HAVE FINALS, WILL TRAVEL
It's a disconcerting fact that when this season's first two college football bowl games were played last weekend, three of the four teams involved—Oklahoma State and Texas A&M, the rivals in Saturday's Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La. (the Aggies won 33-16), and Wisconsin, a 28-21 loser to Tennessee on Sunday in the Garden State Bowl at New Jersey's Giants Stadium—represented schools that were to begin final exams at the start of this week. Please note the dates. The games were played on Dec. 12 and 13, respectively, with exams scheduled to get underway on Dec. 13 at Wisconsin and Dec. 14 at the other two schools (Tennessee's finals ended Dec. 8). Although learning to deal with distractions is certainly part of one's education, it's difficult to fathom how universities could participate in such extravaganzas, ostensibly student activities, hundreds of miles from campus on the eve of exams.
Conflicts between bowls and exams are becoming increasingly frequent. Because they're so lucrative for all concerned, the number of major-college bowl games has doubled, to 16, over the past two decades, with several of the newer ones being held in mid-December to avoid a scheduling logjam on TV. This would be fine except for a simultaneous change in many academic-year calendars. In the early '60s, 80% of all four-year institutions were on the semester system, under which final exams are ordinarily held in middle or late January. This meant that most schools could participate in bowls in December or on New Year's Day with a fair amount of time left for students to prepare for finals. Today only one-fourth of all colleges are on the semester system. Owing largely to a desire to get finals over with before Christmas vacation, most institutions have switched to trimester or quarter systems with exams in early and mid-December.
Besides the Independence and Garden State, the bowls most likely to come in conflict with exams are the Holiday in San Diego and the Tangerine in Orlando, Fla., which are scheduled this year for Dec. 18 and Dec. 19, respectively. For the players, such conflicts are compounded by practice and pregame publicity appearances. A school is free to decline a bowl bid, of course, but this disappoints players and fans and means giving up a lot of money. Nevertheless, because of exams, Stanford passed up the Holiday Bowl last year, and Wisconsin, whose exams run through Dec. 19, ruled out this year's Holiday and Tangerine bowls. The Badgers were saved by the Garden State bid, which they snapped up; participation in a bowl two days before the start of exams was at least preferable to playing in one during exams.
Two other schools confronted with a conflict were this year's Tangerine Bowl opponents, Southern Mississippi and Missouri, whose exams had been scheduled to run through Dec. 18 and 19, respectively. Missouri arranged for its players to reschedule their finals as needed, while Southern Mississippi made it easier for ordinary students to go to the game by moving its entire exam schedule ahead by three days. By contrast, Independence Bowl-bound Texas A&M made no such concessions; with exams looming, only 350 of the school's 36,000 students attended the game. Asked by SI's Jill Lieber about this inconvenience, Ralph McFillen, the NCAA's postseason-football spokesman, replied, "To say the bowls exist for the students is wrong. They exist for the communities in which they're played." This startling statement, a contradiction of the NCAA's official position that intercollegiate sport is played by and for students, is an affront to student rooters who faithfully follow their teams all year. It also implies that band members, cheerleaders and players who are obliged to participate in bowls aren't students.
Most conflicts between exams and bowl games could be eliminated by scheduling all the games in late December or early January. However, McFillen says that because of NFL playoffs and other factors, it would be impossible to secure the necessary TV dates. If that's the case, it would be consistent with the NCAA's oft-expressed assurances that academics come before athletics if the early bowl games were simply scrapped. In the meantime, one hopes that Robert Sandmeyer, dean of Oklahoma State's College of Business Administration, was right when he said of the Cowboy players who made the trip to Shreveport: "We assume they took along their books."
In his latter-day profession as a leading breeder of harness horses, onetime baseball star Charlie Keller pays due homage to the New York Yankees, the team he played for during most of a 13-year big league career that ended in 1952. Keller calls his 160-acre Maryland spread Yankeeland Farm and gives his foals names like Smokin Yankee, No No Yankee and Yankee Mama. Two of his horses were called Yankee Mick and Yankee Scooter, in honor of former teammates Mantle and Rizzuto, but those were exceptions. For the most part, says Keller, "I just have a list of names and I go down it."
Which brings us to Yankee Tyrant, owned by a couple of Quebec residents, Lise Casey and Rejean Leger. Contrary to what one might suspect, the horse wasn't named after George Steinbrenner. However, the 10-year-old Keller-bred trotter did wind up having something in common with the New York team's owner the other evening at Montreal's Blue Bonnets Raceway, where Yankee Tyrant finished second in the ninth race behind Amour Vic, which made like the Dodgers in coming from behind to win.
Keller is quick to point out that Steinbrenner isn't the original Yankee tyrant: The horse was foaled two years before Steinbrenner bought the Yankees in 1973 and was given a name, arbitrarily, from among the possibilities on Keller's "list." What's more, although Keller still gets back to Yankee Stadium for an occasional Old-Timers' Game, he says he and Steinbrenner have never met.
