WHITHER PEBBLE BEACH?
The U.S. golfing community has at least two reasons to be worried about last week's sale of the Pebble Beach Co.—whose 5,300 acres of holdings on California's Monterey Peninsula include the Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, Spanish Bay and Del Monte golf courses, two resort hotels, the 17-Mile Drive and the famous lone cypress tree—to the Ben Hogan Property Co., an affiliate of the Japanese-owned Cosmo World Corp. of Los Angeles, for between $800 million and $1 billion.
One reason is the litany of complaints from members of a number of golf clubs in Japan owned by either Cosmo World's Tokyo-based parent company, also called Cosmo World, or by other companies headed by Minoru Isutani, the president of Cosmo World of Tokyo. Isutani is an elusive, controversial figure who has been under scrutiny from the Japanese press because of his close relationship to Hisashi Shinto, a central figure in the stock scandal that led to the resignation of Japanese prime minister Noboru Takeshita last year. Members of Isutani's golf clubs contend that he has oversold memberships by as much as 10 times, to make windfall profits, and that as a result they can't get tee times. Some members reportedly plan to file a civil fraud suit against Isutani because of the alleged overselling and other supposed improprieties involving his clubs. An Isutani spokesman calls the charges against Isutani "erroneous."
A second reason for concern is that the Pebble Beach Co. lost $8.7 million last year because of debt payments. If Pebble Beach's new owners want it to turn a profit, they may have to make one or more of its golf courses private. Part of the appeal of the Pebble Beach courses is that they're public; anyone who can get a tee time and can afford the $90 to $175 greens fee can play them.
One hopes that Pebble Beach's new owners will view it as a trophy property too valuable in status to tamper with. As Jack Cooper, managing director of investment real estate for Bank of America, says, "I don't know that there is a lot of profit for them there from a cash-flow point of view. But there is not a lot of cash flow there when you buy a Rembrandt, either, and that's just what they've done here."
ALL THINGS GREAT AND SMALL
In what must qualify as some sort of record, the Nitro (W.Va.) High football team includes both a 6'8", 315-pound offensive and defensive tackle, junior Lewis Wood, and a 4'9", 79-pound wide receiver, sophomore Chad Turley. Nitro coach Greg Cyrus had to find triple-extra-large uniform pants for Wood and midget-league pants and cleats for Turley. "Ordering these special clothes isn't tough on our budget as long as it's only a couple of kids," says Cyrus. "We're especially happy to order the large ones." Fortunately, Wood and Turley haven't had any head-on collisions in practice, and Turley has been playing mostly in junior varsity games, against players a bit closer to his size.
THE CFA'S TV TROUBLES
The College Football Association suffered a major setback last February, when Notre Dame, easily the biggest TV draw among its 64 member schools, chose not to take part in the CFA's new $300 million, five-year contract with ABC and ESPN, which takes effect in 1991. Instead, the Irish sold the TV rights to all their home games from 1991 through '95 to NBC for $38 million.
Notre Dame's defection significantly diminished the CFA's television appeal and may turn out to have been a first step toward the association's demise. Another key CFA school, Penn State, will join the Big Ten in the mid-1990s and thereafter take part in that conference's TV package, not the CFA's. Other CFA members are seeking to realign into large "superconferences," each with its own TV deal.
Last week the association's television underpinnings were further shaken when the Federal Trade Commission announced plans to challenge—and possibly declare void—the CFA's contract with Capital Cities/ABC, which owns 80% of ESPN, because it illegally restrains competition in the broadcasting of games. "We allege that there is a conspiracy between the CFA and its members and between the CFA and ABC to restrict the number of college football games available to viewers," says Kevin Arquit, director of the FTC's bureau of competition.
The FTC points out that by selling the broadcast rights to their games exclusively to one network, CFA members have agreed not to compete against each other in the TV marketplace. The commission believes that viewers, networks and the schools involved would all be better served if CFA members were free to sell to any television outlet—including another network—the rights to any of their games not shown by ABC. Under the contract with ABC, CFA schools will be able to peddle games not shown by ABC, but only to local, cable or syndicated stations. These games can't be telecast on Saturdays between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., when ABC will show its CFA games.
