A lot of the rumors about the basketball program at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas have turned out to be true. Citing numerous alleged violations, the NCAA last week placed Las Vegas on probation for two years and limited the number of basketball scholarships to six, three a year. (A school in good standing is allowed a total of 15 players on scholarship.) The NCAA has directed Las Vegas to "take appropriate disciplinary and corrective actions against individuals directly involved in the case, including a former head basketball coach, a former assistant basketball coach, the present head basketball coach and eight representatives of the university's athletic interests."
The NCAA names no names, but the present head coach is Jerry Tarkanian. who has had the job since 1973, while the past head coach is John Bayer, now director of physical education at Las Vegas. The report says that the unnamed Bayer arranged for prospective student athletes to get correct answers to questions on entrance exams and for an assistant to help them memorize the answers and, neat twist, told them what questions to answer incorrectly so their scores would not be suspiciously high.
The report notes Bayer and Tarkanian arranged for illegal payments of airplane fares so prospects could visit the school, and between 1971 and 1973 Bayer made illegal cash payments to players and provided free apartments. In 1973-74 Tarkanian set up a deal for a player to get a grade in a course without attending it or doing any work. Furthermore, Tarkanian "arranged for other individuals to contact at least two principals involved in the case in an effort to discourage them from reporting information related to violations." Tarkanian also sought "to cause them to give untruthful information to the university."
The NCAA wants to know exactly what Las Vegas is going to do to discipline its miscreants, and should this not be sufficient, the NCAA stands ready to impose additional penalties.
Highway 40, a twisting old road that used to be the main route between Reno and San Francisco, has been replaced by Interstate 80, a four-lane divided highway that roughly parallels the old road. But Highway 40 has not been entirely abandoned. Some local traffic still uses it, and one three-mile stretch, a treacherous, twisting hill high in the Sierra Nevada, has become a favorite playground of skateboarders. High school ski teams ride boards down the grade in summer to keep in competitive trim, and skateboard fanatics from all over the West gather, even at night, when the moon is shining, to try the hill.
The California Highway Patrol frets because the road is dangerous. The old highway has some tight hairpin turns, many of them dead-blind, and the road skirts the edges of one cliff after another. Most skateboarders control their speed, taking as long as an hour to make the three-mile run. Hotboarders, on the other hand, zing down the hill in 25 minutes. Recently a Highway Patrol car narrowly missed a skater, and a month or so ago a trucker swerved off the road to avoid a youngster on a board. The driver jumped to safety, the truck was totaled and the skateboarder rolled on.
There is no law under which the Highway Patrol can crack down on reckless skateboarding on the open highway. The only available penalty is a $5 fine for "pedestrian out of crosswalk."
Columnist George Dolan of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tells this story. Herb Maurice and Jim Holmes work for the same company, and each phoned the office on Monday morning to report he would not be in that day. Each had to have dental work done. A few days later, Holmes explained why.
"Herb and I went fishing Saturday," said Holmes. "When we were out in the middle of the lake, Herb took out his dentures and put them on the boat seat. I decided I'd play a prank on him. When he wasn't looking, I put his teeth in my pocket. Then later, when I got the chance, I took my dentures out and put them where his had been.
"We fished awhile, then decided to go to another spot. Herb picked up the teeth and tried several times to get them in his mouth. He got fiery mad, threw them as far as he could and said, 'Those dang things never have fit me right.'
"Well, I froze, because mine fit me perfectly and cost me a bundle, besides. I sat stunned a few seconds, then reached in my pocket, got his teeth, threw them as far as I could and said, 'Mine don't fit, either.' "
The strange and fragile plane designed by Dr. Paul MacCready and known as the Gossamer Condor (SI, Aug. 1) has finally done it. Last week in Shafter, Calif. it became the first successful man-powered aircraft. The man power was supplied by Bryan Allen, 24, who furiously pedaled to turn the prop. By completing the figure-eight, one-mile course and by being at an altitude of at least 10 feet at the start and finish, the Gossamer Condor, which weighs 77 pounds and has a 96-foot wingspread, fulfilled the conditions for an $86,000 prize offered by London's Royal Aeronautical Society. "It was a successful flight," said Bill Richardson, who was hired as official observer for the society, which will now go over his report.
After completing the flight in seven minutes and 20 seconds the exhausted Allen said, "Making the climbs was very difficult, and it took all the power I could generate to make the turns around the pylons. I got half to three-quarters of the way around before I realized I had a chance. When I got to the last pylon, I knew I was going to finish." Bushed as he was, Allen had good reason to keep going. "My cycle shoes were fastened to the pedals," he explained, "and there was no way I could pull my feet out."
And then there are those who can't make it up into the wild blue yonder. Take the Black Eagle, a former doughnut maker whose real name is Walter Heywood. The Black Eagle paid $15,000 to rent Boston Garden on a recent Sunday night for an attempt to break the world indoor jump record in his homemade rocket. To call the show the flop of the year would be an understatement.
