College basketball bigwigs don't like learning they can be
If there's ever an Olympics for control freaks, big-time college
basketball athletic directors and coaches should be on the
organizing committee. Few other groups show such a consistent
need to have things entirely their way.
The latest windbag to prove this point is Kentucky athletic
director C.M. Newton, who cried foul last week because two
Wildcats basketball players, Michael Bradley and Ryan Hogan,
decided to transfer. Said Newton, "It used to be when a young
person transferred, it was generally because they were in over
their head and chose to go to a program where they could play.
Now we're seeing a form of free agency. Guys might be unhappy,
so they say they'll try another program. Where is the sense of
loyalty to the program?" Newton griped that Bradley's and
Hogan's departures raised a "fairness issue," having come so
late in the recruiting season.
Newton's outrage begs a few questions. Where was his concern
over free agency when Heshimu Evans transferred from Manhattan
to Kentucky, where he became the Wildcats' second-leading scorer
last season? Where was fairness when Kentucky made it clear to
Roderick Rhodes that there was no place for him on the team,
forcing him to transfer to USC and sit out a year? As for
loyalty, how many times has a coach promised a player the world
while recruiting him, only to move on to another job that pays
better before that player sees a minute of college action?
Players have no such freedom of movement. If a kid wants to
transfer, his coach can refuse to let him out of his letter of
intent, forcing the player to sit out two years before he can
play again. That's what that sweetheart Bob Knight did to
Lawrence Funderburke nine years ago.
Coaches often commit more scholarships to recruits than they're
allowed. When that happens, some scrub invariably decides to
transfer out. Now that's loyalty to the program. West Virginia
coach Gale Catlett has already committed 16 scholarships to
players for next season, three over the NCAA limit. By the time
school starts in August three of those guys will be out of luck,
but that doesn't seem to bother Catlett. "If you ask me who my 13
players are going to be, I have no idea," he says. "I could
probably name nine or 10 of them. [Beyond that] I don't know."
So C.M., spare us the wailing and gnashing of teeth. The system
has been rigged against athletes for so long, it's a pleasure to
see things go the other way once in a while. --Greg Kelly
THE PATS STAND PAT
Patriots owner Bob Kraft turned his back on the most lucrative
stadium deal in NFL history last week, opting instead for one of
the worst. Kraft's agreement with Connecticut called for a $374
million stadium and gave the owner just about everything but
eternal life, but he exercised an escape clause to keep the club
in Foxboro, Mass.
After Kraft's announcement Connecticut governor John Rowland
threatened legal action and pledged his allegiance to the New
York Jets. But Kraft, 57, was hailed as a hero in his home state,
and that may have been worth more to him than the estimated $1
billion over 30 years in taxpayer-funded goodies Rowland had
offered. "His heart was never in it," a source close to Kraft
says. "He knows he never should have been down there in the first
Massachusetts officials, pressured by the state's business
leaders and NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, agreed to give
Kraft $70 million in infrastructure improvements if he builds a
privately funded $250 million stadium. Such an offer would be
laughed at by most owners, but Kraft apparently feared being
known as a Massachusetts Modell, a money-grubber with no sense
of history or civic duty. A longtime season-ticket holder who
was lauded as a savior when he bought the Patriots for $160
million in 1994, he spoke then of crying as a child when the
Braves moved from Boston to Milwaukee. He loved being loved by
Pats fans and had learned one thing since signing his pact with
Rowland: that love wouldn't make the 100-mile trip from Boston
In the end Kraft refused to be the guy who moved the Patriots
out of Massachusetts. He may yet become that guy--Bay State pols
have pulled the rug out from under him before--but don't bet on
it. The man's price has been set at more than $1 billion, and it
may be going up. On Friday in the Palm restaurant and on Sunday
at the Bruins' playoff game, local hero Kraft basked in the
ovations he got from his fellow Bostonians. --Gerry Callahan
New Find on Everest
A RIDDLE ON TOP OF THE WORLD
Armed with aerial photos, a metal detector and
global-positioning satellite gear, American alpinist Eric
Simonson and 15 others set off from Katmandu in March to attack
Mount Everest from the Tibetan side, hoping to solve one of
mountaineering's great mysteries: Did British adventurers George
Mallory and Andrew Irvine reach Everest's 29,028-foot summit in
1924, nearly 30 years before Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing
On Sunday, on a windswept terrace 27,000 feet above sea level,
Simonson's team made a discovery he called "beyond our wildest
dreams." Four climbers found the frozen body of Mallory, which
had lain on the rocky upper reaches of Everest's North Ridge for
75 years. The body, identified by laundry labels sewn into its
clothes, "was in reasonably good condition for having been
exposed to the elements for so long," Simonson told SI by E-mail
on Monday from his camp at 21,300 feet, after his team had
photographed and buried Mallory's remains. As for clues to
whether Mallory or Irvine had summitted, Simonson said, "We're
analyzing the evidence. We'll have an updated theory at the end
of the expedition."
