SI Vault
Edited by Alexander Wolff and Richard O'Brien
October 31, 1994
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October 31, 1994


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Future Schlock

If the cathode-ray tube seems disconcertingly barren during this season of athletic work stoppages, fear not. Over the next few years at least seven new sports cable networks could start piping their signals into your home. Is this progress at its best or a pileup on the information superhighway? You make the call.

Network/ Launch Date


What They Say About It

What We Hope It Won't Be

The Golf Channel
Jan. 17, 1995

Golf tournament coverage, call-in golf talk, GolfCenter, a golf shopping show, golf instruction.

"Golfers love the game with a deep passion," says I'GC president Joe Gibbs. "Now, for $6.95 a month, they can tune into it whenever they want."

Jay Randolph fielding phone calls from insomniac sickos wanting to know how the ball bites on poa annua.

Classic Sports Network
early 1995

Classic events, documentaries. Bud Greenspan's Olympic Memories, old shows like Home Run Derby.

"We're opening the last major vault of untapped entertainment programming," says CSN president Steve Greenberg.

The Sorrow and the Pity of Fred Merkle, brought to you by Xerox in 12 parts.

Gaming Entertainment Television

Coverage of gambling from horse racing to jai alai and, where local law allows, a sort of OCB-on-couch betting. Viewers will be able to place bets by phone.

"Our plan is to combine all of the development and excitement of the cable industry with the gaming industry," says GETv president Nelson Goldberg.

A round-the-clock infomercial for 900-number scamdicappers.

Two women's sports networks
late 1995 and early 1996

Ex-NBC Sports executive Mike Weisman 's group is preparing a mix of live sports, taped events, talk and fitness. Rival Liberty Sports intends to spin off programming now airing on its 14 regional sports channels.

The Weisman camp has claimed the name Women's Sports Network; Liberty promises to emphasize live events. Industry experts agree that, at best, only one start-up will survive.

A vehicle for the resurrection of Diana Nyad's broadcasting career.

Cable Health Club
full rollout soon

Aerobic shows, nutrition and perhaps more than you'll care to see of personal-trainer-to-the-stars (Body By) Jake Steinfeld.

"Twenty minutes of uninterrupted aerobic conditioning at the top of every hour," Steinfeld promises.

Station IDs with Jake saying, "You're watching P.E.-TV! Don't quit-or touch that dial!"

potentially 1997

Sports news and information available at any time of the day or night, a la CNN Headline News.

"This would be a SportsCenter fan's heaven," says an ESPN spokesman.

Wolf Blitzer in a parka at the Iditarod, referring to his network as "the Trey."

A motor-sports network
potentially 1997

With auto racing, motocross, powerboating, etc., vroom to spare.

Another ESPN project ("the Quad"?), which, like "ESPN3," wouldn't start up until systems expand channel capacity.

Chris Economaki making offensive remarks. (Though if nobody's tuned in to hear it, does it make a sound?)


John Calipari is the apotheosis of the ambitious, Armani-wrapped basketball coach. Since taking over the University of Massachusetts's humdrum program six years ago at age 29, Calipari has guided the Minutemen to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament (in 1992) and to a No. 2 ranking in some current preseason polls. Charming and well-spoken, "Coach Cal" still wears his ambition on his well-tailored sleeve. But last week he got roughed up in the public prints. The Boston Globe reported that seven of the Minutemen's 13 scholarship players are on either academic probation or warning despite taking such courses as Sports Broadcasting, and Sex, Drugs and AIDS. The NCAA requires athletes to be in "good academic standing" to be eligible, and the UMass student handbook defines good academic standing as a cumulative C, or 2.0, average or better. Yet, because the university routinely allows students on probation to participate in extracurricular activities, three of the four players whose grade point averages slipped below 2.0—Marcus Camby, Donta Bright and Tyrone Weeks—will suit up when the Minutemen open the season against Arkansas on Nov. 25. The fourth, Michael Williams, will miss that game only.

The UMass coach was uncharacteristically vague in his response to the revelations, in part because the players' privacy rights under the Buckley Amendment had already been violated by the disclosures. But in the past Calipari has spoken to many of the relevant issues.

•He likes to argue that he should take on players who are at academic risk because UMass is a state school, chartered "to educate the commonwealth." He doesn't mention that the academic snorkelers who have turned the team around are from Atlantic City, Baltimore, Hartford and the Bronx.

•He points out that the Minutemen's 75% graduation rate is better than that of the student body as a whole (67%) and the national average for Division 1 basketball players (46%). He doesn't mention that the 75% figure is for a decidedly small-time recruiting class that came to UMass as freshmen in 1987, before Calipari arrived on campus.

•He invokes a range of academic safeguards he has instituted, from mandatory study halls to tutors who sometimes travel with the team. He doesn't mention the flip side of all that vigilance: that if players are on the verge of flunking out in spite of it, they might not belong at UMass at all.

Not cited in the Globe report is high school star Mark Blount, a seven-foot senior from Yonkers, N.Y., who was briefly tangled up with notorious New York City street agent Rob Johnson. Blount has drifted through six high schools, encountered discipline problems and failed to meet his required test score under Prop 48, yet UMass accepted his verbal commitment in August. "He's the first kid in history to pick a college before he picked a high school," says recruiting analyst Bob Gibbons.

University officials had hardly-gone from hemming to hawing last week when the Springfield Union News published details of Calipari's contract. In addition to a base salary of $132,000, he keeps 94% of the estimated $300,000 net from his summer camp and a flat $50,000 from season-ticket revenues. Another $50,000 a year, provided by a university foundation, is stashed in a pension fund in his name. Meanwhile UMass, a university still trying to recover from budget cuts that forced the elimination of faculty positions, lets him keep 35% of all postseason tournament revenue and the school's share from one road game of his choice—all told, another $35,000 or so per year. That's a total of almost $550,000, excluding Calipari's personal deals with Nike, Spalding and Champion, which surely add another 100 to 200 grand to the pot.

Calipari isn't the only coach making big bucks, and similar academic atrocities occur at other big-time schools. We just don't know the details because the numbers rarely come to light. But Calipari is taking away plenty. Given that UMass hasn't had a player in the NBA since Julius Erving, it bears asking: What exactly are his Minutemen taking away?

Fast Food for Thought

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