Over the past three years the NFL, some 60% of whose players are black, ran its string of white head-coaching hires to 20. During the streak the Dallas Cowboys signed Barry Switzer, who had no pro experience and hadn't lifted a clipboard for nearly six years; the New York Jets chose Rich Kotite, who was fresh from leading the Philadelphia Eagles to seven straight losses; and the Carolina Panthers preferred Dom Capers, a soft-spoken, teaching-oriented, white defensive coordinator who turned the Pittsburgh Steeler defense into the second best in the league in 1994, to Tony Dungy, a soft-spoken, teaching-oriented black defensive coordinator who turned the Minnesota Viking defense into the best in the league in 1993.
It was encouraging to see the Eagles hire an African-American, San Francisco 49er defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes, last week. But Rhodes's hiring came the same day that the Los Angeles Raiders fired Art Shell, which left the league with the same number of black head coaches—two—as 37 months ago. Rhodes was the only black interviewee for the current vacancy in St. Louis, even though Dungy, Washington Redskin receivers coach Terry Robiskie and Buffalo Bill assistant head coach Elijah Pitts are qualified candidates. "We're concerned about this," says NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who lobbied behind the scenes on Rhodes's behalf. The pool of high-profile black assistants is small, but that's not an excuse, only another symptom of the problem. It may be time for Tagliabue to browbeat his owners into reserving more spots on all staffs for black assistants. Otherwise, the NFL risks not joining the 20th century until that century is over.
Grading the Make
Judd Kessler, a seventh-grader at Hunter College High in New York City, is a straight-A student, a member of the math team and a participant in student government. He's also an avid basketball fan who plays forward on his rec league team. His love of the game led Judd, a 5'2" 12-year-old, to draft a modest proposal that found its way to the SCORECARD desk recently. Mindful of colleges' constant struggle to reconcile athletic success with academic excellence, Judd proposes that basketball's rules committee agree to make the point value of a basket scored equal the scoring player's GPA. Shots made from beyond the current three-point line would be worth 1½ times the shooter's GPA. As Judd writes, "Eventually, three-point-eight may become a greater recruiting lure than six-eleven."
Judd's plan would certainly shake up college hoops. A team could find itself trailing by, say, 5.9 points with seconds left and still have a shot at victory. Just get the ball to that little guy with the 4.0 and let him go for six from downtown. "It would help put some of the emphasis back on academics," says Judd, who admits he had a more personal concern in mind when he first conceived of his new scoring system. "I want to play basketball when I get to college," he says, "but I'm not that great. I am pretty smart, though."
An Unstuffed Shirt
Since his death last week of heart failure at age 85, three-time Wimbledon winner Fred Perry has been eulogized for a number of quintessentially British qualities, including the ability, when asked what was his most memorable match, to offer this desert-dry reply: "Britain versus U.S.A. in Beverly Hills. Perry and [Charlie] Chaplin against [U.S. pro Ellsworth] Vines and [Groucho] Marx. Result, mayhem."
But one trait knew no nationality, and that was the competitiveness that helped Perry win those Wimbledon titles in the mid-1930s. Dick Savitt, who won at the All-England Club in '51, recalls how Perry, then retired, espied him in the locker room before the final that year. Remarking on Savitt's anxiety, Perry said, "You know what I used to say before I'd play? I'd say, 'That poor bastard has to play Fred Perry.' "
Eager to purge from Madison Square Garden the loutish behavior that can make attending a hockey game in Manhattan an R-rated experience, the New York Rangers announced in 1989 that they were stepping up efforts to curb profanity in the stands. "Guest relations" representatives now patrol the infamous upper level seats, upbraiding fans whose language is too colorful, and threatening them with an escort out of the building. In light of this bowdlerization, the Rangers began the truncated 1995 season with a curious form of fan entertainment. During stops in the action, as computer graphics on the scoreboard slowly pieced together a portrait of some hockey great, fans were asked to guess his identity while The Who posed the musical question, Who are you? from the band's hit of the same name.
The only problem: At the first few Ranger games, Garden regulars heard the P.A. system playing an unexpurgated version, in which The Who ask, "Who the —— are you?"
