SI Vault
Mark Mulvoy
November 07, 1966
Refusing to divulge reasons, the Atlantic Coast Conference has ruled South Carolina's basketball star ineligible. Coach Frank McGuire angrily charges that the ACC really is out to get Frank McGuire
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
November 07, 1966

The Off-court Uproar In Dixie

Refusing to divulge reasons, the Atlantic Coast Conference has ruled South Carolina's basketball star ineligible. Coach Frank McGuire angrily charges that the ACC really is out to get Frank McGuire

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2

In 1964, McGuire became the head coach at South Carolina. He says—and he is supported by many reporters—that Erickson and Cameron advised the late Dr. James Penney, then faculty chairman of athletics at South Carolina, not to hire McGuire on the grounds that he would be bad for the school and the conference. McGuire believes that Cameron and Erickson were not pleased at the prospect of another flood of New York players contending for ACC dominance, this time at South Carolina.

Mike Grosso is from the New York area. But he is not, in the usual sense, a "recruit." According to ACC rules, an athlete must score at least 800 on his college board exams to be eligible for financial aid. Even if Grosso's improved score of 789 had been accepted, he still would not have qualified for a scholarship. Nevertheless, he enrolled at South Carolina in September of 1965, and shortly thereafter Cameron said that Duke would never play South Carolina if Grosso were allowed to compete. South Carolina's reply to the implication that Grosso was receiving aid was that Grosso's family—an uncle, specifically—was paying his bills. "We had seen where Grosso lives in New Jersey," Cameron insisted, "and we didn't think circumstances indicated the family could pay his bills."

Last spring Paul Dietzel took over as athletic director and football coach at South Carolina and uncovered certain irregularities in the football program. He reported these to the NCAA and to the ACC, and one result was an announcement by Commissioner Weaver that stunned Frank McGuire and South Carolina: "Any student athlete enrolled or incoming at the University of South Carolina whose eligibility is questioned will be withheld from participation unless and until it is established to the satisfaction of the conference that there has been no violation in each individual case." In other words, a man is guilty until proved innocent. And so, declining to give reasons, Weaver questioned Mike Grosso's eligibility, though he told South Carolina that Grosso could continue to practice with the basketball team.

Two weeks ago Cameron sent a letter to Dietzel that read, in part, "When can we clear up the Grosso case...? We have an early game scheduled." Dietzel sent copies of the letter to the university's academic officials, and, in turn, South Carolina's president, Dr. Thomas F. Jones, wrote to the ACC requesting an immediate meeting to settle Grosso's eligibility. The meeting started promptly at 9:30 last Friday morning in the conference room of the Triangle Motel at the Raleigh-Durham Airport. It lasted three hours and 50 minutes, and during that time the South Carolina officials presented their case, claiming that 1) Grosso's family was paying his bills; 2) there had been no illegal tryout camp involving Grosso, as had been alleged; and 3) neither the school nor McGuire had violated recruiting regulations.

Then, at 1:20 p.m., the committee called for Frank McGuire to return to the conference room. It was obvious from his bearing that McGuire knew the committee was going to declare Grosso ineligible. As McGuire walked toward the door of the conference room, Jim Weaver was coming out of the meeting. McGuire slopped Weaver and demanded, "Where are you going? Don't you want to be back there to hear your decision to make this boy ineligible?" Weaver muttered a few words and started to walk away. McGuire fingered the lapel of Weaver's jacket and said, "Jim, you're coming back." They returned to the room together.

When McGuire heard the committee's verdict he was furious and had to be restrained by Dr. Jones, who insisted McGuire should not say anything until they appealed the decision. To reporters McGuire said what he has been saying for more than a year: "They are not after Grosso, they are after me." No committee member would comment.

As South Carolina prepares its appeal, there are strong indications that the NCAA is also investigating the Grosso affair. Whatever the outcome, it has engendered enough bitterness in the ACC to last for years.

1 2