Mallory, an expert climber, and the less skilled Irvine were
last seen alive by a member of their expedition on June 8, 1924,
at an altitude of more than 28,000 feet, heading toward
Everest's summit. Then a snow squall struck and they were never
heard from again. Simonson says he and his team will keep
searching for Irvine's body and will attempt a free ascent of
the Second Step, a 150-foot precipice above 28,000 feet that
would have been Mallory and Irvine's chief obstacle. "The three
Chinese climbers who made the first successful ascent of the
North Ridge in 1960 had a terrible time there," Simonson told
SI. "The leader had to remove his boots to climb it and in the
process lost his fingers and toes to frostbite."
Did Mallory, using primitive oxygen equipment during a blinding
snowstorm, reach the summit? Simonson doubts it. "I think he ran
out of oxygen and died," he says. "If we find credible evidence
that he climbed the Second Step, then I would reconsider." Still
better would be a photograph of Mallory and Irvine at the top of
the world. Simonson and his team are searching for a camera the
two carried. The film inside, preserved like its owner in
Everest's permanent deep freeze, might force the world's tallest
peak to yield an answer to an age-old question.
UP IN THE SKY--IT'S SUPERCROSS
What's loud, proud, dyed and tattooed and three stories off the
ground? None other than Jeremy (Showtime) McGrath, the
27-year-old superman of supercross. "I'm a fairly normal guy,"
says McGrath, but you wouldn't know it by the way 37,512 fans
stood and yelled for 3 1/2 hours last Saturday night in Las
Vegas while watching him fly his $100,000 dirt bike to his sixth
national title in seven years.
Supercross is the top level of motocross, a sport in which
dirt-track riders bump handlebars, scrape paint jobs and take
jumps that send them skying as high as 30 feet while doing
crowd-pleasing midair tricks like kickouts and look-ma-no-hands
waves. Top riders can pull down $1 million a year in prize money
and endorsements. McGrath, whose dominance has kick-started a
motocross boom and led an industry magazine to call him "the
messiah," earned more than $2 million in 1998.
It took 600 truckloads of dirt to build the roller-coaster
course McGrath and 75 others rode in Las Vegas's Sam Boyd
Stadium, where the usual youthful crowd turned out to cheer what
the P.A. announcer kept calling "the original extreme sport."
McGrath dominated as usual, flying his 250-cc Yamaha into the
desert sky, landing with the precision of a jeweler, finishing
the 20-lap race 20 seconds ahead of everyone else.
After picking up a $7,000 first-place check, McGrath said, "I'm
here because I like to win and because this is a great show.
Over the years motocross has been more of a Hell's Angels thing,
but our image is improving." Some champs in other sports "are
too cool for school," he said, "and they end up alienating
people." That's not likely to happen to the flashy former
supermarket bag boy who isn't his sport's Jordan or its Rodman,
but a little of both. "I'm normal," he said, "but I like to show
off, too. As long as you keep winning, you can do what you want."
DON'T PITCH 'EM HIGH CHEESE
While two Harvard scientists finish up baseball's study of
androstenedione, Mark McGwire's favorite muscle-builder, major
league officials might want to review some less rigorous
research. In March three sixth-grade girls at Hadley (Mass.)
Elementary fed andro to mice as a science fair project.
