Last week a conflict between individual rights and efforts by sports administrators to police their athletes again attracted national attention. But the latest case bears scant resemblance to Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn's suspension of Ferguson Jenkins, the Texas Ranger pitcher who was arrested in Toronto on drug charges and then refused to answer questions about the incident posed by members of the commissioner's staff (SCORECARD, Sept. 22). The Jenkins case involved a matter that didn't directly affect baseball—and this week baseball arbitrator Raymond Goetz overruled Kuhn and ordered Jenkins reinstated. By contrast, the case of University of Illinois Quarterback David Wilson revolves around academic eligibility, an issue at the very heart of intercollegiate sport.
Wilson was recruited out of Fullerton (Calif.) Junior College by Mike White, the new coach at long-downtrodden Illinois, who described Wilson as "the one player who could turn our program around fast." But the Big Ten's faculty representatives, who oversee the conference, ruled that Wilson had just one season of eligibility remaining and that he would have to sit out 1980 because he wasn't making satisfactory progress toward a degree. Wilson was aggrieved. He knew White was grooming another junior-college hotshot to take over as Illinois' quarterback in 1981. Also, in declaring Wilson ineligible for this season, the faculty representatives had overruled their own eligibility committee—without affording Wilson a hearing.
Claiming that the Big Ten's action jeopardized his hopes for a pro football career, Wilson earlier this month won a court injunction allowing him to play this season, a decision that pleased Illinois boosters even though their school's athletic association and athletic director were defendants in the case. It also delighted Wilson's lawyer, Robert Auler, who said of Big Ten officials, "Who the hell are they to be a Super God over the University of Illinois?" Last week, the injunction was briefly lifted, but a three-member appellate-court panel voted 2-1 to reimpose it, holding that Wilson's suit raised "many and serious issues of constitutional dimensions." The ruling was greeted by cheers from the Illinois fans who filled the courtroom.
The constitutional issues the judges referred to aren't to be taken lightly. The overlords of college sport could no doubt make a greater effort to protect the rights of the athletes they're policing. Wilson could certainly have been afforded a hearing by the Big Ten faculty representatives; after all, it was his fate they were determining. But it remains the duty of those same officials to vigilantly maintain academic standards, which of late have all too often been undermined in the scramble to keep athletes eligible. As Jack Wentworth, Indiana University's faculty representative, noted, a coach's desire to turn a football program around or a player's NFL aspirations mustn't be allowed to take precedence over the educational system's primary responsibility to "look at what is best for the young man from the academic point of view."
Fairly or not, some Big Ten officials are known to be concerned about White's arrival in the conference. At California, where he coached for six seasons, White's teams were frequently accused by rivals of dirty play. At Illinois he has hired four staff members who had recently worked at scandal-torn Arizona State and Oregon, including the academic counselor who steered Arizona State players into now-notorious extension courses at Rocky Mountain College. Under the circumstances, it was easy to jump to conclusions when it was learned last week that a high school transcript that Illinois had represented to the Big Ten as being for its 21-year-old quarterback, whose full name is David Carlton Wilson, wasn't his at all. It was the transcript of another alumnus of Katella High in Anaheim, Calif., 19-year-old David B. Wilson. It included credits for high school courses taken after David C. Wilson had enrolled at Fullerton, yet nobody at Illinois caught the discrepancy. As it turned out, the mix-up was apparently an honest one, but it pointed up the opportunities for transcript abuses by schools eager to keep talented athletes eligible. That, in turn, further underscored the Big Ten's legitimate interest in overseeing the eligibility practices of its member schools.
Texas A&M Tackle Zach Guthrie, a senior, is wearing No. 74 this season as he has throughout his college career. His brother Keith, a freshman and also a tackle, is wearing the same number. The duplication occurred after Dollie Guthrie, the boys' mother, requested that Keith be assigned No. 74 along with Zach because Keith had worn that number last year in high school in Tyler, Texas. "A friend told me it's bad luck to change numbers from high school to college," she explains, adding that she attends A&M games not because she particularly enjoys football but "to see that the boys don't get hurt." Anxious to accommodate Mrs. Guthrie, A&M checked with the Southwest Conference, which approved the duplication. The reasoning: because Zach plays offense and Keith defense, the brothers won't be on the field at the same time.
MUSIC, MAESTRO, PLEASE
Although he disavows the whole thing, perhaps wisely, there's a new expression being bandied about in the NBA that supposedly originated with Los Angeles Laker General Manager Bill Sharman. As the story goes, an NBA rival was interested in dealing for a Laker star for whom Sharman demanded high draft choices in return. "I want a Lawrence Welk for him" is how Sharman put it. A Lawrence Welk? "Yeah," said Sharman, tapping his foot in the manner of the bandleader. "A one and a two and a three...."
