COMMITMENT IS A ONE-WAY STREET
On April 28 three freshman basketball players at USC—all of them starters—were sent letters marked "Personal and Confidential" from their new coach, George Raveling. The message: "I have recommended to the Athletic Director that your athletic grant-in-aid not be renewed for the 1986-87 academic year."
The three players—Hank Gathers, Bo Kimble and Tom Lewis—were surprised, even though, after Trojan coach Stan Morrison resigned under pressure in March, they had lobbied the athletic department to hire a West Coast coach as a replacement. When USC picked Raveling, the former Iowa coach, in March, the three had expressed reservations about continuing at the school.
Nevertheless, the abrupt termination of their grants-in-aid seemed extreme. Raveling had told the three (and a fourth player, Rich Grande) to decide by April 26 whether they would remain at USC, but he had failed to warn them of the consequences of not doing so. Grande made clear his intention to stay, but when the deadline passed for the other three, Raveling recommended that their scholarships be revoked.
It appeared Raveling was running the players off—dropping them so he could offer their scholarships to new prospects. "It's ridiculous to say I'm running them off," he told SI last week. "I tried three times to get them to stay. Why would someone run off starters? These kids were already proven commodities." Why had Raveling set an April deadline, when the NCAA deadline for dealing with scholarship renewals is July 1? "We needed to know," said Raveling. "We couldn't go into the summer with any uncertainty."
In fact, Raveling may well have needed to know: The deadline for signing a player to a national letter of intent is May 15, and Raveling had reportedly promised more scholarships for next year than he had available. With the three freshmen gone, apparently Raveling no longer has a numbers problem.
The situation is an unfortunate one. The three players considered appealing Raveling's decision to the USC financial aid office but by last Friday had decided against it. Said Lewis, who led the Trojans in scoring last year with a 17.6 average, "Considering the circumstances of the past month, I would be better off transferring."
If the three do transfer, they must, by NCAA rules, sit out next season. The transfer rule is designed in part to keep dishonest coaches from raiding one another's programs, but as the USC case shows, it can be unfair to athletes: When their coach leaves—or is fired—they're left in the lurch. While players are asked for a commitment, they don't always receive one in return.
ON TOP OF THE WORLD
Will Steger's polar expedition reached the North Pole last Friday, 56 days after setting out from Ward Hunt Island (SCORECARD, March 3 et seq.). The original eight-person party, which made the trek without having additional provisions flown in, finished two members shy: Bob McKerrow and Bob Mantell were airlifted out with broken ribs and frostbite, respectively. Ann Bancroft of Sunfish Lake, Minn. became the first woman to reach the pole by dogsled, surviving a mid-April plunge through Arctic Sea ice. Steger, 40, of Ely, Minn., called the trip "the hardest days of my life."
THE SAN DIEGO ZOO
Saturday night's 7-6 Padre loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates in San Diego was delayed for seven minutes in the seventh inning when a skunk sauntered across the field at Jack Murphy Stadium. The grounds crew shooed it under the left-field stands.
This was only the latest in a series of natural disturbances at that ballpark. Last season an owl flew over the stadium and deposited a dead mouse in the grandstand. Two weeks ago an active beehive was removed from owner Joan Kroc's private box.
Stadium manager Bill Wilson recently completed a report detailing his facility's wildlife problems. Wilson found that the stadium is plagued by cats, skunks, owls, sparrows, swallows, pigeons, doves, bees, moths, rats and cockroaches. And in 1984, as we all remember, it was overrun by Tigers.
THE BEES' KNEE
Pro tennis player Trevor Allan, an Australian living in France, had tried everything—medication, acupuncture, everything—to relieve the chronic soreness in his left knee. Finally, in desperation, he turned to a somewhat mysterious 60-year-old beekeeper named Mr. Riquet who lives in Cavaillon, a farming community on France's south coast. Riquet treats patients with bee stings. He says that a bee's venom has certain medicinal properties, and in fact, various venoms have long been used in both folk and standard medicine.
But Riquet's methodology will never be taught at Harvard Medical School. After testing Allan for allergies with a couple of bees, Riquet turned 15 of them loose on the player's knee. "He catches them one by one, and he rubs them on my leg and they sting me," says Allan. "It swells up a bit, but then the venom acts as a painkiller."
Allan swears by Riquet and his miracle cure and undergoes treatment once or twice each week. "Now I catch the bees myself," he says. "When I see a bee I jump on it." The 30-year-old says he was considering quitting tennis before meeting Riquet but now is playing painlessly in tournaments in Europe.
