CALL TO ORDER
As an indoor sport, with arenas that can become emotional pressure cookers, basketball has to be especially vigilant about the threat of violence, which escalates in direct proportion to the importance of a game and the intensity of a rivalry. What happened at the North Carolina A&T-North Carolina Central game in Greensboro last Thursday was every thinking fan's worst nightmare come true, and it should lead the NCAA and conference officials to move quickly to establish stricter standards for crowd control and harsher penalties for teams that become involved in fights. If the players had known beforehand that they would face expulsion for even raising a fist, the spark that set off the riot might never have been struck.
By now most fans have seen the shocking TV footage of the brawl, which began with 8:04 to go in the game. It started when Central's Derrick Leak pushed A&T's Jimmy Humphries, and Humphries retaliated. Both benches emptied, and spectators spilled out onto the court. Some fans grabbed hard plastic chairs and began swinging them. Witnesses said members of the A&T band used their instruments, even tubas, as weapons. Security guards were hopelessly outnumbered. Only after five scary minutes did the teams finally go to their locker rooms. As police rushed to the scene, A&T athletic director Orby Moss announced that the game had been suspended; A&T was leading 39-38. After the crowd of about 7,000 departed, more fighting took place outside the arena. All told, seven people had to be taken to the hospital.
The schools later decided to cancel the game entirely. Otherwise, however, officials were unclear about what, if any, further action would be taken. A&T chancellor Edward B. Fort formed a 13-member task force to investigate the incident and said a student tribunal would be held for any students that could be identified in videotapes.
Unfortunately, the tapes then became a major point of contention. Because both schools are predominantly black, Fort, among others, implied that the widespread media coverage was racially motivated. And A&T coach Don Corbett argued, not unreasonably, that his program's achievements—seven NCAA tournament appearances in the last eight years—have received scant attention, while the coverage of the riot was so damaging that opponents will use it as an excuse not to play A&T in Greensboro. Said Corbett, "It really deflates our program."
During warmups before a recent game involving the Rancho Santiago (Calif.) College women's team, forward Susan Helm was constantly interrupted by five girls who kept leaving their seats to come onto the court. They weren't fans seeking autographs; they were Helm's daughters, and they needed help with their homework. "Usually they just sit in the stands and play with their Barbies," says Helm, a 36-year-old sophomore.
Helm married in 1973, a year after graduating from high school. The marriage lasted until 1988, when, says Helm, her husband "decided he was unhappy" and moved out. She was left with the couple's five daughters: Sarah, now 13, Karen, 12, Lisa, 10, and twins Katie and Rebecca, 8. After deciding that she needed a college degree to find a job that paid her enough to support her children (right now she gets by on child support), Helm enrolled at Rancho Santiago, a junior college with five campuses in the Orange County area. She also decided to try out for the basketball team to improve her self-esteem. "I needed something to pull me through a difficult time in my life," says Helm.
The 6-foot Helm had never played organized basketball although she comes from an athletic family. "I grew up playing H-O-R-S-E with my brothers," she says, "but that was about it."
At first Helm was befuddled by the intricacies of the game. "I could see a lot of the movement on the court, but doing it was so difficult," she says. Although only a reserve, at week's end she was averaging five points and four rebounds per game and making 50% of her shots for the 5-13 Dons. She also has a 3.85 grade point average as an environmental planning and ecology major.
A typical day for Helm begins at 6 a.m. and doesn't end until after midnight. Besides carrying out her motherly responsibilities, playing ball and studying, she also finds time to coach a kids' soccer team. Her coach, Myrond Brown, lets her leave basketball practice 45 minutes early so she can pick up her kids at school, but she makes up the time by working out alone before practice.
"I come home after practice and might do 10 loads of laundry, fix dinner and clean up," she says. "The other girls can go and relax when practice is over, but my work begins."
Her playing career will be over at the end of this season because, says Helm, she's not good enough to get picked up by a four-year college. After the season she will begin looking for a part-time job to help make ends meet.
"The situation is tough right now," she says. "I fall asleep drooling in my books a lot. But I would like for my kids to be able to see the good in things. I hide the ugly part as best I can. I think the kids were scared at first about me playing because they wanted me to be with them, but they've gotten used to the idea, and they have been great."
AN F FOR COACH K
Last week was a tough one for Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. On Monday, Jan. 15, Coach K invited the sports staff of the student newspaper, The Chronicle, to meet with him. If the student scribes thought they were in for an amicable get-acquainted session, they had to be shocked when Krzyzewski brought them to the locker room and, in front of the team, unleashed an eight-minute, profanity-laced tirade about the paper's lack of support for the Blue Devils.
