ON TRIAL IN GEORGIA: ACADEMIC INTEGRITY
Since the color line was broken for athletes at the University of Georgia in 1969, approximately 200 blacks have worn Bulldog uniforms in one sport or another. And how many of them have graduated? Perhaps as few as 30.
That is one of many revelations about Georgia athletics that have emerged during a trial in U.S. District Court in Atlanta. The case is a civil suit brought against two university administrators by Jan Kemp, a former English coordinator and instructor in Georgia's developmental studies department, a remedial program that has been characterized as a warehouse for the school's academically unqualified athletes. Last week, in the second week of testimony, witnesses told of preferential academic treatment accorded Georgia scholarship athletes, at least one of whom appeared to have been accepted into the school without the NCAA-required 2.0 high school grade-point average. Kemp, 36, claims she was dismissed from her job for speaking out against such favorable treatment. She is suing for reinstatement and for more than $100,000 in damages.
Former and current faculty members testified that athletes with little hope of graduating from Georgia were kept eligible in developmental studies, where they would not have to face true college-level courses. A number of athletes were said to have received more than the specified four chances to pass developmental studies courses, and school records showed that several had been curiously "exited" into the regular university curriculum despite sub-2.0 GPAs, one a 0.29, roughly an F plus.
The defendants, Virginia Trotter, the vice-president for academic affairs, and Leroy Ervin, the assistant vice-president in charge of developmental studies, contend that Kemp was dismissed because she failed to conduct scholarly research and was a disruptive influence. Their attorney, Hale Almand, raised eyebrows when he tried to justify the treatment given to academically deficient athletes. "We may not make a university student out of [an athlete]," Almand said. "But if we can teach him to read and write, maybe he can work at the post office rather than as a garbage man when he gets through with his athletic career."
There were other startling assertions. Kemp testified that in 1981, after she had refused Ervin's request that she ask a developmental studies instructor to change the failing grades of five scholarship athletes to incompletes, Ervin told her, "Who do you think you are? Who do you think is more important at this university, you or a very prominent basketball player?" When the athletic department's chief academic counselor, Dick Copas, took the stand, he seemed to have trouble clearly describing academic guidelines followed in developmental studies, a program through which a large number of scholarship athletes in revenue-producing sports at Georgia pass.
Developmental studies programs were adopted throughout the Georgia state college system in the aftermath of court-ordered desegregation. The Georgia program has unquestionably helped certain individuals, such as former Bulldog fullback Ronnie Stewart. Yet Stewart testified that when he received his degree last year he became only the 15th black athlete ever to graduate from Georgia; the university claims at least 30 black athletes have received degrees.
Stewart described Kemp as a dedicated teacher who once spent 10 hours going over a term paper with him. Kemp "would do anything to help me," said Stewart. Unfortunately, other Georgia educators may have been less interested in helping students than in helping the football and basketball teams.
THE END OF REFORM?
More bad news about college sports: Remember all the fanfare about college presidents getting more involved in their athletic departments? Well, there were indications at last week's NCAA convention in New Orleans that this involvement may be starting to wane. True, the convention formally outlawed the use of street drugs and anabolic steroids and approved Olympic-style drug testing at bowl games and NCAA championships, steps urged by the presidents. It also reaffirmed its support for another rule backed by the presidents, Bylaw 5-1-J, known as Proposition 48 when it was approved in 1983, which sets minimum grade-point averages and standardized test scores for entering athletes. Delegates voted down a move by predominantly black colleges to eliminate standardized tests from entrance criteria.
Support for the minimum-standards and antidrug measures—and much of the general impetus for reform in college sports—had come from the 44-member NCAA Presidents Commission. But its role is now in question. Indiana University president John Ryan, who has chaired the commission since its founding in 1983, is stepping aside. Equally ominous was the relative silence of other college presidents at this year's convention. Once again the show was run by the athletic directors, whose head-in-the-sand approach originally led to much of the wrongdoing in college sports.
