The NCAA gets even tougher on athletes' academics
Orange County, Calif., the arch-conservative home of the John Wayne Airport and the Nixon library, seems an unlikely place for a revolution, but that's more or less what happened at last week's NCAA Convention in Anaheim. The upheaval followed a similar assault on the status quo at last year's convention, where long-neglectful university presidents finally pushed through measures that allowed them to gain some control over their runaway athletic departments.
The uprising in Anaheim involved Proposition 48, the nine-year-old measure that rules an incoming freshman ineligible for varsity competition unless he has a 2.0 grade point average and either a 700 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test or a 17 on the American College Test. This year the 44-member Presidents Commission sought to toughen Prop 48 with three changes: increasing the minimum GPA to 2.5 while instituting a sliding test-score index under which higher-than-minimum test scores would enable an athlete to play despite a GPA lower than 2.5; increasing the required number of college preparatory courses from 11 to 13; and insisting that college athletes complete at least 25% of their degree requirements by their third year, 50% by the fourth and 75% by the fifth.
The proposals passed overwhelmingly, but not without predictions by opponents that the new regulations would disproportionately affect black students. "After you have made it impossible for so many of these kids to get into your colleges, then your teams will not be as attractive to fans and to television," said E.M. Jones, Grambling's faculty representative. "Then you will undo what you have done here today."
In seeming support of Jones's point, data released by the NCAA's research department indicate that almost four of every 10 freshman football and basketball players who met the Prop 48 requirements would have been ineligible in 1988 had the new standards then been in effect. For example, Billy Owens barely avoided becoming a Prop 48 victim when he entered Syracuse in 1988; under the new rules, he'd have been ineligible. However, other NCAA data suggest that students will adjust to the new standards. When Prop 48 took effect in '86, there was a drop in the number of blacks who received football and basketball scholarships, but by '88 the number of blacks on scholarships had almost returned to pre-Prop 48 levels. And the graduation rate of black football and basketball players had improved dramatically.
The new legislation is intended to put pressure on parents, teachers and coaches to take care of business earlier in an athlete's career. The hope is that athletes will no longer be allowed to slide along academically, and instead will receive the sort of education that too often has been denied them.
—WILLIAM F. REED
Cyclist Mo Manley battles MS in her Olympic quest
Maureen (Mo) Manley had a decision to make. Manley, the silver medalist in the women's individual road race at the 1991 U.S. cycling championships, was just behind the leaders in the first stage of a road race in Europe in September. "I came up a climb," she says. "There were two ways to go: straight or left. I couldn't sec the pack, so I figured they'd turned left. So I turned left. But the road I took was dirt and I wiped out. I got up, but after the race I decided this wasn't working."
Precisely what wasn't working, and why Manley was unable to tell the difference between dirt and pavement, was unclear. "My vision had bothered me at the World Championships in August," Manley says. "I hoped it would go away." After wiping out in September, Manley went home to Boulder, Colo. "I had all kinds of blood tests, eye tests, but everything was coming up normal. Finally I had an MRI, which showed that I had multiple sclerosis."
Scott Warren, coach of the TGI Friday's team Manley rides for, says, "In many ways we were relieved to know what we were up against. Mo is very driven. That's what will allow her to achieve her goals despite this."
Manley has attacked MS, a degenerative disease of the central nervous system, as aggressively as she trains. Biofeedback has helped control the stress, which aggravates her symptoms, and a nutritional program has bolstered her immune system. Her vision is improving, and she has recently returned to training. "She's a little behind," says Warren, "but there's plenty of time for her to catch up. We have to take it day by day."
Manley still intends to compete in Barcelona. "I won't be out there racing if my balance is off or my vision is affected," she says. "I wouldn't subject myself or the other riders to that. It's so different than how it used to be, though. I used to push no matter how tired I was, but now I have to do it another way; I have to pull back if the symptoms get bad." But, she adds, "I feel in my heart I can do it."
Missing the Mark
A study wrongly suggests that women will outpace men
In last week's issue of the British science journal Nature, Brian J. Whipp and Susan A. Ward, physiologists at the UCLA School of Medicine, wrote that women may outrun men by the middle of the next century.
Whipp and Ward charted the progress of world running records over the past 70 years and got a series of straight, ascending lines showing that women's marks had improved at a greater rate than had men's. Freely extrapolating, they concluded that women could surpass men before the year 2050 in the sprints, and by 1998 in the marathon. "This is not me talking," Whipp told The New York Times, "it's the data."
