A GRAND SLAM
Hart Lee Dykes was hardly the first high school football star ever to be exposed to the blandishments of unethical college recruiters and boosters. But Dykes, now an Oklahoma State senior who earned All-America honors at wide receiver this season, has proved different in one respect: According to published reports, NCAA investigators offered him immunity from punishment if he would talk about the improper inducements he was offered when he came out of high school in Bay City, Texas, in 1985, and his cooperation with the investigators sent four major college football programs reeling.
Dykes's testimony is said to have been the key to landing Illinois, Texas A & M, Oklahoma and, last week, his own school on NCAA probation. Oklahoma State, which was found guilty of more than 40 rules violations, including providing cash payments in excess of $5,000 and a sports car to an unnamed player (reported to be Dykes), received the most severe punishment since SMU's football program was shut down by the NCAA in 1987: no television appearances for two years, and a reduction in scholarships and no bowl appearances for three years. Because of the sanctions, the NCAA will allow Cowboy players with three or fewer years of eligibility remaining—including junior running back Barry Sanders, the Heisman Trophy winner—to transfer to another school outside the Big Eight Conference and be eligible to play there immediately if they so wish. Sanders said last week he will stay at Oklahoma State.
With Oklahoma State and Oklahoma on probation in football and defending NCAA champion Kansas on probation in basketball, Big Eight schools could lose more than $4.5 million in shared television, bowl and playoff revenue in the next year. "It hurts bad," says Kansas athletic director Bob Frederick, who believes conference schools may have to trim their athletic programs.
Long after Dykes has gone to the pros, his name may continue to serve as a reminder to college athletic administrators of the increasingly large financial risks that come with cheating.
The Philadelphia Flyers will soon begin test-marketing their own brand of cologne. It will be called Bully.
LAND FOR SALE
Rarely has the Reagan Administration been accused of being too protective of the environment, but a recent position paper put out by The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C., took the administration to task for failing to help private interests develop public lands. But in its waning days the administration has in fact been selling off publicly owned oil-shale tracts in the West to developers at a ridiculously low price—$2.50 an acre—and drawing up regulations that will encourage private coal mining on protected lands and hasten the opening of national forests to oil and gas drilling.
President-elect George Bush, who calls himself an environmentalist, has remained distressingly quiet about all this. If he truly plans to be a president who will distinguish himself by protecting public lands and national parks, he should not wait for Inauguration Day to start speaking out against this give away.
DIAMONDS AND RICHES
Some effects of the four-year, $400 million contract that major league baseball and ESPN signed last week:
•It will dramatically increase the number and variety of games available to the 80 million TV households that have access to cable (10 million households with TVs don't have cable access). Starting in 1990, ESPN will show 175 games per season—the telecasts will be on four nights a week, with doubleheaders on Tuesdays and Fridays—as well as a regular schedule of other baseball-related programming, such as highlight shows. The network will switch to different games in the course of an evening to show, for example, a batter trying to extend a hitting streak or a pitcher attempting to close out a no-hitter.
•It set back the hopes of three competitors—SportsChannel America, the USA Network and Ted Turner's TNT—intent on challenging ESPN for supremacy in cable sports television. The bad news for hockey fans is that without baseball, SportsChannel America, which holds NHL broadcast rights but isn't available in most sections of the country, may have a harder time expanding into new territory.
•It may complicate baseball's labor negotiations. Combined with the four-year, $1.08 billion contract baseball signed with CBS in December, the ESPN deal will provide each team with an estimated $14 million a year, double the $7 million received under the current contract with NBC and ABC. And that's not counting the revenues teams will receive from local TV contracts, the most lucrative of which is a 12-year, $500 million deal the New York Yankees struck last month with Madison Square Garden's MSG Network. The players, whose collective-bargaining agreement with the owners expires at the end of next season, are going to want a hefty share of this newfound bounty.
•Cable superstations like TBS and WGN, which carry Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs games, respectively, and free, over-the-air stations that have local-rights packages will face stiffer competition for baseball viewers. To ensure ESPN a certain degree of exclusivity, both the superstations and over-the-air stations will be banned from televising games on Wednesday nights.
Baseball officials contend that the ESPN contract will not reduce the number of games available on free TV. "It's a win-win situation," says Bryan Burns, the senior vice-president of broadcasting for major league baseball, who points out that, contrary to popular belief, the number of games available on free television has grown during each of the past four years. That's small consolation to die-hard baseball fans who don't have access to cable or can't afford it.
EVEN THEN THEY KNEW
In 1967, Denver Nuggets coach Doug Moe was signed to his first U.S. pro contract as a player by none other than Morton Downey Jr., the abrasive and controversial television talk-show host. Downey worked as general manager of the New Orleans Buccaneers of the American Basketball Association, but apparently—here's a real shocker—he rubbed the Bucs' management the wrong way, at least as Moe recalls it.
"I don't know if he believes half the stuff he says," says Moe of Downey, "but I like that antagonistic approach. I'm not beneath making things up just to start an argument, because some people take these things seriously and get upset."
PUTT OR PUNT?
PGA pro Payne Stewart, long known for his sartorial panache on the golf course—his trademark is bright-hued plus fours—has signed a three-year, $675,000 contract with NFL Properties to wear NFL attire. No, Stewart won't be donning a jersey and a helmet from now on, although we rather enjoy artist Patrick McDonnell's conception of a possible mix-and-match NFL playoff teams ensemble (above). Stewart will simply wear the line of shirts, sweaters and accessories licensed by NFL Properties, which has found that a lot of pro football fans also happen to watch and play golf. At tournaments, Stewart will dress in the colors of one of the NFL teams based near the course.
A TALE OF NO TAILS
Speaking of sports attire, the Lycra "unitards" introduced by the North Carolina State basketball team in its 71-59 win over Temple on Saturday certainly created a stir. The one-piece suits cling so tightly to the body—they were created by Nike at the request of N.C. State coach Jim Valvano, who was tired of hearing fans complain about flying shirttails—that in the name of decency the Wolfpack players slipped their regular uniform shorts on too.
"It's sexy," said N.C. State guard Kelsey Weems of the unitard. But Wolfpack forward Chucky Brown wants his sloppy old uniform back. "I was struggling with it," he said of the new outfit. "I wanted to pull my shirt out so bad."
NO. 1 SONS
The Shannon brothers of New Wilmington, Pa., experienced exceptional football seasons. Pat, a junior at Westminster College in New Wilmington, played outside linebacker for the unbeaten Titans, who won the NAIA Division II title. Brian, a Notre Dame sophomore, was a reserve offensive guard for the national champion Fighting Irish. All of which goes to show how prescient Pat and Brian's parents, Stan and Janet, were when, six months ago, they put a vanity license plate on one of the family cars that read WCND1.
THEY SAID IT
•Bonnie Blair, speed skater and Sullivan Award nominee from Butte, Mont., when asked what outfit she will wear to the Sullivan dinner in March to avoid being overshadowed by glamorous sprinter and fellow nominee Florence Griffith Joyner: "I don't know, but I'm sure not going to find it in Butte."