The NCAA pulled a dandy last week in Los Angeles at its annual convention. After years of trying to protect student-athletes from the high-pressure college coach, it went off on a naked reverse in exactly the opposite direction. By a vote of 167-79 (and why were only 246 votes cast on this vital bit of legislation?), the NCAA decided to let its 610 member colleges "...terminate the financial aid of a student-athlete if he is adjudged to have been guilty of manifest disobedience through violation of institutional regulations or established athletic department policies and rules applicable to all student-athletes."
The legislation obviously was aimed at athletes who join illegal campus protests, which in itself has some pretty hairy implications, but the phrase we are interested in right now is "established athletic department policies." All that means, in too many cases, is the coach's policies Under this new regulation, an opportunistic coach can assume extraordinary control over his players. A boy is no longer a student athlete—he is an athlete, plain and simple. Will he break a rule if he misses a session on the basketball court to study for an exam? Ask Coach Fastbreak. Can he skip spring football practice and go out for baseball instead? Don't be silly. If a coach, down on a player, decides that a boy's "attitude" is bad, bingo, there goes his scholarship. Suppose a coach realizes that he made a recruiting mistake and has wasted one of his valuable scholarships on a high school prospect who turns into a lemon in college (and you should have heard the Southeastern Conference football coaches moan at the NCAA meeting because they had only 40 scholarships a year to give away, compared to 45 and 50 in other conferences). How does Coach Bowl bound get that wasted scholarship back into productive operation? Guess which high school hero somehow, somewhere, violates a rule and loses his free ride.
Walter Byers, the NCAA's executive director, was asked whether he thought some coaches might use the new regulation to further their own interests. Despite years of handling cases in which colleges have been fined and suspended for coachly violations of NCAA rules, Byers answered, "Oh, that's a lot of hog-wash. There are no such coaches."
A somewhat different situation exists in college athletics in Canada. Terry Harron, a center on McGill University's hockey team, is a fourth-year engineering student. In the course of his studies he combined a number of theories and came up with a workable digital filter that screens out unwanted sounds. We are not quite sure what that is, but it is original enough to warrant Harron's taking out a patent on it. To prepare the necessary papers for processing the patent, Terry took a month off from hockey in the middle of the season. No sweat Brian Gilmour, the McGill hockey coach, says, "This is an academic institution, and these things happen. You just have to get used to it."
CURSE YOU, MAURICE RICHARD
The latest sport Charlie Schulz has been pushing in Peanuts is ice skating (Snoopy recently revealed that he and Peggy Fleming used to skate together "quite often...until I became big-time.") Schulz's interest, of course, is personal. In Northern California, where they live, he and his wife used to skate at a small rink in Santa Rosa, not far from their home in Sebastopol, until one day the roof began to collapse. Now Schulz is building his own rink in Santa Rosa, a fairly elaborate affair that will be able to seat 1,800 spectators for ice hockey and figure skating.
"We want to promote hockey among the kids," Schulz says, "and figure skating, too." Originally the rink was to cost about $250,000, but current estimates indicate that it will go beyond $1 million before it is finished. Schulz says, "We sent a photographer to Switzerland to take pictures of villages and mountains. We'll run murals along one side of the rink and have three or four Swiss houses on the other side. In one section we'll have some stained-glass windows of Snoopy skating. Upstairs, we plan to have an exhibition room for art exhibits and other shows. And we'll also have a restaurant called The Warm Puppy."
Why all this, Charlie?