Data don't talk, but they do deceive. Whipp and Ward's analysis flies in the face of earlier, more intelligent research.
In the 1970s, Ernst Jokl, a professor of sports medicine at the University of Kentucky, graphed the progression of many records and found not straight lines but curves that flattened as they neared human ultimates.
And flattening is just what has taken place in men's track. The men's marathon record has improved only a minute and 43 seconds since 1970, from 2:08:33 to 2:06:50. But the women's record has dropped more than 40 minutes, from 3:02:53 to Ingrid Kristiansen's 2:21:06. The explanation seems clear. Until the '70s, women were thought unable to run distances safely. When they were finally allowed to race, they quickly chopped into the men's lead on virtually all records.
But ascending isn't catching. Real differences of biochemistry account for the superiority of men's records. In almost every track event, women's best times are now within 8% to 10% of men's, and the acceleration of women's records appears to have leveled off. Kristiansen's 2:21:06 is about 10% slower than men's record holder Belaine Densimo's 2:06:50, and her mark seems unlikely to be drastically improved. It is an insult to her and to all future female champions to expect much more.
Panhandler No More
New York City catches up with the Joneses
The last time boxer Roy Jones was in one of the world's mega-cities, he got mugged. That city was Seoul, in 1988, when Jones, the U.S.'s 156-pounder, had his Olympic gold medal swiped. It was last seen hanging from the neck of Park Si Hun, a South Korean whom Jones had battered for three rounds while three of the five judges were petting their Seeing Eye dogs. Jones took no such chance last Friday night during his first visit to New York City.
Before coming up from Pensacola, Fla., where he has been fighting in relative obscurity as a professional, Jones had been warned of New York's less savory aspects. "They told me it was dirty and ugly and dangerous," said the undefeated 23-year-old junior middleweight. Jones then went out and hit Jorge Vaca, a former welterweight champion, on the chin with a gold medal left hook and knocked him stiff at 1:45 of the first round. "Hey, they lied to me," Jones said with a smile after his 16th knockout in as many fights, "I enjoyed New York."
Jones's latest big-city performance, at Madison Square Garden's new Paramount theater, proved he has lost none of the speed and power that made him the most impressive fighter in Seoul. "When we came home, we were in no hurry," says Roy Jones Sr., better known as Big Roy. Little Roy's father, manager and trainer. "Boys don't win world championships, men do. Roy was the youngest boxer cm his Olympic team. We went back to Pensacola to give him time to become a man. Roy's plan isn't just to win a title; it's to keep one for a long time."
After the Olympics, Roy Jr. insisted that his father also be his trainer, despite the boxing axiom that father-son relationships never work. "I've heard all of that." scoffs Big Roy, "and then every story I read about some famous manager tells how he has become like a father to his fighter. I don't have to become nothing. I already am his father."
OWENS: DAMIAN STROHMEYER
Under the new NCAA rules, Owens would have lost a year at Syracuse.
MANLEY: JOAN DWYER
Manley's illness has not derailed her hopes for an Olympic medal.
KRISTIANSEN: PETER READ MILLER
Kristiansen's marathon record may approach the ultimate for women.
JONES: WILL HART
The bright lights of the big city didn't distract Jones (right) on Friday night.
WALTER IOOSS JR.
NORMAN CHAD Coach Potatoes
I've done it all and seen it all as a sportswriter. I've been to the Penn Relays, high school football games, $5,000 claiming races at Suffolk Downs, Josè Cuervo beach volleyball championships and Putt-Putt tournaments. I've watched the pro bowlers' tour on TV. I've led several publications to innumerable journalistic world titles, and I've been named Sportswriter of the Year by my family a record 14 times. But now I'm thinking it might be time to walk away from it all, to sidestep the constant deadline pressure and just kick back for a little while.
Naturally, I've contacted NBC Sports for a studio job. I figure I can be an on-air sports-writing analyst, stay current with the field and then, if the interest is there, maybe return to a nice sportswriting job.
That's the way it's done these days, right?
Here's the current NBC scorecard: Bill Parcells just completed his first season as an NFL studio analyst/coach-in-waiting. Bill Walsh just completed his third season as an NFL game analyst/genius-in-waiting. Bob Ferry just began his second season as an NBA studio analyst/executive-in-waiting. Previously, Bobby Beathard spent one season as an NFL studio analyst/executive-in-waiting, and Pat Riley spent one season as an NBA studio analyst/coach-in-waiting.
