Last year the NCAA adopted legislation that established scholarship limits for swimming, track, soccer, baseball and other sports usually categorized as "non-income-producing."
For swimming, the limit was set at 11 out of a total of 80 scholarships for all non-revenue sports. This policy rankled various NCAA members, who wanted the rule written to give each school the right to determine how its 80 scholarships would be allocated. Proposals to that end, however, were rejected. So were 10 similar ones by the Pac 8 at this year's NCAA convention.
That's when USC, a perennial swimming power that has won national titles the last four seasons, decided to make a test case. Because the USC soccer program—which also is allotted 11 scholarships—is of the non-varsity, club variety, the decision was made to offer soccer scholarships to three blue-chip California high school swimmers. Understandably, USC's move has touched off a Pac-8 investigation and caused a flap that may extend to other NCAA schools.
June 12, 1977
Dr. Richard Perry, the USC athletic director, admits that his school is uncomfortable in the situation it has deliberately created. "That great big book we have to deal with [NCAA rules and regulations] came about because people behaved the way we are behaving," he says. "You establish a rule and someone avoids it by creating a new interpretation, and on and on. What we are saying is that we are violating the spirit of an NCAA rule. Our contention is that the rule is in violation of the spirit of fair competition.
"Our objection is that, except in football and basketball, the number limits are not body counts but equivalencies. In swimming, for instance, you may have the equivalent of 11 full scholarships, but you're allowed to take 19 swimmers to the NCAA championships. It takes no math genius to figure out that 11 very good swimmers will not score as many points as 19 very good swimmers."
Perry also charges that the rule is unfair to private universities like USC and Stanford, whose tuition is much higher than that at state-supported institutions. "If we offer a half-scholarship," he says, "it's going to cost an athlete nearly $2,000 for tuition alone. A similar half-scholarship at a state school would cost between $282 and $319.50."
Perry has no complaint with the Pac-8 investigation. "They are upset with us for the right reasons," he says. "The directors are saying, 'Hey, we understand the problem and we are willing to help you resolve it within the system.' But we tried that once and got nowhere. We can't afford to lose our momentum."
Nonetheless, USC has suspended its controversial recruiting program and told Kirk McGowan, Mike Kelley and Doug Frazier, the three prospective swimming stars, that they will have to play soccer next season. This may be a tall order; none of them has ever seriously played the game before.
THE TOP TEN
Ask a group of teen-agers to name their favorite sports heroes, and tennis, surprisingly, will produce more candidates than any other sport.
That's what a national poll conducted by the Gallup Youth Survey revealed. Though O. J. Simpson topped the list, three tennis players made the teens' top ten, while basketball, baseball and boxing contributed only one athlete each. The rest of the top ten were: 2. Chris Evert, 3. Joe Namath, 4. Muhammad Ali, 5. Nadia Comaneci, 6. Julius Erving, 7. Billie Jean King, 8. Bruce Jenner, 9. Johnny Bench and 10. Jimmy Connors.
Broken down according to sex, the boys' list was: 1. Simpson, 2. Ali, 3. Erving, 4. Namath, 5. Bench, 6. A tie between Larry Csonka and—are you ready for this?—Howard Cosell, 8. Fran Tarkenton, 9. Connors, 10. Roger Staubach.
The girls selected: 1. Evert, 2. Comaneci, 3. Simpson, 4. King, 5. Namath, 6. Jenner, 7. Ali, 8. Connors, 9. Mark Spitz (yes, Mark Spitz), 10. Olga Korbut.
For whatever it means, the boys picked 10 men while the girls had only four women among their 10 choices.
DOING THE HUSTLE
In the revered, ungrammatical cliché of its best-known sports commentator, the ABC television network "tells it like it is." The network's advertising department obviously doesn't subscribe to the dictum, however. There, the operative slogan seems to be "sell it like it isn't."
Last week ABC-TV ran an ad in The New York Times promoting its telecast of the NCAA track meet on Wide World of Sports. The ad's illustrations featured a photo of high jumper Dwight Stones, who set his 7'7¼" world record in last year's NCAA meet. Unfortunately, the '76 meet also marked the end of Stones' college eligibility, a well-known fact that guaranteed he would not be in this year's NCAA meet.
This sort of phony hustle has been tried before (SCORECARD, March 14) by NBC and CBS. If the networks continue to engage in this misleading practice, they may succeed in losing the viewers they go too far to attract.
JUST THE TICKET
Shortly after the advance betting windows for the Preakness opened at Pimlico, a man walked up to a $2 seller window, handed the clerk $2,000 and said, "Give me 1,000 tickets on Seattle Slew." After the seller punched out tickets for 10 minutes, the bettor apologized for not going to the $50 or $100 windows. "I also bought 1,000 tickets on Seattle Slew in the Kentucky Derby," he said, "and if he wins today I'll buy 1,000 tickets on him in the Belmont Stakes. If he wins the Triple Crown, I'll sell the tickets in sets of three as souvenirs, and I expect to make a big profit. If he loses the Belmont, I can still cash in the Derby and Preakness tickets."
