When Clemson, the nation's No. 1 college football team last season, was heavily penalized last week by the NCAA and the Atlantic Coast Conference, what did the university president, Dr. Bill Atchley, have to say? He said, "I think we became very sloppy. I think we did things very carelessly without thinking what they meant."
If that doesn't strike you as being an entirely adequate response to the revelations of the multiple recruiting violations that brought on Clemson's punishment, well, here's Atchley last February in an interview that appeared in The Washington Post. At that time he said, "The NCAA will let things build up. To me, a violation is a violation, but they'll let the whole thing pile up until all of a sudden you have a major case. That's like taking a penny here and a penny there, and all of a sudden you have $1,000 and they accuse you of stealing $1,000." And, "At Clemson, I think we have a proper perspective."
JUSTICE AT LAST
Football players rely a lot on instinct, and so, apparently, do football coaches. A case in point is Nebraska Offensive Line Coach Cletus Fischer. When a Kansas lineman was called for holding during the Jayhawks' 52-0 loss to Nebraska in mid-season, Fischer automatically yelled, "Good call, ref. They've been doing it all day!" Fischer appeared not to have noticed that the Jayhawk infraction in question had occurred on Kansas' first play from scrimmage.
THE BEAUTIFUL BALLOON
The most exciting thing that happened at this year's Harvard-Yale game (Harvard won—yawn—45-7) was the sudden and startling appearance in the second period of a 5-foot weather balloon on the 46-yard line of Harvard Stadium. Although Brent Musburger indicated on TV that the balloon had floated down from the grandstand and "exploded," leaving a 3-foot hole in the ground, actually the balloon emerged from the field, getting bigger and bigger until it burst, spewing white powder around. The hole it left turned out to be the chamber in which the balloon and its inflating device had been hidden. There was absolutely no danger to anyone at any time, the perpetrators insisted.
But what was all this? Who done it? It wasn't hard to figure out; MIT done it. The letters MIT were visible on the balloon before it popped. Lacking a football team of their own on which to expend energy and enthusiasm, MIT students like to do things—or try to do things—to Harvard. In 1948, an MIT student who had been a munitions expert during World War II worked out a scheme to plant small explosives in Harvard Stadium that would, on detonation, inscribe the letters MIT on the greensward. He was caught before he could put his plan into effect, and suspended. Four years ago, another ingenious MIT plot, in which the sacred letters would be traced on the field by a buried network of paint-filled fire extinguishers linked to plastic tubing, was foiled when groundskeepers accidentally discovered the tubing when they were putting down new sod, supposedly to obliterate a crude "Y" that some unimaginative Yale boys had burned on the field with gasoline. Childish. At MIT the idea is to do the thing on game day with thousands watching.
This year, MIT intellect prevailed. Over a three-week period, groups of student commandos in camouflage clothing, their faces blackened, crept into the stadium at night and installed their equipment little by little: a Freon-driven hydraulic press, wiring, the balloon itself (coated on the inside with baking soda to keep the inner surfaces from sticking during inflation), a vacuum-cleaner motor to pump air, a lid, marbles to act as ball bearings to help the lid slide away as the balloon filled. "We thought of everything," said one self-satisfied commando, right down to instructions on how to remove the device and plug up the hole afterwards. On game day, zero hour, standing nonchalantly near a concession stand, they plugged in the electric hookup and Shazam!
Well, free-wheeling minds like these developed the heat-seeking missile, polyester, computers, the neutron bomb and other hallmarks of modern civilization. Harvard may have won The Game, but hail to thee, MIT.
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON, LIKE GYM
The name Nicholson may not inspire the same reverence among basketball fans as Naismith, but it's a respected handle in Ellensburg, Wash., where the Central Washington University Wildcats have been coached by nobody but a Nicholson for the past 53 years.
First there was Leo Nicholson, who became coach in 1929 and stayed on the job for 35 years, amassing a 505-281 career record. When he retired in 1964, he was succeeded by his son Dean, a four-time all-conference guard at the school, who has coached the Wildcats ever since and who has a 409-134 record to show for his 18 seasons. The combined 914 victories of Leo, who died in 1967, and Dean put them ahead of the Ibas (Hank and Moe), the Diddles (Ed Sr. and Ed Jr.), the Meyers (Ray and Tom) and any other father-son coaching duo you can think of.
In explaining how he came to follow in his father's coaching footsteps, Dean, now 56, begins by noting, "I was a gym rat from the age of three on." But he also recalls playing on the 1950 team that earned a berth in the NAIA tournament—the one time his father had a team in the tournament—only to be beaten in the quarterfinals. "I didn't shoot well that night," he says. "I always felt I let my father down." By way of making amends, Dean's own teams have won 20 or more games 16 different times. Last season the Wildcats went 22-7 and qualified for the NAIAs—for a record 16th time under Dean's tutelage. The leading scorer, at 17.1 points per game, from last season's team, Guard David Williams, brother of NBA stars Gus and Ray, is gone, and so are all but one of the other 1981-82 starters, but Nicholson feels that this year's team shapes up as his best ever, thanks to a strong array of recruits and transfers led by 6'9" Center Jerome Williams (no kin to David), the fourth-leading rebounder in the Pac-10 for Oregon last season.
