The battle over which schools will be eligible to play Division I college basketball comes to a head on Jan. 10-12 in San Diego at the NCAA's annual convention. The NCAA Council, mostly representatives from major athletic powers, has warned that the "seemingly uncontrolled growth of Division I membership...poses a threat to the continued successful operation of the association."
Indeed, since 1974 the Division I membership in basketball has increased by 40 schools to a total of 277. To reverse this pattern, the NCAA leaders are backing Proposal 71, which redefines eligibility for Division I. Under Proposal 71, to gain or retain membership in the division, a college that doesn't play Division I football would have to meet all the following criteria:
•Sponsor at least eight Division I varsity sports for men;
•Play not more than four basketball games against non-Division I teams;
•Average more than 3,500 per game in home paid attendance or average more than 110,000 in annual paid attendance;
•Award financial aid amounting to at least half the total permitted under NCAA rules geared to football, which means each school would have to give out at least 42½ athletic scholarships or the equivalent in cash grants, estimated at $5,000 per grant. This works out to a minimum of $212,500, a substantial sum for a small college. The NCAA permits a school to award only 15 men's basketball scholarships, so at non-football schools the remaining grants would presumably have to be doled out in the so-called minor sports.
There's a lot of opposition to Proposal 71—insiders estimated that as of last weekend the provision in its current form probably wouldn't pass—and not just among the 40 or so colleges that could conceivably be forced out of Division I (among them the likes of Fordham, Loyola of Chicago, Pepperdine, Creighton, Niagara, North Carolina-Charlotte, Alabama-Birmingham and the entire membership of the Trans America Athletic Conference). Officials at such schools feel they are on a hit list. Basketball is a big sport at many of these institutions, some of which have been playing the game at the highest level for 50 years or more, but maintaining seven other varsity sports is economically unfeasible for a lot of them. A good number of these colleges don't have basketball arenas large enough to meet Proposal 71 's home-attendance requirement. Many of the lesser Division I schools (as well as some of the prominent ones) play a mix of Division I and non-Division I teams, and confining their schedules to all of one or all of the other would be difficult and undesirable.
And most of the lesser schools, particularly those that don't play football, resent the number of scholarships or grants they'd be obliged to hand out. "It's totally unfair to make a judgment on basketball based on a football program," says Pat Malley, athletic director and football coach at Santa Clara.
Fred Cooper, who is the Assistant to the President for Athletics at Florida's Stetson University, says, indignantly, "The most strident arguments in favor of such things as [Proposal 71] are made by people who do not have to cope with budget problems. They have no knowledge of budgets. They have all sorts of funding, and it's the poor taxpayers who pick up the bill."
The proposal would also, in effect, reserve a larger share of basketball TV revenues and NCAA tournament berths for the biggest conferences, which already receive an overwhelming proportion of each. As hard as it may be to believe, some members of leagues like the Big Ten and ACC actually find it unfair when their fourth-or fifth-place finisher doesn't get into the NCAAs because a spot must be reserved for the champion of a lesser conference.
Proposal 71 also overlooks the special role that basketball, a sport requiring few players and a relatively small budget, can fill at some colleges. For example, Marquette, which dropped football and put all its eggs in one basket, so to speak, won the 1977 NCAA championship. Indiana State was an obscure college until Larry Bird almost led it to the NCAA title in 1979. "One of the things the major schools don't understand," says Bucky Wagner, the athletic director at Georgia Southern, "is that we have a dream. If you look at the NCAA tournament, the small schools almost never play in the championship game. They never advance much past the first round. But you're giving us a dream. Maybe we can go to the Final Four. Maybe we can be a Cinderella. That's what all of our programs are built on."
NOW PITCHING: LEFTY ARACHNID
The great Dizzy Dean, who won 30 games in 1934, is in baseball's Hall of Fame, which should be proof enough that he was an extraordinary pitcher. Just in case it isn't, here's one more tidbit to show that Ol' Diz was something special: He's the only pitcher in all the long history of the major leagues to have a spider named after him.
The little creature is called Mastophora dizzydeani, and it was awarded that label because of its ability to hurl things with remarkable effectiveness. What it throws are globules of liquid—Dean himself never had to resort to the wet one—but, unlike Diz, it doesn't try to fog its deliveries past opposing batters, otherwise known as moths. Instead, Mastophora beans its opponent, another practice Dean rarely resorted to, with the sticky glob at the end of a silk line, reels in the moth for dinner and chalks up one more in the win column.
You don't get stuff like this in The Baseball Encyclopedia.
Although it's widely known that most college conferences have an arrangement whereby all members get a cut from revenue earned at a football bowl game in which any conference member plays, the extent to which league schools benefit—especially in this age of proliferating bowls—is rarely publicized.
