The Fax on Vincent's Side
When not practicing collusion or carpetbaggery, major league owners enjoy nothing more than harassing commissioner Fay Vincent in the hope that he will resign. Last week several owners requested a meeting with Vincent to discuss his future. He declined, instead faxing a five-page letter to all 28 owners in which he cut to the chase. "I will not resign," wrote Vincent. "Ever." But on Monday the two league presidents bowed to the disgruntled owners and called for a special meeting on Sept. 3 at which the owners would debate Vincent's status.
Despite presiding over record attendance during his three years in office and despite helping to generate licensing and marketing revenues that are the richest in sports, Vincent has become unpopular with many owners. But many of baseball's myriad woes were caused by these same owners: George Steinbrenner is responsible for the suspension of George Steinbrenner, and the inability of the league to draft a 1993 schedule is the result of the Chicago Cubs' absurd and arrogant attempt to block National League realignment. Of course, the new schedule is also being delayed because of San Francisco Giant owner Bob Lurie's pending move of his team to Tampa-St. Petersburg, which is being opposed by some owners, including—this is rich—Los Angeles Dodger owner Peter O'Malley, whose father, Walter, spirited that franchise out of Brooklyn. Steinbrenner, the Cubs' owners, O'Malley and others all want to make Vincent a memory so they can replace him with a Muppet who will do their bidding.
In his letter Vincent charitably called the owners "strong, independent, successful, bright people...who understandably want to do things their way." To prevent them from having their way with him, Vincent has retained the services of Brendan Sullivan, the attorney who represented Oliver North in the Iran-Contra hearings. Perhaps John L. Sullivan would have been a better choice for Vincent, given the bare-knuckle brawl he seems to be in for.
The Games Have Begun
The season hasn't even started, but college football is already up to its knees in scandal. At Notre Dame star linebacker Demetrius DuBose was declared temporarily ineligible last week by the school for having allegedly accepted gifts and a $5,000 loan from an Irish booster in Seattle. At Penn State freshman defensive back Brian Miller is still practicing, pending the outcome of an investigation into allegations that he sold cocaine in his hometown of Donora, Pa. And at Miami two Hurricane players were indicted on Aug. 18 on federal fraud charges.
The indictments stemmed from a grand-jury investigation that found that 65 current or former Miami students, including at least 40 football players, had lied on applications for Pell Grants—government grants that are worth as much as $1,700 a year for a scholarship athlete, depending on need. The accused were given 30 days to enter a federal diversion program that allows them to avoid a criminal record in return for an admission of guilt and restitution. Two players, senior wide receiver Lamar Thomas and reserve junior fullback Jason Marucci, missed the deadline and were subsequently indicted. Both maintain that their failure to request entry into the program was an oversight by their lawyers, and as of Monday the two players hoped to be admitted to the program by the end of the week.
According to his indictment, Thomas, a preseason All-America, wrote on his grant application that his father had no income in 1988 or '89 and that his parents were divorced. The indictment states that Thomas's father made nearly $31,000 in 1988 and that his parents, who are married, earned $54,000 in '89. Marucci allegedly made similar misstatements.
The Miami athletes were led down this devious path by one of the athletic department's academic advisers, Tony Russell. Russell, who was fired by Miami in May after he was arrested for possession of crack, admits that lying on the applications was his idea and that athletes paid him $85 apiece for his creative bookkeeping.
Before arriving in Miami in 1990, Russell worked as an assistant football coach at West Virginia State, an NAIA school. Russell was forced to resign from there after a federal postal inspector discovered a chain-letter scheme he was running out of the athletic department—using a school postage meter. Russell says he also forged Pell applications while at West Virginia State. According to Chico Caldwell, West Virginia State's athletic director during the time that Russell was at the school, no one at Miami contacted him about Russell's qualifications.
It's shaping up to be a great season.
—DOUGLAS S. LOONEY
Let the Sunshine In
The Arena Football League bills itself as "the 50-yard indoor war." Overstatement, yes, but whatever the pitch, the six-year-old league has found a following by becoming just what the NFL is not: fun.
While Arenaball players were tumbling over walls this season, attendance was soaring to an average of 12,270 per game for the league's 12 teams. That's up from an average of 6,629 for five teams in 1989, when the game seemed destined to go the way of those other NFL spin-offs, the WFL and the USFL. The league is adding four teams next season, and by 1998 it hopes to have 30 teams playing in North America and a second season, from October to December, for European teams.
The league's revival began with two events in 1991, both involving Florida: Orlando was selected as an expansion site, and the Pittsburgh franchise moved to Tampa. The Tampa Bay Storm won the ArenaBowl that year, and the Orlando Predators lost 56-38 to the Detroit Drive in ArenaBowl '92 last Saturday night. This season the Storm averaged 20,092 fans at the Florida Suncoast Dome, and the Predators averaged 12,198 at home.
Both teams succeeded because of sound marketing. In Florida this means indoor fireworks, constant music, $75 wallside seats from which fans can talk with players during the game and, most important in the Sunshine State, air-conditioning. Football? Oh yeah, there's that, too.
Kenya's magnificent runners are the perfect antidote for the jaded track fan. Just when you know you've seen the most precocious of the bunch, along comes another who is younger, less experienced and yet somehow faster. The latest is spindly 22-year-old Moses Kiptanui, who has been running competitively for all of two years. "He could break all the records," says Ray Flynn, a former 3:49 miler who is now an agent. "Nothing has happened like this since Henry Rono."
Rono, also from Kenya, set four world records—in the 10,000,5,000 and 3,000 meters and the 3,000-meter steeplechase—in slightly less than three months in 1978. Kiptanui may do better than that. On Aug. 16 in Cologne he broke Said Aouita's world record for the 3,000 meters with a time of 7:28.96. That's like running back-to-back four-minute miles. Even more astonishing is that Kiptanui ran a tactical race, waiting patiently before kicking and covering the last 800 in 1:54. When told of Kiptanui's finishing pace, Aouita said, "It is not possible."
Three nights later, in Zurich, Kiptanui's time of 8:02.08 in the steeplechase cut 3.27 seconds off countryman Peter Koech's world mark. And last Friday night in Berlin, Kiptanui ran the 2,000 meters in 4:52.53, missing a world record by only 1.72 seconds. This Friday in Brussels, Kiptanui will run his first 5,000 meters. A third record would surprise no one.
Why didn't Kiptanui set any records at the Barcelona Olympics? He wasn't there. Hobbled by tendinitis in both knees, he finished fourth in the steeplechase at Kenya's Olympic trials in June. Though Kenyan officials offered him a berth on the team anyway, Kiptanui declined because he did not want to bump William Mutwol—who is his elder in the Marakwet tribe—from the team. So Mutwol went to Barcelona, where he got the bronze medal, behind two other Kenyans, and Kiptanui went to London to train. "I decided I would try for records instead," says Kiptanui.
He has succeeded.
In this issue, for the 29th year in a row, we pick the college football team that our staff thinks will win the national championship. This year our choice is Miami. The teams that SI has predicted will finish first have done so four times. However, the teams picked No. 2 have wound up No. 1 five times. Take heart, Penn State.
They Said It
Ted Marchibroda, coach of the Indianapolis Colts, after his team lost its second preseason game following a win in its first: "I thought we probably played this week like I thought maybe we could have played last week, and I didn't even think we could play that bad last week if we played like this."
Karl Mecklenburg, Denver Bronco linebacker, after a recent tour of his ancestral home in Mecklenburg, Germany: "Everywhere I looked, I saw my name—and it was spelled right."