The report by the President's Commission on Olympic Sports, released this week, is an earnest attempt to bring some sense to the tangled, self-defeating world of amateur sport in America. Boiled down, the 126 pages of written matter say that no other country of importance runs its amateur sports in the chaotic, anarchic, fratricidal way the U.S. does, that something should be done about it and that the way to begin is to establish a "highest sports authority" to act as the ultimate ruling body.
Beyond that, the commission makes no specific recommendations. It stresses that this is a first report to the President, and that more definite conclusions and recommendations will be contained in its second report next September. It gently castigates the U.S. Olympic Committee, the AAU and the NCAA, the current (and often warring) top governing bodies, and strongly implies that the "highest sports authority" should take precedence over these groups.
The report points out that one of the factors contributing to the amateur confusion in the U.S. is the major role that schools and colleges play in sport, a situation seldom found elsewhere in the world. The commission makes it clear that the amateur mess is a mess and that untangling it will not be easy. But its clear-eyed approach to the problem is most welcome, and we trust the report will receive the attention it deserves, from the White House and elsewhere.
February 16, 1976
VERY BIG TEN
You can argue all day about which college conference plays the best football, but there is little doubt as to which conference attracts the biggest crowds. Statistics released by the NCAA show that attendance at Big Ten games last season averaged 59,658. The Big Eight averaged 53,054, the Southeastern Conference 50,962, the Pacific Eight 38,813, Southwest 38,032, Atlantic Coast 35,420 and Western Athletic 26,281. There were seven Big Ten teams in the top 20, six Southeastern schools, three Big Eight. Notre Dame and Penn State, 13th and 15th, were the only independents.
Michigan, with an average home attendance of 98,449, was No. 1 in the country, with Ohio State (87,856) second. When the two met on Nov. 22, they drew 105,543, largest regular-season crowd in the 28 years the NCAA has kept records.
FIGHT, TEAM, FIGHT
The Philadelphia Flyers' reputation for roughness on ice is hitting home. As a local TV sportscaster gave details on a brawl between the Flyers and the Atlanta Flames, the film clip showed a scene from the Angola civil war.
OUR WINE HAS SOUR GRAPES
CBS-TV, which lost the Kentucky Derby to ABC last year, has now retreated from the Preakness as well, leaving the second of the Triple Crown races in ABC's hands, too. CBS sports head Robert Wussler, announcing that the 1976 Preakness would be the last telecast by CBS, said, "There are some sports events worth losing money on—prestigious events like the Kentucky Derby, the Rose Bowl, the Masters, the Super Bowl and Forest Hills—that have an intrinsic value to the network. I do not count the Preakness among them."
Chick Lang, general manager of Pimlico, has a different explanation for the change in networks. He says ABC outbid CBS and has signed a five-year contract with Pimlico for about twice what CBS had been paying.
"I guess Wussler just felt badly about losing the Preakness," Lang says. "I hated to see him make such a statement about our race, because Pimlico had developed a close relationship with CBS. After the last Preakness, Wussler told me that racing had turned the corner and that our ratings were just tremendous. He said CBS was so pleased that it was planning to expand its racing coverage and do 20 races a year."
Rick Talley of the Chicago Tribune has offered a plan to save baseball, complete with realignment of leagues, new expansion teams, unified umpiring staffs, interleague play and so on. It seems a logical plan, if not terribly original, but its greatest appeal lies in Talley's final argument. If you don't like this one, he says, there is an alternate plan you might prefer. The alternate includes the following provisions:
•One league of 12 teams trying to expand to either 13 or 14, with the other league staying at 12.
•Umpires in one league calling low pitches strikes, while umpires in the other call the same pitches balls.
•One league opting for interleague play, the other refusing.
•Pitchers hitting for themselves in one league, with designated hitters taking their places in the other.
•A commissioner ostensibly in absolute command of the game, who is not able to control or direct the leagues, the teams or the players.
Not to mention lawsuits, counter lawsuits, appeals, the possibility of a lockout during spring training, the possibility of a players' strike. Say, Rick, tell us more about that plan of yours.
DIRECT FROM RINGSIDE
Edward F. Murphy, a schoolteacher in New York City, likes to sift through Shakespeare (or, for that matter, any other source) for appropriate quotes on modern subjects. Here is Murphy's report on what the Bard has to say about the upcoming title fight between Ali and Coopman:
"I will challenge him." Much Ado About Nothing.
"I dare you to this match." Cymbeline.
"Weigh him well...." Troilus and Cressida.
"There's some among you who have beheld me fighting." Coriolanus.
"I will beat thee into handsomeness." Troilus and Cressida.
"I will not answer thee with words, but blows." Henry VI (Part I).
"Sure this robe of mine does change my disposition." The Winter's Tale.
"...I'll hit him now." Hamlet.
"What a blow was there given!" The Tempest.
"Take thee that too." Macbeth.
"Yield thy...title to my certain right." A Midsummer Night's Dream.
"Thou dost me yet but little hurt." The Tempest.
"O...to hit him in the eye!" Twelfth Night.
"Methinks his flesh is punished." Merry Wives of Windsor.
