Tick, Tick, Tick...
Thanks to "60 Minutes," time's running out for Pat Dye
The noose that for months has been drawing tighter around Auburn football coach Pat Dye (SI, Oct. 7 et seq.) tightened even more on Sunday when CBS's 60 Minutes aired portions of conversations secretly tape-recorded by former Tiger defensive back Eric Ramsey. The material presented by 60 Minutes was not the bombshell that had been promised for months by Ramsey and his attorney, Donald Watkins; in fact, the substance of Ramsey's conversations with Dye, several Auburn assistant coaches and a booster had already been reported by The Montgomery Advertiser and The Birmingham News. Nevertheless, the tapes appeared to confirm widespread wrongdoing at Auburn, and their airing on a program with a huge national audience will put greater pressure on the NCAA and the school to take action.
Dye's lawyer, Sam Franklin, had tried to minimize the impact of Ramsey's tapes by suggesting that they might have been doctored. However, 60 Minutes said that it had hired a forensic audio specialist who examined 15 complete conversations that Ramsey had recorded and found that they had not been altered. The tapes played on the program indicated that Auburn assistants and a booster, Bill (Corky) Frost, had made payments to Ramsey in violation of NCAA rules.
One of the tapes contained a conversation from the spring of 1990 between Ramsey and Dye. Ramsey is heard telling Dye that he had been having financial difficulties and that then assistant coach Frank Young had "helped me out a little bit." Dye was silent. Ramsey is also heard asking for Dye's help in obtaining a loan, and Dye replies, "Let me see what [pause] what I can do." 60 Minutes produced documentation that Ramsey subsequently received a $9,000 loan from the Colonial Bank in Auburn. Watkins told 60 Minutes that the bank had rejected three previous applications by Ramsey for such a loan. Dye is on the board of the company that owns Colonial.
Under NCAA rules, athletes cannot receive special help in such matters as obtaining loans. Last October, Dye told SI that Ramsey and his wife had asked him to arrange a loan but that when he called the president of Colonial on the Ramseys' behalf, he warned him not to loan them "anything above" what the bank's rules allow. "If that's arranging a loan, I arranged him a loan," Dye said. Whatever the truth of Dye's account, it can be argued that by merely making the call, he was extending a benefit to Ramsey not available to ordinary students.
Even before the 60 Minutes broadcast, enough evidence had come to light to indicate that Dye, who is also Auburn's athletic director, had run a lax program. What the TV report dramatically provided was the same evidence in Dye's own voice.
—DOUGLAS S. LOONEY
Youngstown State's win warms a lot of hearts
What happened last Saturday afternoon on a football field in Statesboro, Ga., won't cause the steel mills to open again in Youngstown, Ohio, nor will it stop all the mean jokes about how boring life must be there. But it did give the million or so residents of the Youngstown area an early and beautifully wrapped Christmas present: the NCAA Division I-AA championship, which the Penguins of Youngstown State won by beating Marshall 25-17. "We're so excited for our community," said Penguin coach Jim Tressel. "I know they're celebrating back in Youngstown, because I can hear 'em."
Had Marshall won, of course, it would have meant just as much to the citizens of Huntington, W.Va., but for a different reason. The Thundering Herd's appearance in the championship game came 21 years and one week after the Nov. 14, 1970, airplane crash that killed 75 people, including all 37 Marshall players and its five coaches. In each of the next 13 seasons the Herd had a losing record, but in recent years Marshall has been an outstanding team, and with a new 28,000-seat stadium, it should become a perennial contender for the title that barely slipped away on Saturday.
On an afternoon so unseasonably warm that some Youngstown students showed up at Allen E. Paulson Stadium bare-chested, with Santa Claus caps on their heads, the underdog Penguins fought back from a 17-6 deficit in the final quarter. But then, these mostly blue-collar sons of blue-collar parents are accustomed to adversity. They began the season by losing three of their first seven games. "We never stopped believing in ourselves," said junior linebacker Chris Vecchione, a Youngstown native.
The championship was all the more special to Tressel, who has been with the Penguins since 1986, because it meant that he and his late father, Lee, who coached Baldwin-Wallace to the Division III title in 1978, are the first father-son tandem to win NCAA national championships in football. But even more important, it was the payoff for the effervescent Tressel's six-year drive to make the residents of Youngstown feel good about their city and their university, which now has 15,000 students. Tressel estimates that 85% of his team comes from what he calls "the state of Youngstown," an area that stretches from Cleveland to Pittsburgh.
