WISCONSIN'S RED ALERT
The NCAA suspends 26 Badgers
Last November, Wisconsin compliance director Tim Bald visited The
Shoe Box, a shoe and clothing store 25 miles from the school's
campus in Madison, to investigate rumors that Badgers athletes
were breaking NCAA rules by accepting improper discounts on
merchandise. Owner Steve Schmitt told Bald that he gives all
customers the same discounts, and Bald left thinking the athletes
weren't in violation. "[Schmitt] was a businessman in good
standing, and we felt we had to take him at his word," said
Wisconsin athletic director Pat Richter last week.
Hours before the Badgers' season opener against Western Michigan
last Thursday, Wisconsin announced that 81 Badgers athletes,
including 47 football players, had indeed received "extra
benefits" at The Shoe Box; reportedly, the students were given
discounts of nearly 50%, and a select few received interest-free
credit. As a result, the NCAA suspended 26 football players--11
for three games each and 15 for one game apiece--and ordered 21
others to perform community service. Wisconsin was told the
suspensions had to be served within the first four games of the
season, and coach Barry Alvarez sat 11 players, including
All-America defensive back Jamar Fletcher, against the Broncos.
Although the Badgers won, 19-7, Alvarez called last Thursday his
longest day as a coach. "That's got to be unprecedented for
anybody to go through what we did," he said.
Alvarez and Richter were critical of the NCAA for not allowing
Wisconsin to spread the suspensions throughout the season, but
they should consider themselves lucky. By taking Schmitt at his
word last November, the Badgers postponed an embarrassing scandal
that could have cost Ron Dayne (a frequent shopper at The Shoe
Box, according to Schmitt) the Heisman and spoiled last season's
Rose Bowl run. Also, the four-game window means Alvarez can use
the players with three-game suspensions this Saturday against a
tough Oregon team and sit them against lightweights Cincinnati
September 10, 2000
The large number of athletes involved indicates the discounts
were no secret among the students. After the allegations
surfaced in a Madison paper in July, several shoe store owners
in the area said it was common knowledge that Schmitt, a
basketball season-ticket holder who has contributed thousands of
dollars to the school, gave athletes preferential treatment. Why
else, they asked, would players travel 25 miles to buy shoes?
Schmitt, 53, maintains that all his customers get the same
discount. Lines of credit that he extended to players such as
Dayne are "about running a business where you trust your
customers. Because I'm a Badgers fan, it saddens me to see this,
but the truth is I treat everybody the same. I got an ad in the
newspaper right now that says if you come in with cow manure on
your boots, I'll give you a discount on a new pair. And we're
busier than hell." --George Dohrmann
THE NAKED TRUTH
You know the Olympic motto: Swifter, Higher, Stronger? Let's go
ahead and add Barer to that credo. These days it seems as though
any athlete hoping to hoist a medal first has to drop trou. In
June 1999, women from the U.S. track and field team stripped for
a calendar. Then last November the Australian women's soccer team
shed all, also for a calendar. Now the ranks of the de-briefed,
male as well as female, have grown out of hand. Canadian
athletes, Australian Olympians, American swimmers (including a
topless Jenny Thompson, SI, Aug. 14) and even Paralympians have
all been recently shot in the altogether. "An athletic body is a
work of art," says U.S. high jumper Amy Acuff, who appears in the
2000 track and field calendar adorned in body paint. "It's the
tool of the Olympic athlete."
Still, even some of the jocks who have posed acknowledge that
what was at first risque has become cliche. "Posing nude was like
what tattoos or body piercings were like years ago," laments
Canadian road cyclist Lyne Bessette, who was photographed wearing
only her bike and a pair of Oakleys for the Canadian magazine Geo
Plein Air. "It used to be special. Now it's not so unique."
The Ball Boy
Gary Spitz, 36, a deputy Nassau County (N.Y.) attorney, is
working his 21st consecutive U.S. Open as a ball boy:
Are you the oldest ball boy out there?
