Since 1983, reform has been a byword in college sports. First, the NCAA approved Proposition 48, which mandated a minimum grade-point average and standardized test scores for entering Division I athletes. Next, the newly formed NCAA Presidents Commission, a 49-member body, pushed through tougher penalties for rules violators; these included the "death penalty," which can cost a school that is a repeat serious offender an entire program. At last week's NCAA convention in San Diego the reform bug became an epidemic as athletic directors actually vied with their presidents to see who would pass the next piece of reform legislation.
The 751 voting delegates, most of them athletic directors, ordered a reduction in the number of football and basketball scholarships offered to recruits, and in the size of basketball coaching staffs. The convention curtailed activities by boosters (they aren't allowed even to phone or write prospects anymore), cut the number of recruiting visits a basketball coach can make and shortened the football and basketball recruiting seasons by 60%. It also reduced the number of games basketball teams can play on foreign tours and decreed that coaches have to report to their schools any outside income from job-related ventures. The convention voted down motions to extend seasons and player eligibility. Division II colleges voted to accept, beginning in 1988, the academic requirements of Proposition 48.
Some of these measures were passed by the eager delegates despite a plea from the Presidents Commission that action on them be deferred. The commission announced that it hopes to correct the imbalance between college athletics and academics at a special convention in Dallas in June. "We want to look at this thing more holistically," said University of California chancellor I. Michael Heyman. Delegates in San Diego were asked to set aside a number of proposals so the presidents could deal with them in a "broader context" in Dallas. When the convention bulled ahead on some of these proposals anyway, NCAA president John R. Davis noted that at least "their actions on them were harmonious with what the presidents want to do."
What they want to do immediately, said Heyman, is "cap the momentum" toward ever costlier and more grandiose athletic programs on college campuses. When a subcommittee was appointed to study the feasibility of a football playoff and national championship game, Heyman quickly answered, "This is just the kind of momentum thing we're talking about; we think it very unlikely there would be a playoff in Division I football." Looking further down the road, Heyman went so far as to urge the "mutual disarmament" of the biggest college athletic programs.
Before reform became all the rage, such talk was sacrilege. These days, it's all one hears at NCAA gatherings.
They do it in the Frostbelt in January. Hold NFL playoff games, that is. And so it seems only appropriate that the latest equipment to be officially stamped with the names of certain NFL teams is downhill skis. Ram, Raider, Bronco, Cowboy, Bear, 49er and Charger skis, all manufactured by Kneissl, will soon be available at select ski shops in the respective teams' home cities.
TOP GUN (CONT.)
It was amusing to hear U.S. Navy secretary John Lehman say last week that basketball star David Robinson is "not physically qualified" to be commissioned as an unrestricted line officer following his graduation from the Naval Academy next May. But it's true: The 7'1" Robinson, who has grown six inches since entering the academy, is too tall to serve on either ships or planes. And so he has been excused from his five-year active duty commitment. Instead, Robinson will serve two years of full-time active duty in the Naval reserves and four more years of limited reserve duty.
It's expected that an arrangement will be worked out allowing Robinson to play in the NBA even as he fulfills his Naval obligations. Such an arrangement enabled former Navy tailback Napoleon McCallum to play for the Raiders this season.
Robinson's potential PR value to the Navy as an NBA star far exceeds his worth on any ship. "At this point," said Bill Ackerley, vice-president of the SuperSonics, "David Robinson would be the Number 1 taken in the draft."
A LAPSE IN JUDGMENT
Last week NHL president John Ziegler suspended Los Angeles Kings coach Pat Quinn, charging that Quinn had signed a contract to become president and general manager of the Vancouver Canucks next season and, in fact, had already been paid a bonus by the Canucks. The expulsion could be repealed when the NHL completes its investigation of the matter, but that seems unlikely: Vancouver owner Frank Griffiths said that he signed Quinn last Dec. 24 and subsequently paid him $100,000. Griffiths said that Quinn told Kings general manager Rogie Vachon of the deal shortly after it was consummated.
