A LEARNING EXPERIENCE
San Diego State Coach Claude Gilbert tried to prove that college football could actually have something to do with higher education and higher values. Gilbert taught his players lessons in humanity and fair play, witness the testimonial of Defensive Back Johnny Moore, who quit the Aztecs after his sophomore year, briefly matriculated at a couple of other schools and then returned last year. Another coach might have derided such a player as disloyal, but not Gilbert. Says a grateful Moore, "The only thing Claude told me was, 'Johnny, it's good to see you back. We all have to do things to get away at times.' "
Moore's experience isn't unique. There's also the case of Quarterback Mark Halda, who lost his starting job this season but says, "Coach Gilbert never got down on me as a person. He felt as bad about the trouble I was having as I did." Then there's Tailback Craig Ellis, who was dismissed from this year's team for disciplinary reasons but was allowed to keep his scholarship. He says of his coach, "The man cared for me, not for Craig Ellis the football player." Gilbert also won the admiration of San Diego State faculty members, one of whom says, "Claude never interfered with the teaching other than to support us. If he did intervene, it was to encourage one of his players who was doing well in the class to help a teammate who wasn't doing as well. I listened to players talk about Claude. You could tell he cared about them."
But the 48-year-old Gilbert committed an unpardonable sin. After having a 57-18-2 record in his first seven seasons, he slipped to 2-8 this year, and last week, with two games left in the season, he was fired. Disappointed about his sacking, which is effective at the end of the season, Gilbert said bravely, "I'm going to drive into the mountains and talk to a cow. I'm going to watch a butterfly and listen to a bird, and after that I'm going to find an ol' coach another job in coaching. I love the kids, I love the game." Despite his love of his sport, Gilbert may have wound up proving that college football doesn't have much to do with higher education after all. What it does have to do with was underscored by Aztec Athletic Director Gene Bourdet, who explained Gilbert's firing by saying, "We cannot succeed with the crowds we've been getting. We cannot survive unless football makes the revenue."
LOST AND FOUND
Organizers of the New York Marathon have completed an inventory of items that participants, spectators and interlopers walked (or ran) off with at this year's race. The $15,000 worth of missing goods includes 2,200 woolen blankets used for bundling runners against the chill New York winds, 135 cots, a gasoline-powered generator used to provide power for a public-address system, six tables, 12 chairs, a five-gallon red gasoline can, more than 1,000 feet of nylon rope used to cordon off the runners before the race, a TV monitor and 800 T shirts that were swiped before they could be distributed to runners. Among items left behind: 1,000 sweat suits and 200 blue jeans (which the organizers intend to give to charity if they remain unclaimed), five cameras, $55 in cash, 2,000 jars of Vaseline, 2,000 bottles of vitamins, 200 books (including copies of Serpico, The Far Pavilions, The Member of the Wedding, The Sting and two Bibles), a dozen eyeglasses, 30 toothbrushes and three suspicious-looking unsmoked cigarettes.
By now the details of Koch's Folly are well known, even outside the Big Apple: 1) how New York City Mayor Ed Koch, returning last winter from a trip to China during which he'd seen hordes of bicyclists on the streets of Peking, decided it would be environmentally efficacious if New Yorkers rode bikes, too, and accordingly spent $290,000 to install five miles of curbed, six-foot-wide bicycle lanes along several Manhattan thoroughfares; and 2) how last week, barely a month after the bike lanes had been dedicated, they were ripped up at a further cost of $100,000, Koch having abruptly decided that the project was a dismal failure.
A politician admitting an error is a rare and wonderful event, but Koch seemed almost too eager to purge himself. In dismissing the bike lanes as a flop, he accurately noted that they had made Manhattan's streets even more congested than usual and that they had caused a lot of hard feelings among pedestrians, motorists and cyclists. Koch also insisted, somewhat contradictorily, that the bike lanes were going virtually unused.
There's reason to wonder how committed the mayor was to bicycling to begin with. In creating bike lanes without adopting corresponding measures to restrict auto use, his half-Koched scheme virtually guaranteed clogged streets. And many of the nastier spats involving cyclists might have been averted had police more strictly enforced traffic regulations regarding the riding of bikes; cyclists, for example, tended to run red lights at will. Some City Hall aides conceded that the lanes were being jettisoned just as an uneasy coexistence was starting to develop between cyclists and their foes.
And why the haste? A transportation department supervisor overseeing the dismantling on the Avenue of the Americas noted that there was a hint of snow in the air and speculated that it had belatedly occurred to Koch that plowing the narrow lanes might be tricky. The lanes were eliminated, he theorized, to avoid the political backlash that would ensue if some of the bundle-laden Christmas shoppers so dear to the city's merchants started slipping and falling as they tried to traverse ice-clogged bike lanes.
A BLAST FROM THE PRESENT
Massillon Washington (known around the country simply as Massillon High) is a public, largely blue-collar school that became synonymous with powerhouse high school football in bygone years by winning 22 mythical Ohio championships under such coaches as Paul Brown and Earle Bruce. But of late the Tigers had slipped a bit, failing to advance beyond the semifinals since state playoffs were introduced in 1972.
