HERE'S WHY HERSCHEL WALKER SHOULD BE MOVED TO QUARTERBACK
For the fourth time in as many years, Herschel Walker kept the football world holding its breath over which uniform he would don the following season. In 1980 he agonized over his choice of college, waiting until nearly the end of his senior year in high school before settling on Georgia. In 1981, after considering a three-year, $1.5 million offer to play in the Canadian Football League, he handed out a typed statement saying he would return to Georgia for his sophomore season. In 1982 he threatened to seek the right to play in the NFL by mounting a court challenge to that league's prohibition against drafting undergraduates, but then held a press conference to say he would remain at Georgia for his junior year. Last week Walker huddled in Athens, Ga. with J. Walter Duncan, the owner of the New Jersey Generals of the U.S. Football League, about the possibility of playing for the Generals. Once again the Dawgs won out. Walker emerged from the talks to announce at a press conference (right) that he would stay at Georgia for his senior year.
But that didn't quite end uncertainty over Walker's athletic future. Under NCAA rules, college athletes, on their own or with the help of advisers, may field or even seek out offers from professional teams to determine their worth in the marketplace, but they forfeit their college eligibility if they sign a contract or enter into full give-and-take negotiations with pro teams. Although both Walker and his lawyer, Jack Manton, denied that anything had transpired that would jeopardize Walker's NCAA eligibility, The Boston Globe's Will McDonough reported that Walker had signed a three-year, $5 million contract to play with the Generals. McDonough also said that after walking around the Georgia campus, Walker returned to the motel where he'd been meeting with Duncan to call the deal off.
If Walker had indeed put his name on—and had stuck by—the deal reported by the Globe, it would have been the most lucrative pro contract ever for an athlete coming out of college and the richest ever for any football player. Whatever the facts concerning the signing of a contract, Walker had obviously come close to bolting to the USFL. What's also clear is that he initiated the dealings with the Generals. On Walker's instructions, Manton had gotten in touch with Duncan, who arrived in Athens by private jet Wednesday night to meet with Walker. Talks continued on Thursday, and at 10:30 that night three members of the Generals—former Saints Quarterback Bobby Scott, former Bills Defensive Back Keith Moody and rookie Offensive Lineman Wayne Harris—were stationed by a telephone at the team's training camp in Orlando, Fla. for a possible call from Walker, who had reportedly expressed curiosity about the team's personnel. The call never came. The meetings in Athens continued until the wee hours on Friday, and a press conference was called for 3 p.m. that day, at which time Walker was to announce his plans. One indication that something big was brewing was that Walker's parents had driven over from Wrightsville, Ga. to be on hand. Another was the departure of Generals Coach Chuck Fairbanks from Orlando for the team's headquarters at New Jersey's Meadowlands sports complex, where, according to some reports, Walker was to be introduced to the New York press as the USFL's proud new acquisition. Instead, Walker announced in Athens that he was staying at Georgia, adding that he never received a concrete offer from Duncan and "never saw a contract."
February 28, 1983
Was Walker telling the truth? We may never know. Noting that Georgia had faithfully come forward in the past with details of Walker's dealings with pro football suitors, an NCAA spokesman said he assumed it would do the same this time. Meanwhile, he said, the NCAA had no plans to investigate whether Walker had jeopardized his eligibility. This was probably just as well. Given the gross abuses that some colleges and athletes have committed in recent years, the mere signing and tearing up of a contract no longer seems all that terrible an infraction.
Still, Walker's image as college football's golden boy may have lost a little of its luster as the result of his dealings with the Generals. This latest minuet with yet another pro team adds to a suspicion that he likes to play games with the media. At his press conference, Walker said he had met with the Generals because "they had heard a lot of rumors that I wanted to play professional ball," an odd statement in view of the fact that it was he who approached the Generals. Asked what his fiancée might think of the stir he was causing, Walker said, "I reckon she'd say I'm a person that loves to create excitement." From the way Walker orchestrated last week's excitement, Georgia Coach Vince Dooley may want to consider switching him to quarterback.
