A SNAIL'S PACE FOR NCAA REFORM...
On the eve of the NCAA Presidents Commission meeting in Denver earlier this month, that body's chairman, Indiana University president John Ryan, sat in his hotel room and expressed his hopes for a fruitful session. The commission was considering measures to deal with abuses in college sports. Any recommended legislation would be presented to the full NCAA convention in January, and Ryan called the need for action "incontrovertible and immediate."
Sadly, what resulted was tepid and tentative. About the only thing the commission did was to recommend making Proposal 48, the controversial eligibility rule scheduled to go into effect next summer, more flexible. As enacted. Proposal 48 holds that entering athletes can be eligible as freshmen only if they have a minimum score of 700 on the combined college board SAT test (or a 15 of 36 score on the American College Test) and a 2.0 high school grade-point average in 11 core courses. Under the commission's proposed modifications, the SAT score could dip as low as 660 if it were balanced by a higher GPA, or grades as low as 1.8 could be acceptable if the SAT score were above 700. However, such fine-tuning would have been unnecessary had the presidents abandoned Proposal 48 and simply eliminated eligibility for all freshmen. This the commission declined to do, despite Ryan's admission before the meeting that he personally "would be inclined to favor a decision against freshman eligibility."
The Presidents Commission, in fact, failed to take action in any of several other areas where it's sorely needed—limiting use of special admissions for athletes, curbing demands on their time, tougher rules governing satisfactory progress toward graduation and on and on. This failure displeases Duke law professor John Weistart, who specializes in legal and social issues affecting sports. Noting that college presidents have lately been taking more interest in reform of their sports programs, Weistart fears that the momentum for reform may soon be lost. "It'll be quite surprising if three years from now sports have the level of involvement from college presidents that they have now," he says. "If the presidents are to lead a reformation, they should do it now. The iron's hot now—you strike when it's hot, or it will cool."
...AND A REASON TO SPEED IT UP
Last week a special committee on intercollegiate athletics of the North Carolina University System's board of governors called for reform of special admissions programs in state schools. The committee said that far too many special admissions—in which normal entrance standards are bent—were going to athletes. Of an average of 90 each year at N.C. State, 31% went to athletes, including 14 in football and basketball. At the University of North Carolina, 15 football players were accepted as special admits each year. The committee said that it had "identified many instances of serious problems in these programs, some of which could lead to gross abuses unless they are more effectively monitored and controlled."
Given those findings, it wasn't surprising that the committee also determined that only 23% of all athletes on full scholarship at State, and only 48% at Chapel Hill, graduated. These rates are, respectively, 12% and 27% below graduation rates of the student bodies in general at those institutions.
It was sad enough that Bears coach Mike Ditka was arrested for drunk driving, speeding and improper lane usage early Monday morning in Chicago shortly after the flight home from his team's big 26-10 win over the 49ers in San Francisco (page 30). More unfortunate still was the reaction of some Bears fans, who blitzed state police with irate, sometimes obscene, phone calls protesting Ditka's arrest. The police said they needed three troopers to deal with the callers, most of whom, giddy over the Bears' success this season, seemed to feel that Ditka deserved special treatment. One fan called the coach "the best thing that ever happened to Chicago."
Bears fans have cause to be happy about their team's showing, and Ditka no doubt deserves much of the credit. But that's no reason police should treat him any differently than they would other citizens. Gridiron heroics need to be kept in perspective; when it comes to suspected violations of law, the same game plan should apply to everybody.
HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW?
In a recent TV commercial for Honda power equipment, former Los Angeles Rams defensive end Jack Youngblood is shown shopping for lawn and garden tools. A salesman asks about Young-blood's lawn, and he snarls, "It's 100 yards long!" The salesman asks Young-blood what he intends to plant. "Quarterbacks!" he says.
Hate to tell you, Jack, but they won't grow—not in the soil you're using. The commercial concludes with a shot of Youngblood playing against the Bengals on the AstroTurf of Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium. A spokesman for Honda's advertising agency, Los Angeles-based Dailey & Associates, admits that it's embarrassed that artificial grass has been featured so prominently in a lawn-care commercial. The agency, the spokesman said, "would like to forget the whole thing."
