The U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) was badly embarrassed last week when its executive director, Harvey Schiller, 48, resigned after only 16 days on the job and said he hoped to return to his former position as Southeastern Conference commissioner. Schiller, an able administrator, especially in the fields of television and marketing, cited personal reasons for his departure, but he was also known to have been frustrated by the USOC's fragmented power structure. "He's making a silent statement," said an insider at USOC headquarters in Colorado Springs. "I just hope the silent statement is loud enough for people to hear."
Schiller's decision caught almost everyone by surprise. The USOC executive directorship seemed perfect for him: It paid well ($150,000 a year), brought him back to Colorado Springs (as an Air Force officer—he's a retired colonel—he'd spent 13 years there, seven of them as a chemistry professor at the Air Force Academy) and immersed him in Olympic affairs, in which he has long been active (he was the director of boxing competition at the 1984 Summer Games). Only three days before he quit, Schiller had delivered a forward-looking speech to the USOC executive board in Atlanta that had drawn a standing ovation.
But Schiller had developed doubts about the USOC shortly after assuming his new job on Jan. 4. "He said, 'John, nobody [at the USOC] has anything good to say,' " his friend John Clune, athletic director at the Air Force Academy, told The Atlanta Constitution. "All he heard from people is how this isn't going to work, how that has to change.... I think he had the feeling that no matter how hard he worked, he wasn't going to make an impact. He wasn't going to be able to solve the USOC's problems. And Harvey is a problem solver." Howard Peterson, secretary-general of the U.S. Ski Association, expressed a similar view: "I think [Schiller] belatedly learned that his position is responsibility without power."
February 1, 1988
As SEC commissioner, Schiller exercised much influence over conference affairs. At the USOC, he was to implement policies made by volunteer officials, most notably USOC president Robert Helmick, a Des Moines attorney and International Olympic Committee member. Schiller faced the prospect of haggling over minor issues with 37 national sports-governing bodies and an often small-minded bureaucracy, a process that, in an interview with SI's Richard Demak, he likened to "stepping on ants all the time."
Schiller is expected to continue working with the USOC in some capacity, and his successor will be the committee's longtime assistant executive director, Baaron Pittenger, a solid administrator with a low-key style. Pittenger should be able to steer the USOC through this Olympic year, but the time has come for the organization to reexamine its anachronistic structure. While volunteer involvement is laudable, the U.S.'s Olympic effort requires full-time, professional management. "You need a CEO to operate a $135 million-a-year business [like the USOC]," said Peterson. Schiller, who might have been the man to fill the bill, said, "There need to be some changes, and they have to come from the membership [of the Olympic movement]."
Veneration of St. Pete of Cincinnati continues unabated. In 1985, after Pete Rose got hit No. 4,192 to break Ty Cobb's major league career record, the Reds painted a circle and the number 4192 on the spot where the ball landed on the Riverfront Stadium AstroTurf. Now the nine-year-old carpet is being replaced with a new one, and the Reds have cut out a six-foot-by-six-foot swatch containing the holy spot for eventual inclusion in their planned Hall of Fame.
Meanwhile another item from the Rose reliquary—a window from LaVerne and Harry (Big Pete) Rose's house in the Anderson Ferry section of Cincinnati that was cracked in 1944 by a ball hit by three-year-old Pete—is likely to be preserved for posterity. In a demonstration of rather astounding prescience, Pete's proud papa insisted that the window not be repaired, and cracked it has remained for, lo, these many years.
The house, which is up for sale, has been standing empty since Pete's father died and his mother moved to Florida. Unfortunately, as a result of time and bad weather every window in the house is now cracked. Robert Williams, the president of a Cincinnati window-replacement company, has offered to remove—frame and all—the window Pete cracked and ship it to the Baseball Hall of Fame at his own expense, but the problem is identification. When Williams went to the house with his workmen, they couldn't tell one broken window from another.
Williams insists he won't be deterred. He says that as soon as someone in the family identifies Pete's handiwork, Cooperstown will have its first Rose window.
