STUNG BY A SWARM OF Bs
Short of somebody letting the air out of the ball, what more can possibly happen to further deflate Arizona State's football program? While reports circulated in Phoenix last week that soon there will be even more shocking revelations of wrongdoing at Arizona State, the Pac-10 dealt the Sun Devils yet another harsh blow by ruling that the school had used eight ineligible players this season and ordering it to forfeit its three conference victories. That done, Arizona State offered to forfeit its two nonconference wins, transforming its 5-4 record to 0-9. Playing without the eight men, the Sun Devils then beat West Virginia 42-7 Saturday night. With two games remaining, they thus had a 1-9 record to show for their scandal-ridden football season.
The Pac-10's investigation of the eight Arizona State players centered on transfer credits they received last summer from Rocky Mountain College, a small school in Billings, Mont, that offers more than two dozen extension courses at various locations in the Los Angeles area. The Sun Devil players had each received a B grade for a three-credit course entitled Remediation of Reading, Mathematics and Language for the Exceptional Child. But conference officials say that the players never attended class and failed to complete any other work in the course.
One of the eight players, Arthur (Turtle) Lane, told The Arizona Republic that he had been enrolled in the course by John Rehfield, the academic adviser in the Sun Devils' athletic department. Lane said he was told that it was a correspondence course and that he needed only to write a term paper to pass. He said that he never actually wrote such a paper and that he and other players had asked Rehfield about this, "but every time he would say, 'It's O.K., it's been taken care of.' " Lane said he had since learned that somebody had forged his name to register him in the course.
According to officials at Rocky Mountain College, more than 80 students took the course in a rented classroom in a Baptist church in the Los Angeles community of Gardena. The course was designed for certified teachers, but Wiley Bowers, the instructor, admitted to SI's Jack Tobin that "there were so many people, we didn't pay as much attention [to whether students met the qualifications for the course] as we would have normally." Bowers said that stand-ins must have registered for the Arizona State athletes and signed in for them each day. "Someone was there," Bowers insisted. As for how grades were determined. Bowers said, "Students keep their papers. I would go around and check them and give them a grade—see what they were doing."
Rehfield would not comment on Lane's claim that he had told players that term-paper requirements "had been taken care of." He did say he had collected fees for the course from players and had asked Rocky Mountain College to send transcripts to Arizona State. He also said that Frank Kush, Arizona State's deposed coach, had told him "my job was to get our players eligible or I'd be fired." Although Kush has denied any knowledge of irregularities involving the course, The Phoenix Gazette quoted an unidentified assistant coach as saying, "Kush was totally aware of it. He was consulted because it was a somewhat questionable deal." Kush was suspended as the Sun Devil coach last month for allegedly lying to school officials after Kevin Rutledge, an ex-Arizona State player had filed a $1.1-million law suit in which he accused Kush of having hit him. Kush has filed a $40-million damage suit against Arizona State and others.
The Sun Devil forfeits were unwelcome to Southern Cal, which had a 5-0-1 record and seemingly had the Pac-10 title and a Rose Bowl berth sewed up. Because the forfeits turned Washington's loss to Arizona State into a win, the Huskies now have a 6-1 record and are back in contention. Meanwhile, Pac-10 Executive Director Wiles Hallock said he had "no specific evidence" on a report that athletes at Cal, UCLA, Southern Cal and Oregon State may have found it convenient to pick up credits by taking similar extension courses.
SAVING SPACE ON THE SPACEMAN
No, it wasn't a case of the censors finding anything offensive in the baseball box scores this past season. That BLeep that kept showing up was simply shorthand for Bill Lee, the pitcher.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar hopes to receive Oriental rugs for Christmas, while Los Angeles Laker teammate Magic Johnson has his heart set on a new stereo. Distance swimmer Diana Nyad will be looking for a portable Dictaphone under her Christmas tree. John McEnroe would like nothing better for Christmas than, for a change, a "good press." Tom Landry yearns for a third Super Bowl victory. Bill Rodgers for any kind of Olympic medal. Bruce Jenner wants socks and more drawer space for his T shirts. Maybe Jenner can solve his space problem by playing Santa to New York Jet Quarterback Richard Todd, who is hoping to receive some T shirts for Christmas because, "I can never get enough of them."
These holiday shopping tips come courtesy of Dayton's, a Minneapolis-based department-store chain that asked celebrities what they wanted for Christmas as a way of publicizing a computerized registry in which customers could list desired gifts. Happily, the concerns of some of the athletes who responded went beyond themselves. Jean-Claude Killy said that what he wanted for Christmas was "peace on earth," while soccer goalie Shep Messing hoped for a long, happy life for his new daughter, Manda. Mickey Mantle wanted the world's hungry children to receive turkey dinners, and Red Auerbach asked for "good health and happiness for all."
It remained for Lynn Swann to show that it is possible to dream big both for oneself and others. What did the Pittsburgh Steeler wide receiver want for Christmas? "A Gulfstream II airplane complete with two reliable pilots," Swann replied. "Also, an end to poverty and starvation around the world."