The advance sale totaled nine.
The crowd in the 12,757-seat arena was 250.
As TV cameras zoomed in on the launch, the catapult broke and the rocket ship feebly rolled back down the launch ramp at about two mph before plopping 10 inches to the Garden floor.
But the Black Eagle was not disheartened. "No one asked for their money back," he said.
With the George Atkinson-Chuck Noll case out of the way, another federal district court has taken a look, albeit a brief one, at player violence in the National Football League. Judge Richard P. Matsch in Denver dismissed a $1 million lawsuit against Fullback Boobie Clark and the Cincinnati Bengals. The suit was filed by Dale Hackbart, a former defensive back for the Denver Broncos, who claimed he was injured and his career cut short four years ago, when Clark struck him in the head. No penalty was called, and Hackbart played two more games for the Broncos before he was waived. After hearing testimony and viewing films, Judge Matsch concluded civil courts cannot be expected to control violence in pro football.
Cincinnati's Assistant General Manager and Legal Counsel Mike Brown is pleased with the dismissal. "What it did," he says, "was confirm what we always assumed to be the arrangement under which football has been played—that players assume the risk for injuries not just within the rules, but outside the rules. If that assumption had been changed, there would have been so many suits filed you couldn't have counted them."
Brown doubts that the ruling will encourage violence. "I think the league is going to police that kind of thing more severely than ever," he says. "We recognize it as a problem. We don't condone it, the other clubs don't condone it, the commissioner doesn't condone it and the players themselves don't."
An optometrist and sports fan, Dr. A. I. Garner of Harrisburg, Pa. says, "If an athlete is not visually fit, he is not 100% physically fit." And going by a study that took Garner five years to complete, about a quarter of all U.S. athletes may suffer from poor vision. Of the 3,094 athletes he examined, 866 could not pass the eye test used by the Pennsylvania State Police to determine if a driver should wear glasses. Thirteen of 53 hockey players in training with the 1974 Pittsburgh Penguins failed, including seven who were wearing prescription glasses or contact lenses. Among college athletes, 33% of the football players flunked, while 50% of all basketball players who had not previously had their eyes examined failed the test. High school football players had a failure rate of 27%, but only 17% of women college athletes flunked.
To rephrase Dorothy Parker, men who throw passes may need to wear glasses.
VIVE LE STADE!
The Olympic Stadium that plunged Montreal into debt is paying off for local teams. The Expos, struggling to reach .500, have almost doubled last year's total attendance—646,704 to 1,186,232, the largest increase in baseball this season. And now the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League are getting the crowds. On July 26 they drew 55,000 to Olympic Stadium for a game against Calgary, one of the weakest CFL teams. The Alouettes followed that with 63,300 against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and a sellout 66,544 for the Ottawa Rough Riders, the Grey Cup champions. All this leads to speculation that the National Football League might take another look at Montreal, where Alouette crowds have exceeded those expected in some NFL cities this year.
BY THE NUMBERS
A funny thing happened at New York's Monticello Raceway last week. Bucking odds of 40,319 to 1, all eight horses in Tuesday night's second race finished in their post positions. Some octofecta!
METRIC FOOTBALL, CHAPTER II
In this space last November, Dr. Andrew Hulsebosch of the Eastern Analysis Institute suggested that football switch from yards to meters. A realist, Hulsebosch knew there was scant chance of getting the NFL or major colleges to try the metric system, but he hoped that a small academically oriented college, such as Carleton, might try it out.
Well, Jerry Mohrig, a chemistry prof at Carleton, read the item and spoke to Jack Thurnblad, the athletic director. As a result, Carleton will play the first metric college football game on Sept. 17 in Northfield, Minn. against its hometown rival, St. Olaf. The Carls and the Oles, who have been almost dead-even over the years (28 wins for Carleton, 26 for St. Olaf and one tie), will do battle for the traditional Goat Trophy on a field 100 meters—or 109.36 yards—long. The players' heights and weights will be in centimeters and kilograms. To make a first down, a team must advance 10 meters (10.94 yards), which makes Carleton Coach Dale Quist think that the offenses will be wide open and that passing and kicking will play big roles. Everything is in readiness, except for the height of the crossbar, which probably will be set at an even number of meters. Whether the crossbar will be higher or lower than the standard 10 feet is a subject of discussion between the two teams. Watch this space for further details.
THEY SAID IT
•Neal Jeffrey, returning to Southwestern Theological Seminary after being cut by the San Diego Chargers: "I guess the Lord has something else in mind for me."
•Charley Hannah, Tampa Bay rookie defensive end, after dining with Assistant Coach Abe Gibron, a noted trencherman: "He was eating things we wouldn't even go in swimming with in Alabama."