The news out of the special NCAA convention in Dallas last week was that there was no news. It was ostensibly a cost-cutting session called by the Presidents Commission; yet, with one exception, all measures designed to de-escalate big-time college sports were defeated, and the member schools even restored two men's basketball scholarships that had been trimmed at the last convention. "We made a mistake by calling this thing," said University of Maryland chancellor John Slaughter, the chairman of the Presidents Commission. "We presidents had not done enough homework."
Still, there was a silver lining to the convention, which, incidentally, cost the NCAA an estimated $1.8 million to stage. The commission inaugurated an ambitious 18-month forum, involving both coaches and administrators, to examine the role of intercollegiate athletics. Ira Michael Heyman, chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley, brought the forum to immediate life with a strong keynote speech. "We have seen recruiters who bribe high school students," said Heyman, "staff who alter transcripts and test scores, admissions officers who admit athletes who are functionally illiterate." He then went on to suggest, among other things, scholarships on a need-only basis, freshman ineligibility, the abolition of bowl games and even the creation of minor leagues in football and basketball.
Some of Heyman's suggestions may have seemed farfetched, but he did get people talking. Penn State's Joe Paterno said, "I don't think the bowl-game thing was very realistic. But, well, he said what he felt." Heyman, who admitted he was trying to be provocative, told SI's Robert Sullivan, "I wanted to say, Let's think of the inconceivable and find what's conceivable."
The NCAA blew a small opportunity last week, but the forum is at least a start. Clearly, something must be done to restore integrity to college sports. Two days after the convention closed, an internal investigation into the Virginia Tech basketball program revealed that not a single basketball player admitted to the school between 1981 and 1983 had graduated.
A SLICE OF CAKE
Here's a helpful kitchen hint: When baking a cake, do not put golf balls inside. It seems that Janice Irby of Casselton, N.Dak., tried to do just that in response to her husband John's 31st-birthday requests for chocolate cake and golf balls, and—fore!—the balls exploded in the oven. "My cake looked as if someone took a shotgun and plugged a couple of rounds into it," said Mrs. Irby. In lieu of the birthday cake, she went out and bought her husband a five-wood.
Is it time for a new king? That's the question checkers fans will be asking in the next few weeks as the tension builds for the biennial World Checkers Championship, which begins Aug. 9 at the International Checkers Hall of Fame in Petal, Miss. Dr. Marion (Two-Ton) Tinsley will be defending the title he first won in 1955 against prot�g� Don ( Kentucky Wonder Boy) Lafferty.
The Hall of Fame is situated on the estate of insurance tycoon Charles Walker, who has built a magnificent shrine to a game more commonly associated with two guys hunched over a barrel at a country store. Despite its opulent home, checkers still retains its folksy quality. Take, for instance, the nicknames of the champion and his challenger. Two-Ton, a 60-year-old mathematics professor at Florida A & M, got the name years ago because of his wispy build, while Kentucky Wonder Boy is a 53-year-old high school math and physics teacher from Hardin County, Ky.
Tinsley, who is also known as the Alexander the Great of checkers, has lost only one game in his six successful defenses of the world title (he retired from competition between 1958 and 1970 to pursue his career in mathematics). Lafferty has been picking Tinsley's brain for years, as Tinsley once did with the legendary Asa Long, a world champion during the '40s, so it is possible that the student will get the jump on the master. "Even after all these years, I'm never confident," says Tinsley. "I have this built-in insecurity. I'm expecting an extremely tough competition."