OFFSIDES ON ROTHENBERG
Alan Rothenberg, U.S. soccer's omnipotent, omnipresent mogul, is
a shrewd and tireless businessman who spearheaded the
organization of the financially successful 1994 World Cup and
oversees both the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) and the new U.S.
pro operation, Major League Soccer. He's the sport's driving
force in America. He is also a shameless self-promoter and a
smug and shady profiteer.
In a trial set to begin next Monday in Los Angeles, Michael
Hogue, the former director of the U.S. team's World Cup training
site at Mission Viejo, Calif., is seeking unspecified damages
from Rothenberg and World Cup USA 1994, for Hogue's allegedly
wrongful dismissal. Hogue charges that Rothenberg's motivation
in organizing the Cup was "to collect excessive personal
profits," pointing out that the L.A. law firm of Latham and
Watkins, with which Rothenberg has been a partner since 1990,
did all the legal work for World Cup USA.
Rothenberg's hiring of his own firm (which also does USSF's
legal work) might not have been illegal, but it was a blatant
misuse of power for personal profit. Latham and Watkins admits
billing World Cup USA, a nonprofit organization, $2.7 million
between November 1990 and December '94. Hogue's attorney Robert
Harrison suspects the figure is much higher, citing the nearly
$8.6 million that World Cup USA paid out in "professional fees"
in 1993 alone.
Rothenberg says his firm supplied "a substantial amount of free
services in the beginning" and later a discounted hourly rate.
Yet Latham and Watkins's billing records show an audacious
$74,000 for its first month of services, and Rothenberg said in
a deposition that the discounted rate was $200 instead of $210.
Hogue's grievance stems from the summer of '92 when, he says,
Latham and Watkins issued a contract demanding that Mission
Viejo officials increase the size of an already agreed-upon
clubhouse by 10,000 square feet. The city rejected the demand on
logistical and financial grounds; Hogue denounced the contract
and raised objections to Latham and Watkins's involvement in the
project. Though the training site was subsequently and
successfully completed according to the original plan, Hogue was
fired by Rothenberg in December '92. Rothenberg says Hogue
wasn't fired; rather, "his job came to an end."
Managing conflicting interests has been a way of professional
life for Rothenberg. As a condition of the U.S.'s hosting the
World Cup, the USSF promised FIFA, soccer's world governing
body, that a U.S. outdoor league would be launched. Major League
Soccer (MLS) was one of three groups that bid for approval from
the USSF to operate the league, and surprise, the
Rothenberg-controlled MLS won out. Then, in August '94, when he
was up for reelection as USSF president, Rothenberg ensured
victory by insinuating that were he not reelected, MLS would fail.
Rothenberg, 57, is widely respected as the man principally
responsible for the '94 World Cup's record profit of $50
million. As chairman and CEO of World Cup USA, he worked 80-hour
weeks for two years at no pay--though he was still drawing a
salary from Latham and Watkins. Rothenberg's face and titles
were displayed on jumbo stadium screens after Cup matches, and
he was held in such awe by his employees that no one objected
when he gave his son, Bradford, then 20, a salary of $107,321
from the World Cup payroll. Rothenberg himself was well
compensated when the Cup finals were over: His cronies on the
World Cup USA board voted him a $7.4 million payment, siphoning
that sum from money originally earmarked for developing soccer
in the U.S.
With some $10 million in World Cup funds still being held in
escrow to pay Latham and Watkins for pending litigation,
Rothenberg's booty will continue to add up. In the meantime he
governs MLS, a league in which the champion wins a trophy
called--what else?--the Alan I. Rothenberg Trophy.
A SENSE OF PROPORTION
We have no objection to the New York Giants' giving convicted
sex offender Christian Peter a chance to resurrect his career
(SCORECARD, Nov. 25). But considering the opportunity being
afforded the defensive lineman, isn't it odd that the Giants say
Jeffrey Lange, the fan caught throwing snowballs toward the
field during a game late last season, is still banned from
Giants Stadium for life?
AN AUSPICIOUS DEBUT
It was perhaps appropriate that Richie Parker kicked off his
college basketball career with a personal foul. He had spent two
years away from organized hoops after a sexual-abuse conviction
during his junior year ended a storied high school career and
forestalled what was expected to be an impressive college one
(SI, June 24). Several big-time basketball colleges considered
signing him after he graduated from New York City's Manhattan
Center High in 1995 but withdrew their offers after protests or
the threat thereof. Finally, after Parker had spent a year away
from home and basketball, at Mesa (Ariz.) Community College,
Long Island University offered him a scholarship last summer.