Cincinnati Moeller is a private, all-male Catholic school that attracts mostly upper-middle-class kids. It took up where Massillon left off, winning 57 of 58 games and four state titles in the past five years and sending scores of players to major college teams, including 16 over the years to Notre Dame. With 16 assistant coaches, a virtually unheard-of number even in the college and pro ranks, Moeller incurred the wrath of rivals who considered its program too grandiose. But Ohioans may not have Coach Gerry Faust to criticize any longer. Rumors have it he'll succeed Dan Devine next season at Notre Dame.
But first Faust had to deal with a resurgent, 10-1-1 Massillon. That record qualified the Tigers for Ohio's Division I championship game Sunday afternoon against Moeller, which had run up a routinely flawless 12-0 mark. It was the first meeting of the two most storied names in Ohio high school football, and 25,000 spectators packed the University of Cincinnati's Nippert Stadium for the historic confrontation. It wound up as a triumph of the present over the past, if you care to look at it that way. Final score: Moeller 30-Massillon 7.
•Ed Kuni, the 67-year-old retired postal worker who writes about the outdoors for the Wilkes-Barre (Pa.) Sunday Independent, has done what he vowed to do. Having already walked both the Appalachian Trail and the first 1,800 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, Kuni set out last summer to hike the remaining 900 miles of the latter (SI, June 23) and, sure enough, got the job done seven weeks later. Kuni says the highlight of his hike was the half-inch-deep footprints he found in a snowdrift near Devil's Peak in Oregon, a discovery that helped him overcome his lifelong skepticism about reported sightings in those parts of a strange creature named Bigfoot. Kuni is convinced that the prints were indeed left by Bigfoot.
•Eugene Young, one of seven Oregon football players indicted on theft charges involving the alleged misuse of a telephone credit card (SCORECARD, July 14), has been acquitted. Charges against Terrance Jones, Joe Figures and two other players were dropped in a "civil compromise" under which they made restitution to the phone company and were ordered to perform community service. Two remaining defendants are awaiting trial, as are two former Oregon assistant basketball coaches who face theft charges involving an athletic department travel account, a former Oregon football player who has been charged with burglary, and four present or former football players who have been indicted for sodomy. Those last charges arose out of an investigation that, according to Eugene, Ore. Police Chief James Packard, was hampered by the failure of an athletic-department official to notify police of complaints he received of alleged sexual offenses. Packard didn't name the official, but the student newspaper, the Oregon Daily Emerald, last summer quoted a woman student as saying she had informed Oregon Coach Rich Brooks she had been sexually assaulted by one of his players. The newspaper added that Brooks apparently neglected to report the matter to police. Brooks has repeatedly refused to comment on the subject.
•After a four-month-long investigation (SCORECARD, July 21), the Pennsylvania Department of Justice last week indicted Dr. Patrick Mazza, team physician of the Philadelphia Phillies' farm club in Reading, Pa., on charges of illegally prescribing amphetamines and diet pills in the names of Phillies Steve Carlton, Pete Rose, Greg Luzinski, Randy Lerch and Larry Christenson, former Phil Tim McCarver and the wives of two players, Jean Luzinski and Sheena Bowa. In addition to Mazza, two other men were indicted on charges of having illegally obtained the drugs at four pharmacies. The Department of Justice said that those whose names were used on the prescriptions denied receiving the drugs and that it had uncovered "no evidence" they had done so. It added that the investigation was still open.
•Nick Haywood, the Kansas City construction worker who has been struggling to find a home for his youth club (SI, Oct. 6), has received loans from local businessmen enabling him to make good on a $70,000 bid to buy the old Missouri National Guard Armory. Haywood got a further boost when three charitable foundations pledged $40,000 toward the $125,000 or more needed for repairs to satisfy the municipal building code. But Derby Nick failed to appear last week as ordered in Municipal Court to explain why he hadn't made required repairs on a dwelling he owns that has been the subject of friction between himself and city building inspectors.
This one was making the rounds last week in the Deep South:
"Dammit, you lose two games and nobody remembers you."
THE CONFUSION CLASSIC
Marion College is a small Methodist school in Marion, Ind., Marian College is a small Catholic school in Indianapolis, 65 miles to the south. The two colleges sometimes receive each other's mail, and the confusion is compounded by the fact that they compete in basketball. After they played last week in Indianapolis, a TV sportscaster gave the score as Mariahn 80, Maryann 77, ignoring the fact that the two names are, in truth, pronounced pretty much the same. The TV man might have been better off following the lead of the P.A. announcers at Marion-Marian games. They tend to refer to the two teams as the Titans and the Knights.
THEY SAID IT
•Forrest Gregg, the Cincinnati Bengal coach, defending his team's dress code: "We're getting paid executives' salaries and we should look like executives."
•Tom Brookshier, sportscaster, discussing the Atlanta Falcons' stellar 6'4", 235-pound tight end, Junior Miller: "I'd like to see Senior Miller."