The brutal consequences of high-pressure college recruiting became visible again last week, this time to confuse and blur both the past and future of Tom McMillen, the 6'11" basketball star from Mansfield, Pa. (SI, Feb. 16).
McMillen, who scored a record 3,608 points during his high-school career and was recently graduated first in his class academically, ended months of speculation—and the vain hopes of hundreds of college coaches—by signing an application for a grant-in-aid scholarship to the University of North Carolina. The next day his parents, Dr. and Mrs. James McMillen, said that they had not signed the agreement and objected to their son's decision. "That boy is not going with our blessing," Mrs. McMillen is reported to have said then. "He's known for months that we did not approve of North Carolina. No matter what they do or say, he's our son and he has a moral obligation to obey his parents. There are valid reasons why we don't want him to go to North Carolina."
Tom's father wanted him to attend Maryland, where an older brother, Jay, played on the basketball team two years ago and now attends graduate school. His mother felt Tom should go to Virginia where a longtime friend of the family and former Mansfield High coach, Bill Gibson, now coaches. Another brother, Paul, was a law student at North Carolina and lives in Chapel Hill. Paul was for North Carolina.
July 5, 1970
In the end, Tom McMillen made his choice of colleges by himself, and the family eventually said all differences had been resolved, that they approved of North Carolina and that it had been a "minor misunderstanding." (Despite reports to the contrary, Tom could attend North Carolina without his parents' consent, since his scholarship does not require parental approval.) Rival coaches accused North Carolina of recruiting violations, which happens every time a prominent schoolboy athlete finally gets around to selecting a college.
Yet all this is beside the point. A system that places such pressure on an 18-year-old boy and causes such widely publicized distress in his family, just so he can play basketball in this college instead of that one, is ridiculous and dangerous. Recruiting is becoming an ugly, obscene word. Dr. McMillen called the whole thing a "dirty, nasty business" and in this instance, certainly, he is the one who is right.
A report from Australia says there is a group of men in that country dedicated to the care of ex-rugby players who are in danger of falling by the wayside. The group is called Athletes Anonymous: whenever a member feels the dread urge to get out and play rugby again he phones a fellow AA who rushes over to the house with half a dozen bottles of beer and helpful words of discouragement.
So-called minor sports may get it in the neck at the University of Wisconsin, where a major effort is being made to bring athletic department expenditures more in line with funds available to the department. A State Bureau of Audit report on the fiscal year July 1, 1968-June 30, 1969 criticized the department's failure to correct defects in the physical condition of the athletic complex and its overabundance of personnel ("Wisconsin had more staff positions and paid out about 50% more in administrative salaries than any other conference member"). Athletic Director Elroy (Crazy Legs) Hirsch, who succeeded Ivan Williamson in February 1969, admitted, "We are overstaffed in some areas. I inherited a deteriorating situation. I have done everything in my power to rectify it, but it takes time."
Hirsch expressed hope that Wisconsin's football team, which has been terrible in recent years, will be so improved this fall that income-producing attendance at football games will rise sharply "and start solving our problems." Even so, there are indications that crew, golf, tennis and gymnastics may be dropped as formal sports ("Crew is a wonderful tradition at Wisconsin," Hirsch has said, "but we can no longer afford $40,000 worth of tradition"), and that baseball, track and field, wrestling and swimming will operate at a "reduced status."
"It's up in the air," Hirsch said last week. "I can't talk about minor sports until I know what next year's budget will be. I do think we've made quite an accomplishment in one year. The worst is behind us."
Now basketball officials are threatening a strike, at least in the East. College officials there say they are underpaid and may "decide to withhold the services of our members for the season." Duke Maronic of Steelton, Pa., a veteran official who used to play football for the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants, said, "We're going out if we don't get what we want. Our major gripes are with the Ivy League, the Big Five, Madison Square Garden and the Pennsylvania State College Conference. I've just finished my 11th year in the Ivy League, and I didn't get a penny increase in all that time. Can you imagine one of their professors or coaches not getting a raise?" Maronic said Big Ten and Atlantic Coast Conference officials get $125 a game, but that the Ivies, the Big Five and Madison Square Garden pay only $60. "When Kings College played Notre Dame they brought in a Big Ten man and paid him $125 and wanted to pay our official $60. That shows you how far behind we are in the East."
If you live in metropolitan New York, enjoy golf and do not happen to belong to a country club, you owe it to yourself to get the Metropolitan Golf Guide, just published by Par magazine. It is a 128-page visit to 77 public courses in and around New York City, complete with hole maps of each layout, details on things like how to get there and what it costs, and a critical analysis of each course. This is the first such guide Par has put out, but it hopes to have similar ones ready for 15 other metropolitan areas in the next year or two.
