BACK TO YOU, BLUMEL
Yet another West Coast school, Portland State University, is the scene of a scandal involving bogus credits for athletes, but the PSU case has some unusual wrinkles. After conducting an investigation ordered by president Joseph Blumel, George Hoffmann, dean in the Department of Social Sciences, has found instances of fraudulent and questionable transcripts and kickbacks during the tenure of Ken Edwards, who had a 96-63 record as basketball coach from 1972 to 1978. His players included Freeman Williams, now with San Diego in the NBA, who twice won the NCAA scoring title. "The academic record of basketball players under Coach Edwards is dismal," Hoffmann's report to Blumel says. "It appears that in recruiting, little attention was paid to the academic qualifications of prospective players."
Absolutely right on, Edwards, now the coach at West Texas State, told Floyd Schneidermann of the Oregon Journal. "It irks me that the school has had to stage this thing now, because they knew all about it in 1975 or 1976 when it was happening," he says. "In addition, I have witnesses that know that Joe Blumel approved some grades for a kid who never enrolled in summer school. He went along with things—everybody did.
"Portland State is talking about kickbacks, but I want to make it clear that nothing ever went to Coach Edwards. I'll tell you what I did. I got aid money for some kids who couldn't play a lick, and I asked them to divide some of that aid money with other players who weren't getting enough. But I also never gave any player anything over what the NCAA allowed." (Dean Hoffmann agrees, saying. "I would bet my last buck that not one cent went into Ken's pocket.")
But Edwards has more to say: "When Portland State hired me in 1972, they knew they were getting Jerry Tarkanian's 28-year-old former assistant, and they told me I had to do the job—win—or get fired. In fact, in informal conversations, I was told that virtually everything I did was O.K.
"Sure," Edwards continues, "I advised kids how to cope with the grades and aid situations. I know that I could go down and get a transcript from the office, and I could change it. They didn't have any security on that kind of thing, and they had a secretary take care of all the eligibility stuff. I took the players that no one else wanted because I never had more than three scholarships, and I tried to keep my promises to the kids. If I told a player he had a full ride, and it didn't come through, sure, I made it up somehow.
"What really got to me finally was that one of the administrative people, who is still at Portland State, told me, 'I don't care how you do it, but I'd like to see some more white kids out on the floor.' With three scholarships to give out, I had only one choice: I had to bring in kids who were poor and belonged to minorities. Well, which minority plays basketball?"
Every fan knows of Sadaharu Oh, the Japanese slugger who has hit more hommas than Hank Aaron ever did. Now let's have a neighborly round of applause for a Canadian, Dave Cutler of the Edmonton Eskimos. In a Canadian Football League game against Ottawa, last week. Cutler kicked his 336th field goal, topping by one the record set by George Blanda of the NFL. "If Blanda had seen it, he would've been upset," said Cutler. "It just sort of wobbled through."
Blanda was 48 years old when he kicked his last field goal, but Cutler, who, like Blanda, is a straight-on kicker, is only 34. He has been with the Eskimos 12 years, following graduation from Simon Fraser University near Vancouver, where he played linebacker. But on the Eskimos the 5'10" Cutler is considered too valuable to risk as a linebacker, which he would love to be, so he refers to himself as "JAK," for "just a kicker."
Cutler is superb at long range. He has kicked 11 field goals of 55 yards or more in his career, and no other kicker in the CFL has more than one at that distance. His longest kick was 59 yards, and he once hit the crossbar from 71 yards. In 1969, he had a tryout with Green Bay but didn't make the team: Cutler kicks with the toe of his shoe tied back by his shoelaces, a practice permissible in Canada, but not in the NFL.
With one Blanda record underfoot, Cutler is going after another: George's alltime scoring record of 2,002 points. "It's the only thing left for me number-wise," he says. At present Cutler has 1,531 points, and he figures to catch Blanda in four more years. He has an edge going for him. Under CFL rules, a kick that isn't returned from the end zone, even though it didn't go through the uprights, is worth a point.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
John DeWit Sr. is a rightfielder in the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Recreation Department's fast-pitch softball league. At 58 he has a bit of trouble at times keeping up with his far younger teammates, but nobody can accuse DeWit of not contributing. After all, he's the father of the rest of the starting lineup, eight sons ranging in age from 18-year-old Jeff, the first baseman, to 35-year-old John Jr., who plays the outfield when he is not pitching so hot. There are two non-DeWits on the bench, but only one of them sees much action. The team is called, fairly enough, the DeWit Family.
Organized last year, the Family has won 17 of 25 games over two seasons, an impressive record that Ken, the 32-year-old catcher, attributes less to a wealth of talent than to "unity and everyone playing together." It no doubt helps that when the DeWit boys take the field with their dad, they are cheered on by sisters (they have five of them), wives, aunts and uncles plus Mama DeWit. Not surprisingly, some opponents refuse to believe the DeWit Family is for real. As Howie, the 24-year-old shortstop, says, "They think it's a gag when they look at the roster and see all 'DeWits.' "
ENDING THE IMMUNITY
It probably had to happen sooner or later: a bill has been introduced in Congress to make gratuitous violence in professional sports a federal offense. Sponsored by Ohio Democratic Congressman Ronald M. Mottl, House Bill 7903 would impose up to a year in prison and a $5,000 fine on pro athletes who knowingly use "excessive physical force," such force being defined as that which "has no reasonable relationship to the competitive goals of the sport." As Mottl intends it to be interpreted, the legislation wouldn't have applied to Jack Tatum's hit on Darryl Stingley, an action that, savage though it may have been, was a tackle. But, Mottl says, such a law probably would have covered Dave Forbes' stick attack on Henry Boucha or Kermit Washington's punch-out of Rudy Tomjanovich. It presumably would also apply to players who rush into the stands to fight fans.
