Robert Campbell, a black editorial writer, offered a vote of confidence in the tolerance of Wildcats fans, writing, "I believe Kentucky is ready," then undercut it with a parenthetical "regardless of whether most Kentuckians themselves realize it."
And Merlene Davis, a black columnist, doubted whether Lexington will welcome its groundbreaking coach. She addressed Smith in an open letter, "I want to urge you to stay where you are.... Kentucky fans aren't ready for a black head coach. Kentucky fans aren't ready for anybody to coach basketball but Rick Pitino...I sincerely fear for your safety and the safety of your family if you agree to become head coach."
At the press conference to announce his hiring on Monday, Smith seemed proud—and unthreatened—by his place in Kentucky history. "It's certainly an honor to be the first black head coach here," he said, "but it's more important to be competent."
Nicer Guys Finish First
Hockey writers have selected Washington Capitals center Adam Oates as a finalist for the NHLs Lady Byng trophy, which goes to a star player who exhibits "gentlemanly conduct." In fact Oates, who is up against co-finalists Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne of the Anaheim Ducks, has been the runner-up to a different Byng winner each of the past four seasons. Yup, year in and year out, that Adam Oates sure is the second-nicest guy in the NHL.
TV Tees It Up
After 12 days of negotiations in New York City, the PGA Tour struck deals last week assigning the television rights to its tournaments from 1999 through 2002. The Tour also struck it rich, reaping $200 million annually in rights fees from ABC, CBS, NBC and cable networks ESPN, USA and the Golf Channel.
Although the terms of those agreements show that the Tour is small potatoes compared with the three major sporting attractions in the U.S.—the NFL ($1.1 billion a year in TV money), Major League Baseball ($340 million) and the NBA ($275 million plus a share of advertising revenue)—it will receive nearly twice as much per annum than it's getting under its current contracts. Most of that money will go to the players. Commissioner Tim Finchem predicts that by the year 2000 the average Tour purse will also almost double, to more than $3 million.
Part of that windfall is attributable to Tiger Woods, who has helped lift ratings; the '97 Masters was the most-watched golf tournament in history. "Had Tiger stayed at Stanford, we still would have come out well," Finchem said in announcing the new deals. "But having a player who moves the needle on the ratings like he does certainly helped."
Last spring Nebraska quarterback Scott Frost was walking out of the Memorial Stadium locker room in Lincoln when he bumped into Bob Devaney. Looking frail and sallow, Devaney greeted Frost by name and told him to keep working on his passing touch. A few minutes later Frost turned to a companion and gushed, "Can you believe that Bob Devaney actually knows my name! Unbelievable."