REBELLING AGAINST THE REBELS
Booster clubs exert undue influence at many colleges, and the one at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas could hardly be expected to be any different. Often thought of as a renegade school when it comes to athletics, UNLV is situated in a city amply populated by the sort of high rollers most inclined to become boosters. But it wasn't until the arrival of a new athletic director who was determined to run a tight ship that the full extent of the power wielded by the UNLV's 1,500-member University Rebels Club became known.
The athletic director, Al Negratti, was hired last January at a time when UNLV had just come off a two-year NCAA probation for basketball recruiting violations. What's more, the athletic department was wallowing in $575,000 worth of red ink. Negratti was supposed to clean up UNLV's act, financially and otherwise, and he reduced the deficit by $200,000 by ordering a 30% cutback in expenditures in sports other than football and basketball and by sharply limiting the number of complimentary tickets lavished on coaches, university officials and the press. Negratti made some enemies in the process, and the atmosphere became more tense when an examination of the athletic department's ledgers resulted in the indictment of three officials—the sports ticket-office manager, the women's basketball coach and the sports information director—for embezzlement.
Things became stickier still when, last August, Negratti sought to see records of donations to the athletic department's scholarship fund, which is run by Associate Athletic Director Wayne Pearson and his assistant, David Pearl, UNLV's "booster coordinator." The scholarship fund is maintained by donations from well-heeled fans, who in return receive season basketball and football tickets and are accorded membership in the University Rebels Club. What makes things even cozier is that Pearson is a trustee of that club and Pearl its executive director; Pearl draws salaries both from the club and from the university.
Although the scholarship fund was nominally administered by the athletic department, and despite the fact that Negratti was his boss, Pearson declined to give him access to scholarship-fund records. Instead, Pearson complained about Negratti's request to University of Nevada Chancellor Donald Baepler. The school's regents then ordered that until further word, Pearson would be directly accountable to UNLV President Leonard Goodall and not to Negratti. Stung by that action and by resistance to his belt-tightening generally, Negratti submitted his resignation in October. Only then did the regents, apparently embarrassed, rule that the fund-raising office was, in fact, accountable to the athletic director. They also ordered an outside audit of Pearson's office. These decisions may have come too late. Negratti hasn't changed his mind about resigning, effective no later than June 30, and UNLV last week asked for a delay in an expected vote on its longstanding bid to join the Western Athletic Conference, whose officials had voiced understandable concern as to how much "institutional control" the school was exercising over its booster-dominated athletic department.
San Diego State didn't hold its traditional postseason football banquet this year, apparently because of the furor over the firing of the Aztecs' popular coach, Claude Gilbert (SCORECARD, Dec. 1). As a result, local businessmen are honoring Gilbert and his team this week at an impromptu banquet of their own. The site is the San Diego Police Department's firing range.
MONTICELLO OR BUST
Showing a group of visitors through Monticello, the Thomas Jefferson home near Charlottesville, Va., a tour guide pointed out busts of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Paul Jones and the Marquis de Lafayette and noted that of those four, only Lafayette had visited Monticello—and had, in fact, done so twice. "Make that three times," corrected one of her listeners. It seems that the visitors included the members of a basketball team competing in a tournament at the University of Virginia, the Leopards of Lafayette College.
BROAD STREET BENEFACTRESSES
While this magazine hasn't had much good to say lately about the Philadelphia Flyers, their wives are another matter. One night each year they stage a carnival at the Spectrum, the building in which their menfolk toil as the NHL's most brazen brawlers, to raise money for leukemia research at Philadelphia's Hahnemann Hospital in memory of Barry Ashbee, the Flyer player and assistant coach who died of the disease in 1977. This year's "Fight for Lives" carnival was held the other night, and nearly 6,000 people showed up to bid at auction for such items as one of Mike Schmidt's bats (purchase price: $315) and a pair of Dr. J's size-15½ sneakers (a steal at $100) and to be photographed, at $5 a crack, with members of the Flyers, most of whom also turned out for the occasion. Carny-goers also got a chance to dunk Flyers Bobby Clarke and Reggie Leach in a baseball toss booth. Thanks in large part to corporate largess in buying advertising for the event, the wives raised $175,000, swelling the take for leukemia research since the carnivals began to $625,000.
Speaking of Flyer wives, it was, in a way, a costly trade that sent Flyer Defenseman Norm Barnes to the Hartford Whalers recently for future considerations. Remember how Kate Smith's rendition of God Bless America used to fire up the Flyers at home games? Well, Smith had been succeeded by Barnes' wife, Cid, who had provided similar inspiration by ably singing the national anthem before Flyer games. So the Whalers may have gotten one more performer than they bargained for.
