Last week congressmen Tom McMillen (D., Md.) and Ed Towns (D., N.Y.) introduced a bill called the Student Incentive Act, or STUDI Act. It's based on the sound idea that high schools should require students to perform well in the classroom before they can take part in extracurricular activities like sports.
The legislation would encourage school districts to insist that students maintain a C average (2.0 on a scale of 4.0) in core courses in order to participate in extracurriculars. Any district adopting such a policy would receive a 10% boost in federal Chapter 1 aid—money for programs to help academically deficient students, distributed according to the number of students from low-income families in a district.
"The genesis of many problems in college sports is the poor preparation students get at the secondary school level," says McMillen, a former Rhodes Scholar who played 11 seasons in the NBA. "This addresses that with a carrot approach. Schools that adopt higher academic standards for athletes are rewarded."
STUDI would bring money to students who need the most academic help, and would dovetail with NCAA Proposition 48, which requires incoming college athletes to have achieved a high school GPA of 2.0 in core courses. Asked about opponents who say sports are the only things that keep some kids in high school, McMillen replies, "Those critics are apologists for failure. I'm not ready to throw up the white flag."
Brian Boitano, the men's 1988 Olympic figure skating champion, got the equivalent of straight 0.0 scores last week from the International Skating Union (ISU), his sport's governing body. The ISU voted to allow figure skaters to skate professionally from now on without losing their Olympic eligibility, but opted not to restore the eligibility of current pros such as Boitano.
"People are calling this the Brian Boitano rule," says Boitano, 26. "I was really the only [pro] who had expressed any interest in coming back to compete in the Olympics." The ISU didn't explain its exclusionary policy, but Boitano believes the ISU is simply trying to keep out free-thinking veteran skaters who might challenge its authority.
It's unlikely the ISU will amend its rule, and that's unfortunate. Last week's action was designed to keep the world's best skaters in the Olympics. Excluding a sublime performer such as Boitano defeats the purpose.
GETTING DOWN TO BASICS
When NFL beat writer Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer was invited recently to speak to third-graders at the Redmond (Wash.) Elementary School, he expected to field questions about the Seahawks. Instead, the students asked first about his salary and then about his benefits package.
"Benefits package?" repeated Farnsworth in astonishment.
"Yeah," said one girl. "You know, pension plan, retirement, stuff like that."
Since the fall last December of Romania's Communist dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, former tennis star Ion Tiriac, a Romanian who has long lived in Monte Carlo, has been quietly working to help his devastated homeland get back on its feet. Tiriac, best known nowadays as Boris Becker's manager, persuaded West German officials to provide free electricity to Bucharest for two months earlier this year when the city was facing a severe power shortage. (It didn't hurt that a West German power company, Nokia, happens to be the sponsor of a women's tournament Tiriac runs.) To alleviate a shortage of medical supplies, Tiriac bought with his own money large quantities of drugs and other health-related items in West Germany and had employees of a Munich sports-marketing company he works with bring the supplies into Romania. Most recently, Tiriac is said to have paid to fix up, for last week's Davis Cup match between Great Britain and Romania, a Bucharest tennis club that had been badly damaged in street fighting during Ceausescu's final days; he also arranged for proceeds from concession sales at the match to be donated to Romanian orphans. Tiriac has set up housing complexes for the nation's orphans and is soliciting funds from European businesses to help support the complexes.
In all, Tiriac has spent an estimated $200,000 on these assistance projects. "Whatever, it's a drop in the ocean to what is needed," he says. "I don't expect the people to build me a monument for what I've done."
Speaking of Eastern Europe, Notre Dame now has an alumni club in the Soviet Union. The founding members are three Soviet graduates of the school's Institute for International Peace Studies—Roman Setov, Vitaly Rassolov and Oleg Vasilyev, all of whom can sing the Notre Dame Victory March in Russian—as well as honorary Notre Dame graduate Yevgeny Velikov, vice-president of the U.S.S.R.'s Academy of Sciences. At the Soviet club's inaugural dinner in Moscow three weeks ago, Velikov got down to business quickly, asking guest John Gilligan, director of the Peace Institute, "Tell me, what are chances for team next year?"