"This is pretty much a standard routine at NBC," Bob Costas said, only half jesting, on NBA Showtime recently, after NBA game analyst/coach-in-waiting Mike Fratello was asked by broadcast partner Marv Albert if he had been contacted by the New Jersey Nets. Fratello said he had not been.
Of course, Parcells said on NFL Live he hadn't been contacted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, then admitted on a later show that he had lied because of a "gentlemen's agreement of confidentiality" with Buc owner Hugh Culverhouse.
So when exactly are we to believe Parcells on anything?
(Incidentally, contrary to several press reports, I have not been contacted by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal or Weekly Reader regarding a writing position. Also, I stand by my refusal to work for any Gannett newspaper. However, I have contacted USA Today and asked that it change the colors on its weather map.)
The truth of the matter is that the truth of the matter is impossible to decipher anymore. NBC Sports executive producer Terry O'Neil collects high-profile ex-coaches who act as news gatherers and newsmakers. These former and future coaches bring a lot of baggage, a hidden agenda—and a desire to work again on the sideline. How can you trust the opinions of anyone who is positioning himself for a job in the industry that he is assessing?
For fellows like Parcells and Walsh, TV work serves as a video rèsumè.
(I would like to amend a statement I made earlier regarding my job status: The New York Times did, indeed, call me, but only seeking collection on my Sunday subscription. I declined to pay, citing "a change of heart." Heck, that paper doesn't even have any comics, and they want a buck-fifty for it?)
These days, it pays to be out of work. The unemployment line for coaches forms outside 30 Rockefeller Plaza. O'Neil runs a Kelly Girl agency for ex-somebodies: last fired, first hired. And when Parcells or Walsh is on the air, you half expect an 800 number to crawl across the bottom of the screen, advertising his services.
O'Neil has said that weighing the analytical benefits of these former coaches with their potential conflicts of interest is a "trade-off." It often looks more like a sellout. Either way, it's bad business for viewers. Parcells's studio work, for instance, has been flat and unengaging. He's disingenuous at best, discreditable at worst. And NBC treats the whole rumor-a-day business like a parlor game in which guests are left guessing as to what's true and what's not.
(O.K., O.K., I have agreed in principle to seven-day-a-week home delivery of The New York Times, plus a highlights video of the breakup of the Soviet Union. In exchange I become the paper's Paris bureau chief, pending installation of a company-paid satellite dish at my Left Bank flat.)
By the way, if NBC does call, I sure hope I get along with Bob, Will and Juice.
[Thumb Up]To Penn State men's basketball coach Bruce Parkhill. All 25 seniors who have played for him in his nine seasons at Penn State have earned diplomas. The latest is James Barnes, last season's MVP, who graduated last Saturday.
[Thumb Down]To the Los Angeles Dodgers, for advertising their 1991 highlights video this way: "Relive all the drama of the Dodgers' '91 Western Division Championship." This will come as news to the Atlanta Braves.
[Thumb Down]To the Topps Company, Inc., for retouching its card of Los Angeles Kings goalie Daniel Berthiaume. Part of a sign for Upper Deck, a Topps competitor, appears in the background of Berthiaume's photo, so Topps changed a P that was visible to a B.
The Columbus Chill of the East Coast Hockey League is using irreverent advertising to attract young fans. One commercial urging fans to take a Chill player home for the holidays showed two players shoveling food into their mouths and belching. According to Larry Aull, president of the Chill's public relations firm, "The Christmas video was something that we wanted to give back to the community."
THEY SAID IT
Pat Williams, Orlando Magic general manager, an his team's 7-27 record: "We can't win at home. We can't win on the road. As general manager, I just can't figure out where else to play."
Sandy Alderson, Oakland Athletics vice-president, on the New York Yankees' signing of former Athletic Mike Gallego—the Yankees' third second baseman: "They're all set for when Ted Williams comes back."
Replay: 10 Years Ago in Sports Illustrated
The cover of the Jan. 18, 1982, issue featured Walter Iooss Jr.'s classic shot of Dwight Clark catching the Joe Montana touchdown pass that gave the San Francisco 49ers a last-minute, 28-27 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game. Said Clark, "It was over my head. I thought, Oh-oh, I can't go that high. Something got me up there. It must have been God or something."