SOME FOR THE BOOKS
The academic abuses that rocked college sports in 1980 took a particularly heavy toll in the Pac-10, which declared five member schools ineligible for this year's conference football championship because of various infractions. But academics, we're glad to report, haven't gone out the window in the Pac-10 altogether, witness the classroom achievements of the following 23 players:
Offense: Gordon Adams, USC, quarterback; Mike Martin, Washington State, and Eugene Young, Oregon, running backs; Cormac Carney, UCLA, and Ken Margerum, Stanford, wide receivers; Tim Tyler, Oregon, tight end; John Macaulay, Stanford, center; Steve Johnson, Washington State, Don Mosebar and Keith Van Home, USC, and Harvey Salem, California, linemen; and Chuck Nelson, Washington, placekicker. Defense: Duker Dapper, Stanford; Mark Jerue, Washington, and Kirk Karacozoff, California, linemen; Ed Hagerty, Oregon, Jack Housley, Arizona, Milt McColl, Stanford, and Derek Warren, Oregon State, linebackers; Jeff Files and Paul Sorensen, Washington State, Jeff Fischer, USC, and Mark Hattum, Oregon State, backs.
They all boast a B average or better, topped by Adams' 3.7 (of a possible 4.0) grade-point average, and collectively they comprise good news in what has otherwise been a very bleak year indeed for the conference. So let's hear it for them, the Pac-10's 1980 All-Academic team.
ON DONNER, BLITZEN AND VIDEO
Until now, television sports have been largely confined (although that scarcely seems the right word) to live and taped coverage of real events. But suddenly the home screen is fairly bursting with simulated sports. Reason: an explosion during this Christmas shopping season of sales of home video games systems. These attach to ordinary TV sets and, thanks to programmed cartridges inserted into a master component, produce full-color, amazingly lifelike computer-game action that can turn the screen into a playing field for practically any sport you can think of. With the flip of a lever or the twirl of a dial, armchair jocks can fire off a jump shot from the baseline, lay down a perfect bunt or gain big yardage on an off-tackle slant. Besides sports, they can also play video versions of blackjack, checkers and dozens of less familiar games.
Toy industry officials say that home video units have stolen the thunder of hand-held electronic games, last year's hot Christmas item, with sales of video systems growing from less than $100 million in 1979 to as much as $300 million this year. By contrast, sales of hand-helds are leveling off and are likely to be only slightly above last year's $385 million.
The undisputed leader in home video games is Atari, a division of Warner Communications Inc. that also manufactures coin-operated arcade games. Atari's first big success was Pong, a tennis-style video game that seems primitive by today's standards; players endlessly hit a ball-like blip back and forth across the screen. Atari introduced coin-operated Pong games to cocktail lounges and amusement arcades in 1972, bringing out a home video offshoot in 1975. Three years ago it introduced the Atari Computer System, which now features more than 40 cartridges including, notably, a home video version of Space Invaders, which originated as a coin-operated game in Japan and has been the hottest thing in amusement arcades in the U.S. Though hardly cheap (master component $180, cartridges $22 to $30 each), Atari will sell nearly 1 million master components this year and account for at least 65% of home video dollar sales.
Atari's competitors include Magnavox' Odyssey, APF Electronics' Imagination Machine and a host of home computer systems that offer games more or less on the side. But the most ambitious challenger is Mattel's Intellivision, which has broken new ground both in price (master component $300, cartridges $30 each) and in the realism and intricacy of its computer-game programming. Intellivision, which will be expanded next year to include a keyboard component, features crowds that roar, refs that blow whistles, basketball players who shake hands before the opening jump, umpires who cry "Yer out!" and base runners who get caught in (and squirm out of) rundowns. Harry E. Wells III, a toys analyst at the Boston brokerage house of Adams, Harkness & Hill, enthuses, "Intellivision's graphics and programming capability are incredible." Of home video games generally, he says, "It's almost unprecedented for toys to cost this much—if, that is, you consider these things toys. If you do, well, there are going to be an awful lot of adult kids this Christmas."
THE CASE OF THE CREEPING KICKOFF
Ever hear of a team kicking off from its opponent's 15-yard line? Millersville (Pa.) State College did it last month during a 28-7 win over Cheyney (Pa.) State, and it came about this way: as Millersville attempted to convert a point-after touchdown in the second quarter, two 15-yard penalties were called against Cheyney, one for roughing the holder, the other for unsportsmanlike conduct. Because the conversion was good, the 30 yards were assessed on the subsequent kickoff, the result being that the ball was teed up at the Cheyney 30, not the Millersville 40. Then, just as Millersville's Mark Zeswitz was preparing to kick off, an official thought he heard a Cheyney player utter a profanity and assessed another penalty, also for 15 yards. Thus, Zeswitz wound up kicking off from the Cheyney 15. And what happened? Understandably reluctant to put his full leg into the ball, Zeswitz tried an onside kick. For the record, a Cheyney player fielded the ball on his 10 and returned it for a couple of yards.
THEY SAID IT
•Dave Bliss, SMU basketball coach, formerly at Oklahoma: "Football was No. 1 there and it should have been. The football team outscored us."
•Forrest Gregg, Cincinnati Bengal coach, defending his team's dress code: "We're getting paid executives' salaries and we should look like executives."
•Dale Clayton, Vanderbilt assistant basketball coach, on the effect of the three-referee system employed by the Southeastern Conference: "It just gives you one more to yell at."
•Kyle Bartee, Lubbock (Texas) Christian College athletic committeeman, after the firing of Football Coach Jerry Don Saunders, who had a 1-18 record the past two seasons: "Let's face the facts. You can only take so many of these great lessons in humility."