EXPLOITATIVE AND COLLUSIVE
In the aftermath of the U.S. Football League's signing of Herschel Walker, the powers-that-be in pro and college football were falling all over themselves to reaffirm their fealty to the notion that the pro leagues shouldn't traffic in players with college eligibility. The USFL said that its violation of that tenet in signing Walker was an "exceptional case," the NFL expressed the hope that it wouldn't have to stoop to the USFL's level and raid the campuses, and college coaches were so distraught about the USFL's supposed treachery that some schools and conferences promptly declared the league's emissaries personae non gratae. Mississippi State Coach Emory Bellard went so far as to call Walker's defection to the USFL "the single worst thing that has happened to college football since its inception."
Curiously, nobody seemed able to agree on just why the spiriting away of still-eligible college players might be so bad. Two common explanations were that the practice would 1) interfere with the players' education or 2) undermine the stability and financial health of college football. The first fear was expressed by a number of college coaches as well as the Dallas Cowboys' Tom Landry, who protested the USFL's signing of Walker by saying, "We've got to have the players with their college educations so they can move into their careers [outside football]." The second was voiced by NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle. "Colleges are having financial problems," he said. "To many, football is the main source of revenue. This is most unfortunate."
With all due respect for Landry's avowed concern for academics, however, only 29% of NFL players have earned college degrees, and college coaches are being downright presumptuous in invoking educational considerations. These are the selfsame gentlemen who steer their players into jock curricula that don't lead to degrees, the better to encumber them with 30 or more hours a week of practice, weight training, football-related travel, chalk talks and film sessions. If their players didn't have to devote so much time to the pigskin, of course, more of them might wind up with sheepskins.
March 7, 1983
The contention that the luring away of still-eligible collegians would cause financial hardship or otherwise disrupt the college game is also unconvincing. The loss of some of these players might slightly diminish the overall quality of college play and in some cases give schools less time to cultivate and exploit the name value of their biggest stars, but it wouldn't affect the competitiveness and esprit that are most responsible for college football's appeal. In the dozen years since Spencer Haywood went to court to force the NBA to drop a similar ban against signing players with eligibility remaining, college basketball has enjoyed unprecedented popularity.
But the college football establishment believes its sport merits special treatment, and that's good enough for the pro leagues, which use the colleges as a farm system and, notwithstanding the USFL's signing of Walker, don't want to offend the college coaches if they can help it. The resulting arrangement, rigged as it is to keep players from entering the job market before exhausting their eligibility, is collusive and quite likely illegal. It should further be noted that while thus holding their football players to four-year commitments, the colleges themselves are careful to make only one-year commitments; NCAA rules specify that athletes receive one-year scholarships renewable on a yearly basis—at the discretion of the colleges.
This exploitative situation is dramatized by the case of 27-year-old Willie Young, an Army veteran and father of five who was a standout defensive end as a freshman at Illinois in 1981 but quit school last summer and joined the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League. Young had first signed with the USFL's Chicago Blitz, but then backed out of the deal. The league has since said that it would have disallowed his contract anyway because of its hands-off-underclassmen policy, which is patterned after the NFL's long-standing rule. If Young decides at some future juncture that he'd rather play pro football in the U.S. than in Canada, he may have to be patient. As things now stand, because he dropped out of college, the NFL and USFL wouldn't draft him until a year after his class graduates, at which time he'll be 30.
THE BIG BARRON RELAY
At Fenwick High in Oak Park, Ill. the four Barron brothers were all varsity swimmers, but because the eldest, Jimmy, graduated the year before the youngest, Tom, arrived as a freshman, they weren't all on the team at the same time. But that changed at Iowa State, where first Jimmy enrolled, followed by Mike, Timmy (after transferring from Illinois) and Tom. Because Jimmy was red-shirted for one year, all four boys wound up as Cyclone teammates this season, and Coach Bob Groseth got the idea of entering them as a 400-yard medley relay team in a dual meet against Northwestern in Evanston, a short drive from the Barron family's suburban Chicago home.
To make the brotherly relay a reality, Groseth had to switch Jimmy, the most gifted of the Barrons and normally a breaststroker—he placed 12th in the 200-yard breaststroke in the 1980 NCAAs—to another stroke. Groseth decided that the 22-year-old senior would lead off in backstroke, followed by Tom, 18, a freshman, in breaststroke; Tim, 19, a sophomore, in butterfly; and Mike, 21, a senior, in freestyle. When the meet began, most of the 100 fans on hand seemed to be friends or relatives of the Barrons. Everybody cracked up when the P.A. announcer introduced the Iowa State medley relay entry by declaring "In Lane Three, Jim Barron, Tom Barron, Tim Barron and Mike Barron." But what the brothers called the Big Barron Relay quickly turned into the Big Barron Botch-up. Iowa State's unique foursome built a nice lead, and Mike hit the touch pad well ahead of the Northwestern anchorman, but the officials, ruling that Mike had left the block too soon in starting his leg, disqualified the Cyclones, giving the Wildcats the victory in 3:53.74.