But it must be remembered, as Dooley told SI Correspondent Kent Hannon following the press conference, that Walker is still "only 20" and that he has grown accustomed to an awful lot of attention for one of such tender years. Dooley was naturally relieved that Walker decided to remain at Georgia, and the rest of college football and the NFL also had cause to cheer the decision, because if Walker had joined up with the USFL, it might have triggered an explosive bidding war between the two pro football leagues over underclassmen. That would have been truly exciting.
LOOKING AT THE EPA
President Reagan complained at his press conference last week that the constitutional confrontation between the Environmental Protection Agency and Congress had obscured the EPA's "splendid record." Credit the President with at least focusing on the right issue. What is ultimately involved in the continuing uproar over the EPA isn't executive privilege or separation of powers but the agency's success—or lack of it—in carrying out the mission implied by its name, i.e., protecting the environment.
By deeply slashing the EPA's budget and staff, the Administration has, in fact, severely curtailed the agency's ability to enforce environmental law. The EPA has been especially lax in discharging its obligation to clean up the toxic-waste dumps that threaten public health throughout the U.S., and it was this laxity—plus the Administration's refusal to cooperate with attempts by various House committees to monitor the agency's cleanup program—that brought about the confrontation between the White House and Congress. When EPA Administrator Ann Gorsuch refused to turn over documents subpoenaed by one of the committees, she was cited for contempt of Congress. The possibility that some of those documents have subsequently been destroyed has only deepened the showdown.
At the heart of the dispute is the $1.6 billion "Superfund" that Congress created in the waning days of the Carter Administration for dealing with hazardous wastes. Although the fund's purpose was to provide for speedy cleanups, it was only two months ago, well after Congress had begun formal inquiries into the EPA's flagrant foot dragging, that the Administration got around to specifying 418 of the nation's approximately 14,000 abandoned toxic-waste sites as having "national priority" for EPA action; so far only six of those sites have been cleaned up. Rita Lavelle, who was fired by the White House as the director of the EPA's toxic-waste program two weeks ago, had explained that the EPA was moving slowly because "this time it will be done right."
But the EPA hasn't done the job right at all. A draft audit by EPA Inspector General Matthew N. Novick, made public last week, indicated that the agency couldn't account for $53.6 million of the $180 million it supposedly spent on the hazardous-waste program last year, a failing that critics promptly attributed to mismanagement. There have also been charges that the EPA delayed cleanups for political reasons and was soft in dealing with polluters. The EPA's defense against this last charge has been that it can best accomplish cleanups by "non-confrontational" means. When SI 15 months ago asked for an example of results achieved by this approach (SCORECARD, Nov. 16, 1981), the EPA cited its role in persuading a paint company to agree to help clean up a chemical-waste site near Los Angeles. However, the company actually consented only after a lawsuit was brought against it by California authorities. Jawboning alone clearly wasn't working; 36 other parties that the EPA had notified as "responsible" for the toxic-waste site hadn't even responded to the agency.
In considering the EPA's reluctance to get tough with polluters, it helps to review the background of its top officials. In a letter last week to The Washington Post, National Audubon Society President Russell Peterson, a former Republican governor of Delaware and head of the President's Council on Environmental Quality in the Nixon and Ford administrations, cited the composition of the EPA hierarchy as evidence that "the federal regulatory apparatus has been taken over by those it was designed to regulate." The agency's chief of staff, John E. Daniel, was formerly a lobbyist for Johns-Manville Corporation, a manufacturer of asbestos. Kathleen M. Bennett, assistant administrator for air, noise and radiation, was a lobbyist for Crown Zellerbach Corporation, a paper manufacturer. Robert M. Perry, general counsel responsible for EPA enforcement, was an Exxon lawyer. And Lavelle was employed by Aerojet General Corporation, which both the EPA and California officials have branded as one of that state's worst dumpers of toxic wastes.
