"AS BAD AS ANYTHING THAT'S EVER COME ALONG"
Since the University of New Mexico's athletic scandal erupted last December, school officials have forfeited one basketball and six football victories, declared nine athletes ineligible and fired their flamboyant basketball coach, Norm Ellenberger. Last week a federal grand jury in Albuquerque indicted Ellenberger and a former assistant, John Whisenant, on multiple counts of fraud relating to the alleged doctoring of academic transcripts and, in the case of Ellenberger, one count of racketeering arising out of an alleged bribery scheme. U.S. District Attorney R. E. Thompson said it was anticipated that another ex-Lobo assistant, Manny Goldstein, and an Albuquerque printer, William Blackstad, would plead guilty to unspecified felony charges.
The grand jury accused Ellenberger of plotting with Whisenant and Goldstein to use the telephone and the U.S. mails to provide phony transfer credits to two Lobo players with eligibility problems, Andre Logan and Craig Gilbert. The indictment said that the scheme involved counterfeiting transcripts from New Jersey's Mercer County Community College. Ellenberger also was accused of sending Goldstein to Los Angeles for the purpose of bribing "employees" of Oxnard College, which Gilbert had attended before transferring to New Mexico. All this, the indictment said, constituted an attempt to defraud the NCAA, the Western Athletic Conference and New Mexico's admissions office concerning the eligibility of the two players.
Significantly, most of the activities covered by the indictment also violate NCAA rules, but that organization's investigators lack the power to subpoena witnesses. It has therefore fallen largely to the FBI and local police to investigate evidence of academic improprieties as well as reports of slush funds, illegal kickbacks and links between New Mexico's athletic program and big-time gambling. As a result, one FBI agent working on the New Mexico case says, "We are doing what the NCAA is supposed to do."
Somebody had better do something. As the New Mexico situation suggests, the pressures on college coaches to win are so enormous that they are encouraged to recruit academically deficient athletes, then go to disturbing lengths to make them eligible. In addition to abuses involving transfer credits, extraordinary things are done with "independent study." For example, a former University of Oregon football player, Derrick Dale, earned instant eligibility in 1978 by "taking," as independent study, a jogging course at nearby Lane Community College; he was credited for running he had done in football practice. And the New Mexico case has brought to light—as has the scandal at Arizona State—improprieties involving extension courses that many small colleges offer as a means of producing sorely needed revenue.
The most alarming revelations to date involve extension courses offered in the Los Angeles area by Montana's Rocky Mountain College and Kansas' Ottawa University. So far 30 athletes who allegedly received bogus credits from either of those two schools have been declared ineligible at eight universities—Arizona State, New Mexico, Oregon, Oregon State, Utah, San Jose State, Purdue and California Polytechnic-Pomona. But credits from extension courses offered by other small colleges are also under suspicion. The wide-ranging nature of the scandal suggests the existence of a grapevine for the benefit of coaches and counselors who need to conjure up credits for academically sub-par athletes. An assistant football coach at a second-division Pac-10 school recently told SI's John Papanek, "I've got to get top kids. Eligibility? Hey, there's nothing to keeping a kid eligible, and there isn't a coach in America who doesn't know that."
As it happens, many college athletic administrators are active in the extension-course business. For example, Bob Owens, a former Arizona State assistant football coach who served as interim coach following the firing last fall of Frank Kush, has for several years been president of American Education Enterprises, Inc. of California, which operates extension courses at a number of locations. For these purposes he invokes his real name and his doctorate and is known as Dr. Royce Owens. When several Arizona State football players experienced eligibility difficulties last year, however, it was another assistant coach who dealt with the problem. He phoned John Hardy, an academic counselor at Pasadena (Calif.) City College, who suggested a course at Rocky Mountain College—for which the Arizona State players wound up receiving credit without attending class. When Rocky Mountain officials later checked registration forms, they found that the home address given for some of the Arizona State athletes was Hardy's address in Altadena, Calif.
Hardy denies any wrongdoing. Dr. Fred Miller, who was fired last month as Arizona State's athletic director, prefers to blame transcript irregularities on the intercollegiate athletic "system." This, he says, "does not invite cheating, it demands it." As though to bear him out, there were signs last week that the academic-credit scandal might be touching yet another Pac-10 campus. UCLA officials confirmed that they were investigating the possibility that former Bruin football players had received transfer credit on bogus transcripts from Los Angeles Valley College.
As such incidents proliferate, little if anything is being done about the factors—including ever bigger arenas and stadiums, and ever more zealous boosters—that encourage excess. The result is a widening collegiate sports scandal that Michigan Athletic Director Don Canham says is probably already "as bad as anything that has ever come along." Canham is not overstating the issue. The epidemic of transcript abuses is threatening not only intercollegiate athletics but also the academic integrity of a growing number of American universities.
NINE IS FINE
At its annual meeting in Sarasota, Fla. this week, the United States Tennis Association will consider a proposal to kill off, so to speak, sudden death. The proposal would abolish the nine-point tiebreaker used when a set reaches 6-6, and require that the 12-point system be in force at such USTA-sanctioned events as the Amateur Indoor Championships. The 12-point system, which involves bewildering, if equitable, changes of service and also mandates that victories be achieved by margins of at least two points, is used by the men professionals, but virtually everyone else plays the nine-point tie-breaker—women pros, high schoolers, collegians, club members. Under the nine-point setup, whoever serves the ninth point enjoys a slight advantage, which is why the male pros say they are against it. But the nine-pointer is more exciting and certainly less complicated.