No, we have a podiatrist in his late 40s who closed his practice
for three weeks [qualifying round matches are held for a week
before the Open] to come out and do this with his son. But
they're both rookies.
What do Open officials look for in a ball boy?
For the net position, they look for people with good footwork
and good hands. For the back position, you need to have a
strong, accurate throwing arm. The court at Arthur Ashe Stadium
is about 120 feet from one end to the other, plus the winds
swirl. You need a strong arm.
What can go wrong from a ball boy standpoint?
Two terrible things can happen. One is hitting a player with a
ball. The second is getting hurt yourself. I've been on court
when a ball person hit Martina Navratilova in the face. It was
just a throw that got away, but Navratilova was pretty ticked
off the rest of the match. There also was a girl doing an Ivan
Lendl match who pulled her hamstring and had to be helped off
the court. It happened between the first and second serves, so
Lendl demanded that he be given a first serve. Another time, a
ball person got hit in the groin and sort of staggered off the
Are there players the ball staff doesn't want to work for?
Yes. On the men's side, Jeff Tarango. The other day he fired
some balls in the direction of the ball boys. I doubt he did it
intentionally, but still.... On the women's side, Conchita
Martinez. She can be difficult. She always wants the ball [six
are used at once] with which she won the previous point, so you
have to make sure to give her that one. With Sampras, even
though you'll give him brand-new balls, he'll want to see all of
them. Agassi likes the ball people to be in the same position
they were in when the point started. So if a ball person
retrieves a ball and takes up a new position, Agassi will direct
that person back to where he or she started. Agassi is like a
conductor out there.
Do all the ball boys want to work an Anna Kournikova match?
Oh yeah. But if you ask for it, you won't get it.
What matches do ball girls want to work?
Mark Philippoussis's and Jan-Michael Gambill's. They're the
current pretty boys.
Do the ball people talk a lot after the matches?
Oh yeah, we tell stories about what happened. Some brag and
say, "This player kept coming to my corner for balls." I just
laugh at them and shrug it off to the fact that they're rookies.
It's Gotta Be the Shoes (and Clothes)...
Florida State, Oct. 1999
Receivers Peter Warrick and Laveranues Coles suspended after a
store sells them $400 worth of clothing for $21.
Penn State, Dec. 1997
Running back Curtis Enis suspended for the Citrus Bowl after an
agent takes Enis on a $1,100 clothes-shopping spree.
Purdue, Nov. 1996
Women's hoopster Ukari Figgs suspended one game for exchanging
school-issued shoes for a pair of cross-trainers, two
sweatshirts and a T-shirt at a store.
Florida State, Aug. 1994
Five football players suspended after agents take them on an
all-expenses-paid trip to Foot Locker (earning FSU the moniker
Free Shoes University).
N.C. State, Dec. 1989
Basketball program put on probation after several players
exchange school-issued shoes for other merchandise at a store.
Cost of reputedly the most expensive piece of Olympic jewelry
ever made, a diamond and platinum pin in the shape of the 2002
Winter Games snowflake logo, sold last week by a Salt Lake
jeweler to an anonymous buyer.
Nicaraguan journalists in Philadelphia to cover the showdown
between Giants outfielder Marvin Benard and Phillies reliever
Vicente Padilla, the only Nicaraguans in the majors. Benard went
0 for 1 against Padilla.
Books about Tiger Woods that can be purchased on Amazon.com.
Consecutive losses by 9-year-old gelding Zippy Chippy, the
losingest horse in thoroughbred history, after he finished
second by a neck in a five-furlong race at the Three County Fair
in Northampton, Mass.
Q They did it for Tiger and Sergio (left) at Bighorn, so why
hasn't an enterprising country club or muni thrown up some
floodlights and instituted night golf?