By the same token, it should be noted that Fresh Yankee, the illustrious trotter that won $1.3 million after Keller sold her as a yearling filly in 1964 for $900, wasn't named after Billy Martin.
HE'S DOING A GOOD JOB, INITIALLY
The acting general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs is Gerry McNamara, a former NHL goaltender. He has quickly become known as "GM G.M."
THE SANCTITY OF CONTRACTS
...A group of dissident major-league owners joined forces yesterday at the winter baseball meetings to try to oust Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. But Montreal Expo President John McHale, a member of the pro-Kuhn faction, insisted that "nothing could happen" to the commissioner because his contract doesn't expire until August 1983...
News item last week
from Hollywood, Fla.
That must have made interesting reading for former Expo Manager Dick Williams, one of 10 big league skippers fired in the past year with time left on their contracts, as well as for Kuhn himself, who became commissioner in 1969 after the owners fired William Eckert, who had four years to go on his contract.
BLIP! BOUNCE! TILT!
The four-day event last month in Chicago in which arcade hotshots supposedly would vie for $400,000 in prizes in a variety of coin-operated game competitions was billed as the Tournament Games Spectacular. But some participants complained that after playing in regionals to qualify for the Chicago showdown, they had to pay their own way to the Windy City, cough up a $1 admission charge as well as entry fees for individual games and even use their own quarters for the games. Worse, some of the winners complained that the prize-money checks they'd been given had bounced.
One party that vowed to make good on its share of the prize money was Atari, Inc., which provided the machines for the Centipede video-game competition and has since sued some of the tournament's sponsors. But even Atari had reason to be embarrassed. It seems that each of the five competitions was divided into open singles (in which both men and women were eligible but, in fact, only men entered) and women's singles, with substantially more prize money offered in the former category. Because gender isn't ordinarily a significant factor in playing coin-operated games, it's hard to understand why everybody didn't compete in the same class. The upshot? The $12,000 open singles prize in the Centipede competition went to Eric Ginner of Mountain View, Calif. and the $4,000 women's prize to Ok-Soo Han of North-ridge, Calif., who racked up 53,220 points, 879 more than Ginner. An Atari spokeswoman blithely said, "Ok-Soo Han must be kicking herself for not entering the open class."
Seems to us that a lot of people involved in Tournament Games Spectacular deserve a kick.
FIT TO SERVE
President Reagan recently filled all but one of the 15 posts on his Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, naming former NFL Coach George Allen as the chairman and erstwhile Quarterback Roger Staubach and figure skater Dorothy Hamill, among others, as members. Also appointed to the council was entertainer Wayne Newton, a longtime Reagan booster who staged concerts to raise money for Reagan during the 1980 presidential campaign and who has allowed that he might be interested some day in running for governor of Nevada or the U.S. Senate.
Although his selection raised a few eyebrows, it turns out that Newton isn't totally unqualified for the council, which meets four times a year to mull over ways to promote physical fitness—and which, incidentally, is one of the few government agencies this side of the Pentagon whose budget has been increased (from $814,000 last year to $1.1 million). A spokesman for Newton says that the 39-year-old singer has a black belt in karate, rides and trains Arabian horses and swims regularly. The spokesman neglected to mention that during his rise to stardom the 6'4" Newton pared his weight from 275 to 175 pounds. To our mind, that's the most salient biographical fact. Somebody capable of shedding 100 pounds may well be worth heeding on the subject of fitness.
BLESSED BE THE RECOVERY
Following a 10-mile race Saturday morning in Central Park, the sponsoring New York Road Runners Club held an awards presentation in the basement of what exhausted participants agreed was an aptly named locale: the Church of the Heavenly Rest.
HOLD THAT LINE, HOLD THAT FINE
In its game against Wisconsin at Madison last month, Rose Bowl-bound Iowa made only seven first downs, none in the second half, but won 17-7 thanks to a stalwart defense that forced the Badgers to commit five turnovers and held them to 43 yards rushing. The Hawkeyes' post-game bus trip to Iowa City proved to be a case of life imitating football. The driver of the bus carrying the team's offensive unit was ticketed near Dubuque for going 70 mph in a 55-mph zone, prompting Coach Hayden Fry to note sadly that the bus's occupants had been stopped all day, anyway. The defensive unit, meanwhile, came through again. Although nobody has figured out how it could have happened, the bus carrying the defensive players wasn't stopped even though it was traveling on the same road, just ahead of the bus that was flagged down.
THEY SAID IT
•Bob Lanier, Milwaukee Buck center, literally bowing at the feet of Forward Marques Johnson on the latter's return to the team last week after signing a $1-million-a-year contract to end a protracted holdout: "He's rich, he's cute and, thank God, he's back."
•Ray Gandolf, TV sports correspondent, of the 39-year-old Muhammad Ali: "He floats like an anchor, stings like a moth."
•Joe Kapp, former NFL quarterback, on being hired as the Cal football coach despite having no previous coaching experience: "Howard Cosell coaches 28 NFL teams every week, so I figure I can coach one college team."