ALARUMS IN THE GYM
A new rule governing the issuance of press credentials is in effect at the NCAA basketball tournament. As approved at the NCAA convention last January in San Francisco, no credentials for any national championship will be issued to tout sheets or to organizations that "regularly" promote or advertise such sheets. Newspapers that publish point spreads or occasional ads for tout sheets aren't affected.) Several people have already been barred from tournament press boxes, including representatives of Basketball Weekly and The Gold Sheet.
The NCAA's action reflects growing concern over the volume of betting on college basketball. Alarums have previously been sounded by a number of college sports information directors who have refused to accredit representatives of tip sheets at regular-season games. And Indiana Coach Bobby Knight recently warned, "There's too much easy money. There are unsavory characters around. I don't think coaches are concerned enough."
Nobody is so naive as to think that the denial of press credentials will curb gambling. The fact is that the new NCAA policy is mainly a symbolic gesture. Still, the problem that inspired it is real. A few years ago several college sports information directors formed a Gambling Awareness Committee to call attention to such practices as bookies posing as sportswriters to get inside information. The family of one of the S.I.D.s, St. John's Bill Esposito, received threatening phone calls. Esposito and others fear that heavy betting could result in point-shaving scandals like those that rocked college basketball in the early '50s and again in the '60s.
March 19, 1979
"At practices, all sorts of characters hang around the gym," Esposito says. "Someone hurts an ankle and it's out in five minutes. We get phone calls from Idaho asking our game times here in New York. Why? Because there's a time limit on when they can take bets. I was a student at St. John's right before the '51 scandal and I had just started as S.I.D. when the second one hit in 1960, and I see all the same signs today."
SIS BOOM BLAH
The scent of money—not always gambling money, but money just the same—was in the air at the three-day Atlantic Coast Conference tournament two weeks ago in Greensboro, N.C. The winner was North Carolina. The loser was the notion that college athletics should be a diversion for college students.
Each of the ACC's seven schools was allotted 2,191 tickets, but no school made more than 269 of its tickets available to students. Most chose instead to reward their fattest fat cats. North Carolina earmarked a grand total of 100 tickets for students and the rest for boosters who had donated at least $8,100 to the school's deftly named Education Foundation, which solicits contributions for athletic scholarships. A book of tickets for the four sessions cost $40, so those Tar Heel boosters, in effect, were paying more than 200 times face value to attend the tournament.
Not that the few students who came up with tickets always used them. Many sold them at a profit to scalpers, who in turn commanded $150 or more for a four-ticket book. There probably were no more than 1,000 students in the 15,753-seat Greensboro Coliseum at any session, and pep bands weren't allowed in until the final night, which could account for the strangely subdued crowds during most of the tournament.
A CLASSY TEAM
Few athletes have comported themselves more honorably than the members of the Saginaw (Mich.) High School ice hockey team. The Trojans lost to Traverse City 48-0 last week in the opening round of the state tournament, yet when Traverse City Coach Denny Meyers mercifully offered to cut the massacre short. Saginaw declined. Its players struggled to the finish, congratulated the winners and skated off the ice.
The loss left Saginaw with a season-ending 0-20 record, but Claude Marsh, the athletic director, says, "We're an inner-city school and only seven boys came out for the team. This means all our kids have played nearly a complete game every time. They may have had limited skills but they never quit once."
Meyers said that Saginaw "lost with class." Saginaw Goalie Tom Szczypka, who survived a bombardment of 129 shots, had particular reason to be proud. The final score reflects only the 48 shots that Szczypka let in. Somehow, the 81 he stopped seem just as noteworthy.
A-COURTING THEY WILL GO
Tennis has its own versions of the blind date and most players have suffered through at least a few of them. In like need of a suitable opponent or doubles partner, two strangers venture onto the court and quickly discover they aren't going to live happily for an hour, much less ever after. What is needed, obviously, is a reliable handicapping system by which players can gracefully and accurately let each other know in advance how good, middling or bad they are. Over the years a number of schemes have been suggested but all of these have proved unworkable.
Now the National Tennis Association, an organization representing 500 clubs, has come up with one that sounds good. Next month the NTA will distribute brochures to clubs, resorts and municipal parks; the brochures will outline what the NTA calls the National Tennis Rating Program. The handicapping system is self-administering and, unlike those proposed in the past, has been endorsed by both the USTA and the teaching pros' group, the USPTA. Each player simply assigns himself to one of 13 levels of competence ranging from 1.0 (for somebody "just starting to play") on up to 7.0 ("a polished tournament player...who has been nationally ranked"). In between are 1.5, 2.0 and so on. A 3.5, to take another example, "still lacks stroke dependability, depth and variety" but volleys "with consistency if the ball is within reach."
The NTA says that a player might find it a good idea to verify his rating with a pro, but that this would be entirely optional. The sole object is to help players avoid unfortunate blind dates. A 4.5 would figure to do so if he scrupulously steered clear of, say, a 2.0—or a 6.5. He would likely find a 5.0 far more compatible.
