BOXING FIGHTS A BAD IMAGE
This is an article from the Feb. 17, 1986 issue
The sport of boxing has taken a beating recently. Late last year, two United States Boxing Association titleholders, cruiserweight Stanley Ross and bantamweight Freddie Jackson, were forced to relinquish their crowns when both tested positive for marijuana following their championship bouts. Last week, tests showed that World Boxing Association heavyweight champ Tim Witherspoon had also smoked marijuana sometime before his Jan. 17 win over Tony Tubbs, though as of Monday it wasn't certain whether Witherspoon would be stripped of his title.
All this came on the heels of a December report by the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation recommending a ban on boxing. The report cited promotional greed, matchmaking barbarism, connections between fighters and mobsters and the "legal savagery" of boxing that causes in fighters a virtual "certainty of brain and/or vision damage." The commission was the third major organization in a year, following the American Medical Association and the New York State Medical Society, to call for the abolition of boxing.
Lost in all this bad news was an encouraging announcement last week by the USA Amateur Boxing Federation. The USA/ABF is joining with the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in a $1 million, four-year study of the risks of amateur boxing and says it will institute whatever reforms are needed. "We plan to determine whether damage to the central nervous system occurs and whether it is temporary or permanent," said Dr. Walter Stewart of Hopkins.
"A number of critics have stated that amateur boxers often sustain irreversible and serious injuries, particularly to the brain," said Dr. Robert O. Voy, chief medical officer of the U.S. Olympic Committee. "No data exists to support or refute these claims.... I am impressed that the sport is so bold as to investigate itself and abide by the results."
DEALING WITH THE DEFICIT
President Reagan has been lobbying loud and long about the need to close tax loopholes. And no wonder. They've even spread to the world of Walter Mitty baseball. Take the Chicago White Sox Baseball Fantasy Camp and Investment Seminar, which is being held this week in Sarasota, Fla. For a mere $3,200 each, the fat-cat campers are learning base-stealing from Luis Aparicio, the knuckleball from Hoyt Wilhelm and financial strategies from specialists at Rodman & Renshaw, a Chicago investment firm. The camp's publicity, referring to these pregame business seminars, gleefully points out that "the possible tax deduction on this portion of the week-long event is a practical motive inducing campers to sign up." Do they serve hot dogs and three martinis at lunch?
You didn't know that Gretzky was traded? It happened last week. Keith Gretzky, younger brother of Wayne and a Buffalo Sabres draft choice, was sent from the Windsor Spitfires to the Belleville Bulls. Both teams are in the Ontario Hockey League.
HELP WANTED, PARALEGAL
Call it a sign of the times, but a number of colleges whose athletic programs have been beset by scandal—among them Tulane and Wichita State—have recently hired enforcement representatives away from the NCAA to work for them on a full-time basis. One of the new employees' primary jobs is to sift through the complex 380-page NCAA manual and explain it to school athletic officials in plain English.
COLORADO SCHOOL OF NOT-MINES
Ever since Russell Pulling, the Colorado School of Mines' 6'5" freshman forward, scored 59 points in a 121-113 win over Colorado College on Jan. 29, losing coach Jim Cross has been trying to live down the embarrassment. Last week he told the Denver Post how his team will prepare for next season's rematch: "Under our warmups we'll have T shirts printed up that say RUSSELL WASN'T MY MAN. Either that or we'll line up with flip cards. The first will say RUSSELL WASN'T MY MAN, the next will say ME NEITHER and so on until the end of the line, when the next-to-last guy has an arrow pointing to 5'5" Ricky Garcia."
THE TEXAS-SIZE ANTLERS
The deer that William Mark Day of Austin, Texas supposedly bagged in Mexico in 1984 had massive 17-point antlers and earned Day an award from the Texas Trophy Hunters Association. Outdoor Life magazine ran a photo of the animal, and Texas Monthly quoted the ecstatic Day as saying, "I took one look at the buck and went down on my knees. I was speechless."
Now, however, Day is on the horns of a legal dilemma: He has been indicted on a variety of federal charges, including illegal trade in wildlife and transporting stolen goods. It is alleged that he bought his prizewinning antlers—which U.S. authorities claim were stolen from a Canadian taxidermy shop—for $20,000 and had them surgically implanted in a small deer killed in Mexico. Day is currently awaiting trial. If convicted he faces a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison and $50,000 in fines. Such are the risks of dabbling in big bucks.
