Minding the Store
Did Virginia, under Dick Schultz, break NCAA rules?
Since Dick Schultz became executive director of the NCAA in 1987, he has preached a gospel of institutional control over college athletic programs. Now there is reason to question whether he has always practiced what he preaches.
Schultz was the athletic director at Virginia from 1981 to '87. For the past year that school has been investigating allegations that between '82 and '90 the Virginia Student Aid Foundation (VSAF) reportedly made 36 interest-free loans totaling $12,600 to athletes, coaches and other members of the athletic department. The VSAF is an independent foundation whose purpose, according to its charter, is to "provide financial aid for deserving and qualified student-athletes and to improve the quality of UVa athletics." In other words, the VSAF is a booster club. If its loans were not made available to the student body as a whole, they were in violation of NCAA regulations prohibiting special benefits for athletes.
Last week Schultz told the Richmond Times-Dispatch, "I knew nothing about, nor approved, any student loan during my tenure." However, Ted Davenport, a former VSAF executive director who approved many of the loans in question, has been quoted as saying that Schultz should have known everything that was going on. Also, during his last two years at Virginia, Schultz served as the VSAF's executive vice-president, receiving $10,000 in compensation annually. According to a former VSAF official, Schultz assumed the post so that the athletic department could have more control over the booster group.
While Schultz may not have known about VSAF loans to athletes, he was definitely aware of another VSAF loan. Schultz has confirmed that he received a $200,000 housing loan from the VSAF and the University of Virginia Alumni Association in 1981. This loan—at an annual interest rate of 5% when the rate in the Charlottesville area was about three times that—was not against NCAA rules, but when an athletic director receives money from a booster club, questions arise. What if the club is engaged in practices that are against NCAA rules, and the athletic director is indebted to the club? Might he be tempted to look the other way?
Through a spokesman, Schultz declined to comment to SI last week, but in October he told the times-Dispatch that he didn't discover the loans to the athletes because "there weren't very many of them" and the amount involved was "insignificant." How would the NCAA look upon an athletic director who used similar excuses in his defense? —RICHARD DEMAK
Jerry Tarkanian will test the waters of the NBA
When San Antonio Spur owner Red McCombs fired high-profile coach Larry Brown at midseason, he made one thing clear: He wanted to hire another high-profile coach. No recycled head guys or promising assistants for McCombs. So last week he went out and got a coach, Jerry Tarkanian, whose profile is off the scale.
But does the 61-year-old Shark have what it takes to succeed in the NBA? The quick answer is that he seems to have prepared himself in two ways during his years at UNLV: His Runnin' Rebels ran as if the college game had a 24-second clock, and he inspired intense loyalty among his players. But those things don't necessarily matter in the NBA. On the court, the professional game is much more about exploiting matchups and executing with the shot clock ticking away than it is about outrunning the opposition. Off the court, the factors upon which Tark could always rely for team unity—the Rebels' battles with the NCAA and the perceived prejudice of a press and public that occasionally doubted his, ahem, educational mission at UNLV—won't be available. In San Antonio, Tark will face a much different situation. As veteran Detroit Piston coach Chuck Daly, himself a former college coach, says, "Dealing with NBA players is like dealing with 12 individual Fortune 500 companies. Every single day."
This may come as news to Tarkanian, but in San Antonio he won't be the show, because like all NBA coaches, he'll just be an opening act. Without Billy Packer and Dick Vitale to hype them, pro coaches just haven't developed the cult of personality that their collegiate counterparts have.
The personnel situation in San Antonio isn't a particularly easy one, either. Yes, Tarkanian will have David Robinson, one of the league's premier players, but he will also have an inconsistent point guard, Rod Strickland; an aging veteran, Terry Cummings, who can't play unless he has the ball; and the expectations of an owner who wants a championship sooner rather than later.
This is not to say that Tarkanian, who received a two-year contract worth about $500,000 a season (in addition to various incentives), didn't earn his Spurs. Tarkanian was an outstanding college coach for 31 years, and no rule says that McCombs had to hire someone from within the league. In fact, well-placed sources indicate that the Philadelphia 76ers were going after lark too. But when McCombs mistakenly, and repeatedly, referred to Tarkanian as "Tarkenton" during the press conference that was called to announce his hiring, McCombs may have been more accurate than he knew. The ol' towel-chewing Rebel is sure to be doing a lot of scrambling.
