THE HIGH PRICE OF AN ALL-AMERICA
Of the seven TCU football players who were suspended from the team by coach Jim Wacker after admitting that they received improper payments from boosters (SI, Sept. 30, et seq.), All-America running back Kenneth Davis was the most accomplished and best known. As might be expected, he apparently was also the most richly compensated. In an interview last week with SI's Bill Brubaker, Davis said that he received money on his very first recruiting visit to TCU and that before agreeing to attend the school he was given what amounted to a contract promising him $38,000 in cash and goods. Davis said he'd collected perhaps $20,000 of that amount at the time he was suspended.
Davis said that on his first recruiting visit in 1980 he was taken to a Fort Worth pizza restaurant named Mama's owned by TCU booster Chris Farkas. He was two slices into a 20-inch pie, he said, when he was nudged under the table by Farkas. "He gave me something which I stuck in my sock," Davis recalled. "I went to the bathroom to see what it was. I pulled my pants leg up, counted the money and there was $350. I had tears in my eyes. Coming from a family of 12 children, I'd never seen that much money before. I was on cloud nine. Before leaving the bathroom I looked at myself in the mirror and said, 'I'm going to be a Horned Frog.' " Farkas could not be reached for comment.
Davis said he ultimately chose TCU over Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas Tech not because of that meeting with Farkas but largely because of an offer that TCU boosters made to him in writing. "I'd signed a [nonbinding conference] letter of intent with Nebraska, and I was going to stay with Nebraska," he said. "But the day after I signed I got a call asking me to meet Dick Lowe and Chris Farkas at the municipal airport in Temple. I met them in the back of their Learjet, had a brief conversation with them, then they reached over and handed me this yellow sheet of paper with all this stuff on it."
Davis said that the unsigned document was written by Lowe, a Fort Worth oilman who has resigned from the TCU board of trustees after admitting paying athletes. It promised Davis, among other things, a $3,700 up-front payment, clothes, a job at Lowe's ranch, a $200 monthly salary for which he wouldn't have to work, a shotgun, a .22-caliber rifle and bonuses of $1,000 for signing a national letter of intent and $500 for signing a conference letter. Davis said that according to calculations Lowe made at the time, the total value of the package was $38,000. Lowe confirmed to SI that he wrote the letter and that the $38,000 figure sounded accurate. He said he drew up the contract to "clarify" TCU's offer because "Kenneth didn't really know what it was worth."
Davis said that he received the $3,700 in up-front money as promised, and that it came from Farkas, who "dropped an envelope behind me at practice one day." He said that Farkas also paid him the letter-of-intent bonuses. He said that the firearms were delivered to him by Lowe "at a party he threw for my family on his ranch." However, he said that the following year he renegotiated his contract insofar as the $200 monthly payments were concerned. "I said, 'Mr. Lowe, I'm in a financial bind. I got some bills.' He said, 'Hey, K.D., ain't no problem.' And he started giving me $400 a month." By the next summer, Davis said, he was receiving an additional $300 to $400 a month from another booster he wouldn't name. His salary of between $700 and $800 a month continued until Davis was suspended.
Despite the surreptitious fashion in which he said some payments were made to him, Davis told Brubaker he didn't realize he was violating NCAA rules by accepting them. "I thought it was legal," he said. "I didn't know it was illegal for you to receive this money, because Mr. Lowe was on the board of trustees. I thought the money I received went along with the scholarship. I thought college players were supposed to receive a salary."
Davis and his agent, Mike Trope, were scheduled to meet this week with NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle in New York to plead that Davis be allowed to be chosen via a special draft to play in the NFL this season. Davis says he needs the money. "I've got $20,000 worth of debts," he says. "I've got two car notes, a MasterCard bill and premiums to pay on the $1 million liability insurance policy I took out for myself to play at TCU."
MAAFALA IN FOR MAAFALA
Any sports fan with a dime's worth of ego knows that broadcasting a sports event is a cinch. But take a look at some of the names floating around in college football this season. Imagine that you have to quickly describe a complicated play involving Michigan's Olatide Ogunfitidimi or Notre Dame's Hiawatha Nahomia Nakomis Francisco. Or suppose you've been hired to do play-by-play for the University of Hawaii, whose team includes four sets of brothers—and not brothers with simple names like Smith or Miller or Johnson. What Hawaii has are the Kafentzises, the Nogas, the Goeases and the Maafalas. Not only the brothers have you seeing double: The Rainbow Warriors also have a fellow named Amosa Amosa. And until they dropped off the squad this year, Lefiti Lefiti and Feleti Feleti were on Hawaii's roster, too. So the next time you start daydreaming about grabbing a mike, try whipping out a handful of those names in a hurry.
