SYRACUSE ACCUSED

College sports had another budding scandal on its hands last week after The Post-Standard in Syracuse, N.Y., ran a two-part series detailing charges of serious misconduct in the Syracuse University basketball program. A seven-month investigation by the newspaper resulted in allegations of improper benefits for Syracuse players and recruiting violations by coach Jim Boeheim and assistant Bernie Fine. The Post-Standard reported:

•That 10 players said they received cash from boosters, including Dave Bing, a former Syracuse and NBA star and now a successful businessman in Detroit, and Syracuse car dealer Bill Rapp Jr., a friend of Bocheim's. Bing and Rapp denied having paid players.

•That former Syracuse forward Rodney Walker said that in 1987 a grade was changed from a D to a C to allow him to maintain his eligibility. Boeheim denied knowledge of such a change.

•That several players said they received free meals and discounts on clothing from local establishments.

•That nine days after center LeRon Ellis decided to transfer from Kentucky to Syracuse, instead of to UNLV as he had originally announced, his father, LeRoy Ellis, was given a job with a company owned by George Flicker, a former teammate of Boeheim's at Syracuse and a business associate of Fine's. All the parties said LeRoy Ellis's job had nothing to do with his son's change of heart.

•That Boeheim may have used Rob Johnson, a New York City basketball "street agent," to steer top high school players to Syracuse in violation of NCAA rules.

•That former Orangeman Derrick Coleman, picked first overall in last June's NBA draft by the New Jersey Nets, said he sent forward Billy Owens $500 earlier this season, an allegation that Owens denies.

The Post-Standard, whose charges seem certain to prompt an NCAA investigation, felt an immediate backlash from some Orange fans, who canceled their subscriptions over what they consider a lack of loyalty by the newspaper. But Syracuse supporters would do well to listen to the words of ex-player John Karpis and wonder whether they want their program described this way: "[Syracuse coaches and boosters] just don't want anything to distract you from playing basketball, so they just cater to your needs," Karpis told The Post-Standard. "It seems like anytime a problem comes up it's just, somehow...taken care of."

With some 20 schools now on NCAA probation—including Florida and Oklahoma State in football, Missouri and Illinois in basketball—the situation Karpis describes seems drearily familiar.

SAND CASTING

The Persian Gulf has never ranked among the world's great spots for bass fishing. That may change, now that Shadowfax Software of Fairfield, Iowa, has begun shipping the first of what it hopes will be 10,000 copies of Bass Champ, a bass fishing computer simulation program, to soldiers in the Middle East. Anybody on the home front who buys a copy of the program, which sells for $39.95, will be given the opportunity—for $5—to sponsor a member of the armed services stationed in the Middle East in what is billed as the Desert Shield Divisional Tournament. Entrants in the tournament will "fish" at their terminals, mail their discs to the Shadowfax offices and await the results of a "weigh-in" scheduled to begin in late January.

"We figure there are times when any soldier would rather be fishing," says Shadowfax president Scott Hartley. "Since there aren't many lakes in Saudi Arabia, but plenty of computers, we want to give them the next best thing."

Soldiers taking part will fish fictional Lake Stikapig in search of the elusive bass hideout. They will choose from among 20 lures, each of which comes in 32 colors, decide on a retrieve rate and ponder whether or not to add fish scent to the lure. Weather conditions, annoying fish wardens, misleading gossip on the dock and the danger of running out of gas all complicate a fisherman's choices.

But the most useful feature of the program may be Ask Rich, which provides advice from champion bass fisherman Rich Tauber, the chief consultant in designing the software. Tauber is also the first prize. The winner of the tournament can look forward to an outing with Tauber, as soon as he or she is available to go fishing for real.

BO AND ERNIE

Bo doesn't know baseball. This particular Bo is Schembechler, the former Michigan football coach, who is now president of the Detroit Tigers. He couldn't possibly know baseball, because if he did, he would not have asked 72-year-old radio broadcaster Ernie Harwell to retire after next season, his 32nd with the Tigers. For millions of fans, Harwell is Tiger baseball. Possessed of a mellifluous voice, a courtly style and an encyclopedic knowledge of baseball, Harwell received the 1981 Ford C. Frick award from the Hall of Fame for "major contributions to the game."

