THINK TANK THOUGHTS
The National Collegiate Athletic Association has a long-range planning committee, the function of which is, in the words of the late Brad Booth of UCLA, "to think great thoughts."
Now the committee has sent some great thoughts to the NCAA council, among them recommendations for a return to one-platoon football and abolition of spring football practice.
Both suggestions, which are intended for long-range study and cannot be put into effect during the 1973 season, have to do with reduction of athletics expenses, which have risen to almost ruinous proportions for some schools. But there are other considerations. The recommendation for elimination of spring football practice is largely predicated on doubts about its carry-over value. The intervening summer often allows the lessons of spring to be forgotten. A suggested compromise would be to abolish spring practice and compensate by adding seven days of fall study before school starts. This would require an amendment of NCAA bylaws, which could be accomplished by a majority vote of delegates to the association's annual convention.
Abolition of spring practice would appear to have a better chance of adoption than a return to the one-platoon system, which would require action by the football rules committee, an autonomous group. NCAA leaders, acutely conscious of television appeal these days, probably would hesitate to do anything to change a game which they are convinced is at its peak. They believe it has become more exciting than the professional brand of football with the latter's current emphasis on defense and field goals.
These recommendations of the long-range planning committee cannot be dismissed as representative solely of the beliefs of small colleges. The committee is composed of faculty representatives, athletic directors, college presidents and conference commissioners. Among those represented in the 10-man group are Southern Methodist, Colorado, Michigan State, Air Force, the University of Washington and the University of Virginia.
BUT NOT FOR LOVE
After refusing to kill a bull in the Madrid ring, Diego Bardon was branded a "coward" by the critics, fined $432, and turned in his sword to the Secretary of the International Council Against Bullfighting.
"It is a sad thing," Bardon explained, "that fighting bulls are never mated, but die before they ever have the chance to make love."
CHANGE-UP ON THE MOUND
Ordinarily a stickler for tradition, Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, who is opposed to the orange-colored baseballs suggested by Oakland's Charlie Finley because "they're too hard to autograph," now has disclosed a major concession to the modern world. References to the "horsehide spheroid" will soon become archaic and will have to be banished from the sportswriter's lexicon. Instead, starting next season, we'll have to think up something about cowhide.
It's all because there is a shortage of good horsehide, according to Kuhn. And Johnny Johnson, chairman of baseball's playing rules committee, says, "We are convinced that cowhide-covered baseballs meet all the standards of resiliency, texture and color." The committee therefore amended Rule 1.09 to permit use of either baseball.
Tricky Bowie also disclosed that cowhide balls were used in spring training exhibition games, and went undetected by players, managers or club officials.
Incidentally, footballs are no longer made solely of pigskin. Nor are football pants made of moleskin.
THE BOYS OF SUMMER
A summer camp used to be a place where kids learned to differentiate bug bites, swim in the lake, learn a little handicraft. In the evenings they sang around a campfire and wrote tragic letters home.
But now is the age of specialization. Joe Namath has a football camp associated with his name, if not his life-style. Jim Plunkett is identified with one in the Boston area. California has at least half a dozen. Benny Friedman, the oldtimer, is truly specialized. He has "quarterback camps."
Fastest growing of the sports camps are those that teach basketball. In California this summer some 6,000 boys will go to one-week basketball camps, up from 1,000 in 1970.
The typical sports camp houses the kids in dormitories. No tenting, and of course no rubbing sticks together, nor any discovery of living creatures under rocks. The customary fee ranges from $125 to $175 a week, but Arnold Palmer's golf school costs $266 and Billy Casper's $200.
WORM TURNS IN ASTRODOME
The University of Houston football team has not had a losing season since 1965. The professional Houston Oilers have been unable to field a winning team since 1967. Nevertheless, the Oilers consistently outdraw the Cougars at the Astrodome.
Now the Cougars are presenting their case to the public. Potential season-ticket buyers have received promotional material comparing the college's football record with that of the pros, with Cougar figures first:
"Average price per season ticket, $37-$70; record last year, 6-4-1, 1-13; record last five years, 38-14-3, 21-45-4; average yards rushing 1972, 251-108; average yards passing 1972, 150-119; average points per game 1972, 30-12."
The prose attack on the pros never once mentions the Oilers, perhaps because that might be considered indelicate. Instead, the pamphlet refers to them as "the pros," a bit of a compliment if one considers the Oilers' 1-13 record last season.
Ah, but it would seem to be all academic. Oiler season-ticket sales have reached a record this year because buyers get priority on tickets for next January's Super Bowl game in Houston's Rice Stadium. And the Cougars can hardly top that.