Even as the convention began, a survey of 138 Division I presidents was released, indicating the prevailing view that the ADs, not the presidents, still controlled intercollegiate sports. Evidence of this could be seen on the convention floor. There seemed no great press to deal with matters once deemed important by the presidents: assuring satisfactory academic progress, cracking down on booster clubs, correcting widespread abuses of special-admissions programs, shortening athletic seasons.
Regarding this last item, Ryan twice felt compelled to stand and address the membership as it debated proposals that would add games to schedules in various sports. He recalled that last year's convention had approved, by 429-3, a moratorium on any lengthening of seasons. "If the moratorium is vacated, it's being vacated not by the commission but by this convention," said Ryan. Nevertheless, the convention approved additional contests in hockey and baseball and came close to doing so in tennis. "A lot of ADs figure they've successfully waited out the presidents," said one delegate. "Unless the presidents fight back, NCAA reform is flat-ass dead in the water."
Russell Cain, a sophomore at Madison High, figured he was in for an embarrassing time, win or lose. In a consolation match at a high school wrestling tournament in San Diego, the 103-pound Cain faced a girl, America Morris, 15, of Clairemont High. Worried about indiscreet clinches, Cain decided, he says, not to put his best moves on Morris. His hand did slip once, says Cain, and for him it was "blush city." That wasn't the final embarrassment, however. Leading 9-4, Morris put Cain away with a pin—it's thought to be the first ever for a girl in a high school varsity match against a boy.
A POX ON THE CHICKEN
On Dec. 27, that celebrated sports mascot, the Chicken, appeared at the Citrus Bowl parade in Orlando, Fla. The other day Orlando Sentinel columnist Larry Guest got wind of possible fowl play. It seemed that on Dec. 27 the Chicken was also at a Pistons game in Detroit. Had the bird flown north so quickly? Guest was skeptical. He called Ted Giannoulas, the Chicken's alter ego, about his supposed appearance in Orlando. Guest says there was this exchange.
Guest: "Did you have any problems with the people as the parade passed through the downtown tunnel?"
Chicken: "No, everything was fine at the tunnel."
Downtown Orlando has no tunnel. Giannoulas's lawyer, Jim Cowley, denies that his client gave the above reply but does admit that the Chicken "played cat and mouse" with Guest. He also allows that for the first time ever, the Chicken had been overbooked and had therefore hired a bird of another feather to perform in Florida.
NOTES FROM THE LIBYAN LEAGUE
If want to fight, I can go to Libya.
—MANUTE BOL, Washington Bullets center, upset after a fight last week with Jawann Oldham of the Chicago Bulls
It's not the worst thing if we lose. A lot of people in China don't know we're playing. Gaddafi doesn't know.
—DEAN SMITH, North Carolina basketball coach, before Saturday's game with Duke
The only person who could overthrow Gaddafi is Dieter Brock.
—DAVE DONNELLY, Honolulu Star Bulletin columnist
For reasons well beyond our psychic ken, the city of Buffalo is becoming the nation's capital of sports sorcery. You'll recall that last fall (SCORECARD, Nov. 11, 1985) a voodoo priestess used incantations and machinations to help the struggling Bills defeat Houston 20-0. Now Buffalo Raceway, a harness racing track bedeviled by snowouts last winter, has hired a certain Dr. Modogo Snogo, whom it describes as "a Transylvania witch doctor," to ward off inclement weather. That's Snogo as in snow-go—get it?
Alas, this fellow Snogo hasn't got much of a track record so far. Before the first race on Dec. 5, he cast an elaborate spell over the half-mile Raceway oval, supposedly protecting it from any and all snowstorms. Moments later, the first flakes began to fall. The snow hasn't stopped since. In December, Buffalo received 68.4 inches, a city record for any month, and three nights of racing were canceled. We would suggest the witch doctor change his name to Dr. Modogo Snojob.
THEY SAID IT
•Tom Brokaw, NBC-TV anchorman, addressing the NCAA's honors luncheon as its master of ceremonies: "I'm honored that you invited me, especially when for $10,000 and a new convertible you could have had the top running-back prospect at SMU."
•James Griffin, Buffalo mayor, in his inaugural address: "We will bring pro football back to Buffalo."