SAILING WITH E.B. WHITE
E.B. White, who died last week at the age of 86 at his saltwater farm in Maine, was a children's-book author, poet, essayist and writing stylist. He wrote with wit and grace. He was an astute commentator on a great variety of subjects, sports included. White's favorite sporting pastime was sailing, and the sentiment he expressed in 1963 could be understood by any athlete who finds his skills eroded by time:
"With me, I cannot not sail. Yet I know well enough that I have lost touch with the wind and, in fact, do not like the wind anymore. It jiggles me up, the wind does, and what I really love are windless days, when all is peace. There is a great question in my mind whether a man who is against wind should longer try to sail a boat. But this is an intellectual response—the old yearning is still in me, belonging to the past, to youth, and so I am torn between past and present, a common disease of later life."
HOLD THAT LINE
On March 30, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute beat Providence 2-1 in Detroit to win the NCAA hockey championship. The next morning two RPI students, Bruce Carroll and Jamie York, showed up outside the student union on their school's campus in Troy, N.Y. and formed a line to buy season tickets for the 1985-86 season. The tickets weren't due to go on sale until Sept. 25, but Carroll, York and their brothers in the Psi U fraternity were willing to take turns waiting 179 days for the window to open. Anything for good seats.
Carroll and York were upholding a three-decade-old RPI tradition of student groups trying to outdo one another in line-sitting for hockey tickets. The previous long-wait record was 33 days, set by a group of ROTC students in 1983, but now, with the Engineers the NCAA champions, tickets obviously were really worth waiting for.
The Psi U effort took stamina. During the summer term, fraternity members studied as they sat in a wading pool brought to the scene. They also hooked up a stereo system, for where would the guys be without their rock 'n' roll? As Sept. 25 neared, other students joined the Psi U contingent on the line. During the last week of waiting there were egg fights and keg parties.
Two weeks ago, a few hours before the ticket window opened, members of RPI's hockey team waited on the waiters, serving them a continental breakfast. RPI president Daniel Berg doled out doughnuts. Then, at last, the window opened. The fraternity had the right to purchase 32 seats, but bought only 19. Was the wait worth it? "Sure," said junior Bryan Basham. "It was a lot easier to study on line than in the frat house."
OOPS, GUESS WE JUST DID
Reggie Jackson has had it with sports-writers questioning whether he and Dave Kingman, another home run king with a middling lifetime batting average, belong in the Hall of Fame. "You can say I stink," says Reggie. "But don't put me in the same story with that guy."
400 WINS AND COUNTING
So Grambling's Eddie Robinson now is the winningest coach in college football history with 324 victories (page 32). And the late George Halas owns the NFL record with 326 wins. But who's the winningest football coach of them all? Gordon Wood, 71, who last Friday rang up victory No. 400 as Brownwood (Texas) High beat Crowley 15 to 9.
SOME GOOD NEWS FOR MEXICO
In the wake of the two massive earthquakes that caused more than 5,500 deaths in Mexico came rumblings that next year's World Cup soccer tournament, scheduled from May 31 to June 29 in Mexico City, might have to be moved to another country. Two weeks ago the International Soccer Federation (FIFA) chose to stick with Mexico City. Nervous Mexican soccer officials had flown to Zurich to assure FIFA that the stadiums and hotels planned for World Cup use were intact, and that "The safety of players and visitors is guaranteed." They pleaded that depriving their already distraught country of the tournament would be "a cruel blow." The last World Cup netted host Spain some $15 million, and quaketorn Mexico, more than ever, needs the money the event can generate.
Davis said that he didn't consider the payments wrong.
SAM Q. WEISSMAN
THEY SAID IT
•Bill Hill, a hunting guide in Montana's Cabinet Mountains, explaining why he and two others had killed a grizzly in a protected area: "When I saw that bear come smoking down on me, I didn't have any trouble in deciding who was the endangered species."
•Glen Kozlowski, BYU co-captain and wide receiver, on the Mormon church's influence on the campus: "They let you chase girls, they just don't let you catch them."
•Jimmy Connors, the tennis champion, on turning 33: "I have no complaints. If I hadn't made it to 33, then I'd have a complaint."