MINNIE AND CLEVE LOVE BERNIE
Through shrewd maneuvering or sheer circumstance, University of Miami quarterback Bernie Kosar finds himself in the rare position of being coveted by two clubs in the NFL, a league that considers free agency anathema.
NFL rules prohibit the drafting of players with college football eligibility remaining, and Kosar has two years left. However, he has enough smarts and credits to graduate in June, and for such go-getters the league has another rule: college players whose graduations are imminent can go right into the draft upon serving written notice.
Anticipating that Kosar would do just that before this year's April 15 deadline, the Houston Oilers last week traded the so-called Kosar pick (No. 2 overall) in the April 30 draft to the Minnesota Vikings, who dearly want his services. (Buffalo owns the No. 1 pick and has already signed Virginia Tech defensive end Bruce Smith to a reported 4-year, $2.6 million contract.)
April 22, 1985
Alas, there is yet another NFL rule that allows players who somehow miss the cutoff date for the regular draft to go into a later supplemental one. In Kosar's case, this opened up a potentially large loophole because by failing, intentionally or not, to give notice by April 15, he would presumably go into the secondary draft.
Enter the Cleveland Browns, who also want Kosar and saw a chance to get him. The same day that the Houston-Minnesota trade was completed, Cleveland made a deal with the Buffalo Bills for the first selection in any supplemental draft. That put Kosar in the position of possibly being able to play the Vikings off against the Browns. Step right up, fellows, and make your bid.
To be sure, there's yet another rule that supposedly prevented the Browns from talking to Kosar after the Vikings made known their interest in him. But NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, not one to encourage bidding wars among member clubs, wasn't taking any chances. Last Friday he suspended the April 15 deadline and scheduled a hearing in New York City to be attended by representatives of the Vikings, Oilers, Browns and Bills. He says he'll reach a decision on the thorny Kosar case by April 23. Maybe he'll even come up with a new rule.
LOOK WHAT THE DINKA DUNKER DID
The NBA, on the other hand, doesn't have such problems. If a college basketball player with eligibility remaining wants to enter the NBA draft, all he has to do is say so. One of several players doing that this year is Manute Bol (SI, Dec. 10, 1984), the decidedly undinky Dinka tribesman. The 7'6" Sudanese center, a freshman at the University of Bridgeport (Conn.), is looking for some fast cash to get his sister, Abouk, out of their strife-torn homeland. He hasn't seen or heard from her since last May.
But this is one time Bol may come up short. Though he has the wingspan of a condor, he has the build of a praying mantis. Despite attempts to bulk him up with pizza, lasagna and enough Nutrament to irrigate an African savanna, Bol weighs the same 190 pounds he did when he came to the school last summer. "If Manute stayed in college another year," says Bruce Webster, coach of the Purple Knights, "he'd be worth three to five times what he is now."
Of course, Webster's reasoning is a little self-serving. With Bol obstructing the basket, Bridgeport was 26-6 and won a conference championship. But most NBA scouts aren't that high on his chances. Marty Blake, the league's head scout, figures Bol's about 50 pounds shy of holding his own against the likes of Moses Malone. Another who doesn't think Bol quite sizes up is Arn Tellem, vice-president of the Los Angeles Clippers. His team picked Bol sight unseen in the fifth round of the 1983 draft. This go-round, Tellem says he'd sooner pick Andre the Giant. "Of course," he adds, "if the rule book is ever rewritten to allow goaltending, we might reconsider."
HIT OR MISS
Bases loaded, his team trailing Ohio's Colerain High 2-0, Gary Hood stepped gingerly into the batter's box. Nobody expected much. After all, the Princeton High junior had struck out to end the previous game and had fanned once already in this one. Whiffing seemed second nature to Hood, who was hitting .000 with seven K's in eight at bats.
He vented his frustration on a fastball, walloping it over the Colerain centerfielder's head to the parking-lot fence. Racing home well ahead of the throw, Hood whipped off his helmet triumphantly just before crossing the plate. Sadly, this gleeful act violated the Ohio high school rule requiring base runners to wear their helmets during play. Hood was called out. He was credited with a triple and three RBIs—including the game-winner in the Vikings' 8-2 win. Only with the victory secured did Hood, in his last time up in the game, allow himself the luxury of an eighth strikeout.
SMART MOVE, ASTROS
The Houston Astros have wisely chosen not to identify their new Class-A farm team in Kissimmee, Fla. too closely with that town. They're calling the club the Osceola [County] Astros instead of the Kissimmee Astros.
