Cedric Dempsey is a respected athletic administrator who made his reputation largely by breathing life into big-time football and basketball at Arizona, where he has been the athletic director for 11 years. But as the NCAA's newly selected executive director, Dempsey must tune out some of the big boys and listen to the true victims in contemporary college sports—the wrestlers, gymnasts, swimmers and other athletes in so-called minor sports whose programs are being choked off by budgetary shortfalls and entitlement legislation.
Consider the numbers. In 1980 there were 374 collegiate wrestling programs; this year there are 265. In 1981, 90 schools had men's gymnastics programs; today 36 do. If this trend continues into the 21st century, both sports will face extinction. The numbers are bleak for men's swimming as well. There are 157 Division I men's programs, down from 180 a decade ago.
What's happening is clear. Administrators don't have the guts to face down the football and men's basketball programs, the golden calves of athletic departments, nor do they have the means to accommodate the legal concerns of gender-equity proponents without cutting elsewhere. So the bottom-line assassins either ax wrestling, which has no women's counterpart, or cut a men's gymnastics or swimming program in favor of adding (or keeping) a women's program. Women's gymnastics and swimming programs have increased, albeit slightly, over the last decade.
"We are trying to accommodate groups that have been traditionally underrepresented, and that's good," says Max Urick, who recently took over as athletic director at Kansas State after 19 years in the same position at Iowa State. "But we're doing it the wrong way. In effect, we're creating a whole new disenfranchised class.
"Athletic administrators today stand with one foot in the business circle and the other in the athletic circle. But as soon as a sport doesn't make money, all of a sudden we're supposed to forget about the athletic part, just be a business and get rid of the sport. That's not how universities are supposed to function."
In his new charge Dempsey must listen to people like Urick.
Darryl Strawberry is in hot water for insensitive remarks (page 16) he made about last week's devastating fires in Southern California, not the first time that the Strawman has suffered from foot-in-mouth disease. However, we feel that the young millionaire, a former New York Met outfielder who now plays for the Los Angeles Dodgers, has often been misunderstood and truly wants to be, as he once said, "the type of person not to hassle things." To that end, here is our attempt to interpret a few of Darryl's more memorable lines.
•What Darryl said: "I'll punch that little redneck in the face."
What Darryl meant to say: "I admire Wally Backman's colorful cultural background, but we have our differences."
•What Darryl said: "Sometimes I wanted to say to those guys, 'Come on Mex, come on, Kid. Get your head out of your ass. We're in a pennant race.' "
What Darryl meant to say: "I bow to no man in my respect for Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter. Bui perhaps their concentration level was not what it should have been."
•What Darryl said: "And the manager, nobody could figure out some of the stuff he was doing all season."
What Darryl meant to say: "Davey Johnson is a fine person, but we were not always on the same page when it came to running the Mets."
•What Darryl said: "God brought me back home for a reason."
What Darryl meant to say: "I love L.A."
•What Darryl said: "Let it keep burning, because I don't live there anymore. Let it burn down."
What Darryl meant to say: "While I hold fond memories of my boyhood home, one cannot wallow in nostalgia."
Duncan Kennedy spent last week sliding, which is luge talk for getting on the sled and going down the hill. But what he's really got to guard against is slipping. Kennedy is one of the U.S.'s best hopes for an Olympic medal in luge, a sport that has recently been forced into the spotlight by neo-Nazi skinheads, a group that, come to think of it, should be loaded onto sleds and sent down the side of a mountain.
Anyway, the U.S. has never made much of a blip on the Olympic luge radar screen, its best finishes being a fifth in women's singles by Dartmouth student Cammy Myler and a 10th in men's singles by Kennedy, both in '92. But that changed on the evening of Oct. 29 when Kennedy stepped in front of a horde of skinheads bent on attacking Robert Pipkins, a black teammate, in a bar in Oberhof, a resort in what used to be East Germany.
