The new generation of college basketball fan probably doesn't know it, but it wasn't too long ago that the name Louisville meant something. Denny Crum, notwithstanding his shellacked hair and garish sport coats, was one of the game's most respected coaches. In the 1980s memorable players such as Darrell Griffith, Scooter and Rodney Mc-Cray, and Pervis (Never Nervous) Ellison led the Cardinals to two NCAA championships, two other Final Four appearances and a .723 winning percentage.
But over the last few seasons, including a disastrous 12-20 campaign in 1997-98, Louisville has become only a blip on the national radar screen, in the news more often for off-court malfeasance than on-court glory. Last week's announcement mat the Cards had been put on three years' probation for NCAA violations, stripped of one scholarship for each of the 1999-2000 and 2000-01 seasons and banned from tournament play this season threatens to marginalize Louisville even more.
The Cardinals had come off a two-year probation for recruiting and extra benefits violations the day before the latest penalty was announced, and the NCAA deals harshly with repeat offenders. The violations that led to the new probation were relatively minor: They involved benefits that Scooter Mc-Cray, then Crum's top assistant, provided to Fred Johnson, the father of junior forward Nate Johnson, in late 1996. (Among other things, McCray gave his credit card to a hotel as assurance that Fred Johnson would pay his bill.) Crum, who didn't attend last week's news conference announcing the probation, described the violations as "errors" that occurred "nearly two years ago."
Historically Crum has shown neither much patience with investigations nor contrition when violations have been found. It's possible that the school's behavior during the investigation didn't help the Cardinals' cause with the NCAA either. Instead of firing McCray, Louisville shifted him to a position as "special assistant to the athletic director." (Sources say, however, that he may yet be fired.) And last March, while the investigation was still under way, the 61-year-old Crum was given a new incentive-laden, four-year contract extension worth a possible $750,000 annually.
It's time for Crum, who is being treated rudely on talk radio shows around the state, to justify that vote of confidence. As Bonnie Slatton, who heads the NCAA's infractions committee, puts it, "One of the reasons we hold the head coach responsible is they are in effect the CEO of the sport"
High School Golf
The Shirt off His Back
Rick Frame, who coaches the Braxton County (W.Va.) High boys' golf team, wanted "something a little different" when it came to the Eagles' attire this year. To that end he outfitted his charges in camouflage. One golfer, however, refused to blend in. Seventeen-year-old Phil Mauser said he found the shirts embarrassing and refused to wear them. As a result he was cut from the team. "I don't hunt, so I don't like camouflage," said an unapologetic Phil. "Camouflage is not in the same category as golf attire."
He's right about that. It's so much more subdued.
It's Greek to Them
The birthplace of the Olympics is looking for native sons to play baseball in the 2004 Athens Games. As host nation, Greece is guaranteed a berth in the baseball tournament, but in a land where Karrotos rode to epic victory in the chariot races, there are no Homeric odes to a spear-swinging Roger Maristotle or a thunderbolt-slinging Grover Cleveland Alexander the Great.