FUROR IN SAN DIEGO: A TESTING PROBLEM FOR THE NCAA
Joe Paterno of Penn State became the focus of heated debate in San Diego last week at the NCAA's annual convention when he made an impassioned speech in favor of the suddenly controversial Proposal 48. Many presidents of historically black colleges opposed Proposal 48, which says that beginning in August 1986, to be eligible for varsity competition an incoming athlete must have scored at least 700 on his SATs (or 15 on his ACTs) and have had a 2.0 high school average in a specific number of college preparatory courses. The black-college presidents charged that tests like the SATs and ACTs are culturally biased against blacks (about 56% of black high school students attain SAT scores below 700) and that under Proposal 48 black-college athletes would have to have higher scores than other students.
The black opposition moved Paterno to say, "It's unfortunate we're talking black and white. I hope this doesn't ruin our friendship, but it's for your own good. I have 33 years' experience at an institution that is predominantly white, but I have had the privilege of working with great black players. I'm really surprised to see black leaders standing here and selling their black students down the river, selling them short. They underestimate these young people and what great competitors they are. I have no doubt that if an SAT score of 700 is needed, and they have the time to prepare, they will compete and they will succeed.... We've told black kids who bounce balls, run around tracks and catch touchdown passes that that is an end unto itself. We've raped them. We can't afford to do it to another generation."
In effect, Proposal 48, which passed overwhelmingly, is telling high schools to upgrade their academic preparation of college-bound athletes. It's hard to fault that idea, but the largely black institutions have good reason to feel threatened. Dr. Jesse Stone Jr., president of Southern University, charged that adoption of test scores as a determinant for athletic eligibility was racially motivated. "I know it was racist," said Stone. "Paterno sounded to me like many people afflicted with paternalism in our part of the country. They think they know more about us than we do." Dr. Joseph B. Johnson, president of Grambling, added, "There were no black institutions involved in this [the drafting of Proposal 48], but they're talking about black athletes.... I was offended by Coach Paterno this morning. He doesn't know anything about blacks.
"I think a message has been sent to black athletes across this country," Johnson said. "There's just too many of you on America's athletic teams." As if to concur, Athletic Director Neale Stoner of Illinois, who is white, said, "As 48 stands now, we'll have an all-white football team."
Paterno said, "I'm sorry about this. I had no intention to insult anyone. I think they're overreacting. If we find that some of the things aren't right, we're ready to modify it."
And some blacks support Proposal 48. Charles Harris, Pennsylvania's athletic director, says, "The legislation may not be perfect, but it's timely. The NCAA had to show the public it was willing to make a stand." Sociology Professor Harry Edwards of the University of California, who was a leader of militant black athletes in the 1960s, says, "While I understand the concern of other black educators, I believe that their objections...are misguided. I believe also that they underestimate the intellectual capabilities of black athletes.... Dumb jocks are not born, they're systematically created." SI Writer-Reporter Roger Jackson says, "Black colleges are telling black people that only white people can expect quality performance from their children and teachers. Our black educators once were a source of hope. They were for members of my family. But being against this proposal is naive and self-destructive. I don't want anyone, black or white, telling me that I or my children can never achieve."
But Dr. Robert Randolph, president of Alabama State, another predominantly black college, points out what he feels is a basic flaw in Proposal 48: "The NCAA is saying, 'These are the admission standards for athletes. We don't care what they are for other students.' This is discriminatory. An awful lot of students are given awards based on skills that are not athletic—musicians, the girl you see dancing at halftime. They are awarded scholarships for their talents, and this rule doesn't apply to them. This is not to deny the philosophic thrust of what the NCAA is trying to do—that is, to correct the wrongdoings that have occurred. Some institutions have done this very well. Some have not. But it ought to be corrected by the individual institutions. I can't argue with the NCAA's wish to set rules, but academic qualification is the responsibility of an institution's board of trustees."
Randolph's view is an old and in some ways worthy one—the Ivy League used it for years to argue against the NCAA's setting of academic standards. His words should be taken into account as Proposal 48 is modified, as it certainly will be, over the next couple of years. The NCAA is right to attempt to cure academic abuses, but in so doing it should make room for institutions that serve special missions, as the predominantly black colleges do, to fulfill their aims and still participate in Division I sports.
Seldom has a man attracted so much attention by spitting as did tobacco-chewing Harvey Keenan during the 1982 baseball playoffs and World Series. The Milwaukee Brewers' manager became something of a folk figure partly because of the enormous chaw that bulged out his cheek, and his thoughtful, brooding expectorations were relentlessly depicted by the television cameras.