The suspension raised a number of questions. Why didn't Vancouver ask the NHL in advance about the propriety of its negotiating with Quinn? Did the Kings know about the deal? Why did they keep quiet? How do the Canucks justify what seems to be a case of tampering, punishable under NHL rules? (Ziegler said tampering charges cannot be brought because a copy of Quinn's contract was not filed with the league.) Most of all, how did Quinn, an intelligent man just half a year short of a law degree from the University of San Diego, overlook the obvious ethical problems involved in coaching one team while promising his future services to another?
Vancouver claimed that Quinn's agents approached the Canucks after L.A. failed to renew the option year of Quinn's contract. Vancouver said it signed Quinn now to guarantee a firm commitment from him. Quinn said that he was "deeply upset" by Ziegler's decision. "When the facts are brought out, they will show there was no improper conduct," he insisted. "I operated with all the best legal advice before any of this was entered into.... I'd like this to be done with immediately. I'm impatient as hell."
Ziegler said there was "no evidence" that Quinn has done anything but his best for the Kings. But Ziegler said he acted "to assure the absolute integrity of the competition" and to make sure that even "the perception of integrity is not tainted."
Conflicts of interest are nothing new to hockey. Thirty years ago the Norris family controlled three NHL franchises at the same time. Current Red Wing G.M. Jim Devellano owns 25,000 shares of stock (worth almost $1 million) in the Maple Leafs. None of that, however, can excuse Quinn—or the Canucks—for what appears to have been a serious lapse in judgment.
You might have thought the New York area was headed for Armageddon if you had been reading the New York Post's previews of Sunday's NFC Championship game (page 21). In the three days preceding the battle, the newspaper's sports section screamed: SKINS MOBILIZED FOR ALL-OUT WAR; REDSKINS SMELL BLOOD; REDSKINS READY FOR BLOODY SUNDAY; REDSKINS PAINTED AND READY FOR WAR; CONFIDENT GIANTS SET TO GO SCALPING; WINDS OF WAR; BENSON BRACING FOR 'HELL'; GIANTS BRACE FOR WW III; [GIANTS] PLOT BATTLE PLAN FOR REDSKIN WAR.
Now that the Giants have gotten past the Skins, we can hardly wait for the Post's Super Bowl previews.
CONQUERING MOUNT WOLFPACK
Students at North Carolina State will soon be climbing the Wall. They're eager for the school's new Carmichael gym annex to open officially next month so they can go up to the third floor and, under the supervision of experienced rock-climbing instructors, make their assaults on an 80-foot-long, 28-foot-high ersatz stone cliff built of steel and blown-on concrete. It is believed to be the world's most realistic indoor climbing wall—complete with outcroppings, fissures, ledges and even painted-on lichen—and university officials hope it will further enhance N.C. State's already extensive outdoor recreation program. "We haven't been able to find any other wall like it," says wall sculptor Dwight Holland, who also designed artificial rocks for the North Carolina Zoological Park. "It really looks and feels like you're out climbing on a mountain."
The Wall was dreamed up by former N.C. State rock-climbing instructor John Bercaw. Its $75,000 cost was entirely paid for with student fees. "Our student body is excited about outdoor-type activities," says Richard Lauffer, head of the university's physical education department, which offers courses ranging from rock climbing to backpacking to scuba diving. "We're putting a real emphasis in that area." Students at N.C. State must take two years of phys ed to graduate, but in the past, rock-climbing classes have had to travel several hours from the Raleigh campus to find suitable terrain. "Now, even in winter they can immediately test out the techniques they've studied in books," says Lauffer.
The routes up the rock vary in difficulty, so that beginners and experts alike will be challenged. Climbing instructors have already nicknamed the routes. The appellations include Brickyard, Scarface and the Slab. And there's one other that's most appropriate in Wolfpack country: the Wolfs Den.
THEY SAID IT
•Shelby Metcalf, basketball coach at Texas A & M, recounting what he told a player who received four F's and one D: "Son, looks to me like you're spending too much time on one subject."
•Karl Malone, Jazz forward, when asked if the NBA should start using three referees: "No, because the two, they see enough."