A PRESIDENT STEPS DOWN
In a move related to the uproar at his school over special academic favors for athletes, University of Georgia president Fred Davison resigned last week, effective July 1. Davison, 56, who has held the job for 19 years, had come under fire because of revelations at the Jan Kemp trial (SI, Jan. 27 et seq.) that Georgia had admitted academically deficient athletes and bent rules to keep them eligible in its developmental studies department. In recent weeks, some 200 Georgia students and faculty members had called for his resignation, as had the school's student newspaper.
But Davison's decision to quit was by no means an acknowledgment of blame. On the contrary, he stepped down in anger after Georgia's Board of Regents voted to delay renewal of his contract until full review of an investigation into the developmental studies department. That action, which Davison called "a personal and professional insult and a questioning of my integrity," was taken after the board saw a preliminary report on the developmental studies program that some members found shocking: Two of them said they feared the revelations could jeopardize the university's accreditation.
Since the Kemp trial, both Davison and Georgia athletic director Vince Dooley have tried to downplay the preferential academic treatment given Bulldog athletes. In an op-ed piece in The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Dooley insisted that Georgia turns away some academically unfit athletes and that in academic matters the university is committed "to go the extra mile to help each athlete to help themselves [sic]." However, he didn't adequately explain why Georgia had bent its academic standards to admit and keep unqualified athletes, nor did he clearly say that such practices were wrong, nor could he offer assurances that they wouldn't happen again.
March 24, 1986
For his part, Davison has said that Georgia is no worse than others in maintaining low standards for athletes. He has also tried to shift responsibility for the situation to Georgia public schools. Of the kind of academically unqualified athlete who has been admitted to the university, he said, "We don't create that student, we receive him." Davison's resignation was just one more move on his part to avoid accepting blame himself.
A DEPRESSED MARKET
Nick Brown was offering the kind of backhand only money can buy—and the kind of forehand, serve and volley. The 24-year-old Brown, a promising and obviously enterprising British player, hoped to underwrite his life on the expensive men's tennis tour by selling 16 one-year shares of himself at ¬£1,000 ($1,458) each. At the end of each season, Brown's winnings, exhibition payments and endorsement money were to be divvied up. Each shareholder, Brown promised, would get a sixteenth of the take up to a maximum of ¬£2,000. Any further profit would be kept by Brown. It seemed like such a bright scheme. But the buyers just never materialized, and Brown, rather than risk a net loss, is spending 1986 teaching at a tennis club in London.
MORE PALATABLE POLO
Polo for the masses? That's the lofty—or actually, lowly—aim of the National Polo League, an improbable six-team operation that has just galloped onto the sports scene. Currently in its inaugural seven-week season, the NPL plays all its games in Palm Beach, Fla. but has nakedly expansionist aims. Because it uses three players instead of four and a smaller field, it offers a faster, rougher and higher-scoring brand of polo designed to "make the sport more palatable to the average guy," in the words of Palm Beach Polo Club chairman William T. Ylvisaker, the league's founder. He adds that NPL-style polo "lends itself naturally to television coverage, which we hope to attain."
Crowds of 6,000 have been showing up at Ylvisaker's club each Sunday to watch teams designated as representing such tony outposts as Greenwich, Conn. and Palm Beach, as well as Dallas, Fort Worth, Florida and New York. The audiences aren't made up of your day-at-the-polo-match fans. "They're everybody," says Patricia Fulk, marketing consultant. "They pay $4 each. They eat popcorn. They scream and yell." Ylvisaker hopes to bring about more screaming and yelling by eventually moving play to Los Angeles, Chicago, St. Louis and Boston. "That will expose the game to a larger segment of the population," he says. But making polo appear plebeian may not be so easy. Around the NPL's playing grounds there are insignia from such upscale sponsors as Cadillac, Piper-Heidsieck champagne, and Rolex and Piaget watches.
EVERY RECEIVER IS COVERED
Duke University has drawn on football for fund-raising purposes in a different way. Needing a centralized working area with a large number of phones for its current phone-a-thon, the school has set up headquarters in the press box at Wallace Wade Stadium.
CENTS AND SENSIBILITY
Even as NFL owners were voting at their annual meetings in Rancho Mirage, Calif. last week to bar players from wearing Jim McMahon-style headbands on the sidelines, the Chicago chapter of the Jane Austen Society was taking inventory on the fund-raising souvenirs it planned to sell at this week's Austen Society convention. An expected best-seller at $3 apiece: Jane Austen headbands.
