The newly militant attitude of Negro college athletes, which led to a change of basketball coaches at California, the boycotting of a track meet at the University of Texas at El Paso and an uproar at the University of Washington, has spread to the sport where it could hit the colleges hardest—and in the pocketbook. The sport is football, and the new militancy has evidenced itself at Michigan State, a most unlikely place.
For years the Spartans, determined to make a big splash in the Big Ten, have recruited more Negro athletes than any other major college. At one point the majority of Michigan State's starting 22 football players were Negro, and the 1965 championship team had what it called its soul-brother backfield—three Negroes and a Hawaiian. Even Spartan assistant coaches began to get alarmed when Head Coach Duffy Daugherty would constantly appear on magazine covers surrounded by players, and not a white one in sight—the coaches said it hurt them when they tried to get jobs elsewhere.
Duffy knew what he was doing. Michigan State had the winning reputation that it wanted, it was proud of its Negro athletes and it was acutely sensitive to the value of keeping them happy. Thus the surprise last Thursday when LaMarr Thomas, a very fast-footed tailback, led a delegation of 15 to 20 Negro players off the football practice field and into the office of Athletic Director Biggie Munn to make a variety of charges.
May 5, 1968
As usual, some of the charges had validity: that Negroes were being pressured to take nonacademic snap courses to stay eligible (what other university has offered a degree in mobile-home building?); that the school is not hiring enough Negro coaches (it just accepted its first); that the athletic counselor should have a black assistant; that the school does not have a black trainer or doctor for black athletes. And, as usual, some that sounded silly: that the school discourages Negroes from playing baseball (it doesn't); that the school has never had a black cheerleader.
By late Friday Thomas had agreed to end the proposed boycott of all Spartan sports pending a meeting with Michigan State President John Hannah, who, ironically, is Chairman of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.
Thomas, who figures to be a star on this year's Spartan team, has long been known as a campus activist—this week's East Lansing joke is that he will make All-America if a way can be found to get cleats into his sandals. But the mood that he represents is no joke. Many a college football coach is watching his team on these fine spring practice days and thinking, "If it can happen to Duffy...." The result is sure to be a sudden reassessment of a lot of internal collegiate athletic practices.
STROKE OF GENIUS
In bars where the custom is to give regular patrons every fourth drink on the house, the free one is becoming known as a Tommy Aaron—it's the fourth shot that you didn't ask for.
Christie's, London's fine-art auctioneers whose fame has been built on selling such works as Monet's La Terrasse √† Ste. Adresse for $1.4 million, is going to auction off a yacht. "From time to time we do strange things," a spokesman for the firm commented when pressed for an explanation. "Once we sold a coffin. It had been prepared for a citizen who made a sudden and miraculous recovery." Then there was the spoon which brought a record price, $5,040.
The ship, Hiniesta, a 361-ton luxury steam yacht, figures to sell for considerably more, something around $100,000. Built in 1902, she is believed to be the oldest craft of her size and kind still in commission. During World War II King George VI used her to inspect the fleet, and in recent years she has been chartered for cruises in the Mediterranean by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Peter Law-ford and the late Porfirio Rubirosa. The man from Christie's says, "Hiniesta is worthy of any fine-art salesroom, and it is always good to have a change from Rembrandt."
Dr. Lauren Donaldson of the University of Washington is using a new method of marking the salmon raised in the college hatchery before releasing them. He uses a kind of miniature branding iron that leaves a permanent X on the side of each fish. The iron, however, is frozen, not heated. Dr. Donaldson is convinced that branding is more reliable and less injurious than previous identifying methods, such as tagging (tags often are lost) or clipping fins (which so upsets a fish's equilibrium that it swims a woozy course for some time).
The university's brand, like a cattle baron's, is registered with the proper agencies, so that Husky salmon can be identified when caught in the sea or when they return to Lake Union to spawn in two years' time.
From now on, podnuh, it's going to be a lot easier rounding up strays.
THE MAKING OF A MANAGER 1968
Several years ago a group of sportswriters attending a baseball banquet decided to start a rumor that Yogi Berra, still a player at the time, was going to be manager of the San Francisco Giants. The rumor spread from coast to coast, and although wire services carried the appropriate denials, a funny thing happened. Berra, long the clown, began taking the idea seriously; others were soon talking about him as a possible manager and, sure enough, one day he wound up in command of the New York Yankees.
The same thing seems to be happening to Wilt Chamberlain. The possibility of Chamberlain becoming the player-coach of the 76ers was broached for the first time a couple of months ago by a Boston newspaperman who was looking for something to fill a column. Nobody had ever seriously thought of the moody Chamberlain as a leader of men. But the story kept getting repeated. Chamberlain now seems to be taking the idea seriously, and if he takes it seriously, the 76ers' management has no choice but to take it seriously. The team's coaching job is vacant (Alex Hannum's contract expired at the end of the season, and he announced he was quitting last Monday).
