the horns of the Los Angeles Rams or the "majestic silver wings" of the Philadelphia Eagles.
MARC COLLIN, M.D.
Regarding Ronald N. Campbell's ART TALK, that's exactly what the article was—a lot of talk and nothing else. I'd be willing to bet that the color or design of a team's helmet has no effect on the team's won-lost record. Otherwise, Alabama's Paul Bryant must be an even greater coach than he seems. He has had to carry the burden of coaching a team with a "conservative" helmet. My favorite NFL club is the Philadelphia Eagles. I'm pleased to learn that their "majestic silver wings" are satisfactory.
Colorado Springs, Colo.
What could possibly be "graphically confusing" about a team having its school's colors on its helmet? Ohio State, like the Cleveland Browns, should be commended for keeping its helmet scheme simple. As for "the little nuts of the buckeye tree," ask any Buckeye fan what a buckeye is and he'll have an answer for you. To us, the Buckeyes are easily recognizable and always impressive!
Grove City, Ohio
How can any article on football helmets fail to mention the distinctive winged design worn by the Michigan Wolverines ever since Fritz Crisler came to Ann Arbor in 1937?
HARRY T. BAUMANN
FLORIDA FOUR, PLUS ONE
Hats off to Jack McCallum for his excellent coverage of the inaugural Florida Four basketball tournament (Four on the Floor in Florida, Dec. 14). The Sun Dome is a sparkling showcase for the University of South Florida, alertly identified by SI as one of the top 48 college basketball teams in the nation. And Tony Grier is a magical ball handler and truly an All-America candidate.
Jack McCallum's article on Florida college basketball cited some confusion between the University of South Florida and Florida Southern College. Florida Southern, located in Lakeland, is the 1981 NCAA Division II champion. It is the only school in Florida ever to win a national championship in basketball. I trust that those outside—and inside—Florida can now tell the difference.
JONATHAN R. BEARD
Florida Southern '78
Referring to South Florida as USF, as Jack McCallum did in his article, is as misleading as referring to the University of South Carolina as USC. Can you imagine trying to convince a young basketball fan in 1995 that Bill Russell did not win a national championship for South Florida? I'd rather you reserved USF for my alma mater here on the West Coast, the University of San Francisco.
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