When Seattle Slew won the Preakness the eccentric collector was $1,800 ahead. If Slew wins the Belmont he expects to have the sets of tickets framed and suitably engraved, and sell them for $50 each. For his $6,000 investment he could make a profit of $44,000. If Slew loses Saturday, he is out only $200. Not a bad way to beat the races.
STAKES WELL DONE
Last week after his easy win aboard Forego in the Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park, Bill Shoemaker sat on the plane carrying him back to California, thinking about the race and reflecting on his career. It suddenly dawned on him that the Metropolitan was his 700th stakes victory. Now that might not seem like a lot to some people, especially for a jockey who just last year chalked up his 7,000th win, but Shoe's nearest competitor is Eddie Arcaro, who had 554 stakes victories when he stopped riding. So Shoe's feat is equivalent to Aaron hitting 900 home runs to Ruth's 714.
Exactly one month earlier, Shoe's agent Harry Silbert told him he needed only one stakes win to hit 700, but the jockey tried not to think about it. "If you do, it makes it harder and you can go batty," says Shoemaker, who last year went into a slump waiting for 7,000. To date he has ridden 7,226 winners for nearly $63 million in purses.
Shoemaker's milestone was virtually unnoticed by the press, but he seemed not to mind. "When you get to that point, you think, 'What the hell, it's just another win.' I'm just glad it came on Forego. I'm very fond of that horse. I'd rather they write nice things about him," he says of the horse he considers the greatest he has ever ridden. "After Forego would come Swaps and Gallant Man, I guess, and then—what's the name of that horse, the sprinter who won the Hollywood Gold Cup?" Shoemaker laughs as he struggles to remember Ack Ack. "I've ridden 20 really top horses in my life, but I can't always remember their names. I'm getting old, you know, and my memory's getting bad."
Shoemaker is joking, of course. When you have ridden some 30,000 horses, it's easy to forget names, but races—never. He considers his best race to be last year's Marlboro Cup aboard Forego. After that come two races in 1962. "I was on this horse of Widener's," says Shoe. "In the Belmont I went for a mile head to head with Baeza and won by an inch. And then in the Travers, with the same horse, I did the same thing with Ycaza and won by a nose. What was that horse's name?"
JOHNNY ON THE SPOT
As a freshman halfback last fall, Johnny (Lam) Jones averaged more than five yards a carry for the University of Texas football team. Even so, there are those who wonder why one of the nation's outstanding sprinters risks his track future by playing football.
A member of the winning U.S. 400-meter relay team at the Montreal Olympics, Jones further heightened such concern this spring when he ran 100 meters in 9.9 seconds, hand-timed. The world record is Jim Hines' 9.95, electronically timed.
Based on his own experiences, however, Hines would advise Jones to stick with football because it promises greater rewards. "When I went to Texas Southern," Hines says, "I was supposed to be on a combination football-track scholarship. But I discovered after I got there that the track coach wouldn't let me play football. They had a rule against it."
A double gold-medal winner in the Mexico City Games, Hines failed to make the grade as an NFL wide receiver despite several tryouts. "I was on pro rosters for six years," he says, "but I spent most of those years on the bench watching other people play. Those four years of football that I missed in college really hurt me.
"I'd say it would be an advantage for Jones to play college football. His athletic future is in pro football and a background of college ball is a big help, no matter how much speed and skill you may have."
WHO'S CONNING WHOM?
Last month a group of black publishers and editors held a press conference in New York at which they denounced the "white" press for not printing a statement by the attorney general of Maryland absolving Boxing Promoter Don King of any wrongdoing in the conduct of his ill-starred tournament. "We as newspapermen who uphold the tradition of a free press and a responsible press have examined the evidence before us," they said, "and are forced to conclude that Don King has not been given fair play in the white press." The group also concluded that the reason for this was to discredit King in the boxing world and to restore control to white promoters.
The group was in error. As the magazine More, a monthly watchdog of the media, pointed out, the Maryland attorney general, whose office is not even investigating the tournament, issued no such statement. Nor was there one from the U.S. attorney for the district of Maryland, whose office is investigating the tournament. The publishers and editors may have been taken in by the non-existent statement just as ABC and Ring magazine were by the non-existent fights on the records of some of the contestants in King's tournament. It turns out, also, that the press conference was held in a hotel suite rented by Don King Productions and that the editors and publishers came to New York at the invitation of Kenneth Drew, a friend of King's, through the National Newspaper Publishers Association, a black organization. One of those present, Norman O. Unger, assistant managing editor of the Chicago Defender, believes that his airline tickets and those of some of the other journalists were paid for by King.
A number of other black newspapermen were invited to participate but declined. Unger says he did not agree with the statement that was issued at the press conference. However, "not wanting to make waves," he went along with it. No vote was taken on the statement. "It was like it was already decided, and we were there to show our faces," Unger concludes.
THEY SAID IT
•Pat Kelly, Baltimore Oriole outfielder, after a home run by Minnesota's Roy Smalley: "I looked in my glove and then on the ground. That left only one place—the other side of the fence."
•Earl Strom, NBA referee: "Officiating is the only occupation in the world where the highest accolade is silence."
•Billy Pickard, Texas A&M trainer, asked what the Aggies' 260-pound fullback, George Woodard, has been doing since school recessed: "I don't know, but I hope he's not eating."