Last week it was mentioned in this space that except for the Denver Broncos, Colorado's professional and college teams had fallen on hard times and that fans there might be tempted to escape by going skiing in the Rockies, where snow was plentiful. On Friday the following wire arrived from SI's Detroit correspondent, Jerry Green, who had been urging us to run a similar item about his city's athletic troubles. Green's message: "Yes, but Denver has only one last-place team. We have three [Red Wings, Lions and Pistons]. Denver has one with a winning record. It snowed here Thursday but didn't stick. Tomorrow, Michigan loses to Ohio State. Lousy choice."
MORE AIR THAN AIRING
Last month Ed Garvey, executive director of the NFL Players' Association, wrote to his union's player representatives requesting authorization to issue a press release complaining about the relatively few off-field NFL jobs held by blacks. Although football doesn't have the worst record in pro sports when it comes to hiring blacks—baseball, for one, has fewer black executives (SCORECARD, Oct. 8)—Garvey correctly divined that the NFL has nothing to brag about, either. As he pointed out, no NFL club has ever hired a black general manager, and currently there are fewer than a dozen blacks among the 200-plus assistant coaches. The NFL has had a black head coach, but that was so long ago—Fritz Pollard with the Hammond Pros in 1922-25—that it hardly counts.
But Garvey's proposed press release was unnecessarily inflammatory. It described the NFL as "a monument to racism," a word that is used very loosely these days. It also implied that Pete Rozelle was guilty of conscious discrimination and demagogically dismissed the commissioner's recent establishment of a scholarship fund for black sportswriters as an action that "belongs in the Chutzpah Hall of Fame." The proposed press release was accompanied by a letter in which Garvey wondered rhetorically whether former All-Pro Defensive Back Willie Wood might not be qualified to coach in the NFL and then answered, "Not qualified, my ass." Garvey further assailed Rozelle for levying a $2,000 fine against the New England Patriots' Raymond Clayborn, who is black, following an altercation with a "white Boston Irish sportswriter." Garvey preposterously equated this punishment with racial injustice in South Africa.
NFL player reps have not yet voted on the release, but The Boston Globe published the release and Garvey's letter last week. Rozelle promptly attacked Garvey as "hysterical," a characterization that seemed all the more warranted when Garvey in turn claimed that the NFL had intercepted his correspondence and leaked it to the press. He offered no evidence to support this charge.
Later in the week Garvey and Rozelle got into a brief and welcome exchange about how the NFL's minority hiring practices compare with those in business. But Garvey's overblown remarks had dampened hopes for any kind of useful probe into the paucity of blacks in key NFL positions and possible ways to correct the situation. That's a shame, because the issues he ostensibly was trying to raise deserve a reasoned airing.
GETTING MAXIMUM VALUE
Willie Stargell and Keith Hernandez finished in a tie for the National League's Most Valuable Player award, the first MVP dead heat ever in either league. Stargell would have won outright but for the fact that four of the 24 members of the Baseball Writers Association of America voting for the award didn't see fit to name the Pittsburgh slugger to any of the 10 places on their ballots. Their shared oversight was not nearly as shocking as it might have been if anybody knew what "Most Valuable Player" means.
Confusion has reigned ever since the BWAA introduced its MVP awards in 1931. In 1941, for example, Ted Williams was the American League's "best" player, batting .406, 49 points better than Joe DiMaggio. But DiMaggio hit safely in 56 consecutive games, his Yankees won the pennant, and he was named the MVP, apparently on the theory that the star of a pennant winner is more "valuable" than the star of an also-ran. By contrast, two years ago Rod Carew was the American League's "best" player with a .388 average, but his Minnesota Twins had only the seventh-best record in the league. He won the MVP award anyway. On other occasions, vague where-would-the-team-have-been-without-him considerations have swayed voters. Thus the Chicago Cubs' Hank Sauer was the MVP in 1952, though he was neither the National League's "best" player nor on a pennant winner; rather, he led a team that would have finished in the cellar without him to a fifth-place finish.
This year Hernandez was the National League's "best" player, with a .344 average and 116 runs scored, both tops in the league, and 105 runs batted in for the third-place Cardinals. Stargell hit only .281 with 60 runs and 82 RBIs. But he also hit 32 homers and led the Pirates to the East Division title. So which player deserved to win in the balloting, which took place before Stargell's playoff and World Series heroics? Jack Lang, the BWAA's secretary-treasurer, admits that it depends on your idea of what MVP means. "We have no definition," Lang says. "You give me a good definition in four sentences and I'll use it."
A tourist from Jacksonville, Robert McDowell, was traveling in Northern Ireland recently when he noticed a sign at a motel entrance reading NO FOOTBALL COACHES. McDowell naturally wondered what local Hayesian or Kushian outrages could possibly have resulted in such a sweeping prohibition. It took a moment for him to realize that the sign referred to buses carrying soccer fans.
THEY SAID IT
•Edward Bennett Williams, new owner of the Baltimore Orioles, on why he has been inactive in the free-agent market: "I believe there are certain things that cannot be bought: loyalty, friendship, health, love and an American League pennant."
•Muhammad Ali, to a seatmate during a turbulent flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles: "This plane isn't going to crash. I'm on it."