The NCAA is becoming ridiculous. Once the popular favorite in its duel with the stodgy old AAU, its persistent stance of self-defeating stupidity is eroding its support everywhere. The suspension of Oregon State basketball player Gary Freeman (SCORECARD, Sept. 15) was a bureaucratic inanity that had to be reversed, and the failure to sanction basketball competition in the Maccabiah Games—because of the continuing squabble with the AAU—was petty, shortsighted and cruel. Its suspension of Yale for two years (for not forbidding a Yale player to go to the Maccabiah Games and then for letting him play varsity basketball this season) is a prime example of NCAA overkill.
Even more peculiar is the one-year suspension of San Jose State's track team, the defending NCAA outdoor champions. San Jose was barred from competing in either the indoor or outdoor national championships this year because several of its athletes took part last season in two "uncertified" meets. Athletes from other colleges (the NCAA refuses to name them) appeared in at least one uncertified meet, but their schools were' 'chastised" rather than suspended. San Jose ostensibly received the sterner punishment because its athletes had competed in two such meets.
San Jose claims that it had assumed the meets its athletes entered were O.K., because both had been sanctioned by the U.S. Track and Field Federation, the group the NCAA helped organize in opposition to the AAU. It tried to appeal the ruling, but the NCAA refused the appeal. Last week San Jose's acting president, Hobert W. Burns, said, "At the very least, we believe we are entitled to know why San Jose State College...was singled out for punishment and why the punishment was so severe." Then he tossed a strong accusation. "This action against San Jose State," he said, "may have been in part a prejudicial reaction to John Carlos' raised-fist gesture at the Olympic Games."
Carlos is the controversial sprinter who, with his San Jose teammate Tommie Smith, appeared on the victory stand in Mexico and made the Black Power gesture that aroused so much animosity. To ascribe the NCAA action against San Jose to its personal feelings against Carlos would seem terribly farfetched if it were not for a double-page spread that appeared on pages 2 and 3 of the December issue of NCAA News. An oversimplified and one-sided editorial on campus unrest among black athletes is accompanied by an abridged report of a speech by an FBI official that, in juxtaposition with the editorial, seems to lump all black student activists with the extreme left. If the NCAA wanted to support the argument of San Jose's acting president, it could not have done it more effectively.
Someone once said, "As long as one cockroach suffers the pangs of unrequited love, this is not the best of all possible worlds." By that criterion, the National Football League, in its realignment, created something a good deal less. There are some unhappy cockroaches among the 13 reshuffled clubs, and the one suffering most from unrequited love is Minnesota.
The Vikings, who remain in the frostbite division with Detroit, Chicago and Green Bay, were the orphans of the realignment storm, beloved by no one. You would think other teams would be eager to be in the same division with the 1969 NFL champions, but no. To the club owners, being in the same division with the Vikings means you are committed to playing against a tough, bruising football team in the coldest and most northern town in the league in a stadium that is small by pro football standards. That was why Pete Rozelle finally had to have his secretary draw realignment out of a hat. Of the five plans put in the hat, only one—the one that the lady picked—kept Minnesota in the Central Division.
That one made everybody but the Lions, the Bears and the Packers happy. The old Coastal Division, which earlier had lost Baltimore to the AFL, picked up desirable New Orleans (big park, warm weather, no contender). The old Capitol Division added St. Louis, the only club left from the Century Division, what with New Orleans shifted and Cleveland and Pittsburgh gone on to the AFL—oops, American Conference.
So old NFL rivalries remain virtually undisturbed, and realignment was accomplished with the least possible disruption. Except that the Vikings must feel as unwelcome as their namesakes did landing on the coasts of Western Europe a thousand years ago.