The article that sent Krzyzewski over the brink was a piece by Brent Belvin, who graded the performance of the team as a whole and of each individual player. Never mind that Belvin gave the team, which was 12-2 at the time, a B-plus and didn't give any player a grade lower than a C-plus. Krzyzewski told Belvin his story was "full of—-," which was one of the nicer things he had to say once he got warmed up.
Without Krzyzewski's knowledge, an enterprising student reporter tape-recorded the entire lecture. "You can rip me, praise me, whatever you want, but you guys are really screwing our basketball team," Krzyzewski said. "You're whacked out, and you don't appreciate what the—-is going on."
Chronicle sports editor Rodney Peele said the meeting was "humiliating" for his staff. "He treated us as if we worked for him," said Peele. Athletic director Tom Butters only heightened the controversy with this cryptic comment: "If The Chronicle chooses to make an issue of it, then I'm going to look at it very, very closely, and somebody's going to come out the loser."
Giving Krzyzewski the benefit of the doubt after the apology he made to the student journalists last Friday, the incident only proves that even the best coaches can occasionally be overcome by the stress inherent in big-time college sports. We look forward to seeing Coach K work to bring up the F we must give him in Understanding Journalism 101.
HUSKIES SHOW SOME BITE
Last season Connecticut built its team around 6'10" center Cliff Robinson, now a rookie with the Portland Trail Blazers. The Huskies finished with a disappointing 18-13 record, which included a third-round loss in the NIT. This season coach Jim Calhoun has stressed balanced scoring, and he now has a Connecticut team composed almost entirely of his own recruits. The result is a 15-3 record after back-to-back upsets of Syracuse, 70-59 on Jan. 15, and Georgetown, 70-65 last Saturday.
Against Georgetown, which was 14-0 going into the game, the Huskies jumped ahead 14-0. The Hoyas came back to lead 40-37 early in the second half, but in the final 1:04, Nadav Henefeld, John Gwynn and Lyman DePriest made seven of eight free throws to win the game and knock Georgetown out of a potential No. 1 ranking in the polls. "The Number 1 ranking is the least of my concerns," said Hoya coach John Thompson. "The only positive thing about the loss is that we can get away from that stuff."
Some of "that stuff," meaning recognition, will be quite welcome at Connecticut. Asked how the Huskies have fared so well without Robinson, guard Chris Smith said, "We're going to a lot more people, and everybody is doing his part. We've just got a lot more chemistry this year than last year."
The idea was fine, playing a big game in the Louisiana Superdome and giving the proceeds to the homeless, but last Saturday's event was something of a disappointment. Not only did LSU-trounce Notre Dame 87-64, but also 23,879 of the 68,112 fans who bought tickets were no-shows. Still, after expenses, a check for $125,000 was given to Comic Relief for the homeless in Baton Rouge and South Bend.... By the way, LSU paid the price for playing a nonconference game the day before an SEC game. The weary Tigers dropped a 70-55 decision at Alabama on Sunday.... When Miami upset Florida State 101-97, only 4,959 fans were in attendance at Miami Arena, which seats 15,862. The week before, only 3,460 fans turned out to watch then top-ranked Kansas beat the Hurricanes 100-73. This sort of apathy is one reason that Hurricane coach Bill Foster has announced his resignation, effective at season's end.... Even an official has joined in the bashing of Illinois coach Lou Henson. When Henson complained about the officiating in the Illini's 81-68 loss at Purdue last Saturday, referee Phil Bova, who was working his third straight Illini game, told him, "You got outcoached in the Michigan game [on Jan. 15]." Henson was surprised, to say the least. "I've never heard it said before," he said. Not by an official, he meant. From sportswriters he gets it all the time.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Alphonso Ford, a 6'2" freshman guard for Mississippi Valley State, scored 46 points, 15 of them on three-pointers, in a 101-94 victory at Prairie View. Earlier in the week Ford had 19 points in a 92-72 win over Alcorn State.
Dana Wilkerson, a 5'6" junior guard at Long Beach State, had 33 points, nine steals and five assists in the 49ers' 107-77 victory over UC Santa Barbara. Wilkerson converted 12 of 15 shots from the field and nine of 11 free throws.
Gary Battle, a 6'3" junior guard for the University of New Haven, poured in 38 points in a 94-85 victory over Bridgeport. Against New Hampshire he scored 36 points in a 90-89 win. In the two games Battle shot 68% from the field.