In fact, all six players he took with him to the postgame press conference are Youngstown natives, including quarterback Ray Isaac, who completed third-down passes of 30, 26 and 56 yards in the fourth quarter, and Tamron Smith, the leading rusher, with 88 yards. Said Tressel, "Our area suffers from a poor image, but it's a great place to be. This should help us a lot. Our people will be proud of this championship. Our youngsters will feel good about pulling that Youngstown sweatshirt on."
—WILLIAM F. REED
Teammates don't mind that these two females mind nets
In his book, The Game, former Montreal Canadiens goaltender Ken Dryden wrote, "If you were to spend time with a hockey team, without ever watching them on the ice, it wouldn't take long before you discovered who its goalies were. Goalies are different."
As followers of the Hamline College Fighting Pipers and the Trois-Rivières Draveurs can attest, Dryden's words are right on the mark. Those teams have used goalies this winter who are very different. Jenny Hanley of NCAA Division III Hamline, in St. Paul, Minn., and Manon Rheaume of Trois-Rivières of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League are the first women to play hockey at their respective levels.
Since she was four years old, Hanley has been playing hockey with boys' teams. After a year as a forward, she persuaded her father, who was the coach of her Squirt team in Edina. Minn., to let her move to the nets. "Playing goalie just looked more exciting to me," she says. Last year, as a senior at Edina High, a school rich in hockey tradition, Hanley earned a spot on the boys' varsity. Her goals-against average was 1.95, and she had only one loss.
This season Hanley, 19, has established herself as one of the top two goalies on Hamline's youthful squad, which was 4-7 through last week. Says coach Tim Cornwell, "Right now, I'd have to say the guys have more confidence in her than in our other goalies."
Rheaume, also 19, strapped on the pads for the first time at age five; she, too, was coached by her father. "Every year, the boys found it special to have a girl on the team, but after the first day, they didn't look at me as a girl," she says. "They saw me as a player."
Rheaume was called up to Trois-Rivières from her Tier II team in Louiseville, Que., on Nov. 19, when the Draveurs' No. 1 goaltender was injured. Her stay in the major junior league, which is just one notch below the NHL, lasted only three games, but in one of them, Rheaume was named the third star. "She didn't get to this level because she's a girl," said the Draveurs' captain, Paolo Racicot, afterward. "She got here because she's good."
Howe and Why
Once again Steve Howe finds himself in trouble
It figured that Steve Howe would finally be safe in Montana, far from the temptations that dogged his sometimes brilliant, mostly incomplete pitching career. Suspended from the major leagues five times for cocaine-related transgressions, he was surely beyond the drug's reach in the remote town of Whitefish. Wasn't he? "Are you kidding me?" Howe said last summer. "There are drugs on every single street corner in this country." Nobody seemed to understand, even as he strutted his old stuff on the mound for the New York Yankees last summer, that a former cocaine user can never put enough distance between himself and his drug.
Last week cocaine may have caught up with Howe again. Federal agents arrested him Thursday morning in Kalispell, near the Montana resort area where he had chosen to rebuild his life, and charged him with buying one gram of cocaine from an informant for $100. Howe was kept overnight in jail, released without bail after pleading not guilty and ordered to return for a Jan. 30 trial.
Conviction could carry a penalty of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. More than that, it would almost certainly end the 33-year-old Howe's career in baseball. The one-year contract he signed with the Yankees last month, which guaranteed him $600,000 and included incentives that could have meant $2.3 million for the 1992 season, would be voided. And what of Howe the father, the husband?
Until this news, Howe's was one of the year's most satisfying stories in sports. His battle with coke had been epic. Supremely talented, he was offered chance after chance to beat his addiction. Every time he failed. But in 1989, after he had been away from the majors for two years—a period during which he often relied on the kindness of strangers just to put food on the table for his wife, Cindy, and their two kids—Howe found the strength to arrest his descent.
Then, with customary bravado, he showed up uninvited at the Yankees' camp last spring and won a job. His performance was thrilling; until he hurt his elbow in midseason. he was virtually unhittable. For the year, he had three saves, a 3-1 record and a 1.68 ERA. But the most impressive statistic, which he would update daily for you, was length of sobriety. It had reached nearly three years at the time of his arrest.
Howe had recently spoken to a Christian youth group on the dangers of drugs. He attended Bible study regularly, held a prayer group and, more to the point, passed drug tests even during the off-season. His agent, Dick Moss, said Howe passed six tests in the past three weeks. Moss was quick to point out that "a misdemeanor complaint was issued...and Steve Howe pleaded innocent."