Kids imitate heroes, and Kuenn's macerating influence—abetted by ads showing athletes and country and western types tucking tobacco in their cheeks—has high school youngsters achewin' and aspittin' all over the place. Some schools have clamped down by trying to eliminate the practice ("It's a messy, unhealthy habit," says an official edict at Alhambra High in Martinez, Calif.), but Principal Bill Lamson of San Lorenzo Valley High in Fulton, Calif. has decided to face reality. Calling tobacco chewing as bad a habit as cigarette smoking, he nonetheless recognizes its existence and has authorized a designated chewing area, a gravel-covered plot, for the school's chaw addicts. It's not a question of being permissive, the principal says. It's simply an effort to solve a sticky problem: the prevalence of wet tobacco stains all over the place.
THE GEORGE AND BILLY SHOW
George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin have been portrayed in many ways during their eight-year love-hate affair, but no one has ever charged the Yankee owner and his faithful (for now) sidekick with being against the U.S. Olympic team. But Bob Mathias, two-time Olympic decathlon champion and director of the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, is beginning to wonder.
In October 1979 Mathias traveled to New York for a press luncheon to announce a large corporate donation to the training center, hoping that the publicity generated by his news might stimulate more donations. But on the morning of the luncheon, Steinbrenner dropped the bombshell that Martin was being fired for punching a marshmallow salesman in Minnesota a few days earlier. The press went to Yankee Stadium and the Olympic lunch was all but ignored in print and on the air.
Last week Mathias went to New York again, this time to publicize a donation to the training center from greyhound tracks across the country. A good story, right? Tracks that take bets supporting amateur athletes, and all that.... Once again Mathias contacted the media, and the greyhound people took a $525-per-day suite at the Hotel Pierre in Manhattan for interviews. Everything was set—and, suddenly, there was the press scooting 100 blocks north of the Pierre to the Stadium for the earthshaking news that Steinbrenner had just hired Martin for a third term as Yankee manager.
Mathias took it in stride. "Next time," he said, "I'll call Billy first to see what his schedule is."
HE'LL TAN THEIR HIDES
It isn't easy for a pro hockey player to keep his mind on his icy business in sunny Southern California. In an effort to ensure that his guys concentrate on hockey, Los Angeles Kings Coach Don Perry has established certain fines: If a player shows up at practice with a sunburn, it's $500; it's the same thing if he comes to the rink in shorts; and if a King is caught riding a motorcycle or a moped, it's $1,000. "I know some of the fines sound stupid," says Perry, "but I think that they're necessary."
Maybe so, and in any case it ought to be easy to spot a hockey player on a California beach. Look for a well-muscled fellow under a beach umbrella, wearing long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and a sun hat. It'll be a King, working on his pale.
BABES IN TOYLAND
If you're a young woman with a terrific backhand who's interested in making it in the wonderful world of pro tennis, you'll be pleased to learn that it's not entirely a jungle out there. Lots of people are willing and eager to help, particularly those kindly folk of the Women's Tennis Association. They've put out a booklet for young players called Getting Started, which is filled with all sorts of helpful info about travel ("Nonstop flights do not stop") and tournaments and membership dues and agents and endorsements ("Always speak well of the products you endorse!").
We were particularly caught by a section called "Making the Most of the Media." Aspiring sportswriters and radio/TV people can learn about their craft in journalism school, but somehow it never occurred to us that people can be taught the other side of journalism—not how to get a story, but how to be a story.
Getting Started takes care of that. "What kind of image do you want to portray?" it asks its earnest young readers. "Glamorous? Athletic? Businesslike? Intellectual? Whatever your image, make sure it is one that the press will latch on to in a positive way.... When the press sees you, you will be creating a total impression which could be significant to your image.... You will be the player who gets the 'ink' if you are a unique story. For example: 'Player works nights to continue in the game,' 'Daughter of Olympic Gold Medalist wins first round,' 'Student of nuclear physics stars in Boise.' One player, conscious of not having a tale to tell, created a harmless one, announcing that her mother was a concert pianist.... You would do well to create an 'angle' for yourself. A good alternative to this approach is to win an awful lot of tournaments."
That last sentence strikes us as an especially good suggestion. We also like one other bit of advice: "Be tolerant toward sportswriters...you must be prepared to explain things." Especially if you're a nuclear physicist starring in Boise.
THEY SAID IT
•John Candelaria, Pirate pitcher, to overweight 6'5" Pittsburgh Outfielder Dave Parker, on hearing that Parker was planning to become a vegetarian: "What are you going to eat? Redwoods?"
•Don Ott, of the evangelically oriented Athletes in Action basketball team, explaining his club's 29-point loss to UCLA after beating Oral Roberts by 29 in its previous game: "You might say they did unto us as we did unto others."
•Ralph Miller, Oregon State basketball coach, deploring the dunk shot: "It's an idiot's delight. The only thing it does for basketball is increase stress fractures. Now, if you raise the basket to 12 feet and somebody dunks, then I'll applaud."
•John Pinone, Villanova center, on his style of basketball: "I use intelligence to the best of my ability."
•Stan Blinka, New York Jets linebacker, noting that journalists and other visitors outnumbered players in the Jets' locker room during the NFL playoffs: "There are more nonpeople in here than there are people."