Fore and Aft
Thanks to a soluble ball, maritime golf is back
In the spring of 1990, Pat Kane, a golfer and inventor from San Diego, hopped aboard a cruise ship, eagerly looking forward to sending a few buckets of balls off the practice tee on the fantail and down into Davy Jones's locker. But to Kane's disappointment, he discovered that maritime golfing was no longer possible. On Jan. 1, 1990, several cruise lines, under pressure from various environmental groups, banned the disposal of plastic refuse at sea. Golf balls—along with balloons, plastic garbage bags and six-pack holders—pose a threat to marine animals, which can swallow them and die when the objects get caught in their digestive tracts.
When Kane got home, he set to work developing what he describes as an "environmentally friendly ball, one that would dissolve in seawater in a matter of days and was absolutely harmless to anything that swallowed it." The result of Kane's labor is the Aquaflyte ball.
Unlike typical golf balls, which have a plastic skin and a solid rubber core, the Aquaflyte has an outer skin of paper pulp, held together by a water-soluble adhesive of gelatin and seaweed. Its core is made of either diatomaceous earth or sodium bicarbonate—one of the active ingredients in Alka-Seltzer. (That's worth keeping in mind if you're duck-hooking your drives into the drink.) The balls, which have the same diameter and dimpled surface as standard balls, are put into a mold and baked at 375° for about 90 seconds to harden them.
Kane's one remaining question was how well a ball made of seaweed and baking soda could withstand the blow of a mighty driver. Would it sail or would it explode? He enlisted the help of Mark Schmersal, a San Diegan who had won the 1990 So Cal Long Ball Championship, and was pleased to find that the Aquaflyte survived several of Schmersal's drives.
Kane was granted a patent for his water-soluble golf ball on March 24 and along with three partners has formed a company. BluWater Golf Products, to promote it. "This is a big market," he says. "We estimate that in 1989 cruise ships were using 500,000 balls a month."
Of course, what would really sell is a ball that avoids water altogether.
Ibrahim Hussein and Olga Markova win easily
The Boston Marathon is nothing if not a learning experience. While the course is famed for the five miles of hills that lead up to Heartbreak Hill at the 21-mile mark, it's the first, downhill 16 miles that beat up the runners. Simon Karori learned that on Monday afternoon in the 96th running of the race. An unheralded 29-year-old from Kenya, Karori ran the first five miles in 23:07, an absurdly fast pace of 4:37 a mile. Stalking him patiently—at times 300 yards back—was his countryman Ibrahim Hussein, the defending champion, who later claimed not to have been concerned by Karori's lead. "The course will take care of the people who are not strong," Hussein would say. When Hussein caught Karori at the halfway mark, he drifted over to lecture Karori on the need to drink water. Recalls Hussein, "He said, 'Oh! You are meant to drink water?' "
Hussein, 33, looked increasingly unbeatable as one after another of his pursuers fell away. The win was his third in Boston, and his time of 2:08:14 was second only to Rob de Castella's course record of 2:07:51 in 1986.
The women's competition was more surprising. The heavy favorite, Wanda Panfil of Poland, who last year won both the Boston Marathon and the world championship, destroyed herself in the early going. Like Karori, she faded in the Newton hills, finishing sixth. Sweeping past her just beyond the 18-mile mark was 23-year-old Olga Markova of Russia. Markova grew up in St. Petersburg, but she now trains in Gainesville, Fla. She finished in 2:23:43, 2:43 ahead of Japan's Yoshiko Yamamoto, who was second. Markova's run was the fastest marathon anywhere by a woman since 1985.
"I love to run marathons," Markova said afterward. "And I love to learn new things about myself." If her federation chooses her for the Summer Olympics, Markova may well teach the rest of the world a lesson.
[Thumb Up] To the Boston Red Sox, for their sponsorship of the A. Bartlett Giamatti Little League Center in Bristol, Conn. The center will be devoted to youngsters who are physically and mentally disabled.
[Thumb Down] To the NHL, for its response to an incident on April If in which Buffalo Sabre players pummeled a Quebec Nordique fan who had ventured onto the ice. NHL vice-president Brian O'Neill said the players involved would not be disciplined until the completion of an investigation that might "take a little time"—i.e., until after the playoffs.
THEY SAID IT
Mike Macfarlane, Kansas City Royals catcher, after K.C. beat the Oakland A's 3-1 on only one hit: "That was a maximization of a minimization of hits."
Tom McMillen, U.S. Representative (D., Md.) and former NBA player, on the revelations about which congressmen bounced checks to the House bank: "First time in my life I was happy there was a zero next to my name in the boxscore."