THE MYSTERY MAN
Bobby Fischer has a scruffy beard these days, wears an unpressed suit, has a good appetite and still obsessively plays over in his mind his victory over Soviet Boris Spassky in the 1972 world chess championship in Iceland. All that came to light last week in Brussels after the 47-year-old Fischer, who has lived as a recluse somewhere in California for the last 15 years (SI, July 29, 1985), turned up for an unpublicized four-day visit with millionaire communications executive Bessel Kok, who heads an organization of international grandmasters.
Fischer arranged to see Kok with the help of his old acquaintance Spassky, who now lives in Paris. On April 27, Fischer checked into a Brussels hotel room paid for by Kok, and he spent most of the next four days at Kok's suburban mansion with Kok, Spassky, Spassky's wife, Marina, and Kok's wife, Pierrette Broodthaers, an attorney. Broodthaers, who discussed the visit with SI's Brussels correspondent, Paul Montgomery, said Fischer was "very friendly" and "very normal" but sported the beard of "a person who has not shaved for two weeks." She said that he wore a baggy suit with a sweater during the day and changed the sweater for a shirt and tie in the evenings. Broodthaers said that when she asked Fischer if she could take his picture, he declined. Fischer and Kok played the Spasskys in doubles tennis on one occasion, and on another Fischer, Spassky, Kok and Jan Timman of the Netherlands, the world's No. 3-ranked chess player, went off to what Broodthaers described as a raunchy nightclub.
Fischer's mind was still very much on chess. "You know, he still considers himself the chess world champion," Broodthaers said. When he was talking to Spassky, Fischer would take out "a tiny board that you opened up with a zipper around it," and then the two champions would bend over the set. "I think it was old games they were talking about," Broodthaers said. Fischer was eager to discuss a chess clock he claims to have invented, one he said is an improvement over the clock now used in tournament play. He spoke of patents he had taken out on the clock.
Broodthaers said Fischer didn't show any signs of the extreme eccentricity attributed to him in rumors, but she noted that he did speak unusually loudly. "Maybe he's used to living alone, so nobody listens to him," she said. "His loneliness you could feel."
In what is either the silliest or most inspired idea Minnesota Viking general manager Mike Lynn has ever had, Viking players, coaches and front-office people will gather for a three-day togetherness session at the Pecos River Learning Center outside Santa Fe, N.Mex., next week. Participants will, among other things, help one another mountain-climb and cross between plateaus with a rope-and-pulley system. They'll also hold group discussions to get pent-up frustrations about the team off their chests.
Lynn formed an eight-player council in January to try to deal with the Vikings' off-the-field problems, which include player un-happiness with Lynn and numerous arrests of players for drunk driving. After Minnesota's embarrassing 41-13 playoff loss to San Francisco that month, Lynn took the council members and coach Jerry Burns on a tour of the Pecos River facility and set up next week's session. "I'd say before we went, everybody was looking at it as kind of a media play by Mike," says quarterback and council member Wade Wilson. "But we were impressed by it."
Lynn hopes the retreat will forge much-needed unity. "Other teams are probably as skeptical as we were when we started looking at it," he says. "But Fortune 500 companies like Honeywell and Du Pont have done this. If it's good enough for Du Pont, it's good enough for the Minnesota Vikings."
THEY SAID IT
•Luis Polonia, California Angel outfielder recently acquired from the New York Yankees, criticizing his former team for using him mostly as a pinch hitter and designated hitter: "The Yankees are only interested in one thing, and I don't know what that is."
•Nick Faldo, British golfer, announcing a $12,000 reward for the return of stolen footage of him intended for use in an instructional video: "I'll throw in a free golf lesson, to be given in any cell of one of Her Majesty's prisons."