One of the most troubling aspects of NCAA enforcement is that while schools and athletes can be punished for wrongdoing, the boosters who are often most responsible for the cheating go untouched. The NCAA has no punitive power over boosters; it can order them to stay away from a school's athletic program, but nothing more.
Now, in the aftermath of the SMU football scandal, the immunity enjoyed by boosters is under attack from sources outside the NCAA. As previously reported here (SCORECARD, March 23), the IRS may investigate whether SMU boosters deducted their slush-fund contributions as business expenses or as charitable contributions. Another threat to boosters is the prospect of lawsuits. Texas State Senator John Montford has drafted a bill that would permit colleges and athletic conferences to sue runamok boosters for loss of television and ticket revenues. SMU's student senate is considering suing boosters involved in the football scandal for tarnishing the university's name and devaluing its degrees.
On the theory that colleges should be held more accountable for their boosters, Texas Democratic Congressman John Bryant introduced a bill last week that would cut off federal funding to universities that permit improper payments to athletes. School officials often plead ignorance of their boosters' illicit dealings, but some observers, such as Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz, don't buy that. "What I want to know is how these alumni know who to recruit," Holtz has said. "Isn't it strange, when they're involved, that they always seem to be talking to a kid the school wants?"
March 30, 1987
In order to telecast the Providence-Alabama NCAA regional basketball game live last Thursday evening, WLNE-TV in Providence bumped the network feed of President Reagan's press conference and showed it on tape delay. Station program director Truman Taylor pointed out that the press conference was available live on other channels, and that, after all, "we're talking about the most important basketball game around here in 15 years."
Later that evening, however, WLNE acknowledged that perhaps basketball isn't the only game in town. The station preempted the first 30 minutes of the tape-delayed Syracuse-Florida game to air Ask Dr. Ruth.
OATES ON BOXING
The slight woman sitting next to heavyweight Trevor Berbick at ringside of the Mike Tyson—Bonecrusher Smith bout three weeks ago was Joyce Carol Oates, award-winning novelist, Princeton professor, recent good buddy of Tyson's and author of the highly acclaimed new book On Boxing. Says Oates, who subscribes to both the Times Literary Supplement and The Ring, "I'm fascinated with boxing since it's antithetical to me; I'm not aggressive."
Oates has been drawn to boxing ever since her father took her to the Golden Gloves bouts in Buffalo. Although she played several sports in high school, she was never tempted to put on the gloves. In fact, she doesn't consider boxing a sport at all, but a "cultural phenomenon filled with extraordinary personalities."
Oates has watched hundreds of fights; she has viewed tapes of the brief but brutal Hagler-Hearns bout six times. "Each time you see a good fight, you get something different out of it," she says. At the urging of SI reporter T. Nicholas Dawidoff, Oates agreed to handicap the upcoming Hagler-Leonard bout, which she doesn't expect to be a great one. "I hate to predict anything in boxing," she said. "In one sense, the fight should not be occurring. People in boxing are mesmerized by what five or six years ago would have been a dream matchup. I'm not saying Leonard is mad, but he's touched with madness to do this. He's mesmerized with Hagler, and not thinking rationally. Hagler will win; it's just a matter of how."
(For SI boxing writer William Nack's views on the fight, turn to page 70.)
At tryouts last October for the inaugural season of the Carnegie Mellon women's swimming team, only six students signed up. So coach Jim Perkins, who had spent the previous two years as a real estate agent and p.r. consultant in the Pittsburgh area, struck on a tried-and-true idea. "If you want to sell cars, you advertise," he says. "If you want to sell houses, you advertise. I figured: If you need bodies, you advertise."
Soon the walls of Skibo Gymnasium were plastered with signs that read WANTED/NEEDED—WOMEN SWIMMERS AND DIVERS, NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY. A small stream of sheepish swim-ons, ranging from onetime high school stars to former Girl Scout merit-badge candidates, trickled in. "I pleaded with them all to stay," Perkins says. "Then I told each of them to bring a friend to the next practice."
