SI Vault
Edited by Jack McCallum And Kostya Kennedy
April 15, 1996
NCAA's Theater of the Absurd
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April 15, 1996


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That Was No Slice—That Was Positioning!
Given some pro golfers' recent complaints about CBS commentator Johnny Miller's too-candid remarks about their play, and given the arrival this week of the hallowed Masters, whose guardians got CBS analyst Gary McCord kicked off the Masters' telecast for his lack of reverence, we present a primer on golf broadcasting etiquette for other announcers, lest they too slip up and sully this grand game.

The Situation

What You Want to Say

The Proper Thing to Say

A corpulent pro lumbers slowly toward a fairway lie

"Looks like Ol' Porky .should be spending more time on the range and less time at the waffle station"

"The ballast he's added has really steadied his swing plane"

After a half-hour conference, a cadre of PGA officials penalizes a golfer because a twig moved

"Jeez, they ended the Hundred Years' War in less time"

"It was a ruling made patiently, a decision made Solomonically"

A duck hook puts a golfer out by the condos

"Somebody get this guy a map of the course"

"That rather wide shot gives him a chance to say hello to the Wycliffs, one of golfing's first families and great friends of this event"

Celeb guest Bill Murray kisses a woman in a fairway bunker

"Finally, somebody's bringing some life into this tournament"

"I guess he's supposed to be a comedian"

Overcome by pressure, the leader scuffs an important wedge shot at the 72nd hole

"He was so tight you couldn't have pounded a toothpick up his butt with a sledgehammer"

"He has set himself up for a Constantine Rocca-type miracle"

Three days of fog and drizzle leave greens awash and players dripping

"The only way to play this course is in an ark "

"We expect these challenging conditions will really open up the field"

NCAA's Theater of the Absurd

The NCAA got things only half-wrong last week, which is better than usual. Embarrassed when one of its nonsensical rules was challenged in court by sophomore running back Darnell Autry of Northwestern, the sorry-you-can't-do-that specialists in Overland Park, Kans., rounded up enough members of their Administrative Review Panel (ARP) to overturn the original ruling and grant a waiver to Autry that allows him to accept a bit part in a feature film called The Eighteenth Angel. That's precisely what the Circuit Court of Cook County, in granting Autry a temporary restraining order, had suggested the NCAA do.

Perhaps we should be thankful that the organization had the foresight to create the ARP in 1993 as a kind of internal court of last resort to clean up messes such as the one created by Bylaw, which prohibits student-athletes from appearing in feature films. But the fact remains that Autry, a theater major who will not be paid for his role, should never have been forced to resort to legal action.

There is no end to the absurdities found in the NCAA rules and procedures. For example, Autry would have been given an immediate go-ahead had he inquired about taking an unpaid role in a made-for-TV movie being filmed within 30 miles from campus. Does that make sense to anyone besides the NCAA's legal beagles? And remember that the troublesome bylaw that almost tripped up Autry is still on the books, undoubtedly to be challenged again. Also keep in mind that if Autry were a two-sport athlete who had turned pro in, say, baseball, he would still be allowed to play his other sport—say, football—at the intercollegiate level. Yet the NCNayNay was ready to stop Autry from performing in a discipline that has nothing to do with sports. The NCAA wants to promote the student-athlete, yet frequently uses its rules to hinder someone from pursuing that duality.

It did the same thing in the case of another Northwestern athlete, basketball player Dan Kreft, by refusing to let him use his literary skills and sense of humor to write (without compensation) a diary for this magazine (SI, March 4). Meanwhile, Connecticut basketball player Jen Rizzotti was permitted to star in her own ESPN "video diary" during the NCAA women's tournament. Why? Because Rizzotti was promoting an NCAA-sponsored event.

The Autry case and its related absurdities speak to one fact: An overhaul of the NCAA rule book is long overdue. Even if each and every one of its ruler-to-the-wrist statutes was written for a sound reason, the collective impact is that the NCAA's treatment of the student-athlete has become capricious, unnecessarily punitive and hopelessly out-of-date.


With All-Pro wide receiver Michael Irvin facing drug possession charges and The Dallas Morning News reporting that positive drug tests of several other Dallas Cowboys from April 1995 had been thrown out by the NFL on a technicality, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones last week offered this helpful suggestion: Take control of drug testing away from the NFL and turn it over to the teams. "I think to some degree the ones who would be the most sensitive and care the most about it are the individual clubs," Jones told the Morning News.

Has anyone ever talked about mandatory testing of owners?

A Sticky Mess

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