WINNING AND CHEATING
There has been a lot of talk in recent days about whether it's necessary to cheat to win in college athletics. To understand what's behind that line of speculation, one need only note that the teams ranked first, second and sixth in SI's current college football poll, Georgia, SMU and Arizona State, respectively, are all on NCAA probation for recruiting violations, although only Arizona State is currently banned from appearing on TV. Add in the fact that Clemson, the defending national champion—and this week's 15th-ranked team—is reportedly about to be put on NCAA probation for recruiting violations and other transgressions (page 36), and you have what appears to be a damning comment on major-college athletics.
But is there a relationship between cheating and athletic success? Except for the case of Georgia, whose relatively minor recruiting violations were committed by an assistant coach, the allegations that got the above schools in trouble involved, in every instance, one or more infractions imputed to boosters, those zealous outside contributors who are often quick to bend the rules in the name of the universities they purport to serve. It further happens that the colleges with the best won-lost records are frequently those with the strongest booster clubs, one measure of that strength being that the clubs' activities are difficult for school administrators to control even when they're inclined to try. That helps put into perspective a point made by Harry Marmion, academic vice-president of Fairleigh Dickinson University in Rutherford, N.J. and a former director of the Commission on College Athletics of the American Council on Education. Although Marmion doesn't expressly claim that a precise relationship exists between cheating and intercollegiate athletic success, he seems to suggest as much when he says, "There's a direct correlation between the strength of the booster club and NCAA probation."
Those who deny a link between cheating and victory, on the other hand, are inclined to argue that the top football powers tend to get caught not because they're necessarily any more sinful than other schools but because they're such inviting targets for stool pigeons and NCAA investigators. The gist of this argument is that "everybody does it," or as Clemson President Bill Lee Atchley, whose school's booster club, incidentally, is considered the strongest in the country, put it not long ago in defending the honor of his institution, "I honestly believe there's no university anywhere in the country. I don't care who it is, which hasn't violated something." Atchley seemed to be saying, in other words, that it's necessary to cheat not only to win but even to play. Somehow that doesn't sound like any less damning a statement on big-time college sports.
November 22, 1982
NOW, ON TO THE 11:30 BARRIER
A story in The Orlando Sentinel on Florida State Offensive Guard Stan Gavin reported, intriguingly, that during one of the Seminoles' preseason workouts, "Gavin—a muscular 5'11" 240-pounder with powerful legs—recorded the fastest time in his weight division in the 12-minute run."
A COUPLE OF AWARDS
The Mobile (Ala.) Press Register is a conservative newspaper that regularly inveighs against pacifism, the United Nations and those it perceives to be soft on Communism. After the announcement that this year's Nobel Peace Prize would be conferred on two diplomats who have dedicated themselves to working for nuclear disarmament, Alva Myrdal of Sweden and Alfonso Garcia Robles of Mexico, the Press Register voiced its strong disapproval in an editorial in which it called the new laureates "a couple of jaded pacifists who live in a dream world." The editorial concluded that because of the choice of Myrdal and Garcia Robles, the Nobel Peace Prize "now ranks on a scale far beneath the Crichton Optimist Club High School Football Player of the Week award."
While we didn't get around to eliciting the reaction of Myrdal and Garcia Robles to that comparison, we did seek out Victor McSwain, a past president of the Crichton Optimist Club in Mobile. Just as we suspected, McSwain allowed that he and other Optimists had read the editorial and were worried lest it be construed as a putdown of their club's high school football awards, which, he proudly noted, have been given over the years to such outstanding Mobile-area players as Richard Todd, Robert Brazile, Mike Fuller, Scott Hunter, Mardye McDole, Buddy Aydelette and Richard Caster, all of whom have gone on to the NFL.
"When I first read the editorial, I thought it could be interpreted two ways—either as derogatory to the Peace Prize or the Optimist club," McSwain said. "I called a friend of mine at the Press Register who's a member of the club, and he talked to the guy who wrote the editorial. He said that we should take it in a good vein and that they weren't downgrading our program at all." Playing the diplomat himself, McSwain declined to compare his club's awards with the Nobel Peace Prize. But he did say, pointedly, "The Crichton Optimist Club high school awards program has a lot of prestige."
DARN THESE OBSCENE PHONE CALLS
Speaking of Alabama, a visitor to that football-mad state tells of a revealing exchange he heard on a Birmingham phone-in radio program the other day between a caller and the show's host. The dialogue, our informant says, went something like this:
Caller: "I spent this fall working on the election campaign, and I just wish the people of Alabama could get half as excited about an election as they do about the Alabama football team."
Host (abruptly): "You're entitled to your opinion." Click.
The lords of baseball have never tired of complaining about free agency's supposed dire consequences. One of their beefs: By allowing stars to jump from one team to another, free agency undermines fan loyalty. And, of course, quite a few top players have taken advantage of free-agent status to switch teams. Pete Rose left the Reds to join the Phillies. Reggie Jackson bolted the Yankees for the Angels. And now Steve Garvey has abandoned the Dodgers. Garvey filed for free agency on Nov. 2, his negotiations with the Dodgers broke off four days later and he was chosen in last week's re-entry draft by the Yankees, Cubs, Padres and six other clubs, but not by the Dodgers. Goodby, L.A. So long, Steve.
