Some thought that when coach Jerry Tarkanian was forced to resign by UNLV president Robert Maxson last year, the Rebel basketball program would cease making a mockery of the giant billboard in Las Vegas that reads UNLV—A RISING STAR IN HIGHER EDUCATION. But the latest Rebel scandal suggests that UNLV didn't discover academic integrity the day Tark left.
A summer-session instructor, Vicki Bertolino, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal last week that she had been pressured into giving UNLV senior forward J.R. Rider, the nation's second-leading scorer, a grade in a correspondence course for which she didn't receive all of Rider's work. The paper also reported that some of his work may have been done by someone else. All of which caused glee among Tarkanian's numerous loyalists in Vegas, many of whom are scornful of Maxson and of Tark's successor, Rollie Massimino.
The university declared almost immediately that it had investigated the allegations and found them groundless, though on Monday, at the urging of one of its regents, the school agreed to reopen the investigation. It's hard to see how UNLV could have been so quick to dismiss the charges in the face of such damning evidence. The Review-Journal obtained copies of Rider's papers for the Bertolino course—English 102, which he took from the Community College of Southern Nevada's Nellis Air Force Base branch—including one in which the handwriting on one page is different from writing on a second page. On another paper Bertolino wrote, "In comparing it to your other work...I question who wrote this. Since I have no way of disproving it is your work, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt; but having taught for five years at UNLV, I know how athlete's tutors write athlete's papers." Also, on three of Rider's papers his first name, Isaiah, is misspelled Isiah.
March 22, 1993
Asked whether he had done all of the course work himself, Rider refused to answer. "I've got a better question," he said. "How come you write about this, but you don't write about all my 30-point games?"
The 6'5" Rider, who takes a 29.2 average into the NIT for the 21-7 Rebels, has had 16 games of 30 points or more this season. Small wonder that Massimino wanted him back for his senior year. But after the 1992 spring term, Rider needed 15 credits to be eligible, three more than students are normally allowed to take in summer school. He carried such a load even though he seemed particularly unsuited for the task. His two years at UNLV after transferring from Antelope Valley Junior College in California in-eluded a semester in which, according to the Review-Journal, he earned only one credit. In another semester he passed a course, Prevention and Management of Premenstrual Syndrome, in which attendance was mandatory. The professor said that Rider attended all the classes, but the Review-Journal reported that two of the classes occurred on nights when Rider was playing in Rebel road games. Accordingly, when UNLV played Utah State in the Big West tournament last Friday in Long Beach, Calif., spectators taunted Rider with chant of "How do you spell PMS?"
Somehow Rider earned the 15 summer credits, including three for Bertolino's course Bertolino says that Rebel basketball assistant Tom Pecora and compliance officer Jaina Preston called her repeatedly in November to pressure her. Several calls came on her beeper while she was visiting her husband in an intensive care unit after he had suffered a heart attack. Pecora and Preston deny they pressured Bertolino. But Bertolino says, "By pressure, I mean the repeated calling while my husband was in the hospital, always to ask the same question: 'Is J.R. going to pass?' " Bertolino says she told them that she hadn't received all of Rider's work. But on Dec. 29 she gave him a C-, a passing grade, which she regrets. "I should have given him an incomplete," she says. "But with everything that was going on with my husband and the calls from people at UNLV, I just wanted to put the whole thing behind me."
Which, of course, is what Maxson and Massimino—who said he had "no reaction" to the allegations—were trying to do. "The athletic department has handled all of this properly," Maxson said. "There is nothing embarrassing about this."
Maybe UNLV has simply lost the capacity to be embarrassed.
Though it was anticipated, the Minnesota North Stars' announcement last week that they will move to Dallas next season still came as a jolt. If the club couldn't succeed after 26 years in a hockey hotbed like Minnesota, how can it expect to prosper in Texas?
