EXPANSION AND DIVISIONS
The college sports world could be in for a major shake-up. The first tremor was the Big Ten's announcement in December that it would invite Penn State to join the conference. Next came Notre Dame's decision in February to break with the College Football Association (CFA) and cut a separate, five-year, $38 million deal with NBC for the rights to Fighting Irish home games starting in 1991. Then last week the presidents of the 10 SEC schools voted to expand their conference, probably to 12 members and perhaps to 14, as soon as suitable candidates can be found. Schools that might be courted include Miami, Florida State, South Carolina, Arkansas and Louisville.
Although the SEC set no timetable for expansion—"It could happen over a period of several months, or years, or more," says commissioner Roy Kramer—the eventual benefits are obvious. NCAA rules allow a Division I football conference with 12 or more members (no such conference yet exists) to split into divisions and hold a championship game that doesn't count against the regular-season limit of 11 games per team. Such a title game would be a huge money-maker for the SEC.
In addition, depending on which schools are added, an expanded SEC could appeal to a geographically broader audience and thereby command heftier TV contracts. The conference is locked into the CFA's five-year, $300 million deal with ABC and ESPN through 1995, but after that the SEC might well negotiate a combined football and basketball package for itself. Adding a couple more perennial Top 20 schools such as Miami and Florida State would only enhance the SEC's appeal.
There are drawbacks. The SEC already is strong in football, and the addition of the Hurricanes or the Seminoles would make schedules even more rigorous for conference members. Tough intraconference competition is one reason no SEC team since Georgia in 1980 has won a national football title.
And one might ask why, say, Florida State, a football independent that writes its own schedule and doesn't have to share its considerable gridiron revenues with anyone, would surrender those benefits to join the SEC. The answer: stability and shared revenues in all sports. "You don't just say no to a conference that's been as prestigious as the SEC," says Seminole athletic director Bob Goin. "The next move is the SEC's. If we're one of the teams they ask, then we'd definitely look into it."
The college landscape may soon be notably different. "The Penn State-Big Ten deal got everybody thinking about bigger conferences with division structure," says LSU chancellor Bud Davis. Predicts Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles, "There will be dramatic changes nationwide in conference alignment over the next 12 months."
REINVENTING THE WHEEL
As part of an international charity effort, John Bowes, chairman of Kransco, the parent company of Wham-O, which makes Frisbees, shipped 7,000 of the plastic disks to Sister Dominique, a nun working at an orphanage in Angola. Last week Bowes received a thank-you message from Sister Dominique: "The dishes you sent are wonderful. We eat all our meals off them. And the most amazing thing happened. Some of the children are throwing them as sort of a game. This may be an idea for you."
Last year, while investigating possible race fixing and drug trafficking at Finger Lakes Race Track in Canandaigua, N.Y., the FBI spent nearly $5,000 to buy an undercover racehorse. The bureau sent in the horse and an agent posing as the horse's shady, high-rolling owner. "It was a way to give us a good look at the track and give us credibility there," says Robert Langford, special agent in charge of the FBI's Buffalo office. "We had good results."
Actually, the horse ran almost too well. The FBI had intentionally selected an undistinguished thoroughbred who wouldn't draw much attention and might attract someone looking to set up a fix. But according to bureau officials, the undercover horse finished in the money in about half of its races and on at least one occasion came home first. "When we started winning, it kind of got us a little nervous," says Langford.
For whatever reason, the horse didn't attract any fixers. However, the agent-owner did come upon information about an alleged fixing incident; as a result, a jockey, two trainers and the former wife of one of the trainers will go on trial next month on charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to fix a race.
A 5-year-old mare named Zachregard seems to fit the description of the unidentified equine agent, but the bureau says only that its horse has been retired from FBI duty and sold. Says special agent Dale Anderson, "We wish him [sic] well. He served as a real good representative of the bureau."