Kennedy, 25, of Lake Placid, N.Y., sustained cuts and bruises (he did not require hospitalization) but in the process became a virtual folk hero. Owing both to the timing (three months before the Winter Games in Lillehammer) and the irresistible angle (athletic hero faces down punks), the story has become front-page news not only in America but all over the world as well. As Bob (Bullet) Hughes, the spokesperson of the U.S. Luge Association, says, "This story has such legs."
Unfortunately for Kennedy and mates, the attention has started to affect their preparation for Lillehammer. The team spent last week training in Igls, Austria, which is near the German border, and the German press has been swarming around the Americans. "Duncan's having problems with his sled, but it's hard for him to concentrate on getting it straightened out with the media around," said Hughes. Such a problem was unimaginable one month ago.
Even without the attack, this might have been the Olympics in which U.S. lugers finally made some noise. Wendell Suckow, the reigning world singles champion, and Kennedy, currently ranked third in the world, are definite threats to win medals, and Myler has turned her attention from her studies back to the sled; both she and Kennedy finished only one point out of first place in the 1992 World Cup standings.
Ironically, one of the final pre-Olympic tests is back in Oberhof. "And we'll be there," said team manager Claire Sherred.
Name That Goon
Under first-year commissioner Gary Bettman, the NHL is trying to lose its brawling image. To that end perhaps the league should ask the following players to change their mayhem-invoking names.
D—Stuart Malgunas, Flyers.
D—Garth Butcher, Blues.
F—Adam Graves, Rangers.
F—Darren Rumble, Senators.
F—Bob Corkum, Mighty Ducks.
G—Jeff Hackett, Blackhawks.
D—Paul Laus, Panthers.
D—Radek Hamr, Senators.
F—Stu Grimson, Mighty Ducks.
F—Murray Craven, Canucks.
F—Steven King, Mighty Ducks.
G—John Blue, Bruins.
Dave Manson, Bill Houlder and Brian Leetch.
About 700 former players and coaches are in the College Football Hall of Fame, but you won't believe who's not enshrined. The Hall is administered by the 10,000-member National Football Foundation, with final voting done by a 12-member Honors Court made up of athletic administrators and sportswriters. Requirements include a diploma (hence, no Tony Dorsett) and a stipulation that nominees show "civic responsibility." Guys, give it up and join the 20th century.
Some famous names have been linked to First Amendment battles over the issue of free expression. To the historic roll call—James Joyce, Lenny Bruce, Howard Stern—add some new (yet strangely familiar) monikers, including Tommy Lasagna, Don Battingly and Carlton Fist. Last week in Tulsa, U.S. Magistrate Jeffrey S. Wolfe ruled that a local firm, Cardtoons, does not have a right to sell a series of cartoon baseball cards without a license from the Major League Baseball Players Association, which did not grant one.
The company argued that its series is parody and thus protected under the law. Wolfe disagreed, writing that while Cardtoons has the right to parody anyone, the company "cannot expect to make money by trading on the likenesses and name recognition of lauded national figures." Listen, are we sure Nails Spikestra (above) is a "lauded figure"?
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
Cincinnati Red owner Marge Schott has returned to the job after her one-year suspension...and Schottzie (left) came with her.
They Said It
•Art Modell, owner of the Cleveland Browns, on the NFL's inability to reach a consensus on proposed rule changes: "The U.S. Congress can declare war with a simple majority, but we need a three-fourths majority to go to the John."
•Bob Weiss, Los Angeles Clipper coach, on the areas in which the defending NBA champion Chicago Bulls will miss Michael Jordan most: "Offense and defense."
Not in Hall
Possible Reason for Exclusion
Two time All-America; greatest drop-kicker in history
Convicted in 1928 for illegal stock transactions, served 15 months in jail
Two time All-America
All-America; scored 43 points (six TDs, seven PATs) in one game
Notorious involvement in several assault cases (on '94 ballot because of recent work with L.A. gangs)
1959 Heisman winner
Convicted in a counterfeit scam in 1983, served three-year sentence
Led Tide to national championship in '64; career record of 28-3
Broadway Joe image doesn't fit Hall
Henry (Red) Sanders
Coach of the Year in '54; innovative genius
Died of heart attack in motel room with prostitute