The girls bought eight male mice, eight female mice and some
andro. Using an eyedropper, they gave four males a drop a day,
and after a week placed the subjects in a cage with four
females. Result: While two females that mated with control-group
males produced babies, none of the andro-supplemented mice sired
young. Males given andro also became visibly agitated after
sucking it down. "They would sit in the corner and shake, and
then start running around in circles," says Emmy Smith, 11.
The experiment won the girls first place in the fair, and now
Emmy says she'd like to meet McGwire. "I'd ask him if he knows
what he's doing," she says.
NFL Wife Kidnapped
SHE CALLS A HELL OF AN AUDIBLE
Jets safety Victor Green had just finished a workout at the
team's Hempstead, N.Y., practice facility on April 26 when his
car phone rang. A friend had horrifying news: Victor's wife,
Esther, and their 10-month-old daughter, Victoria, had just been
carjacked at a suburban shopping center in Fayetteville, Ga.
Victor, New York's leading tackler in 1998, pulled over and
pounded his steering wheel nearly flat. "I went numb," he says.
All he could do was wait and pray.
With the engine of her new Mercedes running, Esther, 25, had
gotten into the backseat to pick up Victoria's juice cup when a
man jumped in and sped off. "We tussled for a minute," she says,
"and for the most part I was stronger than he was." Smarter,
too. Slipping her hand into the diaper bag at her feet, Esther
punched 911 on her cell phone, leaving the line open. As the man
drove, she kept up a monologue that included landmarks and
street names to tell police the car's location. While pleading
with the carjacker and offering him money, she threw in clues:
"Why are we on [Route] 314? Are we going to the airport?...Oh,
here, drop me off at the Wal-Mart Supercenter. We can get money
At one point the driver stopped. Esther was about to jump from
the car with Victoria when a second man got into the backseat.
"That's when I thought we were really done for," she says. A few
minutes later, though, on Route 85 in Riverdale a police car
passed the Mercedes, and Esther shouted for the benefit of the
911 operator, "Hey, they're passing right by us!" Taking their
cue, the cops pulled the car over and arrested the driver,
Stephen Bonnett, 18, and David McDonald, 21.
Back in New York, Victor got another call: Esther and Victoria
were safe. "I guess the bad guys don't always win," Esther says.
"I tell her every day how proud I am of her," says Victor, who
flew down to Georgia to rejoin his family. "She showed more
smarts and courage and guts than any football player I know."
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: FRED HARPER
COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS Homecoming After faking toward Hartford, the Patriots ran a crowd-pleasing reverse to Foxboro.
COLOR PHOTO: FRANK HOPPEN Mister Moto Supercross master McGrath went above and beyond his rivals in Las Vegas.
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATION BY AMANDA DUFFY
--That Karl Malone would lose a little hair every time he throws
--That soon-to-retire Piston Joe Dumars, one of sports' good
guys, is still hitting jumpers in the playoffs on May 24 when he
--That we could have seen what the Flyers were capable of with a
healthy Eric Lindros.
John Elway's quarterback rating last season.
Quarterback rating last season of Bubby Brister, who'll replace
Elway in 1999.
NBA coaching victories through Monday for Pat Riley, who passed
Bill Fitch and trails only Lenny Wilkens (1,150) on the alltime
Holes of golf Michael Jordan played during a five-day binge in
Pints of blood donated by the South Carolina football team--one
each from the losers in the school's annual intrasquad game, per
coach Lou Holtz's instructions.
Errors through Sunday by Montreal outfielder Vladimir Guerrero
and his brother, Expos second baseman Wilton--more E's than
seven major league teams.
Percent of Cleveland football fans who want the reborn Browns to
wear the traditional plain orange helmets, according to an Akron
Hundred-meter dash time of Erwin Jaskulski, 96, who shattered
the world record for runners 95 and over by 14.81 seconds.
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
The International Hockey League's Kansas City Blades staged
Toothless Night, offering free admission to the dentally
They Said It
Engineer at Atlanta's WSB radio, after the Braves' Greg Maddux
legged out a triple against the Marlins: "It replaced the
Kentucky Derby as the most exciting two minutes in sports."