Allan hasn't coaxed any colleagues into trying the Riquet method. "No one really believes me," he says. "And besides, it does hurt. It hurts like hell."
The United States Basketball League heads into its second summer without the very tall Manute Bol and the very small Spud Webb, both of whom proved they were more than mere curiosities by making it in the NBA. So the league is trying to put together a new cast of intriguing characters. At the recent USBL draft, the top pick was John (Hot Rod) Williams, the former Tulane star who is under indictment on point-shaving charges. In the 12th round, Springfield (Mass.) selected Micheal Ray Richardson, who has been permanently barred from the NBA for repeated cocaine use. In the 15th and last round, the Staten Island Stallions chose USC's Cheryl Miller. Spokesmen for both Richardson and Miller say that both players are interested in playing in the USBL.
While Staten Island insists Miller is not a gimmick pick, the Jersey Jammers admit that their last selection was made with tongue in cheek and publicity in mind. They doubt that former New York Knick and present U.S. Senator Bill Bradley will show up when camp opens later this month.
After Roger Clemens's 20-strikeout performance against the Mariners last week (page 26), Seattle DH Gorman Thomas had the Red Sox pitcher sign a baseball for him as a memento of the occasion. Thomas, it seems, has a collection of more than 300 autographed baseballs. One happy result of his hobby, as you might expect, is that Thomas is not reluctant to sign baseballs himself. Except once, as he recalls. "I was approached by a lady in Wisconsin who was about 70 years old," he says. "She handed me this baseball, and it was very old. I looked at the ball and it had Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Hank Aaron on it. I said, 'My God, lady, I can't sign this ball—I don't want to ruin it!' " She insisted, however, and Thomas signed.
Last week's NFL draft served as another reminder of the difficulty of maintaining drug-testing confidentiality. Following reports that 57 pro prospects had come up positive in drug tests conducted at January scouting workouts (SI, April 28), there was considerable speculation as to who the 57 were and how many of them would be selected. When the draft was over, both The New York Times and The Boston Globe reported that 26 of the players had been picked. Neither paper named the players, but the Times did list the teams that chose them.
San Diego Chargers owner Alex Spanos went one step further by telling the Escondido, Calif. Times-Advocate that his team's first-round selection, offensive tackle James FitzPatrick of USC, had been one of the players to test positive and had agreed to undergo periodic drug testing during his career in San Diego. Spanos later claimed that his comments had been off the record. FitzPatrick was not available for comment.
With test results in the hands of literally scores of team and league officials, there were bound to be such leaks, inadvertent or otherwise. It brings to mind the old line about secrets: Most of us can keep one—it's the people we tell it to who can't.
THIS MAY BE MTV'S BIGGEST HIT
Say this for Patrick Ewing: He's got his money, he's got his Knicks, he's even got his MTV. The MTV part came last Wednesday, when the 7-foot Knick center recorded a one-hour guest VJ segment at Music Television's studios in New York City. The show, for which Ewing chose all the videos, is scheduled to be broadcast on Tuesday, May 13, at 10 p.m. E.D.T.
Ewing picked music ranging from Bob Marley's reggae to Eric Clapton's rock and even threw in, as a short selection (about 5'4"), Prince. He talked about the importance of staying in school and presumably scored a few points with his shoe company by interviewing the popular rap group Run-DMC about its new single, My Adidas.
Ewing's height caused the studio crew a few problems. Cameras had to be moved back in order to fit Ewing on the screen. Cameramen were forced to stand on boxes so they could shoot him at eye level. And MTV host Martha (Spud) Quinn—all 5'2" of her—had to climb onto a desk to chat with Ewing, who was sitting down. "How's the weather down there?" she asked him. "There must not be too many guys bigger than you."
"After last season," replied Ewing, "there are a lot of guys bigger than me." Don't worry, Pat: When you play for the Knicks, it only seems that way.
THEY SAID IT
•Phil Stone, San Francisco broadcaster, describing Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda's dejection after a loss to the Giants: "He looks like he's just been told there's no cannelloni in the world."
•Butch Wynegar, Yankee catcher, on commissioner Peter Ueberroth's drug plan: "I don't want to say much—just that it's a joke and it stinks."
•Jim Valvano, North Carolina State basketball coach, kiddingly relating what he did when his star center, Chris Washburn, told him he was turning pro for perhaps $1 million a year: "I tried to match it. I got close, real close."