It would be a far better story if he is than if he isn't. But even Howe understood the lifetime of danger he faced, danger that could not be removed by time or location. "Booze and drugs are real patient," he said. "They just sit there and wait. They don't go anywhere."
One Man On
The Florida Marlins have a starter for the 1993 opener
The Florida Marlins won't play their first National League baseball game until April 1993, but last week they landed their first player. He's Clemente Nunez, a 16-year-old pitcher from Bonao, Dominican Republic, and no, he's not related to the late, great outfielder Roberto Clemente or the not-late, not-great relief pitcher Edwin Nunez. "When I heard his first name was Clemente, that caught my attention," says Marlin general manager Dave Dombrowski. "If he has the same type of arm, we'll settle for that."
He may. Nunez's fastball has been clocked at 88 mph—above average for a major league pitcher. After Marlin scout Edmundo Borrome saw the 5'11", 165-pound righthander mow down all six batters he faced in a game against a military team stocked with players in their mid-20's, he phoned Angel Vasquez, the Marlins' director of Latin American operations. Vasquez said, "What are you waiting for? Sign him!"
That was fine with Nunez, especially when he discovered one of the perks in his $325-a-month contract—a white Marlin baseball cap. "My friends liked my cap," he says. "They want to sign with the Marlins too, so they can get a cap."
An expansion club's signing a teenager before it plays a game is not exactly unprecedented. In 1961 the Houston Colt.45s signed a 17-year-old from New Orleans named Rusty Staub.
[Thumb Up]To Willie Randolph, who earmarked $50,000 of the $850,000 contract he signed last week with the New York Mets for the purchase of tickets for inner-city youths.
[Thumb Down]To Tony Mandarich, the Green Bay Packer offensive lineman, who not only failed to show up for a speaking engagement at an April dinner sponsored by the Boys and Girls Club of La Crosse (Wis.) but has also yet to return his $500 advance.
[Thumb Down]To the Hubbardston (Mass.) Youth Soccer League, for keeping six-year-old Joshua Weiss from joining the league. Weiss, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, was barred ostensibly because he missed the registration deadline, yet the league accepted late applications from other youngsters.
THEY SAID IT
Tim Capstraw, Wagner College basketball coach, on the cultural makeup of his team: "We have black players, white players, a Mormon and four Yugoslavians. Our toughest decision isn't-what offense or defense to run, but what type of warmup music to play."
Litterial Green, Georgia guard, after the Bulldogs beat Georgia Tech 66-65: "It's not how good you are when you play good. It's how good you are when you play bad. And we played pretty good, even though we played bad. Imagine if we'd played good."
Making a List
Happy New Year, and good luck with your New Year's resolutions. Here are some promises to themselves that various sports people hope to keep in 1992.
Stan Kasten, president of the Atlanta Braves: "To get one more run."
Ron Anderson, Philadelphia 76er forward: "I'm going to try to be more giving to the less fortunate. I've devoted lime, and people appreciate it, hut I know I can do more."
Tom Rathman, San Francisco 49er fullback: "I don't have a resolution, but my wife, Holly, has vowed that I will lose weight."
Will Perdue, Chicago Bulls center: "I don't want to procrastinate anymore about my procrastinating."
Lenny Dykstra, Philadelphia Phillie centerfielder: "I'd like to look at the trees instead of bounce off them."
Pat Croce, 76er conditioning coach: "To refrain from cursing. Last year I made it to May."
Pat Williams, Orlando Magic general manager: "I resolve to make my shoes last longer by taking bigger steps."
Andy Van Slyke, Pittsburgh Pirate centerfielder: "I vow to give up hope that [Pirate catcher] Mike LaValliere will lose weight."
Mike LaValliere, Pirate catcher: "I promise to work harder with Andy Van Slyke on hitting lefthanders, because he doesn't do it too well. I can lose weight, but I don't know if he'll ever hit lefthanders."
Horace Grant, Bulls forward: "My New Year's resolution is not to make a New Year's resolution."
A Big Issue
Charles Shackleford of the Philadelphia 76ers has been nicknamed Sports Illustrated by his teammates, but we're not flattered. The erratic Shackleford earned the moniker because, they say, he comes out only once a week.
Replay 20 Years Ago in Sports Illustrated
Miami Dolphin kicker Garo Yepremian was on our Jan. 3, 1972, cover after his 37-yarder in OT heal the Kansas City Chiefs 27-24 in the longest game in pro football history. John Wooden's UCLA basketball team won its 21st straight game, a 114-56 victory over Notre Dame. After the game, Irish coach Digger Phelps said, "I think Wooden could split his team, send one east, and they'd still end up playing each other in the NCAA finals."