THE FROSH RULE
The NCAA's startling decision to allow member schools to use freshmen in intercollegiate competition brought instant reaction, some of it rather naive comment on the advantages or disadvantages of the new policy for the athlete himself. Tom Gola, the old basketball All-America from La Salle, said, "I think around Philadelphia it's a beautiful rule. Most of the kids coming out of high school here are already playing with college kids." Harry Silcox, another Philadelphia basketball hero of the Gola era, when freshmen were allowed on varsity teams, disagreed. "I wasn't ready for it," he said. "I was only 17. I found it difficult taking all that time out from class."
George Raveling, an assistant to Basketball Coach Lefty Driesell at Maryland, came closer to the crux of the matter. "I think it's a bad rule," he said, "but if a conference votes against playing freshmen, it puts itself at a tremendous recruiting disadvantage." It is not the welfare of the student-athlete that the new rule is all about but the economic structure of the intercollegiate sports scene. Abe Martin, veteran athletic director of Texas Christian University, dismissed fears about freshmen being too young for competition when he said, "Kids are more learned and better coached than they used to be. I think they can play a part and it won't hurt a thing." Then Martin added, "Besides, an NCAA vote to limit athletic grants-in-aid is on the way. When it comes, it will be wise to have freshmen eligible."
In sum, the freshmen rule is one more symptom of the economic crunch. Absorbing freshmen into varsity programs means that high-budget athletic schools can have the same number of varsity players while reducing the total number of scholarships given. Because an athlete now has four years of eligibility, instead of three, the college gets a 33.3% greater return on the field from its investment in each athlete. It is good business when you can pay less and get more, and one must never forget that big-time college sport, particularly football, is very big business.
SO MUCH FOR LOVE
A press release from the Roller Derby called the Bay Bombers "one of the nation's most beloved sports franchises." Then it added that the club has been switched from San Francisco- Oakland to San Antonio.
With all four teams in the Central Division of the National Basketball Association well under .500 and with only two teams in the entire Eastern Conference over that break-even mark, it is obvious that the NBA is badly imbalanced. Yet the league persists in maintaining a playoff system in which the first two finishers in each of the four divisions qualify for postseason play. This means that a weak team like Atlanta or Cleveland will make the playoffs while a much better club like Golden State or Phoenix will probably be shut out.
The playoffs are supposed to be a showdown competition among the best. Obviously, this is not so. The NBA could come closer to that ideal if the four division champions were joined by the four also-rans with the best records, regardless of division or conference. The last time this was proposed to the owners they voted it down. If Commissioner Walter Kennedy truly possesses the absolute authority he claims now to have, he ought to exercise it and arbitrarily establish a new, fairer playoff system for 1972-73.
Duane Thomas of the Dallas Cowboys, who made a career of not speaking to the press this fall, inevitably ended up with more ink before the Super Bowl than garrulous Joe Namath ever did. Every sportswriter worth his expense account felt obliged to try his hand at interviewing Thomas. Mounting Rosinante and grasping a No. 2 pencil, each rode into the windmill, was spun off and happily sat down to write reams of prose about the man who would not speak. No clear moral emerges from all this except to point out, as Washington Sportswriter Shirley Povich did, in ringing the latest change on the Churchill original, that "Never have so many words been written about so few."
QUANTITY AND QUALITY
The somewhat staid tone of the Super Bowl has encouraged supporters of college football. One staunch advocate of the college game argues that it is consistently faster and more exciting than the professional version. He even criticizes the heart-stopping Miami- Kansas City game in the AFC playoffs, pointing out that in that six-period marathon there were only 149 offensive plays, whereas the four-period Fiesta Bowl between Arizona State and Florida State had 167. O.K., granted. But did the Fiesta Bowl have Garo Yepremian?