"This is quite incredible," said NCAA enforcement director David Berst last week. He was referring to a new bomb-shell in the SMU scandal, which had already led the NCAA to shut down the Mustang football program for the 1987 season (SI, March 9). The latest development: Texas Governor Bill Clements's admission that, as head of SMU's board of governors in 1985, he approved ongoing payments to players from a secret slush fund. Elaborating upon revelations in the Dallas Times Herald, Clements said that after the NCAA placed SMU on probation in 1985, several of the board's 19 members met and decided to "honor agreements made to the athletes" by phasing out, rather than terminating, the payments. Clements also said that the NCAA had been notified about the continued payments. Berst called this assertion "ridiculous ... absurd."
The latest news caused great indignation in Dallas. Board members rushed to deny knowledge of the continued payments. The SMU faculty senate called on Clements "to make full disclosure of the board members he said joined him in authorizing payments." The senate and The United Methodist Church demanded the resignations of all SMU officials with prior knowledge of the scheme. "Mr. Clements is an intellectual embarrassment to this university," said biology professor Raj Sohal, a faculty senate member. "A small subgroup has been running this university for some time. Let's get rid of the whole lot."
The student body found ways to express its displeasure also. At last Wednesday's faculty senate meeting, a group chanted "No more lying or cheating." Student body president Trevor Pearlman said the student senate might sue yet unnamed university officials and boosters for harm brought to the university. "Our name has been tarnished," he said. "The value of the degree has diminished."
The United Methodist Church's accreditation board will meet in emergency session this week to consider severing the church's 76-year affiliation with SMU and halting its $1 million annual donation to the school. Meanwhile, several administrative and faculty committees are quietly studying a reorganization of the athletic department, and all participants seem to agree that SMU should consider a de-emphasis of big-time sport. Also, Berst said last week that he may reopen the NCAA's investigation and that even more penalties may be forthcoming.
SAME OLD OLLIE
Lieut. Col. Oliver North, who was castigated by the Tower Commission for his zealous conduct in the Iran-Contra affair, was quite a boxer during his days at the Naval Academy. In fact, he won the brigade 147-pound title in 1967. His former coach at Annapolis, Emerson P. Smith, recalls North's style as "very aggressive, without a lot of finesse."
An employee at the Captain Video store in West Newton, Mass., was in a quandary. Should he file the 1986 Red Sox highlights video under Sports? Drama? Comedy? He finally settled on Science Fiction/Horror.
At 9 a.m. on Saturday, the first of 63 dogsled drivers mushed out of Anchorage and began racing on the Iditarod Trail, a snow-covered dogsled path that meanders 1,138 miles across southwestern Alaska. Some 11, 12, 13 or 14 days hence, the finishers of the 14th annual Iditarod, one of sport's most daunting marathons, will chug into Nome.
This year's Iditarod should be fiercely competitive. Libby Riddles, who in 1985 became the first woman to win the Iditarod, is back. So is Susan Butcher, who last year became the second woman to win the race, setting the course record of 11 days, 15 hours and 6 minutes. Four-time Iditarod champion Rick Swenson is also entered.
In recent years the Iditarod has taken on some of the media and monetary trappings of a major sporting event. A network of 100 ham-radio operators will provide race updates this year. The press kit given last week to the scores of reporters covering the race contained such essentials as a dictionary of musher's lingo (a "dog in a basket" is a tired or injured husky being carried in the sled) and tips on where to land bush planes along the route ("Settler's Bay: Good gravel strip, use wheels").
This year's winner will take home $50,000 from a total purse of $250,000. Chevron is sponsoring the Widow's Lamp, which it will keep lighted (with Chevron kerosene, of course) at the finish line until the last musher reaches Nome. Du Pont, which supplied the race committee with cold-weather clothing, will present the Warmth Award to the most sportsmanlike racer. Our favorite gimmick: Anchorage's Clarion Hotel will fly a six-course gourmet meal to the first competitor who reaches the Anvik checkpoint on the banks of the Yukon River.
As of Monday, Duane Halverson of Trapper Creek, Alaska, was in the lead, having traveled 189 miles in two days, but Halverson still had much to overcome before he could rest. It has been a snowy winter in Alaska, which increases the possibility of attacks by moose who are traveling on the packed trail. In fact. Butcher had to quit the 1985 race when moose killed two of her dogs.
