Vexation for Vegas
UNLV's Runnin' Rebels undergo a turbulent week
The UNLV basketball team's troubles didn't end with its loss to Duke in the NCAA semifinals last month. Here is some of the bad news that the Runnin' Rebels ran into last week.
•A Las Vegas radio station, KNUU, reported that UNLV stars Larry Johnson and Anderson Hunt and a teammate at the time, Moses Scurry, visited the home of Richard (the Fixer) Perry on more than one occasion (in 1989 and 1990). Perry has twice been convicted on charges of sports bribery. Rebel coach Jerry Tarkanian warned his players in February to stay away from Perry.
•The Los Angeles Times reported that Salt Lake City businessman Vic Deauvono helped UNLV in recruiting Melvin Love, now a Rebel junior. The article also said there was evidence indicating that Deauvono arranged tutoring for Love before the player enrolled in the school. These would both be NCAA violations. Both Love and Deauvono denied the allegations, but UNLV president Robert Maxson said that the school would investigate.
•UNLV legal counsel Brad Booke said that Vegas won't challenge some of the 29 allegations that the NCAA leveled against it last December. According to Las Vegas television station KVBC, the school will not dispute charges that the coaching staff helped players pay rent and utilities on their apartments and that it set up tutorial programs for senior Barry Young and Lloyd Daniels while both were being recruited by UNLV.
•The Rebels signed J.R. Rider, a 6'5" swingman who last season averaged 34.7 points and 11.4 rebounds at Antelope Valley community college in Lancaster, Calif. After leaving Encinal High in Alameda, Calif., without graduating, Rider earned a graduate equivalency diploma before flunking out of Allen County Community College in Kansas. While at Allen, Rider pleaded no contest to a battery misdemeanor, paid a $201 fine and served a probationary sentence. He then entered Antelope Valley, or as coach Newton Chelette, a former UNLV volunteer assistant, calls it, "UNAV, for University of Nevada-Antelope Valley." (George Tarkanian, Jerry's son, is a volunteer assistant at Antelope Valley.) To become eligible at Antelope Valley, Rider took seven units of physical education in summer school, which brought his grade point average up to 1.91. That was below the minimum of 2.00 needed for eligibility, but Chelette made an appeal to the state board of community colleges, which ruled that Rider could play.
•The Las Vegas Review-Journal raised the question of whether senior Greg Anthony severed his ties with his T-shirt company during the past season. The NCAA had warned UNLV that Anthony could not promote a commercial product, and Anthony says he quit the business in February. The paper quoted an unnamed UNLV official as saying, "I don't think he [Anthony] missed a beat." A source close to the team says that in the locker room before this season's Final Four semifinal, Anthony and teammates had some sort of disagreement about distribution of T-shirt revenues.
Not all the UNLV news last week was bad. D. Alan Williams, chairman of the NCAA Committee on Infractions, said that UNLV would be spared the so-called death penalty because it hadn't been a repeat offender within the last five years. And Jerry Tarkanian was honored at a Las Vegas roast to benefit a lobbying and public relations group in Washington, D.C., called the Federation for Intercollegiate Fairness and Equity.
Out of the Gate
An upstart takes on a venerable favorite
One of the most intriguing battles in thoroughbred racing these days isn't on the track. It's being waged on newsstands, where The Racing Times, which began publication on April 13, is attempting to go head-to-head with the 97-year-old Daily Racing Form.
The odds against the Times would seem to be prohibitive, considering how long the Form has been an integral part of the industry. Even Steven Crist, the new paper's editor, was skeptical when Robert Maxwell, the British publishing tycoon, approached him about leaving his job as the turf writer for The New York Times to head the new paper. Crist signed on, though, when Maxwell convinced him he had the resources (the start-up cost has been estimated at $12 million) and the resolve to challenge the Form. (At the time, the Form was owned by Maxwell's archrival, Rupert Murdoch. Last week Murdoch sold the paper.)
Over the years, the Form has become the repository of the sport's most vital information, the past-performance charts. But instead of reporting objectively on the industry, the Form became a house organ. Those disenchanted with the Form eagerly awaited The Racing Times, which has adopted the sassy slogan "Substance Over Form." Indeed, the early editorial content has been excellent.
