BIG STEP FOR THE BIG TEN
The Big Ten has enacted a bold and admirable new eligibility rule: Beginning in August 1989, any junior college transfer who has previously been ineligible for play at an NCAA institution under the academic requirements of Bylaw 5-1-(j) will be required to sit out a year before becoming eligible to play at a Big Ten school. This step was taken because a disturbing number of J.C. transfers arrive at four-year schools as athletic juniors but academic sophomores; when they have completed their four years of athletic eligibility, they're far short of the credits necessary for a degree.
"If you accept the premise that it takes at least 4½ years for most athletes to graduate, then the typical transfer student is a long way from graduating when he completes his eligibility," says Big Ten associate commissioner John Dewey. "All we're saying is that if they have to play in their fifth year, they'll be much closer to graduation, and that will be an incentive to graduate."
It's an impressive move, considering that it could cost the conference dearly in the annual sweepstakes for juco stars—an increasingly valuable basketball talent pool (SI, Nov. 18). Much will depend on whether the NCAA decides to adopt the rule on a national basis at its convention, beginning Jan. 10, an unlikely prospect. "I have a hard time seeing it pass on a national level," says ACC commissioner Gene Corrigan. "I don't think most people want to go that far. They feel that [Bylaw 5-1-(j)] is working pretty well as it is."
Says Dewey, "It depends on whether you're looking at academics or athletics. If you're concerned about graduation rates, this is a way to improve them."
When Central Michigan scores its first field goal of a home game, its fans customarily pelt the court with toilet paper. A lot of toilet paper. Sports information director Fred Stabley estimates that between 3,000 and 4,500 rolls of toilet paper are usually thrown, causing an instant blizzard that brings the game to a grinding halt. The maintenance staff has the cleanup procedure down to a science; it removes the debris in a matter of three or four minutes.
But before this season the Mid-American Conference passed a new regulation, widely known as the Central Michigan Rule, mandating another five-minute warmup period for both teams after the cleanup. And to discourage the fans from such behavior altogether, the conference warned the Chippewas' athletic director, Dave Keilitz, that continuation of the toilet-paper tradition could result in a technical foul being assessed against the home team.
The true test of the new edict will come on Jan. 13, when Central Michigan plays Cleveland State in its first home game with school back in session. "We'll have baskets at the gate for the kids to throw their toilet paper in," says Stabley. "But there won't be any frisking. It's basically an honor system."
Here are some of the holiday surprises teams found under their trees:
•Lafester Rhodes, Iowa State's 6'8" senior forward, poured in a school-record 54 points on 20-for-31 shooting in the Cyclones' 102-100 OT win against Iowa—this after scoring 34 points all of last season.
•Sophomore guard Matt Roe of Syracuse, who contributed just 2.2 points a game last season, has given the Orange the outside shooting they desperately need, hitting 31 of 62 three-pointers.
•Pitt's kiddie corps of four freshmen, including guards Jason Matthews and Sean Miller, both of whom are averaging 10 points a game, has contributed a whopping 40% of the undefeated Panthers' scoring this season.
•Maryland defeated Wake Forest 93-76 to win its first ACC game since March 7, 1986. The victory, which ended an 0-15 drought, was the first conference win for coach Bob Wade, who took over the Terps in the aftermath of the Len Bias tragedy.
•Auburn got the basketball equivalent of a lump of coal for Christmas when it lost its two top players. First, the Tigers learned that forward Mike Jones, their leading scorer and rebounder, was academically ineligible. Then center Jeff Moore went down with a broken hand in Auburn's 83-72 loss to Georgia Tech.
A PRETTY PLAYER
LaBradford Smith, Louisville's freshman point guard who's averaging 14.1 points and 4.0 assists per game, has a rich basketball heritage: his two older sisters, Audrey and Annette, played at Texas on the 1985-86 national championship team. Annette holds 20 individual Lady Longhorn records. "It was great playing with LaBradford until he got too big for us," says Annette. "The first time he dunked on me, I said, That's all, let's go home.' " But she knew her younger brother was plenty cocky enough to be a big-time basketball success; when once she caught LaBradford admiring himself in the mirror, he turned to her and said, "I bet you wish I wasn't your brother."
When Georgia played top-ranked Kentucky last week, its upset hopes weren't boosted in the crucial final moments when Kentucky fans chanting "Go Big Blue!" drowned out the cheers of Georgia supporters—even though the game was being played in the Omni in Atlanta. "Terrible," said former Bulldog star and current Atlanta Hawk Dominique Wilkins as he watched his alma mater fall 84-77. "If I looked up and saw all that blue, I'd feel terrible."
This humiliation was only the latest in a long history of indifference by Georgians toward their basketball team, despite its recent success: three NCAA tournament appearances in the past five seasons, including a visit to the Final Four in 1983. The Dawgs have sold out only two home games in those five seasons, and their average attendance in 1986-87 was a paltry 6,207, eighth-best in the SEC.
Does anyone else think this three-point business has gone a little too far? In its 81-73 victory over Morehead State on Dec. 21, Vanderbilt attempted more treys than deuces, 32 to 28. The Commodores made 15 of the former and 15 of the latter.... Texas-El Paso fans gave coach Don Haskins a bass boat worth $20,000 in recognition of Haskins' 500th career victory, an 87-56 win over Lamar. Across town the next night, El Paso Eastwood High coach Bobby Lesley got his 500th win and received a boat from his players—a toy worth about $20.... The current coaches' vogue, designating positions by number instead of by name, is getting a bit confusing. Here's Northwestern coach Bill Foster describing his injury-scrambled lineup: "I had Jeff Grose, who is a 2, playing 1; Terry Buford, who has been a 1 and 2 and 3, playing 2; Brian Schwabe, who has been playing 4, playing 5; and Don Polite, who'd been a 3, playing 4." Which one is the small forward?...Missouri coach Norm Stewart, unhappy after star forward Derrick Chievous shot 6 for 20 from the field in the Tigers' 75-63 loss to Illinois, described Chievous's style this way: "Shoot the ball and continue to shoot the ball until both arms are severed from your body, regardless of how many men are open."
KEN STEVENS/THE MUSKEGON CHRONICLE
The fans at Central Michigan are on a roll, but the Mid-American Conference wants them to clean up their act.
Smith, says sis, is the image of self-confidence.