But there's reason to suspect that fan loyalty doesn't really depend all that much on whether a team hangs on to its big-name players. Fans want winners, and they can quickly become just as "loyal" to new stars as they were to the old ones. Besides, outstanding players have always moved from team to team, the only difference being that in the old days they did so as the result of being traded or sold by their owners. That last fact is substantiated by some surprising statistics. Of the 140 players who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, only 31, or 22%, played their entire careers with just one team. In other words, for every Walter Johnson, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Stan Musial and Sandy Koufax who stayed put throughout his career, there are four Hall of Famers who didn't. Ty Cobb may be forever identified with the Tigers, but he ended his playing days, remember, with the Athletics. And although Babe Ruth built Yankee Stadium, he started out with the Red Sox and finished with the Braves.
And what has the situation been during the seven years that free agency has been in effect? Of current players who as of next season will have played 10 or more years in the majors (the number required for Hall of Fame eligibility), SI has identified 25 with at least a remote chance of being inducted into Cooperstown and found that eight, or 32%, are still with their original clubs: Carl Yastrzemski, Johnny Bench, Phil Niekro, Jim Palmer, Mike Schmidt, Dave Concepcion, George Brett and Robin Yount. The 17 others on the list have—or will have—played for more than one team. They are: Garvey, Rose, Jackson, Tom Seaver, Gaylord Perry, Rod Carew, Steve Carlton, Buddy Bell, Ferguson Jenkins, Nolan Ryan, Joe Morgan, Jim Kaat, Carlton Fisk, Bill Madlock, Tommy John, George Foster, Don Sutton and Rollie Fingers.
The 32% figure can only decline as some of the current one-team stars—George Brett?—subsequently change uniforms. And there's reason to wonder whether up-and-coming stars with fewer than nine years experience, such as Rickey Henderson, Gary Carter and Fernando Valenzuela, might be quicker to change teams than their predecessors. One who thinks they will is Tom Haller, the San Francisco Giants' vice-president for baseball operations, who says, "A Niekro, a Palmer, a Yastrzemski come from the old school. There's more loyalty there. But I think that loyalty is diminishing year after year."
So far, however, outstanding players have tended to be more stable under free agency. That's true, by the way, not only of active players but also of the five recently retired players who, by our reckoning, need only complete the required five-year waiting period for their inevitable induction into Cooperstown. Three of those soon-to-be immortals, Willie McCovey, Lou Brock and Catfish Hunter, played for more than one club. But the other two, Brooks Robinson and Willie Stargell, stayed with their original teams even though both could have taken advantage of free agency in the twilight of their careers and switched clubs.
HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATE
The two chief eligibility requirements for representing the U.S. in the Ryder Cup, the biennial competition between the best men golfers from this country and Europe, are that players be native-born Americans and members of the PGA of America, that rarefied organization of club professionals that shouldn't be confused with the PGA Tour. In order to belong to the PGA of America, in turn, one must be a high school graduate. Such a requirement for playing in an international golf tournament may strike some as anachronistic, elitist and irrelevant, but Calvin Peete, for one, hasn't complained. Instead, Peete, who comes from a family of 19 children and who dropped out of school in the eighth grade, has taken that rule as his cue for finally getting a high school diploma.
"I was aware of the [high school graduation] requirement when I first joined the tour," Peete says. "I'd always thought about getting my diploma, but I just hadn't done it. I needed to earn a living. A high school diploma was something I could only take pride in, but I had to play golf well to take care of my family."
The 40-year-old Peete took his high school equivalency test in Detroit this past summer, passed it and became a PGA of America member on Oct. 1. Peete was one of the hottest players on the 1982 tour, with four victories and $318,470 in earnings, but because three of those wins occurred before Oct. 1, they don't count in the points standings for selection to the U.S. team for next summer's Ryder Cup. But he subsequently won the Pensacola Open and is still in a strong position to gain one of the team's 12 berths. Even if he doesn't make the team, of course, Peete will have his diploma to "take pride in." Which may be one of the few good things ever to be said about anachronism, elitism and irrelevance.
THEY SAID IT
•Billy Tubbs, Oklahoma basketball coach, on Sooner stars Chucky Barnett and David Little, who ranked one-two in Big Eight scoring last season: "Chucky's idea of good defense is taking the ball away from Little so he can shoot it."
•Larry Lacewell, Arkansas State football coach and protégé of Alabama's Bear Bryant, before his team's 34-7 loss to 'Bama this season: "Coach Bryant had a lot to do with my getting into coaching, and he may have a lot to do with my getting out of it."
•Ed Nealy, Kansas City Kings rookie, who's living with his parents in nearby Bonner Springs, Kans.: "I'm probably the only NBA player in history whose father drives him to and from practice."
•Lou Holtz, Arkansas football coach, explaining why his decision to alternate quarterbacks Tom Jones and Brad Taylor hasn't caused dissension: "We're united in a common goal—to keep my job."