But because the vast majority of the Form's 100,000 daily readers buy the paper for gambling information, the real test for the Times is whether it can convince bettors that it will help them pick winners. To that end, Crist signed up Andrew Beyer, the turf writer for The Washington Post, to provide his "speed figures" for every horse listed in the past-performance charts. These numbers compare horses' performances over different surfaces, and many bettors consider them invaluable. Otherwise, the Times lags behind the Form in handicapping data.
But it's still early in the race.
—WILLIAM F. REED
Our William Nack has the horse right here
In all the gambling hells on earth, it would be impossible to imagine a more difficult trick to pull off than to pick two winners of the Kentucky Derby in the same year, but that is the humbling task at hand on the eve of this Saturday's 117th Run for the Roses.
I already picked the winner in these pages last week: Dinard, who looked to me to be three lengths the best. But, alas, Dinard's inevitable victory is not to be—and I will not be borne out of Churchill Downs on a litter, waving to the adoring crowds. Dinard injured a leg last week and had to be withdrawn from the classic.
Thus this year's Derby, already a large, confusing affair, suddenly appears even larger and more confusing than before. As the days dwindle down, the Blue Grass Stakes winner, Strike The Gold, seems particularly promising. So does Hansel, off his smashing nine-length victory in the April 21 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. Corporate Report, only now rounding into form, was bred to win the race. And last year's juvenile champ, Fly So Free, certainly merits attention.
Then there's Best Pal, John Mabee's resourceful, well-seasoned, extremely consistent bay, who finished just half a length behind Dinard in the Santa Anita Derby. A gelding like Dinard, Best Pal was probably a trifle short on conditioning for the mile-and-an-eighth Santa Anita. The feeling here is that he won't be short for the mile and a quarter in the Derby. Best Pal is the choice this time.
The winner of a race around the world sails into port
At 1:11 a.m. on April 23, the harbor in Newport was alive with the sounds of the Marseillaise. That's because the first finisher in the third BOC Challenge, a four-leg, 27,000-mile solo circumnavigation of the globe that had started in Newport on Sept. 15, 1990, was Christophe Auguin, 31, of France, sailing the 60-foot yacht Groupe Sceta.
After seven months—of which 120 days, 22 hours, 36 minutes and 35 seconds were actual sailing time—Auguin was greeted by boat horns, camera flashes and his country's anthem blaring from the speaker of a van on the dock. With barely a day's growth of beard, a tanned face and a smiling nonchalance, Auguin looked like a weekend sailor. In fact, he had survived two collisions with whales, 10 days of sailing through an iceberg field in the Antarctic Ocean, a downed mast near Bermuda and 70-knot winds, not to mention the challenge of countryman Alain Gautier.
On March 30, when Auguin began the final leg of the race, from Punta del Este, Uruguay, he was in second place, some 21 hours behind Gautier, who was sailing Generali Concorde. In a race in which the difference between first and second place is often days, it appeared as though the finish might be a real show. But a few days out of Punta del Este, a squall ripped Gautier's mainsail almost in half and tore his spinnaker. He limped across the line 38 hours after Auguin.
There was one tragedy, and nearly another, during the race. In Sydney, after the second leg, a Japanese sailor, Yukoh Tada, committed suicide a few days after withdrawing from the race. On the third leg, a South African sailor, Bertie Reed, daringly rescued his countryman John Martin after Martin's boat was damaged by an iceberg. Of the 25 boats that began the race, only 18 have finished or should finish in the next few weeks.
Auguin offhandedly dismissed the travails of his voyage. When asked why he had undertaken such a hazardous, lonely trip, he replied, "It is the tactics and the strategy of a race that I enjoy so much. It is the game of it, and, of course, the challenge." Added Auguin, "To race, one must be a little foolish."
Aussies finish down under in their native sport
It's tempting to say that the Australians had their own sport backfire on them two weeks ago. The World Boomerang Championships, held in Perth, Australia, turned out to be an all-American affair, as the U.S. took the top three spots in the individual competition and two American teams finished one-two in the team championships. The highest individual finish by an Australian was 13th, and as a team, the Aussies were fourth.
But, in truth, the U.S. has long been the dominant force in competitive boomeranging. Since 1981, when they defeated Australia in the first Boomerang Challenge Cup, the Americans have consistently outhurled the rest of the world, winning the past three team and individual world titles. "We ran into a lot of Australians who kept asking us, 'What's the matter with the Aussies? How come we can't win at our own game?' " says John Koehler, this year's individual champion.
