THE MINNESOTA AFFAIR
I would like to make it perfectly clear that as athletic director of the University of Minnesota I do not condone the acts of physical violence and crowd reaction that led to early termination of the Ohio State-Minnesota basketball game in Williams Arena on Jan. 25. In fact, I deeply regret them. This was the first time in more than 80 years of University of Minnesota basketball that a game here had gotten beyond the control of officials.
I must however, strongly protest the reporting of William F. Reed (An Ugly Affair in Minneapolis
, Feb. 7). Any reaction from Minnesota fans in the waning moments of the game is far overshadowed by the nationwide reaction he has precipitated by his highly inflammatory rhetoric and strongly biased editorializing to the discredit and detriment of the university, its athletic department, its basketball program and Coach Bill Musselman.
Reed cites as the pith of Musselman's philosophy the message, "Defeat is worse than death because you have to live with defeat." This slogan is not original with Musselman. It is one of more than a dozen slogans in the dressing room. Strangely enough, no one had seen fit to point it out as objectionable until Reed used it to his own purpose.
Careful study of three different movie film versions of the Bob Nix-Luke Witte incident at halftime clearly show Witte passing Nix (who was standing still) and deliberately clipping him in the face so hard his head snapped back. Two players and an assistant coach rushed to call this to the attention of the officials, but they were ignored. Reed states: "Later, Musselman claimed that was the incident that incited his players." The Minnesota players unanimously concur. In the dressing room at half-time Musselman counseled his squad, "Try to forget it. Let's concentrate on winning."
Reed also writes, "When Ohio State Guard Dave Merchant moved in on a retreating [Corky] Taylor, Jim Brewer hit Merchant with a combination of punches and then, along with [Clyde] Turner, chased him down the sideline." Brewer did take after Merchant, but before he as much as touched him, he was knocked to the floor by two on-rushing Ohio players.
Reed describes the whole incident as "a cold, brutal attack, governed by the law of the jungle." Representatives of the black community have taken an active interest in the affair and deeply resent this as a thoroughly distasteful slur on their race. I must agree.
Reed next goes on to say, " Musselman made no attempt to stop the fight and show ed no remorse afterward." Any set of films will clearly show Bill Musselman, a full nine inches shorter than Clyde Turner, making every possible physical effort to restrain him. Afterward, Musselman tried to speak to Fred Taylor outside their dressing rooms but was rejected by words that could not be put into print. Obviously Mr. Reed chose not to make note of this. Musselman also went to the university hospital where he apologized to Mark Minor and talked to Assistant Coach Bob Burkholder. He further checked with the chief of surgery on the condition of the players.
We ask how can Reed and SPORTS ILLUSTRATED justify his misrepresentation of the facts?
?The facts speak for themselves. First, Reed did not say that Luke Witte was blameless and he quoted Big Ten Commissioner Wayne Duke's conclusion that only in the Witte-Nix incident "were charges of excessive physical contact against Ohio State's players at all justified." Next, TV film strips clearly show that before Jim Brewer and Clyde Turner chased Ohio Stale Guard Dave Merchant down the sideline, they took punches at him and knocked him to the floor. As for the term "law of the jungle," the dictionary defines it as "a system or mode of action in which the fittest survive..." and it has no racial connotation. Finally, Musselman's reaction in his postgame interview with SI's reporter and other members of the press was anything but remorseful.—ED.
I saw the filmed account of the Corky Taylor-Ron Behagen attack on Luke Witte on a TV news program and was appalled. I read William Reed"s account and was further appalled to discover that Commissioner Duke had concluded that Taylor's was an "unsportsmanlike act" and that the Minnesota Athletic Senate had decided to suspend Taylor and Behagen only until Feb. 15. I am most appalled, however, to find that these two are not in jail.