A 19-year-old halfback named Bert Coan was found guilty by the NCAA the other day of accepting "excessive entertainment." He got a free airplane ride from a University of Kansas alumnus who took him to see the All-Star football game in Chicago a year ago, when he was a prospective student. Considering the variety of tempting inducements dangled before promising kickers and dribblers by overzealous and undereducated alumni these days, a plane trip is small potatoes.
The real point is that when a teenage high school student takes the recruiting bait he is the one who is hooked, if and when the case is uncovered. Coan's penalty is relatively light—he is barred from football for one year. But it could have been two years, or forever. There is no appeal for the Coans from the shame, the notoriety and the permanent stigma. They may even lose their athletic scholarships entirely. For some of them this means losing the chance for a college education, all because of an eager-beaver alumnus who should have known better (and probably did). The alumnus goes free. The school involved forfeits a few games and maybe a little money. The coach gets a slap on the wrist; the Coans get a fist in the neck.
Someday, hopefully, the NCAA will get up the courage to make the punishment fit the recruiting crime. It should be severe, and it should be aimed squarely at the men—not the boys. For anyone who doubts this is necessary, Bert Coan, an authority on the subject, has a few words:
"If I had it to do over, after graduating from high school, I don't think I'd sign with a college at all," Coan says. "I'd just sit out a year, working somewhere, keeping in shape. When I was a year older I'd start deciding where I wanted to go to school. You can't imagine the pressure...the phone calls, the alumni. It's enough to drive a guy crazy...too much for a 17-year-old high school senior."
NO ALAS FOR GRASS
It is difficult to assess the full import to tennis of Italy's Davis Cup victory over the U.S. in Australia last week. The removal of the U.S. from the Challenge Round for the first time in 24 years may even be the first faint tinkling of a bell that eventually will toll for amateur tennis itself (see page 48). The immediate result, of course, was a spate of speculation on how it happened. Why, after seven years of cup competition, should the two Italian veterans, Nicola Pietrangeli and Orlando Sirola, suddenly find the success they had sought so long in vain?
One answer—frequently overlooked in these hurry-up days of tournament tennis when no champion lingers long in the amateur ranks—lies in the very fact of their long experience and consequent improvement. The hard-fought Davis Cup Interzone finals in Perth last week were not merely lost by the Americans; they were won by two fine champions from Italy. However, the real secret of their success may reside in the person of their coach, Jaroslav Drobny. From the very beginning Drobny made it clear to his temperamental charges that he would stand for none of the prima-donna sulks that have defeated them in the past. One symptom of such sulking has been the Italians' almost pathological fear of playing on grass, a phobia common to many cup contenders from primarily clay-court countries. Drobny reportedly laid the fear with one strong warning. If you have to play on grass, he told his boys, you had better learn to win on grass. And that, stated simply, is precisely what they did.
The hunter pegged a shot at the fast-moving small buck and brought it down, stone-dead. Turned out the shot had severed the deer's tail, which caused the animal to lose balance, which caused it to fall, which caused it to break its neck. It happened, of course, in Texas.
CAST OF CHARACTERS
?When the six coaches of the Western Pennsylvania conference picked their football all-star team the other day they voted Westminster's Gib Lewis the league's best center. Good choice but for one thing: Lewis graduated last June.