Mottl, who pitched for Notre Dame and played briefly in the Phillie organization, defends the need for federal involvement by arguing that athletes now enjoy what amounts to immunity from punishment for violent acts. Although more athletes have been prosecuted under local assault and battery laws—and civil suits arising from on-field incidents have increased—juries have been reluctant to convict athletes, reflecting the view that such matters should be handled "within the family." Says Mottl, the leagues "could take care of [the problem] with enough proper penalties, but they haven't done it." The result, he adds, is that "law enforcement stops at the ticket gate."
Mottl's bill was inspired by Richard Horrow, the 25-year-old author of Sports Violence, a detailed legal study published in April. Both book and bill grew out of research Horrow pursued while at Harvard Law School, from which he graduated last year. A frustrated jock who has charted every pro football game he has seen for the last 13 years. Horrow condemns sports violence not only for the harm it does to players physically, but also for eroding the spirit of fair play in society at large.
The Mottl bill requires serious study. Contrary to what it implies, most professional commissioners already deal more or less forthrightly with the kind of overt violence the legislation would punish. Where the commissioners are often inexcusably lax is in coping with the routine cheap shots and roughness that lead to more serious outbreaks, yet wouldn't be covered by House Rule 7903. Thus, while NBA Commissioner Larry O'Brien severely punished Washington for hitting Tomjanovich, neither he nor NBA owners have done enough to cut down on the pushing and elbowing that could conceivably provoke another such incident. Similarly, baseball authorities are usually quick to punish batters who rush the mound in beanball incidents, yet do little to curb the pitchers whose knockdown pitches provoke such attacks. Then there's the NHL, which at times actually seems to encourage excessive violence, presumably on the misguided assumption that it sells tickets.
The introduction of Mottl's bill will have served a useful purpose if it generates new interest in the problem of sport violence. The bill figures to meet resistance in Congress, which has generally adopted a hands-off policy toward professional sports regulation, but the Subcommittee on Crime of the House Judiciary Committee has scheduled hearings for later this month. Predictably, most professional sports officials denounce the bill, arguing sanctimoniously that they can police themselves. They're right that they can. What they haven't yet proved is whether they will.
OFF THE WALL
Anyone who thought the walls in all major league ball parks were padded, or built so as to prevent outfielders from suffering serious injury, learned otherwise last week when Ruppert Jones of the Yankees lost his footing in centerfield and slammed into the plywood fence in the Oakland Coliseum. Jones hit the fence with a thud that could be heard in the dugout some 400 feet away. Unconscious for several minutes, he suffered a severe concussion and a separation of the right shoulder that requires surgery. He's out for the year, but he's lucky he wasn't hurt even worse. Ironically, just half an hour before the game, Oakland Manager Billy Martin told reporters, "I met with the new owners all afternoon, and one of the first things we're going to do here is to pad the outfield walls."
It would be tempting to many to make a scapegoat out of cheapskate Charlie Finley, who owned the A's until last week, or the Oakland politicians who run the Coliseum, but the fact is both the American and National League offices have ducked the issue of safe walls, leaving them up to the individual clubs. As a result, some parks have padded walls, others do not. A number of parks have plywood walls that are supposed to give on impact. Oakland's is one such. Others have wire fences. Atlanta had a wire fence until Brian Asselstine broke his ankle in 1978 when his spikes caught in the mesh. Now the Braves have Plexiglas with padding on top. Tiger Stadium has padding on the walls, but there is an auxiliary scoreboard that juts out dangerously in leftfield. Wrigley Field has brick walls covered with ivy, which the National League office says would be "impossible" to pad.
But what's really incredible about all this is that the Major League Players Association, aside from a complaint now and then, has never moved effectively to protect its own members by insisting that there be safely padded walls everywhere. Indeed, its Safety and Health Committee no longer exists. But after Jones was carted off to the hospital, Marvin Miller, executive director of the association, said the committee would obviously have to be reinstated. He also vowed that the association would "move rapidly." Move rapidly to do what? To file a grievance in the Jones case, said Miller. Moreover, said Miller, there could be a lawsuit. The possible charge? "Extreme negligence."
THEY SAID IT
•Cliff Stoudt, who advanced from No. 3 quarterback to No. 2 with the Steelers when Mike Kruczek was traded: "I've graduated from clipboard to headset."
•Bob Uecker, Milwaukee Brewer broadcaster and former big league player, on a Little League game in which his son Bobby Jr., now 14, played: "He struck out three times and lost the game for his team when a ball went through his legs at third base. Parents were throwing things at our car and swearing at us as we left the parking lot. Gosh, I was proud. A chip off the old block."