DON'T CALL ME, I'LL CALL YOU
In the new book Bad Dates, in which author Carole Markin asks celebrities to describe their worst romantic encounters, Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller claims that his worst date isn't even worth mentioning compared to that of his late Cleveland Indians teammate Jeff Heath. As Feller recounts it, he, Heath and other Indians players noticed an attractive blonde, about 5'5" and 125 pounds, in the lobby of a Washington, D.C., hotel one day while on a road trip. Heath was bold enough to ask the woman out, but he made the mistake of getting a tad too forward with her in her hotel room. "First thing he knew she threw him on the floor, got him into a head lock [and] a step-over toe hold, kicked him in the rear end and walked out of the room," Feller recalls. "The next day he picked up the morning paper and saw that she was a world champion woman wrestler who was here defending her title that night."
These days most schools under NCAA investigation almost reflexively get rid of coaches or athletic officials who might be implicated in wrongdoing. That's because such housecleaning can lead to lighter NCAA sanctions.
But according to NCAA director of enforcement Chuck Smrt, the mildness of the sanctions imposed on Clemson's football program last week—a year's probation, with no ban on postseason or television appearances—was not Clemson's reward for forcing coach Danny Ford to resign in January. The penalties were minor because Clemson cooperated with investigators and because the NCAA found no pattern of rule breaking (the only significant violations were that in 1985 a player took cash from an undetermined source and distributed it to a teammate and that in 1987 a booster gave that second player $50).
Ford was not even mentioned in the NCAA report, raising the question once again of why Clemson squeezed him out, given his popularity among Tiger fans and his 96-29-4 record. The answer is that even if he didn't personally violate rules, Ford placed athletics ahead of education and felt that he, not Clemson president Max Lennon or athletic director Bobby Robinson, should have the power to determine what was best for the Tiger football program (SCORECARD, Jan. 29). No respectable university can tolerate a coach who thinks he's above the school president.
That's not to say that another school won't hire Ford. Under Ford's buyout agreement, Clemson will pay him until at least 1992 if he doesn't accept another college head coaching job, and he could take home $1 million from the deal. Yet after the NCAA report came out last week, Ford, saying that his name had been cleared, declared, "If there is a school out there looking for a good head coach, I'm available."
Of all the ill-considered boxing comebacks lately, Jerry Quarry's may be the most comically bad. Except for a brief return to the ring in 1983, Quarry, 45, a onetime heavyweight contender, hasn't fought since 1977. Nevada and California, citing concerns for his safety, have already told him they won't grant him a license to fight. Of late, Quarry's backers, following the unfortunate example of Aaron Pryor (SCORECARD, May 21), have been trying to schedule a fight for him in Wisconsin, a state with no boxing commission. Two weeks ago, however, Wisconsin refused to grant a permit for a June 9 bout in Lake Geneva between Quarry and club fighter Paul Bradshaw because the promoters had filed an incomplete application.
Last week the promoters said that Quarry wouldn't be able to fight for a while anyway because—darned luck!—he had been struck near the right eye by the door of a kitchen cabinet and had suffered a bad gash. That story turned out to be a blatant cover-up: Quarry had indeed suffered a bad gash—during what the Walworth County, Wis., sheriff's department calls "a mutual combative situation" involving Quarry and John Ellis, one of the promoters. Ellis, a former pro fighter of little note, allegedly punched Quarry during a disagreement and inflicted the wound, which required nine stitches to close.
Take a hint, Jerry.
YOU'RE ALL HYPE, GOLIATH
Until this year there had never been much controversy surrounding the annual Jumping Frog Jubilee, a whimsical event inspired by the Mark Twain story "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" and held at the Calaveras County, Calif., fairgrounds near Angels Camp. But in January, Andy Koffman of Seattle, an importer of exotic wildlife, announced that he was entering several Goliath frogs from Africa in the jubilee. These frogs are as much as a yard long when fully extended, and Koffman claimed that his could jump more than three times farther than any American bullfrog in the event.