THE GAMES OF THE 38TH PARALLEL
Representatives of North and South Korea's national Olympic committees met at International Olympic Committee headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland last week to discuss North Korea's demand that it be allowed to cohost the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul. IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch had called the meeting out of fear that North Korea may try to instigate a Communist-bloc boycott of the '88 Games if its demand is not met. Olympic officials in Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union and China have indicated that the first boycott-free Summer Olympics since 1972 would be virtually assured if some of the Olympic events were staged in North Korea.
Samaranch originally opposed the idea of a shared Olympics, which would call for a change in the Olympic Charter, but last week he urged South Korea to allow the North to stage some events. He was not able, however, to bring the two Koreas closer together. The South Koreans were willing to let preliminary-round volleyball, handball and soccer games be played in the North, but the North Koreans want more—much more. They submitted a 10-point proposal in which they demanded a 50% share in everything from torch lighting to closing ceremonies. They even asked for a share of the TV-rights payments. Finally, they proposed a name change to Korea Olympic Games or Pyongyang-Seoul Olympic Games.
Samaranch said it was the IOC's aim "to find a way of getting the largest possible participation of the Korean people in the 1988 Games." He'll pursue this goal when talks resume in January.
BATTLE OF THE YALE BAND
Ivy League marching bands take an irreverent, sometimes tasteless, approach to football halftime appearances, and Yale's band was eager to uphold that tradition during the game two weeks ago at—talk about inviting targets—West Point. Before halftime, however, West Point athletic director Carl Ullrich got wind of what the Yale bandsmen were up to and demanded the script for their show from the Bulldogs' announcer, Charles Rosenblum. Ullrich became incensed. The script included an innocuous bit of business linking U.S. military and political figures with the dreaded color red. "General William Westmoreland has a lifetime subscription to Redbook magazine," the script read. "Caspar Weinberger has donated funds to the International Red Cross. George Patton was a die-hard Reds fan. And President Reagan was once seen laughing at a joke told by Red Skelton." And so on.
If such a sophomoric stab at humor had occurred on Saturday Night Live, nobody would have batted an eye. But Ullrich exploded. "This is disgusting," he told Rosenblum. "You are repugnant. You are indecent." He said he would like to "turn the Corps loose on you and throw you in the lake." He also complained about the attire of the Yale band, a proudly ragtag troop.
Because of Ullrich's intercession, Yale's band didn't perform at halftime. Army won the game 59-16, making it a big day for overkill all around.
AT LEAST THERE AREN'T ANY LIFT LINES
Cartop skiing may not catch on. Even the people who enjoy it—mostly speed skiers looking for new thrills—don't enjoy it that much. "Speed skiing on snow is much easier and way more fun than doing it on top of a car in the middle of the desert," says Sean Cridland, who set the world record in the cartop category at Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats two weeks ago. "Going over 150 miles an hour was definitely a rush, but my legs were burning painfully and I really had to concentrate to keep the wind from ripping me right off the car." Cridland reached a top speed of 162.162 mph, shattering the previous record of 127 mph set in Sweden last summer by Perros Plun. On the same day, Kirsten Culver set a women's world mark as she accelerated to 153.061 mph. The driver of the Chevrolet-powered streamliner, named The Utile Giant, was Rick Vesco, holder of the world land-speed automobile record of 295 mph. He had high praise for both Cridland and Culver, and said, "Either one of them would make a great hood ornament."
THEY SAID IT
•Ron Essink, Seattle Seahawks offensive tackle, on having wrestled in college: "It taught me how to hold good."
•Bill Bain, L.A. Rams lineman: "The actuarial tables show that linemen in this game die at the age of 53. I start collecting my pension at 55. Nice."
•Bobby Cox, Toronto Blue Jays manager, on his former boss at Atlanta, Ted Turner: "I think Ted is wondering how I got so smart over here after being so dumb when I worked for him."