Lavelle was sacked by the White House after it appeared that perjury charges might be brought against her in connection with testimony she gave to a House subcommittee. But efforts by the Administration to put distance between itself and her weren't convincing. Although both Lavelle and the Administration disavowed it, a controversial memorandum drafted by one of her assistants describing "the business community" as "the primary constituents of this Administration" seems, given the EPA's kid-gloves treatment of industry polluters, only too accurate. Then there was the suggestion last week by the EPA's ethics officer, Don Nantkes, that Lavelle may have breached the agency's ethical standards by letting representatives of various chemical companies pay for her dinners at some of Washington's tonier restaurants. But it's unlikely that a $67,200-a-year administrator could be "bought" for a few meals. The real question, one the EPA hasn't addressed, is why its top officials generally—not just Lavelle—have seemed less inclined to break bread with representatives of environmental and other public-interest groups than with chemical industry executives. That's not the only puzzling aspect of the developing EPA story. Another is how the President, in view of all this, could possibly describe the agency's record as "splendid."
It was announced last week that ABC Video Enterprises and ESPN have formed an enterprise called Reserved Seat Video Productions—to be known as RSVP—to handle the marketing of pay-TV and closed-circuit rights for a big Don King-promoted heavyweight boxing doubleheader on May 20. The program would match unbeaten WBC champion Larry Holmes against Tim Witherspoon and rematch WBA champion Michael Dokes and the man he knocked out in 63 seconds of the first round last December, Mike Weaver. Having consulted both boxing and alphabet experts, we're going with the favorites, Holmes and Dokes, and predicting that this marriage of ABC, ESPN, RSVP, WBC and WBA will produce two TKOs.
Once again, Bobby Knight finds himself the center of controversy. This time the uproar includes demands that Knight be dismissed as the U.S. Olympic basketball coach for 1984. The calls for the Indiana coach's laurel-wreathed scalp were prompted by a "joke" that Knight told on Oct. 29 while speaking at a banquet for hospital employees in Gary, Ind. The master of ceremonies said kiddingly that he was giving Knight a one-way ticket to Puerto Rico. Knight replied, also in jest, that when he boarded a plane to leave San Juan after the 1979 Pan American Games, "I stood up, unzipped my pants, lowered my shorts and placed my bare ass on the window. That's the last thing I wanted these people to see of me."
Unfortunately for Knight, a Puerto Rican journalist was present at the dinner and wrote about the incident for the Hispanic Link News Service, touching off a storm of protest. Subsequently, Knight's ouster as U.S. Olympic coach has been demanded by The Washington Post, columnist George Vecsey of The New York Times (who wrote that Knight should be sacked unless he apologized), Hispanic members of the U.S. Congress and Puerto Rican Governor Carlos Romero Barcelo, who has twice written the U.S. Olympic Committee to object to the retention of Knight. Although USOC President William Simon questioned Knight's "judgment" in telling the story, he said that Knight had the committee's "complete support" as Olympic basketball coach.
Knight's indiscretion in Gary refueled a controversy that began during the '79 Pan American Games. Knight coached the U.S. team to the gold medal but not before getting into a scuffle with a San Juan policeman that resulted in Knight's arrest on misdemeanor assault charges. Although U.S. players, assistant coaches and team officials who witnessed the incident insisted that the policeman was the one at fault, Knight didn't help his image when he criticized Puerto Rican justice and said of local fans who later booed him, "——'em.——'em all.... The only——thing they know how to do is grow bananas." Knight left Puerto Rico and didn't return to stand trial. He was convicted in absentia and sentenced to a $500 fine and six months in jail. Puerto Rico regards him as a fugitive.
Having hitherto remained mum on the subject of the calls for his dismissal, an obviously shaken Knight last week spoke about the matter with several members of the media, including SI's Jack McCallum. The Gary banquet, Knight said, wasn't the only occasion on which he had spun his moon-over-Puerto Rico tale—another was a banquet on Nov. 5, 1981 in Columbus, Ind.—and he said the joke was a "throwaway" line he used in dealing with the ribbing he has taken about Puerto Rico for the past three years.
