THE NCAA'S HOME COOKING
Senior writer Curry Kirkpatrick reports: We waited with bated breath Sunday for the NCAA to announce the seedings of 64 teams invited to the NCAA basketball tournament. All 64 place-holders should be proud of their season-long accomplishment, but there may be a hitch to some celebrations. What kind of reward is it for Brown to meet, in the first round, Syracuse at Syracuse? Not much. And, in fact, Syracuse isn't the only school that enjoys a first-round advantage; others playing before friendly crowds are Duke (in Greensboro), Pepperdine (in Long Beach), LSU (in Baton Rouge) and Utah (in Ogden).
Over the years the NCAA has labored to eliminate many of the thorns in its crowning playoffs. There is a rule that no team may play in a regional—the round of 16—on its home court. But a similar rule should apply to the first and second rounds as well. And it's not just home courts that should be off-limits, but also any court that might bestow home advantage. For instance, it's too bad that Kansas, if it wins its early rounds, will play in the Midwest regional in Kansas City, 37 miles from Lawrence. Are we to believe that in Kemper Arena any opponent of the Jayhawks would be facing a neutral crowd? And get this: Georgia Tech, which has already played six home games at Atlanta's Omni this season, will, if it gets that far, play in the Southeast Regional there. The NCAA says that if you play less than half your home schedule at an arena, then it's not really considered your home.
In 1974, N.C. State won the national championship without ever having to leave the red Carolina clay, and it was in the wake of that situation that the rule against teams' playing on their home courts in regionals was enacted. It was far more impressive when the Wolfpack won the 1983 title over the course of playing in Corvallis, Ore., Ogden and Albuquerque. State was followed by two other national champions, Georgetown and Villanova, which won the title while competing far afield.
The obvious excuse for keeping a team at home is its drawing-card value, but surely the tournament has become rich enough—CBS is paying a whopping $32 million for this year's broadcast rights—to avoid resorting to contrived home cooking.
JINGOISM IN THE MIDWEST
Everyone in Russia, Ohio knows that the name is pronounced ROO-shah. "But everybody else thinks it's like Red Russia," says Paul Bremigan, coach of the basketball team at Russia High. Certainly the fans of Cincinnati's North College Hill High thought so. All through the district finals in Dayton, a game Russia lost 51-49 on a last-second shot by NCH, they chanted "U-S-A! U-S-A!"
No, it isn't just in sports that people are debating the merits of mandatory drug testing. Last week the President's Commission on Organized Crime recommended that federal agencies and contractors be required to test employees and that private companies consider doing so, too. The recommendations were immediately attacked by critics ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union, which accused the panel of waging "war against innocent American citizens," to, perhaps more surprisingly, The Wall Street Journal, which called the commission's proposal "an example of enforcement mentality run amok." In the face of such criticism, U.S. Circuit Court Judge Irving R. Kaufman, the commission chairman, emphasized that testing should be done "very selectively" and with assurances of privacy and protection of an individual's civil rights.
Meanwhile, a USA Today poll revealed strong public support for drug testing of workers in a number of professions. While 64% of respondents thought professional athletes should be tested, 86% favored testing for airline pilots and school bus drivers, 79% favored it for doctors and nurses and 77% supported it for truck drivers. Only 52% backed testing for bank tellers. As for rock stars, 44% thought they should be tested.
A nationwide SI poll indicates even broader backing for drug testing of pro athletes. In the poll of 2,043 adult Americans conducted in November and December by Lieberman Research Inc. of New York City, the question was asked, "Should professional teams be allowed to compel athletes to undergo random drug tests?" Seventy-three percent said yes, 14% no and 13% expressed no opinion.