After 22 years as the Montreal Expos' publicist, Richard Griffin has left to join The Toronto Star as a baseball columnist. The Star's gain figures to be the rest of the newspaper industry's loss, for Griffin's wit regularly helped columnists throughout North America enliven their copy. The following are among Griffin's greatest hits.
After umpires converged on the mound at the insistence of Los Angeles Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda to pat down the flaky Dominican righthander, Pascual Perez, for any foreign substances: "That's not fair. Pascual is a foreign substance."
Promoting a rare weekday afternoon game against Los Angeles, featuring Expo ace Dennis Martinez against the Dodgers' Ramon Martinez: "Be with us for the return of the two-Martinez business lunch."
On Montreal's 1987 spring training roster, which included several hurlers just coming off either major surgery or detoxification: "If the Canadiens are the Habs, our pitching staff is the Rehabs."
On rookie catcher Nelson Santovenia's falling down in the aisle of an airplane, knocking a glass of whiskey into Griffin's lap: "It's like my own version of Catcher in the Rye."
Frog in His Throat
Bryan Fortay is the former University of Miami quarterback who, claiming he was promised a starting position at Quarterback U, filed a $10 million suit against the school after he wound up picking splinters out of his derriere in 1989 and '90. Last week The Miami Herald published the Fortays' recollections of conversations in which, the Fortays say, various Hurricane coaches made promises that went unkept. (The Fortays and their lawyer deny that their accounts are based on tape recordings, as the university's attorneys have claimed.)
The most revealing purported exchange involved Hurricane offensive coordinator Gary Stevens, who's now with the Miami Dolphins, and Peter Fortay, Bryan's father. Hearing of the Fortays' interest in Michigan, Stevens says, "They have no system, no clue. How many QBs do they have in the NFL?"
"Damn good school, though," Peter responds.
"He has a god-given gift to throw the football," Stevens replies. "You want him to develop into a first-round draft choice or learn to dissect frogs?"
Perhaps you've heard of the Chicago athlete, accustomed to competition at the highest level of his game, who left the Windy City to try his hand at another sport, one he hadn't played in years. No, we're not referring to that smooth-pated former Bull—we're talking about Cub relief pitcher Randy Myers. Tired of cooling his heels during the baseball strike, Myers has lately been kicking them up on the basketball court at Clark College, a juco in Vancouver, Wash. Myers, 32, played baseball at Clark in 1981 and '82 but never went out for hoops. He hadn't even played in high school. After enrolling in business courses this winter, Myers showed up for a few workouts and won the 12th spot on the roster. It's a long way from Wrigley Field, but in one respect the 6'1" Myers, who at week's end was averaging 1.3 points per game for the 14-7 Penguins, should feel at home. "Randy tends to get in toward the end of the game, when we have things sewn up," says Clark athletic director Roger Daniels.
Yes, but does he set the save?
STEVE LINDSELL (CANTONA)
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH (RODMAN)
"Beyond the hair, tattoos and earrings, he's just like you and me," says Bob Hill, coach of San Antonio Spur Dennis Rodman. Well, maybe not just like us, but a lot like French soccer player Eric Cantona, the Manchester United star who was suspended for the rest of England's Premier League season for kickboxing a fan on Jan. 24. So far Rodman's forays into the stands have been in pursuit of loose balls, but the question remains: Are Rodman and Cantona boors or just misunderstood artistes? You make the call.
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
Ohio State has placed a coach on administrative leave after discovering evidence of improper benefits in the Buckeye synchronized swimming program.
They Said It
Student at New Jersey's Manchester Regional High and wrestler in the state's first all-female varsity match, after pinning Hawthorne's Catrina Carrizales: "I was pumped up for this match. I didn't want to lose to a girl."
French poet Rimbaud
American poetess Madonna
Example of fineable offense
Punching own goalkeeper
Refusing to leave court
Profanity at coach
Bag of ice onto court
"Deep down I am not a cog, content to play a small part."
"If society makes me do something, it just makes me feel caged."
Result of foray into stands
Cleat mark on chest of 20-year-old man
Lost teeth by 43-year-old woman