The sanctions issued by the NCAA against the Kentucky basketball program came as no surprise to me (Dodging a Bullet, May 29). As an academic graduate assistant to the Kentucky athletic department from 1986 through '88, I observed firsthand the differences between the football and basketball programs. The basketball program seemed to exist solely as a business, validating itself in wins and NCAA tournament appearances rather than by creating educated, hardworking student-athletes. By contrast, the football team, despite being mired in mediocrity season after season, embodies what is right about college athletics. Because of his integrity, coach Jerry Claiborne has ensured success by providing an atmosphere that is conducive to learning—as witnessed by the College Football Association award the football team received for its 90% graduation rate (SCORECARD, May 22).
DANE R. WYSOCKI
Grand Rapids, Mich.
According to your article, all Kentucky president David Roselle wanted from the athletic department was "honesty and competence and that it be run in full compliance with NCAA and university regulations." Right. Is that why Kentucky pursued the most talented and expensive basketball coaches in the nation to replace Eddie Sutton?
The fact is, Kentucky fans—and I am one of them—could not care less about what Roselle wants. Kentucky fans expect a winner, and a coach or administrator who doesn't give them one won't be able to hide behind the excuse, "Hey, we're running an honest and competent program."
TERRANCE J. JANES
The big question is: Why would Kentucky, in light of its troubles with the NCAA, hire as its basketball coach Rick Pitino, who was an assistant at Hawaii when that school's basketball program was put on two years' probation (1977-79) for 68 violations of NCAA rules? Although he denies any wrongdoing, both The Honolulu Star Bulletin and The Lexington Herald-Leader have reported that Pitino was named in eight violations. For Kentucky basketball to rebuild and succeed, it must be clean, not just appear to be clean.
ROBERT H. KING
June 25, 1989
Curry Kirkpatrick's reference to the two high school basketball players who signed to play with Kentucky this year as "beings who obviously have been living on Mars" was one of the most inappropriate comments I have ever seen in a magazine. It was rude and unnecessary, and it was unfair to the two young men and their families. It also seems contradictory to discuss the overemphasis on college sports on the one hand and then, on the other, to refer to two student-athletes who chose to attend a school that might be placed on athletic probation as being out of touch.
CHARLES W. WALLIN
The NCAA may be coming down hard on everyone, but it needs to work on consistency when meting out punishment. The Kansas basketball program was put on probation for three years and prevented from defending its national title because of "improper benefits to a transfer athlete." Those benefits totaled $1,288.88. By comparison, consider the scope and magnitude of the infractions at Kentucky, which also got three years' probation.
There is no question that violators of NCAA rules should be punished, but the NCAA should make the punishment fit the crime. The Kentucky Wildcats escaped with barely a scratch.
NUMBERS UP (CONT.)
Certainly Lew Alcindor, a.k.a. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, has more claim to number 33 in Rick Reilly's "Heavenly Hundred" (POINT AFTER, May 22) than does Larry Bird, but it's hard to leave Bird off a list that includes Michael Jordan (23) and an apology to Magic Johnson (32). Bird would make the list more complete. Adding him would also help to make up for Reilly's giving number 9 to Gordie Howe over Ted Williams. Come on, Rick, get real!
Number 66 to Mario Lemieux when he has yet to hoist a Stanley Cup? No way. Give 66 to a champion and a legend—Ray Nitschke.
ROBIN K. BURR
•CHAMPS NO MORE
Regarding your June 5 cover isn't this more appropriate?
Letters to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED should include the name, address and home telephone number of the writer and should be addressed to The Editor, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, Time & Life Building, Rockefeller Center, New York, N.Y. 10020-1393.