WHOSE SIDE IS WHO ON?
Critics who say baseball is dull and football brutal have bad things to say about basketball, too, but they can't deny that it's interesting. Especially off court. When Jim McDaniels jumped from the ABA Carolina Cougars to the NBA Seattle SuperSonics and Charlie Scott from the ABA Virginia Squires to the NBA Phoenix Suns, it was a double triumph for the NBA, right? But last Friday the NBA New York Knicks protested their defeat by the Suns because of Scott's presence, and Abe Pollin, owner of the NBA Baltimore Bullets, came right out and said he thought McDaniels should still be in the ABA with Carolina. Baltimore beat Seattle Friday night, but Pollin said he would have lodged a protest if the Sonics had won. "I wanted to show my personal feelings in the matter," he said. "I don't approve of this action. It is my belief that McDaniels has a valid contract with Carolina."
Lenny Wilkens, Seattle's coach, was astounded. "Are they [the Bullets] in the NBA or not?" he demanded. "Aren't we supposed to listen to what the commissioner says? That's just sour grapes."
It all jibes with the latest gag going around. "I belong to no organized sport," said the athlete. "I'm a professional basketball player."
JUSTICE IS BLIND
The NCAA tries so hard to enforce its rules and has so much trouble doing it without getting egg on its face. At a time when the question of amateur vs. professional continues to rack sport, when hooraw and contretemps rage over pro basketball teams invading campuses to sign collegiate athletes, the NCAA moved with Rhadamanthine sternness to penalize two Far Western Conference schools for the crime of using players who had failed to complete their four seasons of eligibility within five years.
The rule, a logical one, is designed to prevent colleges from keeping marginal athletes around campus year after year until they are ready for varsity action. But when it was invoked to bar San Francisco State and Sacramento State from the NCAA college-division Western Regional playoffs, the letter of the law corrupted its spirit. San Francisco State's squad, which averages 25 years a man this season (SCORECARD, Feb. 7), included a 30-year-old who began his college career in 1961, left school and some years later returned. Sacramento State had a 28-year-old who followed the same pattern.
S.I. Hayakawa, president of San Francisco State, protested the ruling to the NCAA, pointing out that the Far Western Conference does not allow athletic scholarships, grants-in-aid or other direct aid. The conference prides itself on fostering a competitive environment where students can play a sport for the fun of it. He said the two colleges had been punished for no other reason than that two relatively old students liked basketball well enough to want to compete, obviously without recompense and now, too, without even the fun of getting to play in a postseason tournament.
The Far Western Conference predicament has an apparent parallel at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. A student there named Caesar Smith helped his track team in a triangular meet with Peru State and Marymount College by running a half mile in the stately time of 2:05, which was good enough for fourth place and one point for his team. But Smith is 35 years old. Back in the mid-1950s he was the Iowa State high school 440 champion, and later, at the University of Iowa, where he roomed with Olympian Deacon Jones, he won the Big Ten indoor 600. He left school to enter the Army, rose to major and now, married, with five children, has gone to college again under the Army's "Bootstrap" program, through which career officers can earn their bachelor's degrees.