Nicholson has two sons, Joel and Gary, but neither is following in his footsteps. Both attended Central Washington, but neither of them played basketball and, says Nicholson, "they were too smart to go into coaching." Nevertheless, the family's name will continue to be tied up with the school's basketball fortunes for some time to come if only because the building where the Wildcats play their home games is called Nicholson Pavilion (cap. 3,200).
WRITE IF YOU GET WORK
Bob Trumpy, the former Cincinnati Bengal tight end who does football announcing for NBC, also has a sports talk show on WLW-Radio in Cincy. One evening he took a call from a woman who said, "I think your show stinks." Affably, Trumpy asked why she felt that way.
"My husband sits there listening to your show with a set of headphones on and ignores me and the children. I can't communicate with him. He won't pay any attention to me."
"Is he listening now?"
"Yes," she said. "Of course he is. That's why I called you. I can't even talk to him."
"Hmmm," said Trumpy. "Do you want me to give him a message from you over the air?"
"Sure," the woman said. "Try it. His name is Mike. Tell him I'm going to the store now and I'll be back around 8:30. Tell him to watch the kids and make sure the house doesn't burn down."
"Got it. Hang on. Hey, Mike, listen. Your wife just called. She asked me to tell you she's going to the store, she'll be back around 8:30, and for you to watch the kids and make sure the house doesn't burn down."
Cheerfully, Trumpy returned to the phone.
"Done," he told the woman. "Any reaction?"
"Yes," she said. "He's nodding his head at me and waving goodby."
SCHOLARLY RESEARCH DEPARTMENT
Now here's something that certainly makes a great deal of sense. In a letter to the Chicago Tribune, Alan L. Benjamin propounded a theory that football causes winter. "You may have noticed that when the season starts, the weather is always warm and summery," Benjamin wrote. "But after the fullbacks, halfbacks, quarterbacks and any other fraction-backs have thundered from goalpost to goalpost a few times nature gets upset, and cold weather begins. You may also have noticed that countries where football isn't played, such as Mexico, Jamaica and Egypt, do not have cold weather. In Canada, on the other hand, where they have one additional player on each side, winters are worse than here." Small wonder, Benjamin concludes, that during the NFL strike we had freakishly mild weather across much of the northern U.S. And have you noticed how much colder it's turned since the strike ended?
WRONG BUT RIGHT?
When Robin Yount was named Most Valuable Player in the American League a few weeks ago, some members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America reacted indignantly when they discovered that one BBWAA voter not only failed to name Yount MVP but also placed him fourth, behind Reggie Jackson of the Angels, George Brett of the Royals and Rollie Fingers, Yount's teammate on the Brewers. The BBWAA announced that the aberrant vote had been cast by Jim Golla of the Toronto Globe and Mail, and ashes were quickly heaped on his head. "It was a disservice to [Yount]. He should have been unanimous," one New York newspaperman wrote, with more feeling than grammar.
But what is a vote for, if not to express opinion? Golla, in explaining his choices, says, "Last year the Angels finished fourth in the first half of a split season, seventh in the second half. This year, even though they lost Shortstop Rick Burleson, they won the division title and almost won the pennant. I think Jackson was the key to the Angels' success, physically and spiritually. I put Brett second, because when Brett's not in the lineup the Royals aren't a contending team; they're not the same without Brett. As for Fingers, when he was in the bullpen the Brewers were 4½ games in front. After he was hurt, it was like life and death for Milwaukee to win. Yount had a fantastic year, but the Brewers could have won the pennant without him. They couldn't have won it if they hadn't had Fingers for as long as they did."
Golla's arguments are debatable and, to most fans, probably wrong, but his vote was based on thought and analysis. In the balloting for the American League's Cy Young Award for the year's outstanding pitcher, Pete Vuckovich of the Brewers beat out Jim Palmer of the Orioles and Dan Quisenberry of the Royals, with Dave Stieb of the Blue Jays fourth. Yet many observers, including The Sporting News, felt that Stieb was the best pitcher in the league, although he was all but hidden from popular view because he was playing for a sixth-place team. It can be argued that Stieb's fourth-place finish was a far greater abuse of the ballot than Yount's failure to win the MVP unanimously.
As Golla says, "The MVP isn't a popularity contest. I'm sorry Robin Yount didn't get a unanimous vote, but if you can't vote the way your conscience says, we're in a sad state."
THEY SAID IT
•Dan Quisenberry, Kansas City relief pitcher, after receiving the American League Fireman of the Year award: "I want to thank all the pitchers who couldn't go nine innings, and Manager Dick Howser, who wouldn't let them."
•Gil Perreault, Buffalo Sabres center, naming the three most important aspects of pro hockey: "Forecheck, backcheck, paycheck."
•Terry Holland, Virginia basketball coach, on high school recruits who have visited the Virginia campus: "I'm convinced we had guys who weren't interested in coming here but just wanted to meet Ralph Sampson."