Eventually the roster reached 26. "The kids who were novices started improving by leaps and bounds," says Perkins, "and the team spirit was tremendous." The Lady Tartans won three of their four Presidents' Athletic Conference dual meets and had a 4-3 overall record. At the PAC championship meet they finished second to defending champion John Carroll University, 532-529, but only after losing the final race, the 400-yard freestyle relay.
Under the circumstances, we think that Perkins can be forgiven for claiming a moral victory. "A tremendous season nonetheless," he says. "It pays to advertise."
CAN'T TAKE A JOKE
How tough are the New York Giants? Ask the Harlem Wizards basketball team. In the first of a seven-game charity series against a Giants all-star team, the Wizards came onto the floor at Middlesex (N.J.) High and started into their high-jinks-a-la-hoops routine. The Giants were not amused. "One of them, [tight end/power forward] Zeke Mowatt, came up to our team and said, 'Look, the guys want to play some ball,' " says Wizards spokesman Todd Davis. "It was weird. We reverted to pure basketball. We did our shtick a little, but just to the crowd. We sure didn't do it toward the Giants."
After the game, which the Wizards won 74-63, several members of the team complained about bone-rattling hits they had suffered under the boards, and some fans complained that the Wizards weren't as funny as usual. Let's hope the Giants are a little less dour during the remainder of the series.
HE'S STILL THEIR MAN
Until January, Northeastern University was one of several schools recruiting Saugus (Mass.) High hockey player Mike Maruzzi. Then tragedy struck: Maruzzi, a junior, smashed headfirst into the boards during a game against Swampscott High and was left paralyzed. Last week Northeastern announced that it still wants Maruzzi, who ranks 17th in a class of 220. It offered him a five-year tuition scholarship, which will allow Maruzzi to prepare for a career in engineering.
The 1987 Guinness Book of World Records goofed when it claimed, "Before and after giving birth, Christine Evert Lloyd has had more wins in the U.S. Open, 78, than any other player—man or woman." Evert Lloyd's Open wins, which number 88 now, are indeed a record—man or woman, parent or not—but she has never given birth. Her reaction to the ill-conceived baby announcement was "shock, then I thought it was downright funny."
HAPPY TRAILS TO SUE
When Susan Butcher drove her dogs past the roadhouse restaurant on the outskirts of Nome, Alaska, last week, a message was sent to town: First musher coming in! The fire siren sounded, and school children were released from class. Almost immediately 2,000 people jammed both sides of Front Street. The shortest stood on flatbed trailers that had been hauled in for the occasion. Butcher came into view, wearing a bright red snowsuit and an even brighter smile. As she passed under the spruce log that marked the finish line, she won her second straight Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Butcher, who earned $50,000, covered the 1,138 miles in a record 11 days, 2 hours, 5 minutes, 13 seconds.
More than four hours after she reached Nome, her neighbor and rival, four-time champion Rick Swenson, became the second musher to pass under the log. Earlier that day, 22 miles away in the village of Port Safety, the Iditarod had looked to be a real dogfight between the two favorite children of Eureka, Alaska, a community of 13 citizens. But as Swenson was signing in at the Port Safety checkpoint, his dogs, several of which had had the flu, decided to take a snooze. Two hours later Swenson roused them, but by then Butcher was long gone. "The dogs did about as well as I let them," said Swenson. "I wish I had a healthy team on this year's trail."
The leaders moved fast through one snowless, windless day after another. The first six finishers bettered last year's record time. "I've had about 22 hours sleep in the last 12 days," said Butcher as she dug into an Alaskan king crab victory feast. "I'm kind of foggy right now." She said that as soon as the fog clears, she'll begin training for the '88 race.
THEY SAID IT
•Tom Penders, Rhode Island basketball coach, when asked if he would like to coach the hapless L.A. Clippers: "It might be easier to straighten out the Middle East."
•Johnny Carson, on extending his NBC contract: "The only other job I was offered was head football coach at SMU."
•Hot Rod Hundley, the former Laker turned broadcaster, on the Rockets' Ralph Sampson: "He's the most overrated player since me."