By the end of the game, Parker had gotten the better of
Lopez--and maybe of his own past, too. No sign-carrying
protesters awaited him at St. John's, and the pregame boos
showered upon him weren't much more vociferous than those
directed at his teammates. Only a few halfhearted chants of
"Jaaail-bird!" from the crowd of 6,000 disturbed the docile
Parker, a 6'5" swingman, had his bad moments. He sometimes
seemed unsure of where he should be, even in the moments before
the game, when his choices were either heading for the bench or,
oops, huddling with his teammates at midcourt. He missed his
first four shots before making a fast-break layup eight minutes
into the game. His three-pointer just before halftime put LIU
ahead 40-39 and improved him to 2 for 10 from the floor. "Richie
says it takes him 10 shots to get warmed up," said Long Island
coach Ray Haskins. "I was counting."
Sure enough, in the second half Parker made 6 of 11 shots to
finish with 20 points in a 76-73 win. Parker led LIU in rebounds
(seven), minutes played (39) and postgame expressions of
gratitude (17, at least). "I was just excited to be out there,"
Parker said. "I'm just happy to be back."
Long Island provost Gale Stevens Haynes, who made the decision
to offer Parker a scholarship, sat behind the Blackbirds' bench,
and that's where Parker headed when the game was over. While his
teammates whooped it up on the court, he ran into the stands and
hugged her long and tight. "Did we do good?" Parker asked.
"Yes," Haynes replied, "you did really well."
SENATORS ARE FLUSH
The travails of the Ottawa Senators (SI, Nov. 25) have been well
chronicled, but say this for some of their players: They'll try
almost anything to turn around their fortunes. Mired in a
14-game goalless slump, rookie center Bruce Gardiner recently
received some unorthodox advice from teammate Tom Chorske, who
told him to put his stick in the toilet. "Sometimes you've got
to get the attention of your stick," Chorske, a veteran winger,
told Gardiner. "Sometimes you've got to make a point, so you
take that stick and put it in the crapper."
Gardiner hasn't followed Chorske's suggestion to the letter--he
can't bear to immerse his stick--but from time to time he takes
his stick into the locker-room bathroom and leans it against a
stall, leaving it there unattended for hours. Chorske calls that
"a kind of finesse move," but he isn't complaining. Last
Saturday, Gardiner scored the tying goal late in the third
period as the Senators rallied from a 3-0 deficit to tie the
Hartford Whalers. It was his fourth goal since he began the
potty practice on Nov. 16. So the next time someone says the
Senators are headed for the toilet, don't assume it's a bad thing.
FAMILY HORSE SENSE
On the morning of Nov. 3, Bill Fielding, a 75-year-old harness
race driver at Truro (Nova Scotia) Speedway, was having
breakfast with his 99-year-old mother, Mary Sara, at their house
near the track. Mary Sara asked Bill if he thought he could win
his race that afternoon behind his pacing mare Beta Cassim. "I
never drove her before, Mother," Bill said. "Betting on me would
be a waste of money." But Mary Sara makes her own decisions
about when to wager and on whom. Sometimes she puts her money on
Bill and sometimes she bets against him. On this occasion she
pounded her fist on the table and said, "Win or lose, I'm
betting on you!"
Although bad weather forced Mary Sara to stay home from the
track, she gave Bill $6 for an across-the-board wager on Beta
Cassim, a 7-1 shot. Bill placed the bet, then went out and led
wire to wire, giving him his first win since 1993, giving Mom a
tidy profit of $20 and giving us all further proof that mother
GOODBYE TO A GLOVEMAN
Hall of Famer Billy Herman often said that one of his successors
as second baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Charlie Neal, made
the double play better than any man who ever lived, and to be
sure, Neal turned the pivot with a godsent grace. Yet for all
his fielding excellence, Neal, who died last week of heart
failure at age 65, never attained the superstardom projected for
Before he debuted as a Dodger in 1956, Neal, a sinewy speedster
who packed power in his 5'10", 160-pound frame, was dubbed the
National League's next great second baseman. In '57 Brooklyn
captain Pee Wee Reese went so far as to say Neal "could become
the greatest player in the National League." And, indeed, Neal
gave glimpses of that potential after going west with the
Dodgers in '58. That year he hit 22 home runs, albeit over the
L.A. Coliseum's short leftfield screen. The next season, after
leading the league in fielding at second base, Neal batted .370
in the World Series as Los Angeles beat the Chicago White Sox.
