BENGALS & DRUGS, CONT.
Many of the revelations in the story about former Cincinnati Bengal running back Stanley Wilson in the February issue of Penthouse come down to one man's word against another's. Wilson was banned from the NFL last May after he was found using cocaine in his hotel room the night before the Super Bowl. In the story, Wilson accuses one Bengal, wide receiver Eddie Brown, of buying the coke and two others, defensive backs Rickey Dixon and Daryl Smith, of using it along with him. Each player has denied Wilson's charges.
According to NFL policy, a team's drug tests are to be monitored by a technician employed by the league, not by the team. The NFL instituted centralized control of testing before the 1988 season, in part because some teams felt that others weren't being as vigilant as they should have been in conducting their tests. But for last season's Super Bowl, the league deviated from its own policy.
Rather than use the technician who had overseen the testing of the Bengals during the regular season, the NFL turned to Marv Pollins, Cincinnati's team trainer. Joe Browne, director of communications for the NFL, offered no explanation for the NFL's decision except to say, "It was our judgment in the league office that the testing revert to the '87 policy." Before this, Pollins had never supervised the collection of urine samples for drug tests.
"They asked me if I would do it for the game," says Pollins. "I don't know why. It was done the way it was supposed to be done. There's nothing to it. They pee in front of you. They sign a paper that says that it's their urine, and it's sent off to the lab."
However, Emanuel King, a Bengal linebacker last season who signed with the L.A. Raiders as a free agent, said in Penthouse that during his test the week before the Super Bowl, "[Pollins] told me, 'Bring me back some piss—I don't care whose it is.' " Pollins says that King's recollection is "not true—no way," and that he watched King produce his specimen.
Whether one believes King or Pollins, the NFL's drug program—the league would not reveal its plan for testing before this season's Super Bowl—leaves much to be desired (SI, July 10, 1989), especially the fact that the league fails to follow its own guidelines rigorously.
YOU'RE BEING WATCHED
Even before being crowned national champs on Jan. 2, the Miami Hurricanes had gained a significant victory. College football's team of the 1980s was an academic washout for the first half of the decade: Only four of the 17 players who entered in '80 had graduated by '85. Last month Miami announced that 16 of the 22 players who entered school on scholarship in '85 would be getting their degrees by May.
Some of that improvement may be attributable to the surreptitious Hurricane Watcher Program, in which students spend 15 to 20 hours a week shadowing academically unmotivated athletes and filing reports on their class attendance. With the threat of punishment ranging from sprints to suspension, more and more football players have been finding their way to class. Even though the watchers never identify themselves to the athletes they watch, the athletic department insists that the two-year-old operation isn't spying because the goal is to help the athletes, not to catch and punish them. "I don't know who the Hurricane Watchers are," says safety Charles Pharms, "but even if I did, I wouldn't threaten them."
The federal Department of Education pays the bulk of the watchers' salaries through its work-study funds, so Miami doesn't incur much cost for a program that helps to keep its players eligible. Says Doug Johnson, Miami's associate athletic director for internal operations and compliance, "Sometimes you need to train an athlete to be mature."
GETTING THEIR DUE?
Believe it or not, at least two reputable economists say that the astronomical baseball salaries shelled out in this off-season are not out of line—and in some cases are probably lower than what they should have been.
Gerald Scully, a professor of management at the University of Texas at Dallas, and Robert Baade, an economics professor at Lake Forest College, have each constructed statistical models for estimating how much money a player generates for his team. Their equations take into account the player's statistics and his team's record and revenue data. Baade contends that his model can explain 83% of a team's attendance. He also maintains that at least 40% of a team's revenue can be attributed to the quality of its players' performances.
