COMMITMENT IS A ONE-WAY STREET
On April 28 three freshman basketball players at USC—all of them starters—were sent letters marked "Personal and Confidential" from their new coach, George Raveling. The message: "I have recommended to the Athletic Director that your athletic grant-in-aid not be renewed for the 1986-87 academic year."
The three players—Hank Gathers, Bo Kimble and Tom Lewis—were surprised, even though, after Trojan coach Stan Morrison resigned under pressure in March, they had lobbied the athletic department to hire a West Coast coach as a replacement. When USC picked Raveling, the former Iowa coach, in March, the three had expressed reservations about continuing at the school.
Nevertheless, the abrupt termination of their grants-in-aid seemed extreme. Raveling had told the three (and a fourth player, Rich Grande) to decide by April 26 whether they would remain at USC, but he had failed to warn them of the consequences of not doing so. Grande made clear his intention to stay, but when the deadline passed for the other three, Raveling recommended that their scholarships be revoked.
It appeared Raveling was running the players off—dropping them so he could offer their scholarships to new prospects. "It's ridiculous to say I'm running them off," he told SI last week. "I tried three times to get them to stay. Why would someone run off starters? These kids were already proven commodities." Why had Raveling set an April deadline, when the NCAA deadline for dealing with scholarship renewals is July 1? "We needed to know," said Raveling. "We couldn't go into the summer with any uncertainty."
In fact, Raveling may well have needed to know: The deadline for signing a player to a national letter of intent is May 15, and Raveling had reportedly promised more scholarships for next year than he had available. With the three freshmen gone, apparently Raveling no longer has a numbers problem.
The situation is an unfortunate one. The three players considered appealing Raveling's decision to the USC financial aid office but by last Friday had decided against it. Said Lewis, who led the Trojans in scoring last year with a 17.6 average, "Considering the circumstances of the past month, I would be better off transferring."
If the three do transfer, they must, by NCAA rules, sit out next season. The transfer rule is designed in part to keep dishonest coaches from raiding one another's programs, but as the USC case shows, it can be unfair to athletes: When their coach leaves—or is fired—they're left in the lurch. While players are asked for a commitment, they don't always receive one in return.
ON TOP OF THE WORLD
Will Steger's polar expedition reached the North Pole last Friday, 56 days after setting out from Ward Hunt Island (SCORECARD, March 3 et seq.). The original eight-person party, which made the trek without having additional provisions flown in, finished two members shy: Bob McKerrow and Bob Mantell were airlifted out with broken ribs and frostbite, respectively. Ann Bancroft of Sunfish Lake, Minn. became the first woman to reach the pole by dogsled, surviving a mid-April plunge through Arctic Sea ice. Steger, 40, of Ely, Minn., called the trip "the hardest days of my life."
THE SAN DIEGO ZOO