THE BATTLE OF DALLAS
If viewed as a struggle between school presidents and athletic directors for control of major college sports, the NCAA Convention in Dallas was a clean sweep. On every key proposal, the presidents—at least the ones who are reform-minded about their sports programs—outhustled, outargued and ultimately outvoted the ADs. "The presidents showed that they are indeed in control," said TCU athletic director Frank Windegger.
NCAA executive director Dick Schultz, who heretofore had taken a see-almost-no-evil view of college sports, set the tone with a remarkable welcoming speech, which outlined his—and to a large extent, the presidents'—vision for the NCAA. Schultz not only urged the passage of reform measures on the agenda but laid out bold ideas for the future. He said the NCAA should consider revoking freshman eligibility and cutting back seasons in all sports. To reduce pressures to win, he suggested, coaches might be given tenure, or at least "initial contracts [of] five years with no termination except for rules violations or other ethical or moral reasons."
Schultz also proposed that recruiting be sharply curtailed. "It's absolutely ridiculous that we allow six in-person off-campus visits," he said. "We hire presidents, commissioners, faculty and coaches with far fewer visits." He asked delegates to be prepared by the 1991 convention to pass legislation to effect his proposed reforms.
The most acrimonious debate involved Proposition 30, which among other things called upon Division I-A and I-AA football programs to reduce spring practice from 20 days to 15 and upon Division I basketball programs to pare the regular season from 28 games to 25 and move the start of practice from Oct. 15 to Nov. 1.
Presidents argued that Prop 30 would give athletes more time to focus on their studies. Athletic directors responded that shorter seasons would have no positive effect on academics and that losing the revenue from three basketball games—as much as $250,000 for some schools—might force them to cut back on minor sports.
At first, Division I schools voted 170-150 to refer to committee—and thus put off indefinitely—the section of Prop 30 mandating a shorter basketball season. But then the presidents, led by Arizona State's Lattie Coor and Wake Forest's Thomas Hearn Jr., began twisting arms, and, slowly, support for Prop 30 grew: This paragraph passed, and then that one. Finally, the section on curtailing the basketball season was brought up for reconsideration, and it too passed, 206-116. Prop 30 will take effect in 1992.
Like Prop 30, many of the other measures passed in Dallas brought significant, if incremental, changes.
•Controversial Proposition 42, which passed last year but won't go into effect until next August, was modified. Under its original provisions, which many NCAA members labeled unfair and racist, Prop 42 would have denied scholarship aid to "partial qualifiers" who met some but not all of the NCAA's academic requirements for freshman athletes. The majority of these struggling students are black and poor.
Under Prop 42's new, more reasonable provisions, partial qualifiers will still not be allowed to participate in sports as freshmen but will be able to receive financial assistance. That aid will come from the school's general scholarship fund, not from the athletic department, and will be based on need.
•In a change sure to face legal challenges, the delegates voted to subject Division I-A and I-AA football players, who until now have been tested for steroids only if they were about to play in a bowl or playoff game, to year-round random testing for steroids. In addition, first-time offenders will lose a year's eligibility instead of the cult rent 90 days, and two-time offenders will lose all their remaining eligibility.
•The convention passed with gusto a measure requiring colleges to make public all of their teams' graduation rates. These disclosures will embarrass programs that don't stress academics and will help high school recruits choose among schools. Congress, fed up with college scandals, has been considering similar legislation (SI, Sept. 18). Bill Bradley (D., N.J.), co-sponsor of the Senate's graduation-rate bill, said he will still go forward with his legislation because many colleges and junior colleges aren't governed by the NCAA.
Delegates in Dallas were already discussing an issue yet to be resolved: how to divvy up money from the NCAA's new seven-year, $1 billion contract with CBS, which is based largely on the NCAA basketball tournament. "We should view these new dollars as a real opportunity to create major reform," said Schultz, who raised the idea of spreading the money among all NCAA schools, based not on their tournament performance but on how many intercollegiate teams they field. Such a plan would promote athletic opportunity and reduce pressures to win. The still-fractious NCAA may not yet be ready to take so brave a step.