To that end, Jerry Izenberg of Newark's Star-Ledger recently did an accounting of the bowl income that will accrue this season to Kentucky, which had a record of 0-10-1. Of the 10 teams in the SEC, of which Kentucky is a member, seven went to bowls: Georgia (Sugar), LSU (Orange), Florida (Bluebonnet), Tennessee (Peach), Vanderbilt (Hall of Fame), Alabama (Liberty) and Auburn (Tangerine). Each of these teams gets to keep a good chunk of the money it earns from its bowl appearance (usually 30%, although the figure varies for the less lucrative bowls), the conference gets a somewhat smaller cut and the remainder is split evenly among the other nine schools—including those that played in other bowls and those that didn't play in any, like Kentucky.
Under this arrangement the Wildcats will earn an estimated $230,000, despite their winless record. That's nice work if you can't get it.
THE ZB SYSTEM
Zbigniew Brzezinski may be known to the world as the man who was President Carter's national security adviser, but to friends and acquaintances he's also known as something of a tennis nut, or at least as a man who's fascinated by the game and who thinks about it a great deal. While traveling recently, Brzezinski ran into Billy Talbert, the old doubles star and ex-Davis Cup captain, and outlined a tennis handicap system he had devised. Talbert was impressed by it and said people ought to be told about it. Here's Brzezinski telling us (and you) how his idea works:
"My handicap system adjusts itself to your play and to that of your opponent. It moves up and down with the flow of play, compensating for the inferior player's initial hesitation, putting the better player under increasing pressure as the handicap changes. It helps the poorer player gain confidence, and at crucial times it demands the very best from the better player.
"The ZB Handicap System is very simple. Assume you are playing an opponent you haven't faced before, but you know she—let's say it's a she—is better than you. But by how much? The first game is scored normally, and you lose. She leads 1-0.
"In the next game, all you must do to win is reach 40. Even if it's at deuce, if you reach 40 the game is yours. But let's assume your opponent is so much better than you that you have reached only 30 or less by the time she has won the game. The score is now 2-0 in her favor.
"In the next game, all you need to win is 30. Even if she's leading 40-15, the game is yours if you get the next point. Let's assume you pull it off, and the score is now 2-1. Because you won the last game at 30, to win the next one you'll have to reach 40 again. Your handicap has been toughened by a step. Assume she wins again—and leads 3-1. Your handicap shifts a notch in your favor: Again, all you need to win the game is 30. But let's say you're rattled, and she wins again. Her lead mounts to 4-1.
"Now your handicap becomes more one-sided. All you need is 15—just one winning shot on your part or one error on hers. Now she's under pressure because she has to win at love. This gives you every incentive to go for winners, because you need only one. Assume you get it—the score is now 4-2.
"You move up to 30 again, one notch higher, but your confidence is up, too. You need only two good shots this time, and let's assume you get them. It's 4-3, and you're still in contention for the set.
"In brief, the handicap system moves up and down, one step at a time. Moreover, if you lose a set, the next set begins with your handicap determined by the last game of the previous set. This means that in the new set your opponent begins under greater pressure.
"Once you've played a stronger opponent and know how much better she (or he) is, you can start the match with the handicap at a mutually agreed upon level. For example, the first game can be yours if you reach 30, or even 15; after that you move up and down the scale, depending on how the match unfolds.
"I've used this system against much better players than I, and I've found it makes for a genuine match. It's fun to see how even the most confident player begins to tighten up when it's necessary to win a game at love and how quickly you gain the confidence to win a game with that handicap—and then the confidence to win at 30 and 40.
"In this system, both players are genuinely challenged to play to win. Try it. You'll see."
HELLO AND GOODBY
It's time once again to update Miami University's list of departed football coaches now that Tom Reed has left to take over at North Carolina State. The Oxford, Ohio institution, which keeps losing its coaches to bigger football powers, gets a measure of consolation by calling itself the Cradle of Coaches, and with good reason. It hasn't fired a football coach in more than 40 years, yet it has had to say goodby to:
Stu Holcomb, who became head man at Purdue; Sid Gillman, who was one of pro football's most influential head coaches with the Rams, the Chargers and the Oilers; Woody Hayes, who moved to Ohio State and became a legend; Ara Parseghian, who went to Northwestern and then on to Rockne-esque stature at Notre Dame; John Pont, who coached at Yale, Indiana and Northwestern; Bo Schembechler, who at Michigan became Hayes's great rival; Bill Mallory, who went on to Colorado and Northern Illinois; Dick Crum, who has guided North Carolina to bowl victories in each of the last four seasons; and now Reed.
In 42 seasons Miami has had only three losing years: 3-6 in 1942 under Holcomb; 3-8 in 1976 under Crum; and 5-6 in 1980 under Reed. Despite that history of excellence Miami partisans chafe and moan like football fans everywhere. Reed was 7-4 this season, and the four defeats rankled some undergraduates who chalked a message on blackboards in classrooms all over the campus: START A NEW TRADITION! FIRE REED!
Well, Reed has gone, of his own volition, and now Athletic Director Dick Shrider is busy looking through a grab bag of candidates, hoping to find somebody else good enough to say goodby to in a few years.
THEY SAID IT
•Bobby Knight, Indiana's basketball coach, asked at a luncheon what part of coaching he liked best: "Dealing with the press. After the demands of a game, my mind needs a rest."