Last autumn, Budweiser aired a TV commercial in which supposed baseball fans listen to a radio broadcast of Pittsburgh's Bill Mazeroski winning the 1960 World Series with his ninth-inning homer. The commercial was so authentic it even retained announcer Chuck Thompson's erroneous call of the fateful pitch: "Ditmar delivers, Mazeroski swings. It's going back, back...."
Art Ditmar has never thought the call was wonderful—especially since Yankee teammate Ralph Terry threw the pitch—and he didn't appreciate Budweiser's dredging it up. Ditmar, 56, who works as the recreation director in Brook Park, Ohio, has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Cleveland against Anheuser-Busch and the agency that produced the ad, Needham, Harper Worldwide of Chicago. Ditmar's suit makes no mention of Thompson's bum call, but claims merely, "The Budweiser commercial's reference to plaintiff was false, because plaintiff did not throw the pitch which cost the Yankees the 1960 World Series." Ditmar says his reputation has been tarnished and is asking $500,000 in compensatory and punitive damages. Neither Anheuser-Busch nor the ad agency would comment on the lawsuit.
As winter draws to a close, many world-class lugers are looking back on the season as one long headache. They have the sympathy of Dr. William J. Mullally of Headache & Neurologic Associates of Princeton, N.J. "It seems that all athletes who are involved with the sport of luge develop headaches directly related to the luge run," says Mullally, who this winter tested eight members of the U.S. luge team. "The prevalence of these exercise-related headaches far exceeds that seen in any other sport."
In a research paper on the phenomenon, Mullally elucidates, "The persistent flexion of the neck against strong gravitational pull probably stimulates the cervical pathways.... You can well imagine that repeated jolts produced by a bumpy track would further enhance the stimulation presented to the cervical pathways. A fast track would increase the gravitational forces providing further stimulation. In addition, the Valsalva maneuver (forcible exhalation effort while holding one's breath against a closed glottis, with resulting increase in intrathoracic pressure) appears to be unavoidable during a luge run." What solution is there for all this? "Anti-inflammatory medication may be effective," speculates Mullally. "Proper conditioning is imperative. Research should be instituted to develop a cervical support which would reduce stress placed on the cervical region." Or they could just take up something less taxing, like chess.
AIR JORDAN HAS NO FEAR OF FLYING
It happened in a pickup game in Woollen Gym in Chapel Hill, N.C. Michael Jordan took off from the free-throw line as only he can, soared to the hoop and slammed the ball through. He savors the memory: "You don't know how good that felt."
Indeed, until a week ago nobody on the Chicago Bulls even knew that their injured star was playing pickup games. But Jordan, who had been sidelined since breaking his left foot last Oct. 29 in the Bulls' third game of the season, had grown restless from inaction. In late February he had gone home to North Carolina and begun playing—without medical supervision—two hours of ball a day. Jordan says he felt the strength in his leg returning with each session. On March 7, reassured by his pain-free, soaring dunk, he returned to Chicago to undergo X rays and strength tests.
The results left doubt as to Jordan's full health. In a March 12 conference call in Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf's office, two of three doctors told Jordan not to play this season, that the risk of reinjuring the foot was between 10% and 20%. "Not one of them knows how my foot feels," said Jordan. "They haven't experienced the game of basketball like I have. I love it like a wife." No amount of counseling could deter him, and last Saturday night, with 5:59 left in the first half of a game against Milwaukee, Jordan stepped onto the Chicago Stadium court. He played 13 minutes and scored 12 points as the Bulls lost 125-116 in overtime. "What Michael is doing makes no sense," said Reinsdorf.
Jordan's decision certainly seemed senseless. The doctors told him the risk factor would be reduced to 1% if he waited until next season to play. And the Bulls were already making a late-season dash for the playoffs without him. So why did he return? Nike, with which Jordan has an estimated $5 million, five-year endorsement contract, admitted that sales of its Air Jordan basketball shoes have tailed off since Jordan's injury, but said that's only natural in the market cycle of a new shoe line. The company denied putting any pressure on him, and in fact Jordan's contract is guaranteed—though there are royalties involved. "There's no financial incentive for him to come back—zero," said Jordan's attorney, David Falk, who cautioned his client about the medical risks of playing.
Jordan may be tempting the fate that has plagued Celtics center Bill Walton, who has been hampered for nearly nine years by repeated bone breaks in his left foot. While you can't question Jordan's desire to play, you have to question his judgment.
THEY SAID IT
•Paul Johns, former Seattle Seahawk receiver, on the difficulty of becoming a car salesman: "There are no films of irate customers to study."
•Sammy Stewart, Red Sox relief pitcher, after spending a full day taking care of his two children: "Everything went all right until I put their socks in the microwave to dry."