Koehler, a 33-year-old art director from Poolesville, Md., won the title by accumulating the most points in five individual events: fast catch, time aloft, trick catching, doubling (two at once) and Aussie round, which combines distance, accuracy and catching. Says Koehler, "One reason that the U.S. has become so dominant is that the motion of throwing is ingrained in us."
The rest of the world is catching up, though. Germany has had particularly strong showings the past few years, and the Japanese have improved dramatically. There is also a growing realization that the heritage of the boomerang may not be the sole property of the Australians. Although it is popularly assumed that tribal Aboriginals invented the boomerang for use as a weapon some 14,000 years ago, ancient boomerangs have been discovered in Egypt, Poland, Brazil and, interestingly enough, Florida. Perhaps the U.S. victory last week was just a way for the boomerang to come home.
[Thumb Up]To Bryan Wrzesinski and Joe Irmen, for settling their lawsuit over a Nolan Ryan rookie card (SCORECARD, March 18). They have agreed to donate to charity the money they receive from an auction of the card.
[Thumb Up]To Gina Basile, an Alabama junior, for offering to give up her share of first place in the balance beam at the NCAA gymnastics championships. Because of a scoring error, Basile received a mark of 9.875 instead of 9.825.
[Thumb Down]To the NCAA women's gymnastics committee, for not permitting Basile to relinquish her share of the title. Citing a dubious precedent, chair Cheryl Levick said, "Colorado got five downs, and it dramatically affected the game. Was that changed?"
THEY SAID IT
Steve Lyons, after rejoining the Boston Red Sox, who had traded him to the Chicago White Sox in 1986: "I've found that every five years a man has to change his Sox."
George Foreman, on fellow heavyweight Mike Tyson: "He's not all that had. If you dig deep, dig real deep, dig, dig, dig, dig, dig deep, deep, go all the way to China, I'm sure you'll find there's a nice guy there."
He Did Get KO'd
A Massachusetts newspaper, The Fitchburg-Leominster Sentinel & Enterprise, ran this correction last fall: "Due to a typing error, Gov. [Michael] Dukakis was incorrectly identified in the third paragraph as Mike Tyson."
Making a List
The Kentucky Derby, which will be run at Churchill Downs for the 117th time this Saturday, has had its share of surprises. SI's William F. Reed considers these the 10 biggest Upsets for the Roses.
1. Dark Star ($51.80) in 1953. It was the only loss in 22 starts for Native Dancer, who went off as the 7-10 favorite.
2. Donerail ($184.90) in 1913. By beating Ten Point, the 6-5 favorite, Donerail rewarded his backers with what is still the largest Derby payoff.
3. Zev ($40.40) in 1923. Only five horses in the 21-horse field went off at higher odds. That's because Zev had finished next to last in the Preakness, then run a week before the Derby.
4. Canonero II ($19.40) in 1971. Shipped from Venezuela on a plane carrying farm animals, he paid so little because he had been placed in the pari-mutuel "field."
5. Bold Venture ($43) in 1936. Brevity, the 4-5 favorite, was knocked down, and Granville, who may have been the best horse in the race, unseated his rider at the start.
6. Proud Clarion ($62.20) in 1967. The best horse was Damascus, who finished an inexplicable third. Proud Clarion won only six of 25 career starts.
7. Gallahadion ($72.40) in 1940. Bimelech, the runner-up and 2-5 favorite, was running in his third race in nine days.
8. Chateaugay ($20.80) in 1963. How do you figure him beating two unbeaten horses, Candy Spots and No Robbery?
9. Bold Forbes ($8) in 1976. Honest Pleasure went off at 2-5, but he couldn't catch Bold Forbes, a sprinter expertly trained by the late Laz Barrera.
10. Great Redeemer in 1979. Perhaps the worst horse in Derby history, Great Redeemer came in last, 47 lengths behind Spectacular Bid. The upset was that he didn't run over the photographers who crossed the track before he crossed the finish line.
Replay 35 Years Ago in Sports Illustrated
The fisherman on our April 30, 1956, cover was Lavant Egan of Maple, Wis. In that issue, Jim Murray profiled a more prominent water sportsman: sailor Humphrey Bogart. Explaining why she didn't like to sail on his 55-foot yacht, the Santana, Bogie's wife, Lauren Bacall, said, "I think the Queen Elizabeth is just the right-size boat." We also ran a photo of chess whiz Bobby Fischer, then 13.