JUDGMENT AT HIALEAH
Two weeks ago Chief's Crown, last year's 2-year-old champion, beat Proud Truth by a length to win the Flamingo Stakes at Hialeah. But after viewing tapes of the stretch run, track stewards ruled that, appearances to the contrary. Chief's Crown had drifted into Proud Truth's path. The order of finish of the two horses was reversed. Last week, after an appeal, the outcome was reversed again, and Chief's Crown was reinstated as the winner.
Appeals were filed by Andrew Rosen's Star Crown Stable, owner of Chief's Crown, and Henryk de Kwiatkowski, owner of Stephan's Odyssey, who came in third at the Flamingo. De Kwiatkowski claimed Proud Truth had fouled his colt and should have been placed third, not first. Agreeing to a review, Robert Rosenberg, who heads pari-mutuel racing in Florida, appointed three retired stewards to hear testimony and look at films of the race. They concluded that Chief's Crown had been clear of Proud Truth and thus was the rightful winner.
The panel's ruling was the correct one, but it sets quite a dubious precedent. Not long ago race stewards in Florida had sovereign authority over protests. Now the gates appear to be open for appeals, and the state may have to endure the pleas of many other disgruntled owners.
Let's just hope they don't emulate the conduct of de Kwiatkowski, who had made a boorish spectacle of himself after the disputed race by flying off into a fist-shaking tantrum, rushing into the stewards' stand and screaming at them. As if to prove that not all owners are tiresome blowhards, John W. Galbreath, owner of Proud Truth, went along with the review, knowing it could lead to a reversal. If justice was ultimately served, at Galbreath's expense, so too was sportsmanship, to his credit.
PLAYOFF MADNESS II
In our April 15 issue we took the NHL to task for devaluing the regular season by allowing too many weak-sister teams into the playoffs. Now it's time to give the NBA equal time. As a public service, we herewith rerun our NHL item more or less intact, albeit with NBA names and numbers substituted where appropriate:
"When the NBA's 23 teams had finished on Sunday with the regular season's 943 games, the 16 clubs that qualified for the playoffs included four with losing records: Chicago, at 38-44; Washington, 40-42; and Phoenix and Cleveland, 36-46. Boston, whose 63-19 mark was best in the league, had 27 more wins than the Cavaliers, yet when these two teams begin their best-of-five playoff series this week, the Celtics' only advantage will be an extra home game. Is it too much to ask that the NBA limit playoff berths to teams that have .500 records or better? Someday NBA fans will wake up and decide that they're not going to pay to see regular-season games that don't really much matter."
THE ENSHRINEMENT OF A TOUGH COACH
Robert (Bull Cyclone) Sullivan was inducted posthumously into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame two weeks ago, an occasion that Frank Deford's story The Toughest Couch There Ever Was (SI, April 30, 1984) helped bring about. Until it appeared, Sullivan was little known outside dirt-poor Kemper County, Miss. He died a broken man in 1970 after being fired as football coach at East Mississippi Junior College by Stumpy Harbour, the school's president, who envied his success.
Among the 700 people attending the ceremony in Jackson were Sullivan's widow, Virginia, and scores of former players. Also on hand was Deford, who picked up several new Bull Cyclone stories that, he reports, made Sullivan sound "a lot tougher than even I had painted him." Two of the best:
•In one game a Lion player broke a finger, and it dangled from his hand at an ugly angle. As the boy writhed on the ground, Sullivan walked over, pinged the finger and called out, "Bring me the scissors." The injured player hurried back into the game and played like a demon the rest of the way.
•A player Bull had been counting on quit the squad. Sullivan angrily hauled the player's uniform and equipment onto the field and set fire to all of it as the other players watched. "Don't ever mention his name again." Bull said. Notes Deford, "And they didn't—not even to me when I interviewed some of them 20 years later."
But there was another story that showed a different side of Sullivan. One Saturday, Itawamba Junior College showed up for a game against East Mississippi with only 16 players. The rest of the team had the flu. "It wouldn't be fair," said Bull, who ordered all but 16 of his own players into the stands and gave up a chance for what otherwise would have been a sure victory.
THEY SAID IT
•George Steinbrenner, New York Yankee owner, on whether he preferred his thoroughbreds to his ballplayers: "I like my horses better because they can't talk to sportswriters."
•Brad Komminsk, Atlanta Brave outfielder, who batted a lowly .203 as a rookie last season, asked if there's such a thing as the sophomore jinx: "I hope not."