Although the other three boys naturally taunted Mike with "you blew the relay," the anticlimactic ending, in truth, scarcely mattered. Despite the disqualification, Iowa State easily won the meet 81-30, and Jimmy says, "It was kind of funny. It was all built up, and then we get disqualified. But just the fact that we got to swim together in a meet was great."
HE'S HONEST, HONEST
Nine-year-old Josh Oliver of Raytown, Mo. was awarded $500 last week as one of the winners in a contest in Kansas City underwritten by an anonymous donor to reward instances of "honesty for honesty's sake." Playing baseball last summer for a team sponsored by the Raytown YMCA, Josh had been called safe in a close play at second but honorably informed the umpire, "He tagged me—I'm out," and then trotted to the bench. After being honored for this commendable act, Josh was asked by a TV interviewer, "How hard was it for you to have yourself called out?" The young award winner replied, "It was easy. We were ahead 18 to nothing at the time."
WHY THEY CALL IT VETERANS STADIUM
With the off-season acquisition of 39-year-old Joe Morgan and 40-year-old Tony Perez to go with graybeards Pete Rose (41), Ron Reed (40), Bill Robinson (39) and Tug McGraw and Steve Carlton (both 38), the 1983 Philadelphia Phillies figure to be the oldest team in major league history. Of course, not all of those oldsters will be on the field at the same time. Still, Phils owner Bill Giles notes that as of April 14, when Rose turns 42, the combined age of a Phillie lineup that could very well take the field together would be the same as that of the historic city in which the team plays. The lineup Giles has in mind and their mid-April ages: Rose, 1B, 42; Morgan 2B, 39; Mike Schmidt, 3B, 33; Ivan DeJesus, SS, 30; Von Hayes, LF, 24; Garry Mad-dox, CF, 33; Gary Matthews, RF, 32; Bo Diaz, C, 30; and Steve Carlton, P, 38.
That's a total of 301 years. Philadelphia will be 301 on Nov. 8. It was founded on that date in 1682 by William Penn, who was then a Phillie-ish 38.
THE INATTENTION FACTOR
We have a young lady that is director now of the Environmental Protection Agency, and she is introducing as fast as she can common sense in an area that I think has been yielding to environmental extremists.
—President Reagan, at a G.O.P. fund-raising event in Santa Barbara, Calif. on Aug. 27, 1981.
No, not at all. And, George, let me remind you of something. I fancy myself an environmentalist.
—Reagan, when asked by the Los Angeles Times's George Skelton on Jan. 21, 1982 if he had any "second thoughts" about his handling of environmental issues.
The American people insist on a quality environment. We also strive for economic progress and the promise of a better life. A clean, healthy environment is a fundamental part of that promise.
—Reagan, in a message to Congress upon the release of the Council on Environmental Quality's annual report on July 21, 1982.
Everybody here would acknowledge that we've got problems at EPA. A lot of us frankly have not been paying much attention to it in the last two years.
—Unnamed senior White House aide, quoted in The New York Times, Feb. 26, 1983.
BOWLS & POLLS
Speaking of Herschel Walker—and who isn't?—Louisville Times columnist Bob Hill has come up with an interesting what-if concerning the big Sugar Bowl showdown in which second-ranked Penn State won the national college football championship by beating Walker-led No. 1 Georgia 27-23. Hill asks us to imagine what would have happened had the Dawgs and Nittany Lions played to a tie. "They would have remained, therefore, the best two college football teams in the country," he says. "They just couldn't beat each other. But chances are when the polls came out, either Southern Methodist or Nebraska, the No. 3 and 4 teams, would have moved to No. 1."
Hill is no doubt right in assuming that a New Year's night tie would have illogically knocked both Georgia and Penn State out of the national title picture. He's also on target in suggesting that this would have happened because pollsters ascribe extra weight to the most recent week's results. It's more than likely that had Penn State and Georgia played to a tie in, say, the season opener and finished their regular schedules in all other respects just as they did, and then won bowl games, Georgia, with an 11-0-1 record, would have wound up as national champion.
Hill offers a remedy. "Barring a playoff system, maybe the best way to measure the true No. 1 football team over the course of the season is to combine all the weekly polls at the end of the season. The team with the most cumulative points would be the winner, the best over the long haul." As things now stand, he says, the final polls "only show the best team for that week. It's a little like giving a kid a school grade for the whole year based only on his final exam."
Unless, of course, there were real final exams in the form of playoffs culminating in a national championship game. In that case, there presumably would be a sudden-death overtime to break a tie and avoid the entire problem. And there's nothing at all to prevent the NCAA from adopting sudden death in bowl games in the meantime.
THEY SAID IT
•Don Haskins, basketball coach at Texas-El Paso, after a street in that city was named Don Haskins Drive: "I don't know how I can thank everybody. It's hard for me to put into words—I'm just a coach."
•Tim Carr, Delaware's 6'10½" center, answering the inevitable question posed by the inevitable stranger at the Philadelphia airport: "The weather up here is clear and sunny, with plenty of rebounds in the forecast."
•Shane Rawley, a sometime starting pitcher for the Yankees, after fighting and finally boating a 75-pound amber-jack in the Gulf of Mexico near Sarasota, Fla.: "Goose, where are you when I need you most?"