NEW COURSES OF ACTION
The NCAA last week took action intended to prevent the sort of extension-course abuses that have been plaguing college sport in recent months. The Committee on Academic Testing and Requirements ruled that credits for extension and correspondence courses may be applied toward athletic eligibility only if the courses are offered by the athlete's school. Because the measure is regarded as an interpretation of existing rules, it takes effect immediately. The committee also recommended reforms that, because they involve rule changes, would have to be considered at the NCAA convention next January. It proposed that 1) academic transcripts clearly identify credits claimed for correspondence and extension courses; 2) transcripts be processed by an admissions officer or registrar rather than by the athletic department; and 3) the school president designate one official to assume all responsibility for certifying athletic eligibility, a step that presumably would remove such a determination from the athletic department.
Limiting credits for extension and correspondence courses to those offered by the athlete's school was one of the reforms proposed by John Underwood in his examination of the academic scandals (SI, May 19). But the problems outlined in that article are of such magnitude that this measure must be seen only as a beginning. For one thing, the new rule doesn't cover extension-or correspondence-course credits an athlete may have earned in junior college before enrolling in an NCAA school. Bill Hunt, head of the NCAA enforcement department, says legislation to close this loophole probably will be submitted at the January convention.
Meanwhile, the bogus-credit scandal at one school, the University of Oregon, received renewed attention last week when its president, William B. Boyd, announced his resignation. Reminded that when he assumed his job in 1975 he had expressed the view that a program of athletic excellence would be of great benefit to the university, Boyd said, "I did not know the price we were going to pay.... And I would never have been willing to pay that price for any degree of success." Boyd, who on July 1 will become president of the Wisconsin-based Johnson Foundation, Inc., which conducts educational conferences, denied that his departure was motivated by Oregon's athletic scandal. But he said wanly, "It is perhaps one of the charms of the new job that they do not have a football team."
ACCENTUATING THE APPROPRIATE
It's the occasional practice here to take note of people who have highly appropriate names. Among those who merit mention are a couple of umpires on Florida's college baseball circuit, Albine Batts and John Ball. Also deserving are Coatesville (Pa.) High's star pole vaulter, Robert Jump, and a sprinter for the same school, Sonia Runner. And let us not forget a medic who can minister to any aches and pains that Batts, Ball, Jump or Runner might suffer in the line of duty, Manhattan orthopedist Dr. Walther Bohne. Pronounced Bone, of course.
POW! KRUNCH! VAROOM!
In 1939 a young cartoonist named Bob Kane created a comic-strip superhero who has since become part of American folklore, whooshing here and there in a vehicle known as the Batmobile. Now the creator of Batman has gone back to the drawing board to illustrate a jumbo-size, full-color, action-packed comic book chronicling the adventures of a real-life superhero, Richard Petty, who zooms about in stock cars. Entitled The Racing Pettys, it recounts the inspirational story of how King Richard drove old No. 43 to become the winningest NASCAR driver ever with the help of—so who needs Robin?—his father, Lee, the family patriarch; brother Maurice and cousin Dale, both members of his crew; and his 19-year-old son Kyle, himself a fledgling driver on the NASCAR circuit.
The Racing Pettys revels in its hero's early derring-do as a football and baseball star at Randleman (N.C.) High ("Look at the block the Petty kid threw") and melodramatically details the crashes ("KRUNCH! FLIP! POW!"), disqualifications and illnesses he has endured during his racing career, not to mention his longstanding feud with the accursed Bobby Allison and his clan. "You hit me on purpose, Richard," snarls Allison following a bumping incident on the track. "Only after you hit me, Bobby," replies Petty, who, naturally, would never dream of starting any trouble.
Petty perseveres to win six Daytona 500s and seven NASCAR championships, meanwhile doting on his children ("Kitchy, kitchy, coo," he says while playing with newborn Rebecca Petty), attending church socials and being elected a Republican commissioner of North Carolina's Randolph County. The comic book, which was produced by STP, Petty's sponsor, and sells for $2.50 at raceway concession stands, neglects to mention persistent rumors that King Richard has it in mind to run for governor of North Carolina some day. Of course, such an eventuality could always be covered in a jumbo-size, full-color, action-packed sequel.
Holy Pit Stop, Richard.
As baseball's owners and players edged uncertainly toward this week's strike deadline, fans found themselves in their accustomed position of helplessness. Any 11th-hour settlement that the parties might have achieved was likely to be costly, giving the clubs yet another excuse, as if they've ever needed one, to raise ticket prices. A strike figured to be far worse. Writing in this magazine in 1956, novelist William Saroyan lovingly described baseball as an "annual ritual, moving with time and the world, the carefully planned and slowly accelerated approach to the great reward—the outcome, the answer, the revelation of the best, the winner." Would this ritual now, in 1980, be disrupted?
Fearing that it would be, college students David Katzner and Michael Levin, who head an organization called FAST (Fans Against Strike Talk), showed up last week at the Manhattan hotel where baseball's labor negotiations were taking place to urge a settlement of the dispute. Such fan groups, complete with newsletters, dues and lofty talk of giving the ticket buyer a voice, are forever being formed. But most of them are as short-lived as the mayfly, with an almost unbroken record of getting nowhere.
