The news out of the special NCAA convention in Dallas last week was that there was no news. It was ostensibly a cost-cutting session called by the Presidents Commission; yet, with one exception, all measures designed to de-escalate big-time college sports were defeated, and the member schools even restored two men's basketball scholarships that had been trimmed at the last convention. "We made a mistake by calling this thing," said University of Maryland chancellor John Slaughter, the chairman of the Presidents Commission. "We presidents had not done enough homework."
Still, there was a silver lining to the convention, which, incidentally, cost the NCAA an estimated $1.8 million to stage. The commission inaugurated an ambitious 18-month forum, involving both coaches and administrators, to examine the role of intercollegiate athletics. Ira Michael Heyman, chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley, brought the forum to immediate life with a strong keynote speech. "We have seen recruiters who bribe high school students," said Heyman, "staff who alter transcripts and test scores, admissions officers who admit athletes who are functionally illiterate." He then went on to suggest, among other things, scholarships on a need-only basis, freshman ineligibility, the abolition of bowl games and even the creation of minor leagues in football and basketball.
Some of Heyman's suggestions may have seemed farfetched, but he did get people talking. Penn State's Joe Paterno said, "I don't think the bowl-game thing was very realistic. But, well, he said what he felt." Heyman, who admitted he was trying to be provocative, told SI's Robert Sullivan, "I wanted to say, Let's think of the inconceivable and find what's conceivable."
The NCAA blew a small opportunity last week, but the forum is at least a start. Clearly, something must be done to restore integrity to college sports. Two days after the convention closed, an internal investigation into the Virginia Tech basketball program revealed that not a single basketball player admitted to the school between 1981 and 1983 had graduated.
A SLICE OF CAKE
Here's a helpful kitchen hint: When baking a cake, do not put golf balls inside. It seems that Janice Irby of Casselton, N.Dak., tried to do just that in response to her husband John's 31st-birthday requests for chocolate cake and golf balls, and—fore!—the balls exploded in the oven. "My cake looked as if someone took a shotgun and plugged a couple of rounds into it," said Mrs. Irby. In lieu of the birthday cake, she went out and bought her husband a five-wood.
Is it time for a new king? That's the question checkers fans will be asking in the next few weeks as the tension builds for the biennial World Checkers Championship, which begins Aug. 9 at the International Checkers Hall of Fame in Petal, Miss. Dr. Marion (Two-Ton) Tinsley will be defending the title he first won in 1955 against protègè Don (Kentucky Wonder Boy) Lafferty.
The Hall of Fame is situated on the estate of insurance tycoon Charles Walker, who has built a magnificent shrine to a game more commonly associated with two guys hunched over a barrel at a country store. Despite its opulent home, checkers still retains its folksy quality. Take, for instance, the nicknames of the champion and his challenger. Two-Ton, a 60-year-old mathematics professor at Florida A & M, got the name years ago because of his wispy build, while Kentucky Wonder Boy is a 53-year-old high school math and physics teacher from Hardin County, Ky.
Tinsley, who is also known as the Alexander the Great of checkers, has lost only one game in his six successful defenses of the world title (he retired from competition between 1958 and 1970 to pursue his career in mathematics). Lafferty has been picking Tinsley's brain for years, as Tinsley once did with the legendary Asa Long, a world champion during the '40s, so it is possible that the student will get the jump on the master. "Even after all these years, I'm never confident," says Tinsley. "I have this built-in insecurity. I'm expecting an extremely tough competition."
Unfortunately, the 40-game match will not be carried on national television. So please watch this space for the results.
Ron Hunt, the infielder who played with the Mets, Dodgers, Giants, Expos and Cardinals from 1963 to '74, was an aggressive ballplayer who is proving just as pugnacious in retirement in Wentzville, Mo. Hunt was back in the news recently as Don Baylor of the Red Sox approached—and on June 28 surpassed—Hunt's career record of being hit by pitches 243 painful times.