Organizers fretted that their contest would be no contest, and owners of rival frogs feared that Koffman's sharp-toothed, carnivorous Goliaths might literally eat up the field. Nevertheless, in March, Jubilee officials agreed to let Koffman enter his Goliaths.
The jubilee was finally held three weeks ago, and we're pleased to report that Koffman's three Goliath frogs finished a humbling 60th, 62nd and 63rd in a field of 63 finalists and didn't lay a tooth on another frog. The winner was a one-pound California-born bullfrog named Help Mr. Wizard, who in his three allotted hops jumped a total of 19'3", defeating Koffman's best leaper by 11'5".
A TREAT FOR THE DUTCH
With play in the world cup set to begin this week, British oddsmakers have made Italy a 3-to-1 favorite and the U.S. and the United Arab Emirates the longest of long shots, at 2,000 to 1. No serious handicapper gives the U.S., the U.A.E., Costa Rica, Egypt, Cameroon or South Korea much of a chance of surviving Round 1.
But it's no simple task to divine which two of the 24 Cup teams will reach the July 8 final in Rome—or even which 16 will advance to the second round. For example, on the Czech squad, which opens against the U.S. on June 10 in Florence, there has been dissension over the inclusion of stars Lubos Kubik and Ivo Knoflicek, who defected to the West in 1988 and missed all the qualifying games. Even the mighty Italians could be vulnerable. They've scored only twice in seven international warmup games and are traditionally nervous starters.
That said, look for middle-of-the-pack teams Austria, Belgium, Colombia, Czechoslovakia, Scotland, Sweden, Uruguay and Yugoslavia to reach the second round along with an elite eight of Argentina, Brazil, England, Holland, Italy, the Soviet Union, Spain and West Germany. The Cup champion should emerge from the elite group because though early World Cup games are often defensive, the team that wins the Cup must have striking power: e.g., Diego Maradona for Argentina in 1986, Paolo Rossi for Italy in '82 and so on back to Pelè and beyond.
The elite eight all have striking power. Spain features Emilio Butragueno, El Buitre, "the Vulture," who pounces on every opportunity; the U.S.S.R. has Oleg Protasov; England can turn to both Gary Lineker, the top scorer in the '86 Cup finals, and 23-year-old Paul Gascoigne, a.k.a. Gazza, whom some in England are calling the new Maradona. Argentina has the old (soon to be 30) Maradona, West Germany the duo of Jürgen Klinsmann and Thomas H‚Äö√†√∂¬¨√üssler, and Brazil both Romario and Careca. Italy can field a once again healthy (after a fracture of the right foot in December) Gianluca Vialli or recent discovery Salvatore Schillaci. Holland, 4 to 1 at the betting shop, has the most accomplished goal-scorer in the world, Marco Van Basten, and Ruud Gullit, he of the dreadlocks and the brilliant playmaking skill. Gullit appears to have overcome a nagging knee injury.
If the Cup were being played in any other country, Holland almost certainly would be favored. But because of the Germans' consistency over the years—they've made it to the final in five of the 13 previous World Cups—the coldly cerebral forecast puts West Germany against Italy in the final, with the home side the winner.
But who wants to be coldly cerebral? The final that soccer romantics, like me, would like most to see is Holland against Brazil. So let's make it a prediction: Given a fit Gullit, the Dutch defeat the Brazilians to win il Mondiale.
Two to watch: Van Basten (above) and Gullit.
THEY SAID IT
•Al LoCasale, Los Angeles Raider executive assistant, on L.A.'s reacquisition of former Navy running back Napoleon McCallum from the San Diego Chargers: "It's an unbelievable deal for us. When we traded him he was an ensign. Now we get him back as a lieutenant."
•Paul Mirabella, Milwaukee Brewers pitcher, describing a towering home run the Oakland A's Jose Canseco hit off him: "The homer had a crew of four and a meal in it."