Neither Scully nor Baade has analyzed this year's free agents because the financial data needed to do so are not yet available, but in applying their formulas to information from 1986 and '87, both have found stars to be worth $3 million per year and more. For example, when Roger Clemens went 24-4 for Boston in '86, he was being paid $340,000. But Scully found that Clemens's '86 performance was worth $3.9 million in revenue to the Red Sox—more than the record $3.25 million a year Mark Davis got for signing with the Royals in December. In nearly every case that Scully and Baade looked at, the player was underpaid.
"It's incorrect to conclude that because you're seeing some $3 million contracts, owners will put themselves in the poorhouse," says Scully. "This is scarce talent in an open market, where you bid for it." In light of baseball's new four-year, $1.06 billion contract with CBS and its four-year, $400 million deal with ESPN, says Baade, "this year's large free-agent contracts were both inevitable and justifiable."
CALLED FOR TRAVELING
At halftime of a Dec. 30 Illinois high school basketball game, Calhoun High led Brussels High 40-22, and Brussels coach Rick Huddleston had weighty options to consider. Because of packed stands and high humidity in the old Brussels gym, the floor had become so slick that officials were ignoring traveling violations. Someone was bound to get hurt. After deciding that the game couldn't continue at Brussels, the refs gave Huddleston three choices: Call the game off, play the second half the next day or complete the game at Calhoun's gym, in Hardin, Ill., 16 miles to the north.
"If it would have been another team, we might not have played the second half," says Huddleston. But the two schools, with a combined enrollment of 257, have a long rivalry, symbolized by the walnut replica of an apple crate that winds up in the winner's trophy case every season. So most of the 350 fans bundled up and headed out on County Road 1. "When you were driving to Hardin, you'd look back and see nothing but a line of headlights," says Calhoun coach Jim Roach.
Now etched for the ages on a brass plate on the side of the Apple Crate Trophy is the game's final score: CALHOUN 83, BRUSSELS 59.
A STRIKE THAT STRUCK HOME
The tri-city Americans of the western (junior) Hockey League were dressing for practice in Kennewick. Wash., (the other two cities are Pasco and Richland) on Dec. 29 when Bill LaForge, the new director of hockey operations for this club of 16-to 20-year-old aspiring pros, stormed into their locker room. "The first thing he said was, 'Shut up!' " recalls goalie Olaf Kolzig. "The guy I was talking to, defenseman Steve Jaques, didn't even know who he was, so he kept smiling. Mr. LaForge said, 'Wipe that silly smile off your face.' "
Three Americans said LaForge. 38, a onetime Vancouver Canucks coach who has a history of browbeating his players and encouraging goon tactics, then prodded and pushed one player with a hockey stick until he rose quickly enough from the locker room bench upon command. LaForge denies touching the player. Later, after taking over coach Rick Kozuback's practice and lecturing the team on his smash-face philosophy of hockey, LaForge told the trainer to paint three X's on the team bench to mark seats for those who were playing poorly, and to hang boxing gloves in the locker room so that bickering teammates could settle their differences. At a team meeting after practice, LaForge spoke figuratively of slitting opponents' throats and compared hockey to being "dropped in Vietnam." Says Kolzig, "We just wanted to play hockey."
Which is why the team refused to do so. Following an overnight meeting, all but two members of the team did not show for the Dec. 30 game against the Portland Winter Hawks, forcing its cancellation. The next day, after receiving telephone assurances from WHL president Ed Chynoweth that he would mediate the dispute, the players bused to Portland, where they won 8-4.
On Jan. 2, the Americans, who had sought LaForge's dismissal, settled for a promise from owner Ron Dixon to remove LaForge from the team's day-to-day operations. According to Dixon, LaForge will keep his title, but scout from Edmonton. The three players who led the walkout have accepted Dixon's mandate of 10 hours of community service, though as Kolzig says, "I don't think we should be punished for doing what we think was right."
LaForge compared hockey to Vietnam.
THEY SAID IT
•Charlie Jones, NBC sportscaster, on Nebraska's secondary in the Fiesta Bowl: "The most inexpensive—uh, inexperienced—part of the defense."