It should come as no surprise that Nebraska's football program is facing an NCAA probe into possible rules violations. Since 1980 seven of the 12 schools that have finished atop one of the major polls were subsequently hit with NCAA sanctions or inquiries, including the last five: Miami, Washington, Alabama, Florida State and now the Cornhuskers. Throw in the controversies at Colorado (allegations of sexual assault and other criminal wrongdoing preceded the Buffaloes' 1990 national championship) and Notre Dame (reports of steroid use date to the Irish's '88 title), and only Georgia Tech ('90), Penn State ('82 and '86) and BYU ('84) remained pure in reaching the promised land.
Are national champions inherently foul? Or are they just subject to more scrutiny? Either way, the NCAA knows enough to look out for No. 1.
Busch League Behavior
If the Los Angeles Dodgers miss the playoffs by a game or two, their demise will be traceable to two losses to the New York Mets last week. On Aug. 29 Dodger general manager Fred Claire tossed a stink bomb into his clubhouse by defying the unanimous wishes of his players and calling up from Triple A a former replacement player, third baseman Mike Busch. The San Diego Padres and the San Francisco Giants had rescinded similar call-ups this year after protests from their major leaguers. But Claire decided to risk the chemistry of his first-place team to add a platoon third baseman who hit .269 in the minors. Claire did this even though he knew the Houston Astros had lost 11 straight games shortly after promoting former scab pitcher Craig McMurtry, a move linked to that collapse.
For two days Busch was a pariah. The Dodgers refused to talk to him, play catch with him or sit next to him in the dugout. When he took infield practice, he couldn't make throws to first base because no one was willing to catch them. Thus distracted, Los Angeles blew a ninth-inning lead to lose 4-3 to New York and the next night dropped another game, 8-1. Said Dodger first baseman Eric Karros, "If anybody here says their total focus was on baseball, personally, I don't think that's true."
Dodger fans, their strike wounds reopened, lashed out. They booed especially loudly any appearance by outfielder Brett Butler, a stout union man, and gave Busch standing ovations before and after he struck out in his first at bat. As one of the game's most outspoken Christians, Butler had been quick to forgive Darryl Strawberry in the aftermath of the former Dodger's fall from grace. But only after seeing his team in turmoil did Butler grant Busch similar absolution. On Aug. 31 he agreed to an uneasy truce and appeared alongside Karros and catcher Mike Piazza at a smile-free press conference with Busch. The players showed the courage of mice by blaming much of the controversy on the media (none of whose representatives, as far as we know, refused to catch Busch's throws, sit next to him or otherwise treat him like a leper).
Publicly both sides declared the mess over, and Busch received high fives in the dugout after singling during last Thursday's 6-5 win over the Mets. But L.A.'s decision to show excerpts of the make-nice media session on its scoreboard betrayed the insincerity of the armistice. As one Dodger remarked, "When I saw that, I wanted to call my own press conference and puke."
Put a Lid on It
A Massachusetts high school principal noticed the trend early last year: Many of his students were sporting Notre Dame and UNLV caps. At first he didn't think it meant much that white kids wore the former and black kids the latter. After all, the Irish had a largely white football team, and the Runnin' Rebels had won a national basketball title with a largely black one. But soon the principal discovered something chilling: Some whites claimed to wear the ND caps to send a message of hate: Niggers Die. Some blacks said they reacted with an equally ugly sentiment, donning caps reading UNLV: Us Niggers Love Violence.