Phil Elderkin, a 5'6" guard from Boston, was the last name submitted by the un-fearsome Cleveland Cavaliers on their supplemental list of National Basketball Association draft choices for 1973. Phil Elderkin, it turns out, is a 47-year-old sports editor of The Christian Science Monitor. Cleveland Coach Bill Fitch explained his move: "He was the only guy I could find who didn't have an agent, will play for the 1960 minimum and will bring his own shoes."
A. J. Foyt, three-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, is scared of highway drivers and not too impressed by safety regulations. "I do love cars," he said recently, "but they're still just dumb pieces of steel that only do what you tell them to do, and too many drivers don't pay attention to what they're doing when they're in a car. They're more interested in listening to the radio or the tape deck. That's why I can't agree with all these safety regulations. We do need better seat belts and equipment like those in race cars—I've crashed head-on at 150 mph and haven't been killed—but you can throw all the safety devices you want on a car and you're still going to have those nuts behind the wheel. In a race, at least you have confidence that the man next to you is competent.
"I think Ralph Nader was wrong about the Corvair. A competent driver could run a Corvair at 100 mph all day and not get hurt. A lousy driver can get hurt in anything."
OTHER NAME TASTES AS SWEET
She is a 3-year-old peninsular bighorn ewe, and in 1971 she was captured, along with a bighorn ram, for study in a research project conducted jointly by the University of California and the State Department of Fish and Game. Someone named her Gumdrop.
Now Gumdrop is the mother of the first bighorn lamb ever born in captivity in California. Mother and daughter are doing well and the researchers have solved their first problem, which was what to name the baby.
After long consideration they settled on Jelly Bean.
A DIFFERENT BALL GAME
Head basketball coach at East Texas State, involved with basketball on an international level for more than two decades, a veteran of several tours of Russia with U.S. teams and personally acquainted with many Russian players and coaches, Jim Gudger was appalled as he listened to the television commentary of Chick Hearn and Jerry West on the U.S.-Russia basketball game in San Diego.
"The things Jerry was saying about the Russians being crude, about them being mechanical, are the things that are getting us into trouble in basketball on an international basis," Gudger told Randy Galloway of the Dallas News.
"It's the Russian style," he explained. "They are playing the game the international way. If we are going to continue to compete on an international level, we're going to have to adjust to this style. Sure, they are rough, but the international game is rough.
"They bounce people around under those baskets. And watch them go to the offensive boards. Man, they might crash people from 12 feet out, and they always get back on defense. I'd like to find out what drills they use to teach that.
"Basically, we're taught finesse in this country. But the international style is different. They don't look as smooth as us, but they get the job done with more contact. Our players aren't used to this kind of roughness or this kind of officiating. So when they start playing by international rules they get knocked around and they then start throwing elbows like Ron Behagen did. So he's kicked out of the game, lost to his team.
"You don't want to start throwing elbows with those Russians. They're masters at it. Most experienced international players can get away with it. Our immature kids can't."
What Gudger has been preaching since before Munich is that the U.S. "still has the greatest players but other countries have more experience under international rules." And, says he, this cannot be corrected in six weeks of practice before U.S. players go into international competition.
"Six weeks or so before Montreal we'll have all this activity trying to get ready for the Russians. Well, you don't get ready for them in six weeks. You've got to stay ready."
FOOTBALL UP IN THE AIR
The Kerry Jackson case, in which the University of Oklahoma forfeited eight 1972 football games after discovery that Jackson entered college on an altered transcript (SI, April 30), is far from settled.
Head Coach Joe Woolley and Vice Principal Lynn Nix have been reassigned to noncoaching jobs at Ball High School in Galveston after admitting that they changed Jackson's local transcript records to match those at Oklahoma.
And there is a report that Jackson may take the Sooners to court in order to play this fall. University authorities had declared him ineligible for 1973 play. The grades requirement under which Jackson did not qualify has since been eliminated by the NCAA, and so Jackson's 1972 transcript would have qualified him under 1973 requirements. Since authorities have conceded that Jackson did not know of the transcript tampering, he could very well win a court suit to make him eligible.
THEY SAID IT
•Baltimore cab driver: "Business has been especially good these last few weeks, mainly because Pimlico is open. It's not that we take so many people there. It's that so many cab drivers spend their afternoons at the races. That means more business for those who don't."
•Dave Lemonds, Chicago White Sox pitcher, on the Kansas City Royals' new Tartan Turf ball park: "It's like playing with marbles in a bathtub."
•Warren Spahn, new pitching coach for the Cleveland Indians, on Willie Mays: "I can't stand him. When Mays came up from Minneapolis he was something like 0 for 21 the first time I saw him. His first major-league hit was a home run off me—and I'll never forgive myself. We might have got rid of Mays forever if I'd only struck him out."