Ready or Not
Measures by the NCAA to cut costs and emphasize academics have raised the ire of coaches in various sports (box, below), and we're sorry to say that Kentucky basketball coach Rick Pitino, whose team is our pick for No. 1 this season, is among them. As Alexander Wolff notes in his story on the changing universe in college hoops (page 34), the reforms included pushing back the start of practice from Oct. 15 to Nov. 1. Pitino is not alone in complaining that the later start "doesn't give enough time to get ready for the season," but it's hard to understand how a coach can feel hamstrung when he has the same amount of time as his rivals to get his team ready. Besides, the season itself now kicks off a few days later—on Dec. 2 in Kentucky's case.
All in all, one would think Pitino would have enough time to whip his top-ranked Wildcats into shape for their opener against Wright State.
Maybe you were wondering why free-agent pitcher Steve Howe, who has been bounced from baseball seven times for drug offenses—number seven being a supposedly lifetime ban in June by then commissioner Fay Vincent—was given another chance last week by arbitrator George Nicolau. Vincent banished Howe, a New York Yankee at the time, after Howe pleaded guilty in federal court in Missoula. Mont., to a charge of attempted possession of cocaine, for which he was sentenced to three years' probation, a $1,000 fine and 100 hours of community service. Acting on a grievance brought by the Major League Baseball Players Association, Nicolau overruled Vincent because of evidence that Howe suffers from a hyperactivity condition that contributed to his cocaine dependency.
However, Nicolau went on to say that if Howe is caught again, he'll be out of baseball, this time (yes!) for good. What this most arbitrary of arbitrators didn't immediately explain was why a medical condition would entitle a chronic drug abuser to precisely eight chances but not nine, 10, 11 or 100.
You were right to wonder.
When questions arose last year about the solvency of the NHL pension fund, John Ziegler, the league's president at the time, accused the retired players who raised the issue—including such immortals as Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull and Bobby Orr—of launching an "attack upon the integrity" of the NHL. After the players filed suit in Toronto, essentially accusing NHL owners of looting the pension fund. Ziegler threatened reprisals against anyone "spreading untruths" about the league.
The NHL owners claimed the missing money was a $25 million "surplus" that belonged to them, and in 1983 they helped themselves to the funds, filing a back-dated document with an obscure Canadian government agency to make their boodling appear legal. Judge George Adams of the Ontario Court of Justice has now issued a stinging 150-page opinion rebuking not only the owners but also the NHL Players Association and its former leader, Alan Eagle-son. Adams said that the union had displayed "moral shortcomings" by uttering not a word of protest while the owners plundered the pension fund. Adams directed the owners to return the money; unless the ruling is overturned on appeal, it will cost the owners as much as $50 million, including interest, attorneys' fees and court expenses.