SO WHO'S SHORTCHANGING WHOM?
When the USFL's New Jersey Generals signed Herschel Walker last spring before the University of Georgia star had used up his eligibility at the school (page 18), college coaches around the country screamed bloody murder. The USFL's signing of college players, they wailed, would interfere with student-athletes' dogged pursuit of their college educations and play havoc with the college game. In the face of these objections, USFL Commissioner Chet Simmons has publicly pledged that his league will not compound its supposed crime in signing Walker by also spiriting away Oklahoma Running Back Marcus Dupree. What Simmons hasn't said—but should—is that the complaints about signing still-eligible collegians are so much hooey. To consider them in order:
1) It interferes with education. So how much education do pro-caliber football players get, even when they dutifully spend all four years playing for Old Siwash? Compared with other college stars, Walker was considered to be unusually conscientious in the classroom, yet The Atlanta Journal and Constitution recently reported that Georgia's three-time All-America had only 92 of the 195 credit hours required for graduation. It's safe to assume, what with the distractions of the regular football season, postseason bowls, three pro All-Star games, pro tryouts, pro minicamps and banquet-circuit commitments, not to mention his then-envisioned pursuit of a berth on the 1984 U.S. Olympic team, that Walker still would have been light-years away from a degree even if he'd returned to Georgia for his final season. At any rate, Walker still is free to pursue his degree, and he has indicated that he intends to take courses at Georgia this fall.
2) It hurts college football. Let's look at the experience of Arizona State's baseball team. Baseball hotshots are protected from the pros only as freshmen and sophomores in college and can be freely signed either before or after that. Over the years Arizona State has had such ballplayers as Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando, Bob Horner, Floyd Bannister, Ken Landreaux and Larry Gura, but just as impressive is the list of those who signed letters of intent with the Sun Devils, only to turn pro before arriving on campus—including Jim Palmer, Dale Murphy, Robin Yount, Lee Mazzilli, Jeff Burroughs, Garry Templeton, Brett Butler, Chris Speier and Johnnie LeMaster. Arizona State received no value whatsoever from any of those players, yet because other college baseball teams have also been stripped of talent by the pros, the Sun Devils have remained a baseball power.
September 11, 1983
If all college football players were similarly fair game for the pros, life would surely go on in that sport, too. Indeed, not even Georgia can claim to have been shortchanged by Walker's defection. During his three years on campus, the Bulldogs played in three Sugar Bowls, appeared on network telecasts eight other times and increased their stadium capacity by 18,000 seats, which they filled for every home game. All told, Walker can be credited with having produced at least $3 million in extra revenue for Georgia, not a bad return on the school's investment—covering three years of scholarship, uniform, travel and other costs for Herschel—of perhaps $45,000.
AND HE RAN THE RACE IN MILLER TIME
The winner of the Pabst Blue Ribbon Purse, a recent co-feature at Omaha's Ak-Sar-Ben racetrack, was Split A Bud.
NOW A POSTAL SUBSIDY?
Several weeks ago we noted that a letter from the Kansas City Kings, one of several NBA franchises in financial trouble, arrived in our office marked "Postage Due—17¢." Last week's mail brought a missive from the Utah Jazz. It bore no stamp.
Major league general managers did a lot of credit-card shopping over the past two weeks. No sooner had the Padres sent Pitcher John Montefusco to the Yankees for two players to be named later, than the Indians dealt Pitcher Len Barker to the Braves for three players to be named later and the Padres sent Outfielder Sixto Lezcano and a player to be named later to the Phillies for four players to be named later. All of which recalls Harry Chiti, the catcher the Mets acquired from Cleveland in 1962 for cash and a player to be named later, who that same season turned out to be Chiti himself.
SWINGING FROM YOUR FEELS
A researcher at Pittsburgh's Carnegie-Mellon University has discredited one of baseball's hoariest exhortations: that you should "keep your eye on the ball" from the moment it's pitched until it strikes the bat. That, says Dr. A. Terry Bahill, 37, an associate professor of electrical and biomedical engineering, is "physiologically impossible." Bahill came to his conclusion after studying the head and eye movements of one Pittsburgh Pirate and several Carnegie-Mellon varsity players and grad students. The subjects were asked to watch the flight of a computer-controlled pitch beginning 60'6" away and traveling at speeds of as much as 93 mph. Not even the Pirate, Brian Harper, came close to tracking the ball all the way from mound to lumber.
According to Bahill, a hitter can only hope to follow a pitch for the first 55 feet of its journey. Better batters train themselves to lose it somewhere in mid-flight, at which point they make a quick guess as to where it's going and a corrective eye movement to pick it up again.