CFA lawyer Lewis Engman, a former FTC chairman, calls the FTC's action "a royal waste of taxpayers' money" and adds, "I'm not aware of anyone complaining that there's not enough football on television." He has a point. In some markets as many as a dozen college games are televised on Saturday.
However, that figure includes games shown on two networks: CBS, whose exclusive contract with the CFA expires after this season, and ABC, which has the rights to games involving the Big Ten and Pac-10, the only major conferences not in the CFA. Starting next fall, ABC will have the CFA, Big Ten and Pac-10 all in its stable and thus will have network rights to virtually all regular-season major college games except Notre Dame home games.
Though Arquit wouldn't speculate, the FTC would surely be happier to see various superconferences negotiating TV deals independently of each other.
OFFENSE IS HIS GAME
Before long Orlando Magic general manager Pat Williams will have insulted every Florida city except his own. During the NBA season Williams fired (mostly) good-natured barbs at Miami, home of the rival Heat. Lately Williams, who's also general manager of the Orlando SunRays, a minor league baseball team, has taken aim at St. Petersburg, with which he's competing in an intrastate battle to land a major league franchise.
Seizing on St. Petersburg's reputation as a retirement city, Williams billed a recent SunRays game as St. Pete's Night and offered free admission and free muscle balm to fans older than 60. Other highlights of the evening included shuffleboard and a senior-citizen putting contest, in which entrants used a putter whose head was a denture. When told that St. Petersburg officials didn't find much mirth in all this supposed humor, Williams claimed that they had actually given him the key to their city. "It was the key to a canned ham," he said.
Time to work on some Mickey Mouse jokes about Orlando, St. Pete.
OLE MISS STOOD BY HIM
Last Saturday night Mississippians held a coming-out party for former Rebel defensive back Chucky Mullins. As he led the Mississippi team onto the field before its season-opening 23-21 victory over Memphis State at home, Mullins was greeted by a standing ovation from the 41,300 fans in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. What made the scene poignant was that Mullins came onto the gridiron in a battery-powered wheelchair that he controls with his head. He is confined to the chair as a result of a neck injury that he suffered last Oct. 28 when he made a touchdown-saving tackle against Vanderbilt. The injury left him paralyzed from the neck down.
Mullins, 21, has worked to rehabilitate himself—he can now move his left arm about six inches—and has served as a source of inspiration for his former schoolmates and teammates. Last spring Mississippi's chapter of the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity asked Rebel coach Billy Brewer if it could present a Chucky Mullins Courage Award to the defensive back who performed best in spring practice. "I decided to take it a step further," says Brewer. "I said that whoever won the award would wear Chucky's number 38 the entire season."
Senior Chris Mitchell, who earned the coveted jersey, says wearing it is "a privilege and an honor. I feel like, as long as I'm out there with that jersey on, Chucky will always be playing football."
Mullins has moved into a new $70,000 house built for him half a mile from campus on land donated by the city of Oxford. The house has wide doorways, through which he can easily maneuver his wheelchair, and Mullins can turn on lights and other electrical devices merely by speaking into a computerized control box, which he has nicknamed Dufus, on his wheelchair. He'll say, for example, "Dufus, turn on the lights over my bed," and the lights will go on.
The house was constructed with a portion of the $825,000 in donations that have come in to help cover Mullins's living expenses (insurance has covered most of his medical bills). Among the contributions has been a $1,000 check from Auburn coach Pat Dye, though most of the donations have been smaller. "I wish you could see some of the letters we've gotten from youngsters," says Florian Yoste, Mississippi's executive director of university development. "More than once we've opened an envelope and found some dirty $1 bills inside. Some child has gone without lunch so he or she could give to Chucky."
"It's not in my heart to give up," says Mullins, who plans to return to school next spring to resume working toward his degree in physical education. He considers his injury a fluke and harbors no bitterness toward his sport. Indeed, Mullins says that someday he would like to become a football coach.
THEY SAID IT
•George Archer, Senior tour golfer, on the prospect of retiring: "Baseball players quit playing, and they take up golf. Basketball players quit, take up golf. Football players quit, take up golf. What are we supposed to take up when we quit?"