Frank Ryan, the quarterback who led the Cleveland Browns to a championship or two and who is now backing up Sonny Jurgensen for the Washington Redskins, has his Ph.D. in mathematics (SI, Sept. 27, 1965) and has used computers to determine what tactics and strategy might best work for a team against specific opposition. However, Ryan is generally against the use of computers to evaluate things like a player's courage and emotional resources. He feels, for one thing, that it is an invasion of privacy because of the intensely personal nature of some of the questions; he is also skeptical of a machine's capacity to "think" in the abstract. Ryan took a computerized personality-profile test for pro football, and his logician's mind was bothered by the arbitrariness of the data-gathering techniques.
"One question," he says, "asked whether I would prefer being confined in a dark room or would like to be peering over a steep cliff. Another was: Would I be scared of a large crowd? The tester became irritated when I asked him if it would not depend on the circumstances—whether it was a friendly crowd in a grandstand, or a riot."
Recently Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn made some definitive comments at a press conference.
On baseball's basic defense in the Curt Flood case: "The reserve clause is reasonable. The court has no jurisdiction. It boils down to a collective-bargaining process and not an antitrust action."
On baseball economics: "It takes $300,000 to get a ballplayer to the majors."
On the computerized All-Star Game voting: "The basic idea is good. It has heightened interest in the All-Star Game, but the write-ins have not yet vindicated the system."
On Jim Bouton and his book: "I told him it was a poor thing for him to write. It was inconsistent with his standard of playing. It is not proper for one in baseball to criticize baseball. In the entertainment business, it is not in the best interest to criticize the quality of the product."
On reaction to his Denny McLain decision: "We count no mail. The letters fit into three categories—those who agree, those who thought the penalty was too harsh and those who thought the penalty was too lenient."
On beanballs: "We're continuing to study equipment for additional protection and are giving serious consideration to proposals to avoid knockdown pitches."
On beanballs, Commissioner Kuhn would do well to listen to Frank Lane. Come to think of it, it's hard not to listen to Frank Lane. The voluble onetime Chicago White Sox general manager, now the so-called superscout for the Baltimore Orioles, says in his cautious, equivocating way: "Certainly it's possible to get rid of the beanball. Why risk lives in something that is supposed to be a non-contact sport? I've got a rule I've been advocating for 15 years, but so far I haven't been able to get our commissioners to pay attention to me. I suggested that if a batter is hit on the head by a pitched ball, the pitcher should be fined $1,000 and suspended for 10 days and his manager should be fined $500 and suspended for three days."
Lane says he has written Kuhn about the proposal and hopes to receive more satisfaction than he did from Kuhn's predecessor, General William Eckert. "I had to send Eckert two letters before he answered," Lane says, "and when he did he said he didn't think the pitchers were throwing at the hitters intentionally. Intent has nothing to do with it. Besides, you can't read a pitcher's mind. You can't ask an umpire to take on a job that's almost impossible. With this rule, if a batter is hit above the shoulders the fine and suspensions are automatic. If a manager knows he is going to lose his pitcher for a couple of turns and be suspended himself, he's a lot less likely to give the order for a knockdown pitch."
SMALL CHEERFUL NOTE
Another gleam of hope in the gloomy state of the natural world is the news that eight cahows hatched this year, one more than last year. The cahow, or Bermuda petrel, is one of the rarest birds in the world, with perhaps 75 individuals having survived a number of unnatural threats, most recently DDT (SI, Nov. 4, 1968 et seq.).
Naturalist David Wingate, who has almost singlehandedly protected and, probably, saved the species, reported that four of the chicks had already departed from their nesting grounds on islets off Bermuda. However, the four remaining seemed to be in trouble because of inadequate feeding: apparently the mother birds were not finding sufficient food on the ocean and were visiting the nests less often, so the chicks' development was arrested.
Wingate is afraid the feeding problem may be a result of oceanic oil pollution. "So much depends on whether they ban pesticides and what happens with oil pollution," he said. "I vacillate between optimism and pessimism, depending on how successful we are each year. Right now there are grounds for optimism. But I'm holding my breath."
THEY SAID IT
•Jack Eskridge, Dallas Cowboy equipment manager, on the change to jerseys with players' names above their numbers: "We're double-stitching the veterans' jerseys and single-stitching the rookies'."
•Dr. Paul Dudley White, 84-year-old heart specialist: "Nobody under the age of 70, or really 80, should have a heart attack. The importance of stress is over-stressed. Many people are well at 80 who have always been under stress. If hard work and little sleep is that dangerous, I should have been dead 30 years ago."
•Jack Kraft, Villanova basketball coach, on recruiting: "You can get all the six-sixes you want, but you can't find any six-tens or six-twelves."