ROCKING THE BOAT
The Oxford-Cambridge boat race will apparently be held as scheduled on March 28, now that a threatened mutiny among the Oxford crew has been quelled. In January, four U.S. rowers who attend Oxford said they wouldn't stroke for the Blue Boat unless their countryman, Chris Clark of Newport Beach, Calif., was given a fair shake. The Yanks pointed out that Clark had beaten England's Donald Macdonald in a one-on-one race to earn a spot on the boat, but had been cut from the crew for political reasons. Macdonald happens to be the rowing-club president, and the club coach—who chooses the crew—answers directly to him. Macdonald didn't deny influencing the selection of the team, but he insisted that the one-on-one was never meant to be a qualifier. He said tradition dictated that the coach and captain have absolute power to choose a crew. He set a deadline last month for the Americans to fall in line, and all four capitulated.
"The crew selection was not done honorably," says Chris Huntington, a rower from New York City. "The rule is. Who is fastest gets in the boat." But is that the rule? "The Americans ran smack into the old-boy system and boat club bureaucracy," says one former captain of a British club team.
The importation of U.S. rowers has gained momentum in recent years as the boat race—known in England as the Boat Race—has become increasingly competitive. Oxford, in particular, has not been shy about admitting talented athletes into its graduate programs. Last year, when the Blue Boat's 10-year winning streak was snapped, Clark, who was one of two Americans aboard, vowed to regain the trophy. Sure enough, this season five Yanks were eligible for crew. Many Britons disapproved. One Fleet Streeter, Daily Express columnist Jon Akass, characterized the internationalization of Oxford as "a clutch of gigantic Americans" who had turned the race into "a circus for physical freaks."
At the least, Oxford appears to have been an impolite host. It invited the Americans aboard and then told them to accept rules that seem patently unfair. For now, it appears, blue-blood tradition has prevailed over platonic justice. Further down the stream, Oxford will certainly take a hard look at the unseemly affair and decide whether it should terminate its American crew connection.
POTTING IT MILDLY
USA Today reported recently on a girls' basketball game: "Senior Jan Jensen had a career-high 105 points to help Elk Horn-Kimballton [Iowal defeat Villisca 132-63." Nothing like a little help.
THE LOWLIEST OF THE LOW
When the U.S. Hockey League. An Amateur Association for Players under 20 years of age, announced last May that the Omaha Lancers would become its newest team, community interest ran high. More than a third of Hitchcock Park Arena's 900 seats were sold as season tickets. But the excitement began to wane when Omaha lost its first preseason game 15-2. As loss followed loss, Hitchcock Park became a sadder, emptier place, and by mid-January the Lancers were behind on the rent. Omaha's inaugural season ended on Sunday, five months, three coaches, 48 losses and not a single win—not even a tie—after it began.
"We came up short on recruiting," says team owner Tom Edwards, a vice-president of a local bank. "And we didn't draft well last spring."
Things could have been even worse for the Lancers. The USHL has a unique rule that awards a bonus point for reaching the overtime period. So even though Omaha was winless in all 48 games, by twice losing in sudden death—9-8 to the Dubuque Fighting Saints and 5-4 to the North Iowa Huskies—the Lancers finished with two points in the standings. "We've had chances to win," says Les Lundberg, the team captain and leading scorer, with 11 goals. "But then we'd have one of those spells where we'd give up four or five quick goals." Indeed, a bad night for the Lancers would have been a bad week for some teams. Omaha averaged only 2.2 goals a game while allowing 9.4.
"If we had won a game, it would have been like winning the Stanley Cup," says Shawn Jones, who left a high school coaching job to take over Omaha last month. Jones says he's proud that this year's Lancers never quit on him, but he's also a realist: He has already begun to recruit new players for next season's team.
THEY SAID IT
•Leonard Thompson, PGA Tour pro, on golf course architect Pete Dye's hair-raising layouts: "Thank goodness he isn't building airports."
•Mike Gminski, New Jersey Nets center, asked if he fantasized about how much better the team would have been if guard Ray Williams had played the whole season: "I usually fantasize more about Cybill Shepherd than about Ray Williams."