SI Vault
Edited by Hank Hersch
September 18, 1989
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September 18, 1989


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Among athletes who matriculated in the fall of 1982, the graduation rate for that class over a five-year period at 35 Division I basketball schools and 14 Division I-A football schools was, shockingly, less than 20%. These figures were released last week, not by the NCAA, which has no stipulations on the publication of graduation rates, but by the General Accounting Office, which is collecting information for a bill before Congress. That legislation, the Student-Athlete Right to Know Act, would require schools to release their graduation figures, broken down by sport, race and gender, so that high school seniors can make more informed choices when selecting colleges. Two of the sponsors of the bill are former basketball All-Americas, Senator Bill Bradley (D., N.J.) and Representative Tom McMillen (D., Md.).

The survey—which examines 97 Division I basketball programs and 103 Division I-A football programs—focuses on the NCAA's top two revenue-producing sports and is nonpartisan proof that many students have been educationally shortchanged: Overall, the graduation rate for basketball players was 38%; for football players, 45%. The NCAA points out that this study was done before the enactment of Bylaw 5-1-(j), and does not take into account athletes who may have transferred from their initial schools in good academic standing.

Some members of the NCAA are strongly opposed to the federal government getting involved in their affairs. They oppose what seems to be the only way to obtain the truth about academics in big-time sports and about how few so-called student-athletes actually fit that description.

NBA superstar Michael Jordan, 26, married Juanita Vanoy, 30, the mother of their 10-month-old son, Jeffrey, at 3:30 a.m. last Saturday at The Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas. The bride wore jeans. The groom wore jeans, loafers and no socks. Vanoy had two bridesmaids; one was dressed in a skirt, the other in jeans. Jordan had two groomsmen, both of whom were attired in shorts. One wore gym shoes—Nikes, of course.


On Sept. 7, Tom Blackaller, one of the world's best-known sailboat racers, died of a heart attack at 49. Blackaller, who lived most of his life in the San Francisco Bay Area, won two world championships in the Star class and was a major figure on the international ocean racing scene for three decades. But it was as the high-spirited, outspoken helmsman of America's Cup boats—Clipper in 1980, Defender in '83 and USA in '87—that Blackaller became known to most sports fans. Senior writer Sarah Ballard, who has covered the Cup since '83, remembers him:

Blackaller mounted America's Cup campaigns for the usual reasons—he was fiercely competitive, and the Cup was sailing's biggest prize. He never even won the trials. His campaigns were always underfunded, and more than once his backers, panicking as the bills piled up, turned on him. More important, though, Blackaller was a misfit in the America's Cup spectacle. He was a sportsman, and he kept making the mistake of thinking the America's Cup was sport, when in fact it had become a nasty business.

Reporters liked Blackaller because he was the one America's Cup source they could count on to tell the truth. He might decline to answer a question, but he never lied or misled as others routinely did. Photographers liked him because he made them look good. That thick, silver mane, that square jaw—nobody could take a bad picture of Blackaller.

He was always an underdog in America's Cup competitions, but, lord, he never looked like one. He squeezed every drop of fun out of a campaign, laughing, bellowing, needling Dennis Conner, whom he respected for his sailing but otherwise detested. Once, in Newport, R.I., Blackaller climbed on top of a shed to shout insults across the docks toward Conner's boatyard. By the end of his Cup campaigns, Blackaller was exhausted and depressed. He swore off the Cup after 1983, but he came back in '87. Then he swore off big-time sailing altogether. "International ocean racing—that's teeth-clenching pressure," he told Kimball Livingston of the San Francisco Chronicle. "After so much of it, you've just had enough."

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