Schembechler and Jim Long, the general manager of the Tigers' flagship station, WJR, told Harwell several weeks ago that they wanted him for only one more year, but their decision didn't become public knowledge until Harwell called a press conference at Tiger Stadium on Dec. 19. "I wanted to go farther," said Harwell. "I wanted to work more years." But Jeff Odenwald, the Tigers' marketing director, said that the club wanted to go "in a new direction."

Detroit fans were shocked and dismayed by the announcement. In the first six hours of a phone poll conducted by WJBK-TV in Detroit, the vote was 9,352-265 in favor of keeping Harwell. A printing company immediately started producing 10,000 BO DON'T KNOW ERNIE! bumper stickers. Talk began of a boycott of Opening Day in which Tiger fans would gather outside the ball park and listen to the game on the radio.

The forced retirement might be understandable if Harwell's talents were slipping, but neither the Tigers nor the station used that as an excuse. It's bad enough that the club is getting rid of a man of his skills. But it is also getting rid of a man who has served the Tigers and his profession with loyalty and honor and grace for more than three decades.

A few weeks ago, Schembechler told an audience at the Goodfellows charity breakfast in Detroit, "There's nothing that I can think of that's more important to any team than being totally and completely unselfish...and loyal."

Bo knows hypocrisy.

A MAJOR THREAT TO MINOR SPORTS

When the NCAA holds its annual convention in Nashville from Jan. 7 to 11, delegates will vote on a series of proposed rule changes for all sports that could have a disastrous impact on minor sports. Among the proposals:

•Team activities—including practice, competition, and meetings with coaches-could not exceed 20 hours a week during the season and eight during the off-season. (The NCAA allows amendments to be made to amendments until the eve of the vote. Under one, swimmers and gymnasts would be permitted to train with a coach more than 20 hours a week as long as the extra practice is voluntary.)

•Scholarships would be cut 10% across the board.

•The maximum number of contests and coaches would be reduced. A wrestling team, for example, would be permitted 16 contests instead of the current 21. However, the number of games a football team could play would not change.

The proposals were made last April by the NCAA Presidents Commission, which is concerned—as it should be—about athletes who finish four years of college education barely able to read.

Trouble is, the proposed reforms would apply to all schools and all athletes alike. Clearly, some athletes handle the dual demands of sports and academics better than others. "What does women's track at Columbia have to do with football at Nebraska?" demands Peter Farrell, women's track coach at Princeton. Farrell is being realistic, not elitist. The envisioned restraints would make sense if imposed in football and basketball, sports in which academics are often mocked; the same curbs are harder to justify in swimming, a notoriously time-consuming sport but one whose participants tend to do well in the classroom. For that reason, Stanford president Donald Kennedy has called the proposals "solutions in search of a problem," pointing out that the 67 members of his school's men's and women's swim teams—which between them have won four NCAA championships over the past six years—have a cumulative grade point average of 3.07 and a graduation rate of 100%.

Yet it is swimming and other Olympic sports such as gymnastics, water polo and track and field that will suffer most if the proposals are enacted. Janet Evans, a Stanford sophomore who won three gold medals in swimming in the 1988 Olympics, says that if the suggested restrictions are adopted, she will almost certainly drop out of school to train for the 1992 Games. Evans, a communications major with a 3.0 average, now trains 30 to 35 hours per week and considers it impossible to reach the proficiency she had in Seoul while putting in less time. "The legislation is based on the revenue sports, yet they're making a blanket restriction," she says.

In the same vein, Ted Newland, coach of the UC-Irvine water polo team, says, "We have a graduation rate of 98%. The kids know there's no professionalism in our sport, so they know they'll have to go out and make a living." So why are the presidents ready to throw the minor-sports baby out with the revenue-sports dirty bath water? Because, says Newland, "college presidents are scared to death of football and basketball coaches."

THEY SAID IT

•Dan Issel, Denver Nugget broadcaster, anticipating a jump ball between Denver's 5'10" Michael Adams and Charlotte's 5'3" Muggsy Bogues: "This will be the first time the referee drops the ball."