"Hold me not, let me go." Romeo ana Juliet.
"...I'll so maul you...that you shall think the devil is come from hell." King John.
"There's blood upon thy face." Macbeth.
"Silence that dreadful bell...." Othello.
"Sprawl'st thou?" Henry VI (Part III).
"Here comes the count." Twelfth Night.
"Have you any levers to lift me up again, being down." Henry IV (Part I).
"...I...claim the crown...." Henry VI (Part II).
Blame Shakespeare for that upset prediction, not Murphy.
The complaints voiced by Chicago Bear fans about their team's inability to come up with good football players (SCORECARD, Feb. 2) is echoed by New York Ranger fans protesting their club's somewhat different talent—getting rid of good hockey players. Ex-Rangers are all around the league—Derek Sanderson of the St. Louis Blues, Vic Hadfield of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Curt Bennett of the Atlanta Flames, Andre Dupont of the Philadelphia Flyers, Don Luce and Jim Lorentz of the Buffalo Sabres, to cite a few—and the Los Angeles Kings, with eight former New Yorkers, are top-heavy with them. The Rangers have little except their last-place position in the Patrick Division to show for the transactions that sent these players away.
The Rangers don't trade well, the fans moan. Early this season they all but gave away their two veteran goalies, Eddie Giacomin and Gilles Villemure. They saved the Boston Bruins, who would have been badly handicapped with Bobby Orr sidelined with knee surgery, by sending Boston Brad Park, one of the best defensemen in the league, and play-maker Jean Ratelle in the disappointing Phil Esposito-Carol Vadnais trade.
"They turned Los Angeles into a contender by giving them all those young players," says Marc Boileau, former Pittsburgh coach.
"They keep all the wrong guys and trade all the right guys," says the Flyers' Dupont. "They trade all the hitters and keep all the guys who won't hit and don't like to be hit."
"They pretty well screwed themselves up," says Vic Hadfield.
Law student Floyd Little, an All-America running back at Syracuse before becoming a star with the Denver Broncos, has always been straight arrow, maybe even a little square in his old-fashioned approach to duty and responsibility. "I got a lot out of the game," said Little, who retired after last season, "more than I put into it. The players are making football sound like an ordinary job, and I think that's a mistake. I played nine years, but if I had to depend on an NFL pension when I'm 65, then I'm in serious trouble. I'm 33 years old, and now that I've retired from football I figure I've got 32 years of hard work ahead of me. I'm not going to wait around for the NFL to take care of me."
I'M ALL RIGHT, JACK
Reports out of Great Britain say that soccer, the country's favorite sport, is going broke. That may be too pessimistic an assumption, but the 92 clubs in the four divisions of the English Football League owe more than $14 million in bank loans and expect to lose about $20 million in all this year. Attendance at Third and Fourth Division games (the two lower levels of the league) has dropped considerably, and there is talk that financial problems may force these lesser divisions to close up shop. Even such top First Division clubs as Stoke City and Sheffield United are heavily in debt.
Overall attendance has dropped about 36% in the past 25 years. Stadiums are old (the newest was built in 1923) and often in need of repair. Salaries and expenses are soaring. Ticket prices are going up—which does not help attendance—but there are no rich TV contracts to bring in added revenue. There is a great deal of legal betting on football in England, but very little of the money wagered goes to the sport.
The dignified London Observer, in reporting on the situation, blames the club owners. "There is evidence," says the Observer, "that clubs are managed with all the financial structure of a village bowls association, that they are gravely undercapitalized...."
Suggestions that the successful teams at the top share their wealth with their indigent brethren have not met with heartfelt approval. "Why should we who are solvent," asks Jack Dennett of Notts County, "help the clubs which have gone balmy? Tell me that. Before long, there'll be more people wanting a rescue than there are rescuers."
Darryl Saulsberry, 6'8" University of Arkansas center, sporting collar-length hair and a long drooping mustache, fouled out of three straight games. Before his next one, against Baylor, he decided to trim his hair and shave his mustache. Saulsberry was called for only two fouls. Two nights later, against Texas Tech, the neat, trim Saulsberry played 40 minutes and was still around at the end of a 93-91 double-overtime victory that knocked Tech out of the Southwest Conference lead.
The haircut? The shave?
"I think they helped," Saulsberry concedes. "I hate to say it, but I guess the hair did affect the refs."
THEY SAID IT
•Bill Bradley, of the New York Knicks, on Atlanta Hawk John Drew's idea of making a movie of his own life: "Only one 20-year-old was ever worth making a movie about. That was Mozart."
•Tex Schramm, Dallas Cowboy general manager, explaining why the Cowboys still have Don Meredith on their reserve list: "You never know when Meredith might have a bad year on TV."
•Chi Chi Rodriguez, Puerto Rican golf pro, on his accent: "After all these years it's still embarrassing for me to play on the American golf tour. Like the time I asked my caddie for a sand wedge and he comes back 10 minutes later with a ham on rye."
•Frank (Pancho) Martin, leading trainer at New York's thoroughbred tracks, on whether or not he has sentimental feelings for the horses he trains: "Sentiment is for your family. Horses is a business, not sentiment."