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Original Issue


Now It Can Be Told

Remember how, in the 1980s, Miami football coaches and players vehemently denied suggestions that theirs was an outlaw school? Well, what else would you call that palm-fringed institution now that former Hurricane safety Bennie Blades has spilled the beans? Last week Blades, who currently plays for the Detroit Lions, told the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel that he and five other starters on Miami's '87 national championship team—wide receivers and fellow NFLers Michael Irvin, Brett Perriman and brother Brian Blades as well as safeties Darrell Fullington and Selwyn Brown—received illicit cash payments from sports agent Mel Levine. Bennie put his own take at more than $30,000 and said he and Brian used the money to buy Toyota MR2s, one black and one red.

Such payments are prohibited by the NCAA, but because of that organization's four-year statute of limitations, no violations would be punishable unless evidence was found of a continuing pattern of wrongdoing. But the question is, why didn't anyone lower the boom in 1987? A lot of Miami players tooled around in fancy cars, but coach Jimmy Johnson seemed satisfied after the school conducted a perfunctory investigation, much as former Washington coach Don James appeared oblivious last season to the fact that his quarterback, Billy Joe Hobert, owned three cars. Like many other college coaches, Johnson and James were lauded by their admirers for their attention to detail, but obviously their attention sometimes wandered.

As for Levine, he wound up representing the players named by Bennie Blades, but that was before he filed for bankruptcy in 1991 and pleaded guilty in July to 12 counts of federal bank and tax fraud. The sordid story leaps from the Sun-Sentinel's pages: how, according to Bennie, Levine kept $160,000 of Bennie's signing bonus with the Lions; how, according to Levine, he did so as "street justice" because Brian Blades owed him $200,000; how, in response, Bennie said, "Put me in a room with [Levine] for 10 minutes, and I'll give you street justice"; how, according to Levine and Bennie, a Miami player once stormed into Levine's office, put a gun to Levine's head and demanded money the player believed the agent owed him.

Haven't we heard tales like this before? Yes. There is, for one, the saga of those other notorious agents who paid college players in the '80s, Norby Walters and Lloyd Bloom. By grim coincidence, they reappeared in the news last "week after Bloom was found shot to death in his Malibu, Calif., home in what looked like an organized-crime hit.

One more nugget from Bennie Blades: Some of Levine's illicit payments to Miami players, he said, were handled by then Miami law student Rich DeLuca. DeLuca wouldn't comment, but his lawyer said that DeLuca, who worked for Levine, was "duped into being a conduit." And what is DeLuca doing now? He's a sports agent, of course.

Major Example

Why should anyone care that there were two more bench-clearing brawls in baseball last week? A melee between the Oakland Athletics and the Milwaukee Brewers caused a 25-minute game delay and sent Brewer third baseman B.J. Surhoff to the hospital for four stitches in the upper lip, and a donnybrook almost as ugly took place between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Here's one reason to care. The scene: a Manhattan T-ball game. Called out at second base, six-year-old Brian whales away at an opposing infielder and has to be led off by his manager. "Brian, why did you do that?" the manager asks. Replies Brian, "That's what they do in the majors."

True story. And a sad one.

Kiss, Kiss

"Never, never. He can live 200 years." That's what Primo Nebiolo, president of the IAAF, the world governing body for track and field, said in July of U.S. sprinter Butch Reynolds's chances of getting any of the $27.3 million he was awarded by a U.S. court for damages related to the IAAF's improper handling of a Reynolds drug suspension. Reynolds still has 171 years to go—he's a mere 29—but last week a U.S. magistrate in Alexandria, Va., attached $691,667 that a U.S. company, Mobil, owes the London-based IAAF under a support contract and ordered that the money be put in escrow for Reynolds. Reynolds won't get the loot until all appeals are exhausted, but because other U.S. companies also make payments to the IAAF, he stands to wind up with a lot more money.

Two weeks ago, in a peace offering of sorts, Nebiolo kissed Reynolds on both cheeks during an awards ceremony at the World Championships. You might say that last week Reynolds gave him a smack in return.

Damaged Goods

The cellar-dwelling New York Mets have made a positive personnel move: They've announced that leftfielder Vince Coleman will never again play for them.

Coleman had fouled the Mets' chemistry and image even before he was charged with a felony after injuring three people when he set off an explosive device in a Dodger Stadium parking lot on July 24 (SCORECARD, Aug. 2). In less than three years with the Mets, Coleman also pushed a manager, cursed at a coach, was targeted in a rape investigation that ended with no charges being brought, and hit Dwight Gooden with a golf club he was swinging in the clubhouse.