Katzner and Levin did nothing to disturb that record. FAST's founding fathers first approached Ray Grebey, the owners' chief negotiator, and assured him they represented nearly 20,000 petitioners who were opposed to a shutdown of the national pastime. Grebey replied that their complaint was with the players. They then confronted Marvin Miller, the head of the players association, and several of his players. Miller scolded Katzner and Levin, telling them that their no-strike platform was "non-union," and Reggie Jackson added that references to national pastime aside, "Baseball is a business." Mark Belanger sent them packing with these words: "If you think you're part of these talks, call [California Angel owner] Gene Autry and ask if you can be part of his business." Of his effort to present the fan's point of view to the two sides, a chastened Katzner later said, "It was a shattering experience."
Forty countries have now formally decided to boycott the Moscow Olympics, including, as of last week. West Germany. The decision by the West German Olympic Committee to follow the U.S.'s lead and keep its athletes at home means that the two leading sports powers in the western bloc will not be competing in Moscow.
Still, the boycott movement may end up dealing the Moscow Games more of a psychological blow than an athletic one. It is a startling fact that of the 198 gold medals and 612 total medals awarded in the 1976 Games, the countries planning, at latest word, to compete in Moscow won 152 and 456 respectively. Even if the British and French Olympic committees reverse themselves and boycott, and if Japan, as expected, decides to stay away, those numbers would fall only to 138 and 409. These totals, of course, reflect the prowess of the Soviets and their allies, who won seven of the first 10 places in the unofficial national standings in Montreal. And those countries may be even stronger competing on what amounts to home ground in Moscow.
This suggests that, from an athletic point of view, boycott proponents may have overestimated the extent to which the Games, assuming they take place as scheduled, will be diminished by the absence of the U.S. and its friends. But then, it also suggests that boycott foes were being simplistic when they said, "We should teach those Russians a lesson by going over there and winning all the medals."
ITALY'S SOCCER SHOCKER
Fourteen more Italian soccer players and team officials have been suspended in a widening scandal involving charges of bribery and fixing games. The crackdown brings to 39 the number of those implicated in the scandal so far, among them Paolo Rossi, Italy's most popular player, and Bruno Giordano, with Rossi a member of the national team. The suspensions have so depleted rosters that a couple of teams have been forced to replenish their ranks with raw teen-agers.
The scandal has also had other effects. Soccer is said to be Italy's 10th biggest industry, and at one point during the 1978 World Cup, a record 30 million of the country's 55 million citizens were glued to television sets to catch the action. Since the first suspensions were announced in March, attendance at soccer games has dropped 30%, the sale of souvenirs and team photos has fallen off sharply and betting in the national soccer lottery has declined 17%. The scandal also threatens to cast a shadow over the European soccer championships, which will be held in Italy next month; many Italians who normally would be eagerly anticipating the championships now wish they would be held elsewhere. Meanwhile, bitter jokes are making the rounds. Question: What are Italy's two most widely sold products? Answer. The Fiat 127 and the Lazio soccer team.
The shock waves touched off by the suspensions may seem surprising in a country well accustomed to allegations of corruption. Obviously, Italians consider the soccer scandal somehow different. Says a Rome shopkeeper, Bruno Castelli, "We expect people in power to be corrupt, but when soccer players cheat you,-it's like being betrayed by your best friend."
SHARE AND SHARE UNALIKE
The average player's salary in the NBA is $160,000, but in these inflationary times every little bit counts. Which may—or may not—explain why the Boston Celtics, with $175,000 in playoff loot to carve up, voted full shares of $14,000 to season-long team members but only a half share to trainer Ray Melchiorre and nary a cent to Assistant Coach K.C. Jones. It was with more than a touch of class that owner Harry Mangurian, concerned lest the stiffing of Melchiorre and Jones cast dishonor on the proud Celtics, said he would make up the difference by giving Melchiorre $7,000 and Jones $14,000 out of his own pocket.
Melchiorre, whose salary reportedly is $25,000, reacted with style, too. "I love my work," he said. "I try not to get too close to the players, but I do have a close relationship with some of them. This isn't going to affect my relationship with those people." Melchiorre apparently is out of the same magnanimous mold as Dick (Dr. Strangeglove) Stuart, the stone-fingered slugger who joined the Pittsburgh Pirates midway through the 1958 season and helped make them a pennant contender, only to be voted a meager half share of bonus money by his teammates, the same amount received by the bat boy. Asked about this seeming slight, Stuart said, "You must understand, he's a very good bat boy."
THEY SAID IT
•Corby Smith, 7-year-old son of Arizona's new football coach, Larry Smith, catching a look at the Wildcats' rugged 1980 schedule: "Dad, is that the real Notre Dame?"
•Gene Mauch, Minnesota Twin manager, on having a blood relative, Roy Smalley, on his team: "Sometimes I look on Roy as my nephew, but sometimes only as my sister's son."