In fact, the Stars, as they'll be called until a permanent name is chosen, may well fare better in Big D, at least at first, than they did in Minnesota, where the franchise has stumbled through five owners, 22 coaching changes and 17 losing seasons. The North Stars' 33-29-9 record as of Sunday put them on pace for their best regular-season finish in seven years, but Norman Green, the Calgary real estate developer who bought the team in 1990, says it has been losing $5 million a year. Green blames lagging fan support: Although attendance in the 15,174-seat Met Center has climbed from an average of 7,838 in 1990-91 to 13,825 this season, the North Stars have only 5,300 season-ticket holders. Green cites market research indicating that attendance in Dallas's 16,900-seat Reunion Arena will exceed 14,000, including 12,500 season tickets, at an average ticket price of $27 per game versus $21 in Minnesota. Green also believes he can sell TV and radio rights for up to five times the $750,000 those rights have commanded in Minnesota.
That said, there's reason to wonder whether the NHL will take root in such alien soil and whether Green will bail out as soon as the novelty fades. That wouldn't surprise anybody in Minnesota, which was on the verge of losing the North Stars when Green bought them and promised to keep them in the Twin Cities. The North Stars' departure may have been inevitable, but Green undoubtedly hastened the day by squandering the goodwill of' Minnesota fans. For example, when the Stars unexpectedly reached the Stanley Cup finals his first season, he antagonized the North Star faithful by confining telecasts of home games to pay-per-view. Once hailed as the team's savior, he came to be reviled by some as Norman Greed. By the time a group of Twin Cities businesspeople offered last month to guarantee him the purchase of the 10,000 season tickets he had said he needed to stay in Minnesota, it was too late. Green clearly wanted out.
Putting the best face on the North Stars' move, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said that if the team does well in Dallas, "it opens up a whole new frontier for interest in hockey." Maybe Bettman should worry a bit more about an old frontier, Minnesota, where the popularity of the NBA Timberwolves came at least partly at the expense of the North Stars. Of course, Minnesota still has legions of hockey enthusiasts; they will have to find solace in the state's flourishing college, high school and youth hockey programs. As for the prospective fans of the Dallas Stars, they might want to consider Green's own assessment of his three seasons in Minnesota. "I said the only time I'd ever move this team is if I was a failure," he recalled last week. "Unfortunately, that's what I am."
The public-address announcer at last Saturday's game between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics in Scottsdale, Ariz., received a bigger hand from the capacity crowd than any of the ballplayers. And why not? As the major leagues' first full-time woman P.A. announcer, Sherry Davis, a San Francisco legal secretary, is already more famous than a lot of players. Since being chosen for the job from a field of nearly 500 aspirants in tryouts at Candlestick on March 2, she has been given the celebrity treatment by the national media.
Davis's debut at the mike for the Giants was not without some spring-training gaffes. She misread A's outfielder Eric Fox's number, got San Francisco catcher Andy Atkinson's first name wrong and drew a blank when Giant second baseman Paul Faries stepped to the plate. But she sounded just fine, and she promises to get better. "I'll make mistakes," she said. "After all, I'm a rookie. I'm a break from tradition."
A welcome break, it should be added.
That's Wimbledon champ Andre Agassi on the right in the photo above. And that's the Lockheed JetStar Agassi bought for some $2 million from Los Angeles King owner Bruce McNall. During a recent tour event near Phoenix, Agassi—who has had the tail emblazoned with a large A and a flaming tennis ball—used the plane three times to fly home to Las Vegas to sleep in his own bed. He says of the craft: "Any player can tell you the toughest part of what we do is the traveling. I don't use it to screw around. I use it to help me."
Besides selling his plane, McNall, who also owns the CFL's Toronto Argonauts and is reportedly strapped for cash, may be unloading a Rocket—Argo wide receiver Raghib (Rocket) Ismail. Speculation persists that if McNall can negotiate a buyout of Ismail's four-year, $16 million contract, which still has two years to go, the Rocket will blast off next season with the Los Angeles Raiders, who hold his NFL rights. Under the NFL's new free-agency settlement, a salary cap could go into effect in 1994. Ismail may want to get in under the wire by signing a lucrative front-loaded contract with the Raiders for '93.
They Said It
•Kevin Young (left), Olympic 400-meter hurdles champ, when asked what it was like to run for years in the shadow of Edwin Moses: "Nice and cool."
•Kevin McHale, Boston Celtic star, on the NHL's newly named Mighty Ducks of Anaheim: "What are we going to call the Bruins—the Cuddly Bears?"