In an interview with Marty York of the Toronto Globe and Mail, Hunt was asked if he felt sad for former teammate Tom Seaver, who had just announced his retirement. "Hell, no. I don't feel sorry for Seaver at all. He's an ass. Always was. I personally would have liked to put his career on the shelves earlier. He used to throw at my head deliberately. My reaction to him retiring is, tough spit." Hunt maintained that the only pitcher who had been as vicious to him was Don Sutton, who still pitches for the Angels. "Sutton's a jerk, too," said Hunt. "And please make sure you put that in the paper."
No wonder Hunt was hit so many times.
Sports journalism sometimes has its scary moments. Dave Raffo, the boxing writer for United Press International, was recently introduced to heavyweight champion Mike Tyson. "One of your trucks ran over my dog," snapped Tyson as he glared at Raffo, Fortunately for Raffo, one of Tyson's people stepped in and pointed out to the champ that it was a UPS, not a UPI, truck.
Most outmoded 12-meter yachts become expensive playthings when their racing days are over, but Courageous, defender of the America's Cup in 1974 and 1977, last week began a second career as the sailing center for a group of children in the Boston area. The yacht is a gift from aeronautical engineer Leonard Greene to Harry McDonough, the founder of the Courageous Sailing Center, a summer program for 8-to 20-year-olds. Courageous was welcomed to Boston Harbor on June 17 with cannon salutes, fireboat spray and John Philip Sousa music.
In her America's Cup defenses, Courageous acquired as much personality as any yacht ever has. It seems only fitting that she's now serving as a vessel for a new generation of sailors.
ST. LOUIS SINGS THE BLUES FOR THE BROWNS
In their 52-year history they gave major league baseball its only midget, a one-armed outfielder and two pitchers named Bobo (Newsom and Holloman). They had eight seasons with 100 or more defeats and won just one pennant. They were the St. Louis Browns, and though the team played its last game on Sept. 27, 1953—losing to the White Sox 2-1 in 10 innings for the 100th defeat of that season—the Brownies are still very much alive, thanks to the 600-strong St. Louis Browns Fan Club.
Bill Borst, a writer and adjunct professor of baseball history at Webster University in St. Louis, founded the club three years ago. "Our purpose is to remember the Browns' good times and the bad," says Borst. "Mostly, though, they were bad." The fan club has its own hall of fame (13 members), an annual banquet and plans for a permanent display of Browniana at Maryville College in Creve Coeur, Mo. At this year's fete on May 21, the club officially retired the uniform number (31) of pitcher Ned Garver, who in 1951 went 20-12 and often batted sixth in the order as the Browns lost 102 times. Says Garver, now 61 and living in his birthplace of Ney, Ohio (pop. 400): "When they get that permanent display up, I'm gonna take a busload of folks from Ney down there to St. Louis to show 'em my uniform."
Among the members of the fan club are 100-year-old John Daley, a former Browns shortstop (1912) who, according to some sources, will soon become the oldest major leaguer ever; Jim Delsing, the pinch runner for midget Eddie Gaedel in 1951 and father of pro golfer Jay Delsing; and Max Patkin, the Clown Prince of Baseball, who once coached for the Browns.
The Browns moved to Baltimore after the 1953 season, but only lately have the Orioles begun to play like their predecessors. So, in an effort to help out their stepchildren, the Browns Fan Club will conduct a pregame rite when the O's meet Kansas City at Royals Stadium on July 18. "Using Browns and Orioles caps, we will try to exorcise the demons," says Borst.
Garver won 20 and batted sixth in '51.
THEY SAID IT
•Barry Lyons, Mets reserve catcher, on going 6 for 6 in a simulated game against Tom Seaver just before the pitcher ended his comeback: "Maybe I'll make the simulated All-Star team."
•Jay Hilgenberg, Chicago Bears center, on the five quarterbacks his team is bringing to training camp: "All those quarterbacks feel the same to me."