"Look, if you knew how many times Puerto Rico has been brought up in public since the Pan Am Games, you wouldn't believe it," he told McCallum. "I've been the roaster and the roasted and a banquet speaker hundreds of times since then, and Puerto Rico always comes up. Everyone from President Ford to my wife has gotten on me about Puerto Rico. I'm at a golf tournament and Chi Chi Rodriguez comes up and starts kidding me about it. At dinners everyone mentions Puerto Rico to me. I've heard it 300, 500, a thousand different ways."
Last week Knight apologized for the joke and added, "I have no problem with Puerto Rico in general, only with those certain people," apparently meaning the authorities with whom he had his legal problems in San Juan. Knight also pointed out that after the Pan Am Games he wrote Barcelo an apology for his behavior in San Juan, but he said that the governor never replied, a fact that Barcelo confirmed.
The joke Knight chose to tell in Gary and elsewhere came as yet another reminder that the Hoosier coach, who insists on total discipline on the part of his players, is himself disconcertingly undisciplined. It can be argued that so tempestuous a figure should never have been selected as Olympic coach; ideally, that man should be something of a diplomat. Yet with last week's apology, Knight was acting, at least for the moment, very much the diplomat. It should also be noted that although his remarks in Gary were tasteless and insensitive, Knight evidently intended them to be taken in good fun. Of course, there are only so many times that Knight can be given the benefit of the doubt, and close friends have accordingly urged him to mind his manners between now and next year's Games in L.A. He would do well to heed their counsel, because even if he survives the latest imbroglio, another serious misstep will almost certainly cost him his Olympic job.
SUPER SUNDAY AND MIGHTY MONDAY
People who like to figure out their social calendars well in advance should note that the next presidential inauguration will take place on Jan. 20, 1985, the same day that Super Bowl XIX is scheduled to be played in Palo Alto, Calif. The inauguration date is mandated by the 20th Amendment to the Constitution, which provides that presidential terms begin at noon on Jan. 20. As for the Super Bowl, the NFL arrived at a Jan. 20 date by deciding that Sept. 1, 1984 sounded right for opening the season and letting the schedule run its usual course after that. If the NFL follows the example of this year's Super Bowl, also played on the West Coast, the kickoff on Jan. 20 would be at 6 p.m. E.S.T., or just about the time that supporters of the newly sworn-in President, whoever that might be, would be working themselves into the proper frame of mind for the evening's inaugural balls.
How could the Washington crowd possibly tear itself away from the tube to go dancing? How could ABC-TV, which will be telecasting the Super Bowl for the first time and will naturally want to do it right, come up with enough cameramen to cover the big doings in both Palo Alto and Washington? How can the American public keep from going into a dither over two such spectacles on the same day?
Not to worry. The date of a U.S. presidential inauguration has fallen on a Sunday five times in history, and on each occasion the public ceremonies were switched to Monday. The most recent such occasion was in 1957, the beginning of Dwight Eisenhower's second term. Ike honored the constitutional requirement by taking the oath of office in a private ceremony in the White House after church on Sunday. Then he repeated the ceremony publicly on the Capitol steps on Monday, which had been designated a legal holiday by a joint resolution of Congress, after which the inaugural parade and four balls were held. It can be assumed that the public observance of the inauguration will be similarly switched to Monday in 1985.
Just so everything's clear, the sequence of events in '85, therefore, will likely be as follows: 1) the private swearing-in of the President, 2) the Super Bowl and 3) the public inauguration celebration. And don't forget 2a), the obligatory phone call that the newly sworn-in President will naturally want to make to the winning Super Bowl coach.
THEY SAID IT
•Stewart Granger, Villanova guard and a Brooklyn native, during a recent bout with the flu: "My throat is so bad that my mother thinks I've been speaking a new Philadelphia language."
•Del Harris, Houston Rocket coach, critiquing a rival team: "Denver doesn't run any plays. That's why they're hard for us to defense."