A To start with, it's expensive: Joe Crookham, co-owner of Musco
Lighting, which lit the Battle at Bighorn, estimates it would
cost $1 million to $2 million to install lights at an 18-hole
course. Given the golf boom, however, such an investment could
pay for itself quickly at some clubs. A bigger obstacle is that
courses, like people, need their beauty sleep. Says Dave
Catalano, director of Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, N.Y.,
"At some point too many rounds cause such deterioration on the
course that you no longer have a good product." Still, Crookham
believes the main factor holding up nocturnal hacking is American
tradition. "People used to believe that college football was just
a Saturday afternoon sport," says Crookham, who notes that night
golf is fairly common in Asia. "With golf, somebody just has to
decide to be the first one to do it."
Monica Seles, during batting practice at Yankee Stadium last
Friday. Seles, in New York for the U.S. Open, arrived at the
Stadium unannounced and was invited to take some cuts. Despite
tips from batting coach Chris Chambliss and underhand pitches
from Bernie Williams, Seles failed to hit the ball past the
Two T-ball coaches, for their part in an Aug. 28 brawl in which
nearly two dozen adults stormed the field during a Miami Friends
Baseball Association game and began fighting over an umpire's
call as the four- and five-year-old players watched. No one was
seriously injured, and no children participated in the melee.
Police say that an investigation is under way.
Professional boxer Laila Ali, 22, and former cruiserweight Johnny
McClain, 32, in Pasadena. Laila, the youngest of Muhammad Ali's
seven daughters, met McClain last year at her father's 57th
birthday party. Since then McClain has been acting as Laila's
trainer and promoter. The couple gave out miniature white leather
boxing gloves as wedding favors.
Cheated Death (Again)
Cyclist Lance Armstrong, who, along with U.S. Postal Service
teammate Tyler Hamilton, escaped relatively unhurt despite being
struck head-on by a car while training near Nice, France.
Armstrong's bike and helmet were destroyed, but he suffered only
A practice session for Werder Bremen of Germany's first-division
soccer league, because of the stench at Bremen's Weser Stadium
left over from the world sheepdog championships, held at the
stadium days earlier.
You'd expect nothing less than weirdness from a Dennis Rodman
party, and those who dropped in on the Worm's Aug. 31 bash to
celebrate the launch of his new Web site, RodmanTV.com, at
L.A.'s El Rey Theater weren't disappointed. The host showed up
at the fete an hour late, making a typically diva-esque entrance
by pulling up in a white stretch sport-utility limo and emerging
with a motley entourage of strippers, transvestites and
tuxedo-clad midgets. Rodman vowed that for $29.95 a month
visitors to the site will get unedited access to his Newport
Beach house, which has been rigged with eight cameras. Given
that police have logged nearly 50 complaints in the last two
years about Rodman's late-night soirees, programming content
should be lively....
Spotted at the U.S. Open: diminutive Oscar-winner Holly Hunter,
who spent a few days trailing Billie Jean King in preparation
for her role as King in an upcoming ABC movie about 1973's
Battle of the Sexes. (Ron Silver will play King's opponent,
Bobby Riggs.) "She's only had 12 tennis lessons," says King of
Hunter, "but she took 15 years of ballet, so she understands
By now, the story of the lesbian couple who got kicked out of
Dodger Stadium for kissing in the stands on Aug. 8 has been well
circulated. (The Dodgers quickly issued an apology to the
couple, donated 5,000 tickets to gay and lesbian organizations
and promised that employees would undergo sensitivity training.)
But what's less well known is that one of the lesbians, Meredith
Kott, was also formerly known as porn star Nico Treasures. Given
her resume, some skeptics are suggesting that Kott and her
partner, Danielle Goldey, staged the incident as a publicity
stunt. Counters Goldey: "We didn't want to be kicked out. We
didn't want to be humiliated. Meredith's background is
irrelevant to what happened."
This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse
After angry birders complained they'd heard geographically
out-of-place species chirping in the background of some golf
telecasts, CBS admitted it had played taped bird songs during
some tournaments for "ambient sound."
They Said It
On his golf game this year: "I'm playing as well as I've ever
played, except for the years I played better."