BUT IT HAPPENED LONG AGO
There have been few, if any, pro football quarterbacks as minuscule as the short shortstop on this week's cover, but 5'7" Eddie LeBaron came close. LeBaron, who is now general manager of the Atlanta Falcons, played 11 NFL seasons and still holds one passing record. On Oct. 9, 1960, playing for Dallas in a 26-14 loss to Washington, he completed a two-inch scoring pass to Dick Bielski. Of all the touchdown passes in NFL history, that's the shortest.
OVERSIGHT AND OVERLAP
In the interest of wrapping up competition before the school year ends, the NCAA has rescheduled its golf championships, traditionally held in June, for May 23-26. As a result, three top college golfers—John Cook of Ohio State, Bob Clampett of Brigham Young and Gary Hallberg of Wake Forest—won't be competing for the U.S. in the Walker Cup Match against Great Britain. The Match will be held at Muirfield in Scotland on May 30-31, but the U.S. Golf Association's itinerary calls for the American team to leave New York on May 23 and brooks no exceptions. Players either depart on that day or don't go.
The overlapping dates forced Cook, Clampett and Hallberg to choose between the two events, and all elected to compete in the NCAA tournament. The USGA says that the early departure date provides for a week of practice, acclimation and camaraderie in Scotland. "There are no players on this team more equal than others," USGA President Sandy Tatum says. "Each of them is entitled to the full experience of being a member of this team."
The USGA is being attacked for its unyielding stance by golf coaches, golf writers and golf scholarship holders. Yet this criticism overlooks the fact that dates for the Walker Cup were set two years ago, while the NCAA rescheduled its meet later on. Dennie Poppe, the NCAA golf administrator, says he simply assumed there was no conflict. He admits that it was "an act of omission" not to have checked with the USGA.
TELEVISION TUNNEL VISION
The National Hockey League has 17 teams and the World Hockey Association has six, and that's simply more hockey than the market will bear. If this were the best of all possible worlds, the NHL would probably get out of Colorado. Pittsburgh, Washington, Chicago and St. Louis, where the game hasn't been going over, and move into Edmonton and New England, two WHA locales where it has. The WHA would vanish, and a streamlined 14-team NHL could finally do something about the dilution of talent that a decade of expansion and seven years of interleague warfare have visited on the game.
But this isn't the best of all possible worlds, and when the NHL owners met in Key Largo, Fla. last week, Colorado, Pittsburgh, et al. were present and accounted for. What's more, no fewer than four WHA teams—Winnipeg and Quebec, as well as Edmonton and New England—were applying for NHL membership. The choice thus was between a continued alignment of two leagues with 23 teams and a projected alignment of one league with 21 teams. Although the NHL bosses voted 12-5 in favor of absorbing the four WHA teams, that fell one vote shy of the three-fourths majority required for approval.
Given the less than ideal options before them, the five teams that killed the deal—Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Boston and Los Angeles—may very well have made the right decision. But don't go expecting any of them to offer wise and exalted explanations for their action. Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, for instance, have a lucrative contract with Canadian television, and they were not about to divvy up the money with three more Canadian clubs.
MONSTER OF THE DEEP
This has been a winter that Virginia Annable, a schoolteacher in Brookhaven, N.Y. on Long Island's south shore, won't soon forget. During a recent cold snap, thieves took Annable's 1966 Volkswagen for a joyride on frozen Great South Bay, which separates Long Island from its barrier beaches. They then set the car afire and left it on the ice a mile offshore. The next morning the Suffolk County Marine Police asked Annable to remove the charred vehicle.
Annable mustered some friends to do so, but because by this time rain had weakened the ice and made visibility poor, she elected to wait. The rain continued and the ice began to break up. The car drifted away on a large floe and finally sank in a recreational boating channel.
The Army Corps of Engineers now calls the submerged car a navigational hazard and wants Annable to remove it at her own expense. The Corps says that if any boat is damaged by the car, which lurks in five feet of water like some monster of the deep, she would be responsible. Whether this is true is for a court to determine, but Annable, meanwhile, is living with the uncertainty. The thieves haven't been caught, and she points out that the car, which wasn't insured for theft, was worth barely $200 even before it was burned and sank. "I'm the innocent victim of a crime," she says forlornly. "I didn't put the car in the bay, so why should I have to take it out?"
The cost of hiring a barge, crane and diver is at least $1,000. Alternatively, the Coast Guard says it will mark the spot with a lighted buoy if Annable is willing to pay for it. The charge would be $203, plus $34 a month maintenance—presumably forever.
THEY SAID IT
•Cesar Cedeno, the Houston Astros' Dominican-born centerfielder: "I never get any endorsements or commercials. I've never understood why. I have an accent, but so does Ricardo Montalban."
•Lou Holtz, Arkansas football coach: "I don't mind starting the season with unknowns. I just don't like finishing the season with them."
•Vincent Tralka, the girls' basketball coach at St. Rose High School in Belmar, N.J.: "We play a man-to-man defense. Person-to-person sounds like a phone call."