But Neal never hit well again. Plagued by injuries and, perhaps,
lethargy--"I quit on myself," he said after batting .235 in
1961--Neal was traded to New York in December 1961, where in his
last hurrah he helped the Mets lose 120 games. A year later he
retired, not the player he might have been, but one whom some
still remember as a pivoter without peer.
Times this season (through Sunday) that NBA teams had scored
fewer than 80 points.
Times NBA teams had scored fewer than 70.
Members of the Mormon faith that BYU basketball coach Roger Reid
says blue-chip recruit--and Mormon--Chris Burgess "let down" by
signing with Duke.
Academic average earned by Florida State junior linebacker and
finance major Daryl Bush, who had the highest grades on the
College Football Association's 1996 scholar-athlete team.
Consecutive Class AAA Kentucky state cross-country titles won by
Rachel Sanford, 13, an eighth-grader who runs for Southwestern
Games missed by Todd Maroldo, Virginia Tech's Hokie Bird mascot,
after being suspended for fighting the Miami Ibis during Tech's
21-7 win on Nov. 16.
A mousse-head at UCLA is following the greasy trail of former
Tinsel Town pro basketball coaches for whom a little dab is not
Pat Riley, the Godfather of Gunk, is now in Miami.
Paul Westhead is gorgeous at George Mason.
Mike Dunleavy has the Milwaukee Bucks gel-ing.
UCLA coach Steve Lavin is the hair apparent.
TRACK AND FIELD
Out with Ollan
The 92 directors of USA Track & Field (USATF) will meet in San
Francisco on Dec. 3 in a session that will go a long way toward
deciding their sport's future in the U.S. They will vote on
whether to renew the contract of the USATF's executive director,
Ollan Cassell. In October the organization's executive committee
recommended, by a vote of 12-9, that his contract not be
renewed. And it should not be.
During Cassell's 31-year tenure as head of track and field in
this country, the sport's vital signs have grown faint. In 1986
there were 14 indoor Grand Prix meets in the U.S.; in '96--an
Olympic year--there were nine. Cassell, 59, lacks energy and
imagination and is an embarrassment as a banner carrier, as well
as a mangler of names, a purveyor of malapropisms. "In all my
years of dealing with executives, I've never met someone as
incompetent as Ollan Cassell," then Mobil vice president Jim
Mann said in 1994. Mobil, which once pumped millions into the
sport, has now reportedly decided to take its sponsorship
There are questions about Cassell's integrity, too. Nick
Petredis, a San Jose lawyer who heads the committee that hopes
to secure the 1999 World Track and Field Championships for Palo
Alto, Calif., says that at a 1995 breakfast meeting in Atlanta,
John Mansoor, one of Cassell's administrators, asked Petredis to
support Cassell's campaign to become president of the
International Amateur Athletic Federation, track and field's
governing body. Petredis asked if that meant money, and Mansoor
said yes. Petredis thought it was possible that that financial
support was a quid pro quo for Cassell's supporting the Palo
Alto bid. When rumors to that effect reached the USATF executive
committee months later, USATF president Larry Ellis, Cassell's
right-hand man, launched an investigation. Cassell denied
culpability, and not surprisingly, the inquiry was perfunctory.
Ellis's four-member panel did not even question Petredis before
it cleared Cassell and gave a gentle scolding to Mansoor.
For too long Cassell has been running track and field ineptly
and imperiously. Now it's time for him to stop running it
THIS WEEK'S SIGN THAT THE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US
A variety of impatiens being sold in the Thompson & Morgan seed
catalog--"stunning large flowers" that come in "scintillating,
bright colors," have "extra vigor" and are "easy to handle"--is
named after British heavyweight Frank Bruno.
Women's basketball coach at Bellarmine College in Louisville, on
his team's inexperience: "We're so young, we've decided to dress
only seven players on the road. We're pretty confident the other
five can dress themselves."