Whatever the outcome of the L.A. case—Coleman has an Oct. 8 court date—look for the Mets to invoke the good-citizenship clause in the standard player's contract and refuse to pay him for 1994, the last year of his four-year, $11.95 million deal. And look for Coleman to file a grievance, as LaMarr Hoyt did in 1987 when the San Diego Padres sought to void his contract after his third drug-related brush with the law. Hoyt won his case when an arbitrator ruled that the Padres didn't heed warning signs about Hoyt's behavior. Also, seven-time drug offender Steve Howe had his ban from the game overturned in arbitration by linking his drug use to a hyperactivity condition. But Coleman's case differs because 1) he injured others, and 2) it is clear that he alone was responsible for his actions.

The 31-year-old Coleman may have misbehaved himself right out of baseball, never mind that he hit .279 this season with 38 stolen bases in 92 games. "We had thousands of phone calls alter the |parking-lot] incident," a Met official told SI's Tom Verducci. "Thousands. Two were in support of him. We tried to trade him last year, and there was no interest. I don't know who'd want him now."

Berkeley Buzz

When California athletic director Bob Bockrath resigned last week to take the same job at Texas Tech, it was only natural to look for a link between that event and Bockrath's firing in February of Bear basketball coach Lou Campanelli for abusive treatment of his players. Just six days before Bockrath's resignation, Campanelli had filed a $5 million lawsuit against Cal, charging that the administration violated due process by not properly warning him that it disapproved of his treatment of players.

In fact, Cal insiders say Bockrath is leaving for Lubbock because after two years at the school he still didn't feel at home in Berkeley. He was assailed by some media commentators and alumni for sacking Campanelli as well as for letting football coach Bruce Snyder bolt last year to Arizona State. But Cal vice-chancellor Dan Boggan supported the decision to fire Campanelli, whose berating of his players was excessive even by college coaching standards. Whether Bockrath went about it the right way is for the courts to determine, but getting rid of Campanelli may have been his brightest accomplishment at Berkeley.








Very Mixed Doubles

Warming up for the U.S. Open, USA Network's John McEnroe and CBS's Mary Carilo, who both hail from Douglaston, N.Y. and who teamed to win the 1977 French Open mixed doubles title, played serve-and-volley over Mac's contention that Carillo and other women shouldn't be TV analysts for men's tennis.

McEnroe: "I don't know any women that really know the men's game. At the same time, I'm not sure the men would really know the women's game. I mean, how do they know exactly how the-women are feeling certain times of the month, say?"

Carillo: "It's kind of hard to believe we actually shared the same water supply for the first 18 years of our lives. I'm a 36-year-old liberal Democrat with two kids, and he's sort of the young republican from hell."

McEnroe: "The people at CBS, obviously, they like what she does, and God bless her."

Carillo: "I can't recall him ever saying anything that bounced off my face because I didn't have enough testosterone to understand."

McEnroe: "Maybe they want ratings, I don't know. Or maybe they-wanted to sell the most Perrier."

Carillo: "He's sort of got that whole Archie Bunker, Ralph Kramden, Cliff Cloven, white sock mentality."

Book Tie-in

Indiana Pacer forward Malik Sealy has put the infamous missing-play-book incident (SCORECARD, May 10) behind him—or at least onto fabric. Sealy, you'll recall, left his team play-book at New York's JFK airport during last spring's playoff series against the Knicks, only to have it end up in the hands of irreverent radio talk-show host Don Imus, who ridiculed him on the air. Overcoming his embarrassment, Sealy has designed a necktie with pictures of tiny play-books on it (right) for his clothing company, Malik Sealy XXI Inc., and even went on Imus's show to promote it.

They Wrote It

•Mike Downey in the Los Angeles Times: "New Baltimore Oriole part-owner Tom Clancy is hard at work on his new book: The Hunt for Mr. October."

•Scott Ostler in The San Francisco Chronicle: "Everyone seemed so surprised that the Pope outdrew the Rockies in Denver. They're forgetting that this is not an expansion Pope."

They Said It

•Aaron Sele, Boston Red Sox rookie pitcher, when asked what manager Butch Hobson told him during a late-inning visit to the mound: "He said he wanted to go home and watch The Andy Griffith Show."

•Bill Clinton (below), to National Endowment for the Humanities chairman Sheldon Hackney after Hackney hit an errant shot during a golf outing last week on Martha's Vineyard, Mass.: "I got a new idea. Try the fairway."