The National Collegiate Athletic Association, so appalled at the in-season signing of college football players by professional football teams, surely must be aware that this has been going on for years—and for good fiscal reasons. A player offered a big bonus and high salary knows that if he collects both in the same year he will pay a far higher income tax than if he takes the bonus one year and salary the next. As for the ethics of it all, what is there in college recruiting practices that would persuade a young man that in letting himself be recruited into the pros prematurely he is violating the spirit of the prevailing amateur code? Where was he first subjected to heavy recruiting pressure involving financial deals? In high school, that's where.
Now, high on the order of business at the NCAA convention in Chicago is an amendment to the rules governing financial arrangements with athletes—in a word, pay for playing football. If approved, the four-year free ride for "student-athletes" (the NCAA term) would be dead. "Financial aid for student-athletes shall not be awarded for more than one academic year and may be awarded for a lesser period," the Big Eight proposes. "After completion of the period for which financial aid has been awarded, another grant may be awarded by the scholarship committee...provided [he] meets the academic requirements of the conference and is a student in good standing in every respect...."
And provided he is good enough to make the football team—cut the mustard, as the coaches say—or he does not mash a knee in his first year or does not get so interested in studies that he sloughs off practice in favor of lab.
HEADS UP, AMERICA
The ever-increasing flow of Canadian-trained hockey players onto U.S. college rinks can be stemmed, says Ralph Weiland, Harvard's veteran hockey coach, by some simple rules changes.
"Since the advent of artificial rinks," Weiland says, "American boys have improved their skating ability tremendously. The rules now used, however, handicap their opportunity for improvement in stick handling, passing and maneuverability."
The big difference: Canadians play heads-up hockey because their rules—the same as the professionals'—permit body checking all over the ice. American rules allow body checking only in the defensive zone. This fosters what to a Canadian is an unforgivable sin—putting the head down to cradle a pass to the stick when in mid-ice or thereabouts. It is an invitation to a crunching body check in Canada, but it is more, too, according to Weiland. It hampers the development of instinctive stick handling.
"The American boy isn't learning to stick handle," he explains, "because there is no red line and checking is prohibited in the offensive zone. A good stick handler learns to control the puck by its feel on the stick. He doesn't have to look at it to know it's there."
Weiland favors installation of the red line, a rule allowing body checks all over the ice, and the pro-styled rule that permits a player to straddle the blue line without being called off side.