The news out of Kansas City last week that former Chief Tackle Jim Tyrer had shot to death his wife Martha and himself was inevitably one-sided. Press accounts of the tragedy dealt with how Tyrer, 41, had logged 14 NFL seasons, how he had been an All-Pro selection and how he had suffered financial setbacks since his retirement from football in 1975. But little attention was paid Martha Tyrer, 40. This was an oversight that Pat Livingston, the wife of Quarterback Mike Livingston, who was traded from the Chiefs to Minnesota last spring, sought to correct in an unsolicited article she submitted to SI. She wrote:
"A friend died yesterday. Her name was Martha Tyrer. Some people called her Marty. She was a private person, controlled, conservative. She liked to read and take walks. But she'd surprise you with her exuberance about playing bridge, or eating sweets or crab Rangoon. Her husband shot her. I don't know why. Everyone's guessing. He was depressed about business. He must have broken down. Still, those were no reasons to shoot my friend Martha. All I read is what a good guy Jim Tyrer was. I read barely a mention of Martha, mother of four. I read nothing about how well she raised her kids, or how much fun she could be at McDonald's, sneaking another order of french fries, or how kind she was to 'new' football wives, how courteous, how welcoming, how stable. Last week Jim Tyrer visited George Daney, a former Chief player. Jim broke down, saying he didn't know how much longer he and Martha could go on. He'd gotten himself into a financial bind he couldn't see a way out of. Martha came by my house [in Kansas City, where the Livingstons continue to live] about the same time. She wanted to get together and said, 'Let's set a date.' We agreed that she'd come to lunch on Tuesday. Why was she so determined to see me? We'd seen each other less often in the past few years. Then I found out Martha and Jim were selling home products. So that was what she wanted from me. That wasn't like Martha. At least she could have told me. I was angry. But now I see that Jim and Martha were desperate. She was going to do something about it. Private, controlled, conservative Martha was coming to knock on my door, pitch an old friend, make a sale. Martha was due at my house at noon today. She didn't make it. I hear from friends who were in the house after the deaths that a new dress hung ready for Martha to wear to a job interview. In addition to selling home products, Martha was seeking regular work. My loss is not as great as that of Sharon Arbanas or Fay Burford, with whom Martha was closer; they lost a compadre, a bridge buddy, a best friend. My loss is not as great as her children's. They have no mother to hug this morning. My loss is not even as great as the public's. It never heard about Martha."
SLOW DOWN, CURVEBALL AHEAD
San Francisco Giant Pitcher Allen Ripley's repertoire includes what he calls an "ecological fastball." That, explains Ripley, is because it seldom exceeds 55 mph.
When a college football coach is fired, he normally continues to receive any salary he has coming under the unfulfilled portion of his contract. For the school, that's often considered a small price to pay. But now Georgia Tech's former coach, Pepper Rodgers, is trying to raise the stakes. Rodgers was sacked last December after a losing season, and while he's being paid roughly $40,000 in salary for each of the two years left on his contract, he claims in a suit filed in Fulton County State Court that his firing cost him perks worth considerably more than his salary. To buttress his case against the Georgia Tech Athletic Association, Rodgers cites figures providing a rare insight into the lavish financial benefits that major college football coaches have come to expect from their jobs. According to Rodgers, his perks for coaching Georgia Tech in 1979 were:
Salary for administrative assistant
Salary for secretary
Home mortgage allowance
Tickets, private stadium booths
On-campus football camp
Membership and entertainment
Capital City Club
Gifts from alumni
Use of Cadillac
Expenses for meetings
Gas and oil
General expense money
Health club membership
Tennis club membership
Hawks, Braves, Flames tickets
Falcons, four season tickets
Tech season football tickets
Tech season basketball tickets
Tech football away tickets
Holiday Inn lodgings
Pocket money road games
Tech baseball admission
Rodgers says his perks for 1980 and 1981 would have totaled $306,000. But since nearly two-thirds of this would have been nontaxable, his actual loss, he figures, was $497,000. If Rodgers wins his suit, the association will be obliged to compensate him for some or all of that amount, a precedent that may make other schools think twice about firing coaches, even the losingest of them, if there's still time to run on their contracts.
THEY SAID IT
•Tom Lasorda, Dodger manager, signing an autograph for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: "It's not worth much today, and in five years it'll be worth even less."
•Tom Heinsohn, former Boston Celtic star, explaining why he turned down a college football scholarship: "If I was going to get beat up, I wanted it to be indoors where it was warm."
•Jeff Lamp, Virginia basketball player, after 7'4" teammate Ralph Sampson dropped a throw that allowed the winning run to score in a campus Softball game: "Ralph probably feels about 6'9" right now."
•Dan Quisenberry, Kansas City Royal reliever, on what happens when his sinker isn't working: "The batter still hits a grounder. But in this case the first bounce is 360 feet away."