Alexander Julian, one of New York's hottest men's fashion designers, recently agreed to do the uniforms for the Charlotte Hornets, who will debut as an NBA expansion team next season. Julian, a native North Carolinian, would accept no money for his efforts; instead, he asked for air shipments of down-home barbecue, which he said was virtually impossible to find in the Big Apple. The Hornets agreed to send him monthly five-pound batches of pork barbecue from Papa Doc's Pig Palace in Charlotte.
You think Julian was joking? When the Hornets missed the December shipment, he promptly sent them an overdue notice.
Tiger outfielder Kirk Gibson and six other major leaguers have come full circle. Arbitrator Tom Roberts ruled last week that because owners colluded not to sign them—or any of 55 other free agents—following the 1985 season, the seven players are now free agents again. The question is: Will owners of rival teams try to sign them this time?
Other than Gibson, the free agents tend to be old, medically suspect or both. It's debatable, for instance, whether a team would be wise to offer 40-year-old Carlton Fisk of the White Sox more than his current $700,000-a-year salary. However, Gibson, 30, should be in demand: The Dodgers offered Pedro Guerrero for him this winter, and the Yankees wanted to swap Dave Winfield for him. If owners don't make an effort to sign Gibson, who's in the final year of a $1.36 million-per-annum contract with the Tigers, they could further impair their standing with Roberts, who's now deciding how much the clubs must pay in monetary damages to the 1985 free agents (including the 55 who weren't covered by last week's ruling; all of them either are out of baseball or became free agents at some point after 1985). Moreover, the owners must consider the thinking of another arbitrator, George Nicolau, who's determining if they were also guilty of collusion in their dealings with 1986 free agents. If Nicolau follows Roberts's precedent, he could set free such big-name players as Tim Raines, Jack Morris and Andre Dawson later this year.
As for Gibson, if no team tries to sign him now, he will have one dubious consolation: He will become a free agent again next fall when his contract with Detroit expires.
A SIGN OF CHANGE
Thanks to the efforts of Phil St. John, a social worker who's a Sioux, and to a blunt but effective poster created as a public service by a local advertising agency, the Minneapolis public school system has set a commendable example for the rest of the country.
Ten months ago St. John and his two sons, Terry, 17, and Philip Jr., 9, attended a basketball game involving Minneapolis's Southwest Secondary, whose teams were then known as the Indians. According to St. John, a white Southwest student in the stands, war-painted, headbanded and attired in a fringed getup, engaged in what was supposed to be Indian behavior—war whoops, menacing gestures and the like. Philip Jr. was both startled and confused. He huddled close to his father, who says, "I figured I had tolerated that kind of stuff most of my life, and it was time I did something."
St. John set out to persuade Southwest students and administrators and the Minneapolis Board of Education that athletic teams should not be nicknamed Indians or Braves or Chiefs because such names trivialize Native American heritage and perpetuate stereotypes. At first, school officials denied any knowledge of the incident in the stands, but the PTA and Southwest's student council and faculty all voted to support St. John's proposal. The Minnesota-Dakotas office of the National Conference of Christians and Jews (NCCJ) then offered to help St. John, and so did the Martin/Williams advertising agency, which came up with the poster.
The efforts paid off. Southwest changed its nickname to the Lakers, and the Board of Education ruled that nicknames that perpetuate racial or ethnic stereotypes would no longer be allowed in the city's schools. Meanwhile the local NCCJ began sending copies of the poster all over the country. "It conveys the message in a glance," says Pat Helmberger, the NCCJ associate regional director. "It doesn't take two days of sensitivity training to get it across."
St. John hopes colleges and pro teams get the message. His ultimate, and perhaps quixotic, goal is to change the name of the Washington Redskins. "That's the most racist and derogatory name you can use to describe the American Indian people," he says. He is encouraged that poster requests have come in from a new 50-odd-member group in Washington calling itself Fans Against Indian Racism.
THEY SAID IT
•Andy Russo, University of Washington basketball coach, when asked if facing No. 1-ranked Arizona felt like a trip to the dentist: "My wife is a dentist, so I wouldn't say that."
•Charlie Coles, Central Michigan basketball coach, discussing oft-disqualified freshman center Yamen Sanders: "Yamen has never met a man he wouldn't foul."