NO JOKING MATTER
To his credit, NBA commissioner David Stern wasted no time last week in fining Charles Barkley of the 76ers and Mark Jackson of the Knicks $5,000 apiece for maintaining a running $500 wager with each other linked to their play in 76er-Knick games. The bet came to light after a 113-111 Philly victory over New York on Jan. 10. The two players told reporters that Barkley had won $500 from Jackson by hitting the winning shot with 2.7 seconds left. They said that their wager dated back to the 76er-Knick playoff series last season; it specified that any time one of them made the winning play in a 76er-Knick game, the other would have to pay him $500. During the playoff series, Jackson had won $500 from Barkley—who, according to Jackson, never paid up—by making a winning shot.
Barkley thought he had locked up $500 in last week's game by sinking two free throws with 22 seconds left. The shots put Philly ahead 111-108, but Jackson responded with a three-pointer to tie the score at 111-111 before Barkley canned the winning 12-foot jumper. Afterward Barkley said he wanted his $500, but Jackson, recalling their playoff bet, said he and Barkley were now even and refused to pay.
Stern read about the incident in the next morning's papers and handed out fines that afternoon. "While I am persuaded that there was nothing more going on here than some verbal jockeying between two friendly rivals," he said, "it is my responsibility to make it plain to Messrs. Barkley and Jackson and everyone else in the NBA that on the subject of gambling, even the slightest appearance of impropriety is a serious matter."
Stern may also have had on his mind the NBA's lawsuit to bar Oregon from including pro basketball games in its sports lottery. In any case, his ruling was correct. The Barkley-Jackson bet may have been meant as harmless fun, but it also may have affected the outcome of last week's game. On the final play, perhaps trying too hard to win the bet, Jackson took and missed a shot from three-point range instead of passing the ball to wide-open teammate Gerald Wilkins, who was standing under the basket waving his arms.
ONE DOG, HOLD THE ADS
Fans may soon have new reason to smother their ballpark franks with the works. Thanks to a special hot dog casing made of cellulose, weenies can now have messages—including advertisements—printed on them.
The casing, known as E-Z Mark Nojax, was developed by the Chicago-based Viskase Corp., and several hot dog makers are considering using it. A message is printed in reverse lettering on the inside of the casing, which is wrapped around a heated hot dog, tattooing the frank with the message. The casing is then removed and discarded. Viskase envisions the day when fans at, say, Wrigley Field will be munching on dogs that read GO CUBS! or perhaps more likely, buy chevy trucks. "The length of the message is limited only by the length of the hot dog," says Viskase spokesman Brian Samuels.
Frankly, even some concessionaires think the billboard dog may be too commercial. "It's a little gauche, isn't it?" says John Morley, vice-president of operations for Harry M. Stevens, the caterer for several big-league stadiums. "There are certain lines I don't think we would cross. I can see a New Yorker looking at his hot dog and saying, 'Hey, buddy, what are you trying to sell me?' and throwing it back in the vendor's face."
JUST SAY NYET
Mercifully, a 21-game exhibition tour of Soviet club teams through the NHL ended on Jan. 9. The competition was unexciting and attendance was soft; games against the New York Islanders and New York Rangers drew only 5,514 and 5,697 fans, respectively. The NHL Players Association was reaping the profits, yet NHL regulars too often yielded ice time to minor leaguers. And many of the games were nasty. Stick-wielding Soviets injured three Red Wings and boiled the blood of Detroit coach Jacques Demers.
NHL president John Ziegler meddled in the series, requesting that the Buffalo Sabres not play Alexander Mogilny, a Soviet defector, in their game against Dynamo. Mogilny sat. Hard-line Toronto owner Harold Ballard at first refused to let a Dynamo-Maple Leaf game go on in Maple Leaf Gardens and then threatened to start it at 2 a.m. Ballard later relented, but charged $50 a ticket.
Actually, that's not unreasonable for a good farce.
Schultz and the presidents triumphed.
THEY SAID IT
•Abe Lemons, 67-year-old Oklahoma City University basketball coach, after being asked when had he made his decision to retire at the end of this season: "When I saw my team play."
•Roger Reid, BYU basketball coach, on what he expects from his players: "If they feel good about how hard they work, and go in and throw up a little bit after a game, that's all I ask."