NORMAN CHAD: Man Overbored
In simpler times America's cup races were held every several years. They now appear to be held every several weeks. America's Cup sailing has become reminiscent of Davis Cup tennis, in which the U.S. or Australia wins in the finals and then plays Paraguay a day later in Asunción to start next year's version of the event.
This is all you need to know about the America's Cup as a nonsensical, waterlogged irrelevancy in our sporting life: After nearly 2½ hours of sailing last Saturday in the alleged opening match of the series to select the U.S. Cup defender, ESPN's sun-drenched Jim Kelly declared, "This race never happened." He was right—America3 and Stars & Stripes were taking too long, so the race was officially "abandoned." The same thing happened to one of my columns once.
Yes, in terms of action and inaction, America's Cup racing makes cricket look like jai alai. It might help if motor boats were used. If a race starts, it really should end sometime the same month.
The America's Cup is to sport what long division is to mathematics.
The defender series, best of 13, and the challenger series, best of nine, have begun. (Don't ask.) At least hockey limits Stanley Cup series to best of seven and lets its combatants arm themselves. Wouldn't America's Cup racing be more challenging for competitors (and more inviting for viewers) if those boats were equipped with weapons? If Bill Koch and Dennis Conner could literally call the shots, then you would see some ratings!
Anyhow, many of you are most likely confounded by the America's Cup. Here's a primer:
Q. Who has the Cup now?
A. I honestly don't know.
Here's something I can tell you—these guys do spy on each other, seeking any edge in technology or design. Among the key things they're looking for are: What kind of keel does the competition have, how big is the mast on its boat, and how many cases of Evian can crew members store in their Igloo coolers?
Of course, I'm kidding; these guys would have Brooks Brothers coolers. You know, they're pretty well off—Koch (pronounced coke) and his America3 (pronounced God, is he rich or what?) are in the defender finals thanks to a $55 million investment. If that type of money had been invested in the Minnow, The Skipper and Gilligan wouldn't have had to set her down on the shore of an uncharted desert isle, believe you me.
Admittedly, I was intrigued by this Coors Light contest in which someone could have won a spot as the 17th member of America3's crew during one of the defender trials. (Essentially, you get to sit on deck, read Mutiny on the Bounty, swill beer and shout, "Ahoy, mate!") I considered entering the contest, but I get seasick just watching The Love Boat.
So I stayed home, as usual, and tried to get excited by the America's Cup on TV. Frankly, interest waned for me when Nippon was eliminated. I had the Japanese boat in my America's Cup Rotisserie League.
For its part, ESPN provides spectacular coverage. But this is the equivalent of the Weather Channel providing wonderful pictures of late-afternoon drizzle in Eugene, Ore. I mean, ESPN is doing 125 hours of America's Cup telecasts—it's like the Summer Olympics minus sports—yet for all the stunning camera work, I can never tell who's ahead. I can't even tell which direction the boats are going. And there has actually been talk of instant replay. (At least sailing has built-in slow motion.)
Kelly and analyst Gary Jobson are steady hands. Indeed, if ESPN had covered the maiden voyage of the Titanic. Jobson would've spotted that iceberg 15 minutes before the ship struck it. Still, listening to yachting play-by-play is no day at the beach.
But there I was last Saturday, white-wine spritzer in hand, ready for the opening race of the defender finals. First it was delayed because of too much wind. Then it was allied off because of too little wind. Let me put this as succinctly and nautically as possible for those seafarers who recently jumped on the America's Cup '92 viewing bandwagon: Abandon ship.
Last week Jerry Wehmann of Fort Pierce, Fla., bowled his first 300 game, which wouldn't be all that notable were he not 81. "It took me a helluva long time to do it," said Wehmann, a retired real estate broker and a lifelong bowler who has a 164 average. If the score is approved by the American Bowling Congress, Wehmann will be recognized as the oldest bowler ever to roll a perfect game. The "old" record was held by Leo Sites of Wichita, Kans., who was 80 when he bowled his 300 in 1985.
Down to the Wire
On April 15 the winner of the seventh race at Aqueduct was Tax Tip. He paid $3.40, $2.60 and $2.20. Obviously, the bettors were on to him.
Replay: 30 Years Ago in Sports Illustrated
White Sox shortstop Luis Aparicio came in spikes high for our April 30, 1962, cover story on baseball's most colorful players. One of them was Oriole outfielder Jackie Brandt, who, after hitting a home run, slid into every base. We also reported on a Dodger fan who was so impressed by a young Giants outfielder that the fan sent this telegram to San Francisco: ROSES ARE RED, VIOLETS ARE BLUE, WE'LL GIVE OUR TEAM FOR FELIPE ALOU.