"What I like about the nine-point," says Bill Talbert, "is that it brings about a definite finish. Most sports have one. It's exciting. Theoretically, the 12-point could go on forever." And Gardnar Mulloy, now a teaching pro in Florida, says, "A lot of people see the 12-point on television and don't understand it." That sometimes goes for players and umpires, too. A couple of years ago a ballboy became one of the heroes of the U.S. Open when he interrupted play during a 12-point tie-breaker just as the wrong player was about to serve, a mistake neither the umpire nor the thoroughly flummoxed competitors seemed to notice.
For what it's worth, here's one vote for sudden death.
SMALL, BUT OH MY!
Kentucky and Indiana are hotbeds of high school basketball, and Bill Harrell has the distinction of having coached teams to championships in both states. What's more, he has done so with the considerable and improbable assistance of a succession of talented 5'9" guards. When Harrell's Shelby County team won the Kentucky high school title in 1966, one of his starters was 5'9" Bill Busey, who later played for Adolph Rupp's Kentucky Wildcats. Now at perennial Indiana powerhouse Muncie Central, Harrell has won the last two state championships with the assistance of not one, but two 5'9" sensations.
The first was Jack Moore, who led Central's Bearcats to the 1978 state championship before enrolling at Nebraska, where he is averaging 14.2 points a game as a sophomore for the surprising (16-10) Cornhuskers. The other was Ray McCallum, who succeeded Moore as Central's point guard last season, led the school to another state title and is now a freshman at Ball State, where he is averaging a team-leading 16.3 points. As a guard at Kentucky Wesleyan in the early 1950s, Harrell also was 5'9", but, he jokes, that was before "I got to eat three squares a day." He now stands 6', making him a towering figure next to Busey, Moore and McCallum.
OUT OF THE WILDERNESS
Every year since 1952 the same four Boston-area schools had met in the big Beanpot Hockey Tournament, and every year Northeastern University's Huskies had gone home disappointed. While Boston University was winning 11 Beanpot championships, Boston College nine and Harvard seven, poor Northeastern not only took nary a title but also had the dubious distinction of finishing last in 18 of the 27 annual tournaments, winning, in the process, just nine of 54 games. If some team in the Beanpot won a 9-0 laugher, or if some player scored a record four goals in a single period, you could be sure the hapless Huskies were the victims.
Last week Northeastern finally won its first Beanpot. After upsetting Boston University 6-5 at 5:09 in overtime in the opening round, the Huskies, who had entered the tournament with a 3-11 record, moved into the finals against mighty Boston College, which sported a 19-4-1 mark and was No. 1 in the East and third-ranked nationally. Playing on sheer emotion before a sellout crowd of 14,456 in Boston Garden, Northeastern somehow stayed even until, at 2:47 in overtime, Center Wayne Turner scored, giving the Huskies a 5-4 victory and touching off the wildest celebration seen at a hockey game in the Garden since 1970, when Bobby Orr's overtime goal against St. Louis won the Stanley Cup for the Bruins.
Next day members of Northeastern's athletic department answered the phone with "Home of the Beanpot champions," and visitors stopped by to touch the Cup—a silver beanpot—in wonderment. There was a run on Northeastern hockey T shirts at the campus bookstore, which celebrated by reducing the price of every clothing item by $2. Coach Fern Flaman meanwhile revealed that he had given his team a pep talk just before the start of the third period, at which point the score was 3-3. "I had a Husky dog, and it was a beautiful, strong animal," Flaman said. "I told them a Husky is a dog that has a bloodline that's always survived the wilderness."
WATCH OUT BELOW
The dominance of U.S. college track by Africans was reaffirmed last fall when Henry Rono, Washington State's accomplished distance man, won his third NCAA cross-country championship. Rono was one of six Kenyans who placed among the top 13 in that race. All told, 12 of the first 38 runners were from Kenya.
One thing about the Kenyans and other African runners who do well in the U.S. is that they tend to be older than native collegians; Rono, for example, is 28. Now, though, there's a Kenyan moving fast on the high school level. Barasa Thomas, a member of the Kalenjin tribe, as were former world-record holders Kip Keino and Ben Jipcho, won California's Southern Sectional Class 4-A cross-country title in November and more recently finished second to Brent Steiner of Overland Park, Kans. in a national high school cross-country championship in San Diego. Last month he was runner-up in the boys' 1,500-meter division at the Muhammad Ali Invitational final in Long Beach, Calif., with a clocking of 3:59.16. Thomas is just three months past his 17th birthday.
Since coming to the U.S. in 1978, Thomas has been living with a family in Santa Barbara, where he is now a junior in high school. And where he no doubt will be getting acquainted with a goodly number of American college track coaches.
THEY SAID IT
•Vernon Holland, Cincinnati Bengal tackle, recounting a dream in which he had been traded: "I don't know who got me. I dream in black and white, so I couldn't tell what color the suits were."
•Don Criqui, NBC announcer: "Lee Trevino doesn't want to talk about his back operation. That's all behind him."
•Mike Owens, teammate of the University of Virginia's 7'4" Ralph Sampson: "People keep coming up to Ralph and asking him if he's Ralph Sampson. I mean, who else could he be?"