Commissioner Cosmo Iacovazzi, uncle of the former Princeton All-America, insisted last week that reports of the league's imminent demise were without foundation. Yet every team is losing money. Most used to receive both players and money from NFL teams, but the NFL withdrew its financial support this season. Iacovazzi has talked with Pete Rozelle in the hopes of establishing a new working agreement, but unless the NFL decides a minor affiliate is needed, there will be no Atlantic Coast Football League in 1971.
ALL YOU NEED TO WIN
Some of the magic of coaching is clearly delineated in a report from Portugal, where a chap named Joaquim Meirim is trying to revolutionize traditional training concepts in soccer. Meirim took over a team called Belenenses, which finished seventh last year, fired the team's two acknowledged stars and began training a new group of 25 men on a team-spirit, everybody-is-equal basis. Nude bathing, mud massages and tree chopping were emphasized, and Portuguese sports pages had fun running photos of Belenenses players chopping down eucalyptus trees and being massaged in mud pools in their free moments away from au naturel swimming. "I have them swim naked," explained Meirim, "to help them achieve a complete state of relaxation and get rid of inner psychological conflicts." The team won its opening game impressively, but was only so-so in an exhibition game the coach scheduled for his players the very next day in order to "measure their capacity under strain." Nevertheless, one goal of this modern approach appears to have been reached early: fans are filling the stadium to see Meirim's wonders in action. Which moved a veteran, cynical Belenenses fan to say, "That's exactly what we want from Meirim: money. Then we can buy some really good players and hire a new coach."
SOURCES OF SUPPLY
The extravagant salaries in pro basketball and the death struggles of minor league football seem related to two other bits of information. One concerns the University of Miami, where a committee has recommended that Miami drop basketball after the 1970-71 season. The reason? It's too expensive. The school does not have a field house and the team does not draw in arenas around Miami (only 94 students showed up at one game last year).
The second concerns the National Hockey League, which will distribute more than $1 million to amateur hockey this year in recompense for amateur players that NHL clubs drafted last June. The NHL has a complex system of payments that can reach a maximum of $10,000 for each player drafted. Amateur hockey in Canada is, of course, a widespread activity that depends to a great extent on the financial support it receives from the professionals, who in turn depend on the amateurs for a constant flow of young players. Football and basketball and—to a lesser extent—baseball also depend on amateur organizations for their player supply—if you can call big-time collegiate sports amateur. Yet when the professionals draft a player, they pay nothing to the college that finds and develops him.
With college athletics in an increasing financial bind, perhaps it is time for the other big professional sports to adopt a system similar to hockey's, maybe something as simple as funding one scholarship for each draft choice. It never hurts to take care of a golden goose.
TEST FOR THE BEST
John Jacobs, trainer of Personality, who won the 1970 Preakness, and High Echelon, who won the 1970 Belmont, recently proposed a radical change in the qualifications for horses entered in the Kentucky Derby. Right now any thoroughbred can be nominated for the race and, assuming that the rather substantial series of nomination fees are paid, can run for the roses. As a result the fields are usually large, sometimes dangerously so. "Some people put their horses in just to see their colors in the Derby," says Jacobs. "We're producing 25,000 foals a year now, and it's conceivable that in another 15 or 20 years we might be producing 50,000. It could reach the stage where 40 or 50 horses would be ready to enter the Derby."
Jacobs thinks the field should be limited to no more than 14 and that these should be top horses. First, he would eliminate all who have never won a race. Then he would eliminate those who have not won two races and then those who have not placed in a stakes race with a value of $20,000 or more. If the field were still too bulky, he would continue to eliminate horses step by step until only winners of at least one $100,000 race remained.