Family Feud, NCAA-style
Jerry Tarkanian's quarter-century battle with the NCAA has nothing on the run-ins between the McAlister family and college sports bureaucracies, which span two generations. The latest update from the front involved the suspension served by Arizona senior cornerback Chris McAlister last Saturday for having received what the NCAA deemed an improper benefit. McAlister, a leading candidate for the Jim Thorpe Award, borrowed $10,800 last summer from an Austin bank to pay the insurance premium on a catastrophic-injury policy for this season. That was O.K. with the NCAA. He then borrowed another $14,500, which, the NCAA ruled, was secured solely by his athletic potential. That was not O.K.
As a high school star in Pasadena, McAlister dreamed of playing at UCLA, where his father, James, had been an All-America tailback in 1973. As it turned out, Chris would follow in his father's footsteps in another, unintended way. In spring 1971, the NCAA ruled that James's SAT scores were invalid because his test sheet showed too many erasures. UCLA held him out for his sophomore season. In 1995 the Educational Testing Service, which is the clearinghouse for the SAT, declared Chris's score invalid because of what ETS said was evidence that he copied from another test taker. That made him ineligible to receive a scholarship from UCLA.
The McAlisters sued ETS, questioning its evidence, and Chris enrolled at Mount San Antonio, a junior college in Walnut, Calif. After a year there, he went to Arizona, where, as a sophomore in 1996, he returned a kick-off 100 yards for a touchdown against UCLA to seal a 35-17 Wildcats victory. Last year the McAlisters and ETS officials met with a judge, and, after being told his would be a tough case to win, Chris retook the math portion of the SAT. When his score improved by 70 points, the McAlisters dropped their lawsuit.
Arizona's appeal of McAlister's loan suspension was denied last Friday. Wildcats officials decried the NCAA's decision, but the language in the NCAA manual governing McAlister's violation is unambiguous. McAlister didn't travel with Arizona to Washington, where the Wildcats yielded the most points they've allowed this season but pulled out a thrilling 31-28 win. This week McAlister will play against UCLA for the last time. It should be quite a show.
Arkansas Ticket Sales
As a growing number of schools take unclaimed seats away from their student sections and sell them to alumni, Arkansas has adopted an approach that is every retailer's dream: It sells the same seats twice and keeps both payments. If students fail to pick up their prepaid tickets by three days before a game, the school sells those seats to the public and does not reimburse the students. (While most schools give buyers the actual game tickets upon purchase, Arkansas gives out coupons, which must later be redeemed for the tickets.)
About 500 student tickets for the Razorbacks' game in Fayetteville on Sept. 26 against Alabama, sold as part of a three-game, $20 package, went unclaimed by the deadline. Arkansas resold them for $25 apiece—a nice $12,500 windfall. Last week, before their game in Little Rock against Kentucky, which they won 27-20, the Razorbacks resold about 200 student tickets for $20 apiece.
Return to the Single Wing
Florida coach Steve Spurrier has buried his grand experiment of switching quarterbacks from snap to snap. Frustrated after a 16-10 escape at Alabama in which the Gators committed three turnovers—two fumbles and an interception—inside the Crimson Tide's five-yard line, Spurrier announced after the game that this week he will name either Doug Johnson or Jesse Palmer the starter. "I'm hoping one guy will give us a spark," he said. "They have played almost identically, but I need to give one guy an opportunity to lead the team and see where it goes from there."