Bahill is aware of Ted Williams' contention that he could actually see the ball strike the bat and agrees that it's possible. But that's not what made Teddy Ball-game a great hitter. It's Bahill's contention that Williams would track the ball, lose it and then find it again, just before contact. "It does no good to see the ball hit the bat," Bahill says. "By then, it's far too late to adjust your swing. But it could be a learning thing. It shows a hitter how the ball moves, and it'll help the next swing."
Bahill pursued his research to answer larger questions about how the brain controls movement. He'll present his findings at a conference of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers this December in New Delhi, where no one much cares about baseball. But his discovery applies to cricket and tennis, too—and to Bahill's own sport of choice. "I play a lot of softball," he says, "and the study has helped me to concentrate more." In slo-pitch, he adds, you really can keep your eye on the ball.
AWAITING A REFEREE'S POSITION
The day after the U.S.S.R. shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 7, U.S.A. Wrestling Executive Director Steve Combs and President Werner Holzer discussed the fate of American participation in the world championships, set to begin Sept. 22 in Kiev. Both were aware that President Carter's boycott of the Moscow Olympics to protest the U.S.S.R.'s invasion of Afghanistan is an emphatic precedent, and the matter may be out of their hands. "You've got the emotion on both sides of it," says Combs. "You could say, 'Hey, we want nothing to do with them.' On the other hand, we've got guys working their butts off to make this team."
Derrieres were doing double duty even as Combs spoke. Qualifying wrestle-offs in Greco-Roman and freestyle took place last weekend, and the U.S. team thereby selected began an intensive two-week preworlds training program on Monday. But until President Reagan announces his response to the Soviet action, the team will be left to grapple with the possibility of missing a stage in its Olympic preparation, one that Combs calls "critical." It's the same uncertainty U.S. athletes faced in 1980 as the specter of the Carter boycott loomed.
Neither U.S.A. Wrestling nor the State Department had an official comment as SI went to press, but Combs already sounds more philosophical about the prospect of not competing than the amateur sports establishment did in '80, when Carter's decision met with widespread bitterness. Perhaps 55 dead countrymen mean more than 16 million oppressed Afghans. "You begin to appreciate how all these international incidents affect us in differing ways," Combs says. "With us, it's sports. But I'm sure some farmer is sitting at home, thinking about the grain deal." Reagan has announced he won't rescind the new U.S.-U.S.S.R. grain accord. With Kiev only two weeks away, the wrestlers might take some encouragement from that.
NO, JUST WORRIED
Moments after Pascale Paradis of France upset Hungary's Andrea Temesvari at the U.S. Open last Saturday, CBS dispatched Commentator John Tesh to get a word with the winner. "I know you don't speak much English," he said, "so I'll keep it simple. Were you at all apprehensive...?"
THE SEVE LEVY
The PGA Tour's long-standing Conflicting Event Rule required that a foreign golfer who wanted a PGA card enter at least five U.S. events for every tournament he played outside his country. Because his homeland, Spain, hosts only two European Tour events, Seve Ballesteros has long considered the rule unfair. Last June he had a request for an exemption denied. Now the PGA has relented, asking only that a member appear in at least 15 U.S. events each season. Beyond that, he's free to compete in any tournament on his "home circuit," which in Ballesteros' case is the European Tour.
PGA Assistant to the Commissioner Dale Antram admits the rule was modified on Ballesteros' behalf. But consider what the PGA is getting in return: a guaranteed number of U.S. appearances from the 26-year-old Ballesteros, whose good looks and dashing manner make him a box-office natural. Sponsors, of course, take to anything the fans do. "Seve has offered to work with us insofar as playing specific weeks when certain sponsors stand to benefit most," says Antram, implying that Ballesteros is just the man to invigorate sluggish attendance. Last week Ballesteros, with $210,933 in winnings on the PGA Tour, stood roughly even with Tom Watson and Ray Floyd on the money list, though he'd appeared in just eight events, while Watson and Floyd had teed off in 16 and 21, respectively. Says Tom Kite, who supports the ruling, "If he hurts anybody it's going to be name players, by winning a tournament they might have a crack at." That, of course, will hardly hurt the tour.
Henry Marsh, the world-class steeplechaser and devout Mormon who forswears coffee, tea, alcohol and tobacco, cleared customs recently after returning from the European track wars. When a customs officer asked where he'd been, Marsh said he'd been competing at meets in Helsinki, Berlin and Zurich. The inspector gave Marsh a suspicious once-over, rapped on his suitcase and said, "Got any steroids in here?"
THEY SAID IT
•John Madden, CBS sportscaster, during a preseason game between the Cowboys and the Oilers: "From the waist down, Earl Campbell has the biggest legs I've ever seen on a running back."
•Billy Gardner, Twins manager, upon being informed that the City of Minneapolis plans to assess a property tax against his team: "If they put a lien against us, I've got a couple of pitchers they can have."