KEMP TRIAL (CONT.)
As testimony came to an end last week in the Jan Kemp case in Atlanta (SCORECARD, Jan. 27), University of Georgia president Fred Davison and Bulldog athletic director and football coach Vince Dooley took the stand to answer charges leveled throughout the five-week-long trial that their school has given preferential academic treatment to scholarship athletes. Both Dooley and Davison have played leadership roles in efforts to clean up college sports, yet their comments last week—both in testimony and to reporters—made them sound more like part of the problem than of the solution.
The lawsuit (in which a verdict is expected this week) was brought against two university administrators by former Georgia English instructor Jan Kemp, who claims she was fired for speaking out against the preferential academic treatment accorded some Georgia athletes.
Davison tried to justify Georgia's willingness to bend its academic standards for athletes (some of whom, according to trial testimony, arrive on campus virtually illiterate) by saying that other schools also maintain lower standards for athletes, and "we have to compete [with them] on a level playing field." When asked why Georgia didn't raise its standards anyway, Davison said, "You want me to go out of business. That would put us out of business athletically."
Davison also defended the private athletic association that helps pay for Georgia's sports programs, noting that no public money has to be spent on the school's athletics—that, in fact, the association contributes money to university coffers. Yet this reinforces the impression that athletics at Georgia are something apart from the rest of the university and have little to do with higher education. If sports truly serve an educational purpose (as athletic directors so often claim), why shouldn't they be paid for by the university just as, say, the chemistry and English departments are?
Dooley defended the fact that at the 1982 Sugar Bowl he had suited up players who had failed remedial courses and were scheduled to be dismissed from the university. He said he had acted within NCAA rules in doing so. Indeed he had—but his lack of minimal standards in the matter doesn't say much for him as an academician. Although the Kemp trial produced persuasive evidence that Georgia had consistently put eligibility and touchdowns ahead of education, Dooley said he thought the school had reconciled athletics and academics in a "noble and reasonable way."
Pete Rose has never been one to shrink from reminding people of his many achievements. Apparently, he even likes to remind himself. Each bat he grabs this year will bear the personalized inscription ATHL—for Alltime Hit Leader.
COMING: MANUTE II
The next Manute Bol is in residence right now at Division II St. Michael's College in Winooski, Vt., but he won't play until the 1986-87 season, and for a refreshing reason. St. Mike's administrators have decided that Michel Bonebo, 23, a 7'3", 215-pound recruit from the Ivory Coast, needs more academic grooming before matriculating. And Bonebo, whose native language is French, has agreed with them. "It's a little unique in this day and age," says coach Jim Casciano. "Instead of just saying. 'Good, now he's eligible, let him play,' everybody felt he should take it slowly, take a few courses and become a full-time student in September. You'd expect him to say, 'See you later, I'm going home.' But this kid wants to learn."
"I will stay at the school," says Bonebo, a center on the Ivory Coast national team, who declined pro offers from France before arriving at St. Michael's last summer. "When I heard I couldn't play until next year, I was disappointed. But when I sat down and thought about it, I thought it would be good for me. I will get an education. Then I will play basketball."
For now, Bonebo is not formally enrolled at St. Michael's but is taking two undergrad courses and two courses through the college's international studies program, which has been recruiting African students for 40 years. He supplements his English studies by forming words on a Scrabble board that he carries with him on campus. Bonebo lifts weights and shoots baskets when he finds time, and hopes to play in the NBA eventually. Casciano predicts, "He'll be better than Bol. He already dribbles, shoots and runs better, even if he doesn't have that awesome wingspan."
All seems sunny—if a bit odd, by current collegiate sports standards—in Bonebo's world right now. Except for one thing: "Gosh, it's cold up here," he says of his Vermont surroundings.
THEY SAID IT
•Hubie Brown, New York Knicks coach, to an old nemesis, Denver coach Doug Moe, when Moe asked him if he minded having been called a jerk by Moe on Moe's weekly television show: "You've done it in bigger places than this show."
•George Raveling, basketball coach at Iowa, on the remoteness of Washington State, where he had coached previously: "My last season there was reviewed in Field & Stream."