Asked after the team's playoff loss to Boston if he had considered coaching, Chamberlain replied, "I haven't done too much thinking about anything, except we lost and we shouldn't have lost. I have my particular thoughts on coaching, but I'd rather wait before I personally comment."
In the past Chamberlain has said he did not think the idea of a player-coach was a good one. Now, however, he qualifies his view, observing that "I would think that sometimes a player-coach could be much more of an asset to a team than a poor coach on the bench." Chamberlain is talking hypothetically, he says, but he has been making cryptic statements about the 76ers' fall from power, i.e.: "During the last part of the season I thought we were playing on a par [with 1967], but I think there was something missing and I'd rather not go into that something."
Chamberlain has also said he would hate to have to break in a new coach at this stage of his career. Presumably he is not talking of Coach Chamberlain. The other 76er players may be wondering how Wilt could coach them without attending practice sessions. As a Philadelphia rookie, long departed, once said, "One thing you can say about Wilt. He never leaves his game in the gym."
In the Southwest, Texas A&M is thought to have an inflated ego—even by Texas standards. In consequence, it often has been the butt of jokes. There is a book called 101 Aggie Jokes, and not long ago a sequel was published—Son of 101 Aggie Jokes.
But the school went out of its way recently to suggest that it is not puffed up at all. An educational television station in Austin asked Southwest Conference teams for autographed footballs which are to be sold for a benefit. Football-sized packages promptly arrived from Rice, Texas, TCU, SMU, Arkansas, Baylor and Texas Tech. But a small flat box came from A&M. It contained a neatly folded deflated football, signed as requested by the A&M team.
One might argue, however, that the Aggies, conference champions, are just saving their hot air.
"If the owners are making a ton, we want a quarter ton," John Gordy, president of the National Football League Players' Association, said last week. "We are taking a militant but reasonable stand in our negotiations." The players' association, which for the first time is being recognized by the owners as the collective bargaining agent for the pros, is seeking, among other things, a $5 million contribution for its pension fund, $500 in salary for each participant in an exhibition game, a $15,000 minimum salary (82% of NFL players make that anyway) and a postseason game between NFL and AFL All-Stars.
Gordy points out that the baseball owners contribute $4.1 million each year to the players' pension fund, but NFL clubs put in only $1.38 million. "This means," he says, "that Frank Howard of the Washington Senators, who has played in the majors for 10 years, will get a pension of $1,287 a month when he is 65. I have played 10 years and will receive only $656. When Howard is 50 years old he will be paid $500 a month. I will get nothing."
Gordy lists other inequities that the players' association hopes to change. Among them: a baseball player receives a month's salary when he is released; a pro football player gets no severance pay. A baseball player traded from an East Coast club to the West Coast receives $1,200 for moving expenses; a football player gets nothing.
The players' association is suggesting that the NFL hasn't been giving the pros the Super Bowl of gold and benefits that the league would like to have its fans suppose. So far negotiation meetings have been relatively calm. But they are going to heat up.
In case you have been concerned about the possible disappearance of forests, the weekly Seattle Argus has come up with some encouraging tree-growing news from the dense woods of the Northwest. It seems that some 55 million years ago a tree called the metasequoia, or dawn redwood (it is related to both sequoias and redwoods), grew abundantly over Washington and Oregon, appeared in Japan and Manchuria and even grew within eight degrees of the North Pole. Fossil remains have been discovered in New York state and the Nevada desert. The metasequoia was believed to have been extinct for 30 million years until a Chinese forester during World War II found a tree growing in a remote area of Szechwan province. A postwar expedition supported by Harvard's Arnold Arboretum then found a grove of the dawn redwoods in another province and returned with seeds and cuttings. From greenhouse plantings, seedlings were sent to areas where the metasequoia once was a shade tree for dinosaurs.
After 20 years, which is not very long in comparison with 30 million, a metasequoia growing in the backyard of a botanist at Washington State University has reached a respectable height of 25 feet. There is a metasequoia planted 16 years ago at the Hoyt Arboretum in Portland, Ore. that is now 35 feet tall. Another spectacularly revived fossil is growing in the Rhododendron Glen of the University of Washington Arboretum. It is 44 feet high.
Botanists are considering growing the dawn redwood for commercial use.
THEY SAID IT
•John Kerr, head coach of the new Phoenix team in the NBA, explaining why he declined the Chicago Bulls' offer to move into the front office: "I've seen enough guys who were kicked upstairs and then found out they were working in a one-story building."
•Leon Wagner, Cleveland outfielder, discussing his failure for the fourth straight year to get a raise from Indian President Gabe Paul: "My great thrill is stabilizing the gold drain and keeping from inflating the economy."