Down and Out
College football lost one of its few remaining coaching giants on Sunday when Washington's Don James abruptly announced his retirement. James, 60, who was replaced by longtime Husky assistant Jim Lambright, quit in protest hours after the Pac-10, having conducted a nine-month investigation of wrongdoing by Washington boosters and players, imposed severe sanctions on the program. "I have decided I can no longer coach in a conference that treats its players and coaches so unfairly," James said.
The penalties against the Huskies include a ban on bowl appearances for 1993 and '94, a loss of 20 scholarships in those years and forfeiture of conference TV revenue for one year, which Washington officials estimate will cost the school $1.4 million. In addition, the Pac-10 stripped three players, including star senior tailback Beno Bryant, of their eligibility, but the players can be reinstated on appeal. In response James decided to give up a 21-year career in which he won almost 70% of his games, took the Huskies to a share of the national championship in 1991 and earned a spot on the short list of coaching throwbacks to the days of Bear Bryant and Bud Wilkinson (page 94).
Washington was not the only football power to be punished on the eve of the new season. Last week the NCAA announced that because of violations that occurred under Pat Dye, another coaching icon, Auburn would be barred from postseason play for two years and from television for one. The program will also lose six scholarships over the next three years. The key evidence against Auburn was the tapes secretly recorded by former defensive back Eric Ramsey, who received improper payments from a recruiting coordinator, an assistant coach and a booster (Oct. 7, 1991, et seq.). Personally implicated in the Ramsey scandal, Dye resigned as athletic director before the 1992 season and as coach at season's end.
In contrast to the Auburn case, Washington's coaches weren't accused of complicity in any of the 25 NCAA rules violations cited by the Pac-10. However, the Pac-10 Council found that boosters had given players dubious summer jobs and that former quarterback Billy Joe Hobert had used his reputation as an athlete to receive $50,000 in loans. Accusing the school of a "lack of institutional control," the Council also found that Husky players had served as hosts for recruits who turned in phony meal receipts and then split the loot with the recruits. If coaches didn't know about such goings-on, the Council concluded, they should have.
James was particularly incensed about the two-year bowl ban. In imposing that penalty, the Council overruled the conference's Compliance and Enforcement Committee, which had recommended a one-year ban. James was said to feel that Pac-10 rivals were out to get the Huskies (as Lambright put it, "The big dawg is shot out of the sky") and that the "upper campus"—the administration—had not supported him vigorously enough. Indeed, although Washington president William Gerberding protested the harshness of the sanctions and publicly praised James, sources say he believes that the athletic department has grown too independent. To judge by the abuses found in the football program, he is right.
In cracking down on Washington, the Pac-10, the only conference that conducts its own compliance investigations, is to be commended. For, like too many others in college football, James ultimately was guilty of losing control of the monster he helped create.
The conclusion by two independent investigators last week that former NHL president Gil Stein rigged his election to the Hockey Hall of Fame represents a milestone for a league still trying to get its act together (page 20). For too long the NHL conducted its business through secret deals, behind closed doors, with a handful of power brokers brooking no opposition. Stein's Hall of Fame machinations were in that tradition. According to the investigators, he 1) prevailed on Los Angeles King owner Bruce McNall, chairman of the NHL board of governors, to nominate him to the Hall; 2) stacked the Hall's board of directors, which votes on new members, in his favor; and 3) changed voting procedures to ensure his election, which occurred in April.
The investigators properly recommended that Stein's election be overturned, but, Stein, faced with humiliation, withdrew his name. Stein, the NHL's attorney for most of John Ziegler's 15-year reign as the league's president, succeeded Ziegler last year but lost a battle for the new position of commissioner to Gary Bettman, who assumed that office in February. It was Bettman who called for the investigation, a move that in itself raises hopes that the shady dealings of the Ziegler-Stein era are a thing of the past.
So how come CBS, having paid $1 billion to cover baseball, didn't televise either the Toronto Blue Jay-Seattle Mariner game or the New York Yankee-Kansas City Royal game last Saturday? After all, it doesn't get any better in baseball than this: The Blue Jays and Yankees were in a dogfight for first in the American League East (page 14), while the Mariners and Royals were contending in the West. A call to CBS elicited the explanation that contractual obligations tied the network's hands. O.K., but why did CBS—and baseball—allow its hands to get tied?
P.S. The network carried an NFL exhibition game instead.
Circle Aug. 6, 1994, on your calendars, auto racing fans. That's the date of the inaugural Brickyard 400, the NASCAR event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that looks as if it will rival the Indianapolis 500 for excitement. Any doubt that the good ol' boys would prosper at Indy was dispelled last week when a two-day test of the Speedway by 32 NASCAR drivers drew an astonishing 150,000 fans, who paid $5 each to watch the stock cars take practice laps.
Asked to compare NASCAR to Indy racing, spectators kept saying the same things: The stock guys are friendlier, and you can pronounce their names. Their cars are slower, but the action is hot. The day after the tests ended, Speedway officials moved to cut off mail orders for tickets; because of overwhelming ticket demand, a turnout of 350,000-plus already seems assured. Credit goes to the Speedway's 33-year-old president, Tony George, who boldly opened the track to the stockers; his grandfather Tony Hulman, who owned the brickyard from 1945 until his death in 1977, insisted that it be used only for the Indy 500. But that, of course, was before NASCAR got popular enough to take even the bastion of Indy Car racing by storm.
In a documentary about an athlete at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, filmmaker Bud Greenspan struck a basic but beautiful chord. People loved watching the Olympics, he realized, but didn't fully grasp the pain and uncertainty the athletes endure. If he could capture their struggle, Greenspan felt, he could evoke a second, even stronger wave of emotion than that inspired by the spectacle itself.
Greenspan has since made dozens of films on the Olympics, repeatedly playing that same chord. In Barcelona '92: Sixteen Days of Glory, now airing on the Disney Channel, his approach is still lovely, still capable of clouding the eyes with tears. The Barcelona film consists of the stories of 10 Olympians. For example, there is cyclist Erika Salumae, from Estonia, fighting Soviet repression and then the chaos that followed the U.S.S.R.'s breakup. And there is British 400-meter runner Derek Redmond confronting the agony and despair of a torn hamstring to limp the last 250 meters of his semifinal supported by his tearful father.
Those hungry for deeper psychological nuances, more complicated chords, won't find them here. And different kinds of Olympic stories, such as the role that Barcelona itself came to play in the Games, are lacking as well. Perhaps Greenspan simply can't reach those notes. Then again, if he listens carefully to the chord he plays so well—the one having to do with individuals who throw themselves against all odds—there is always hope for Atlanta in 1996.
"Want to see what's sexy about baseball? Come check it out!" reads the text in the ad (above) that has appeared in newspapers and magazines and on TV across Japan. The ad is designed to attract women fans to games in that country's Pacific League, but attendance is down this season all the same. Could it be that the seats aren't good enough?
A LAD'S LAMENT
Thirteen-year-old David Peterson, a five-time national scholastic chess champion from Chandler, Ariz., has played against many adults and has found the experience at once rewarding and maddening. As he puts it, "Sometimes even after you beat them, they still don't like you just because you're a kid and you're annoying."
They Wrote It
•Scott Ostler, in the San Francisco Chronicle, drawing a comparison between Oakland Athletic pitchers Goose Gossage, 42 (right), and Todd Van Poppel, 21: "Gossage's mustache is older than Van Poppel."
They Said It
•Michael Johnson, one of the stars of the World Track and Field Championships in Stuttgart, Germany (page 18), on the $28,000 Mercedes given to each gold medalist: "Anybody good enough to win one already has one."