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Jordan, Nelson and the athletes themselves have a load of other innovations in mind. ITA will offer the services of a fashion consultant for uniforms, but ii a Dr. Delano Meriwether wants to sprint in bathing suit and suspenders, that's all right, too (though ITA does reserve a veto over costumes, just in case). Hey, why not a light that would whiz around the track in world-record time during a race, similar to greyhound racing's artificial rabbit? Right on. Or a mark to appear on the scoreboard almost the instant the shot lands? Have it, too. Or a decathlon to be run two events per meet for five weekends, or a self-replacing crossbar for the pole vault? Hallelujah, brother! Nelson talks excitedly about a proposed series of traffic lights that will tell the athletes when to stop and go. A yellow light at the pole-vault pit and Seagren will get ready at the top of the runway, then start moving when the green blinks on. Should he attempt a vault at the time the red light appears, he would lose his turn.
If a television contract materializes—and O'Hara has had very few serious talks with the networks so far—the athletes are so anxious to please that they'll try just about anything once. Especially Seagren, who says he once made a series of 16-foot vaults while wearing a battery pack taped around his chest and a sky diver's camera-helmet.
The most important innovation of all, of course, is the money M.C. Liquori will be handing out after each event. O'Hara is confident the ITA will be able to emulate tennis and set up some sort of Grand Prix point system that will bring fat checks at season's end. Sponsors of meets will also boost the prize money. O'Hara says that ITA could find the financial backing to hold out for 10 years if necessary. There are many who believe it will have to, and there are many who fear ITA will irreparably damage amateur clubs and the Olympics.
"I'll be there to see it," says former San Jose State Coach Bud Winter, "but it will be a sad night for those of us who still believe in amateur sports."
Kansas Coach Bob Timmons, longtime friend and mentor of Jim Ryun, disagrees. "It's strange how you hear so many people say they are disturbed about the idea of pro track but think nothing of professionalism in other sports. This probably can be traced to the Olympic idea of amateurism and the fact that track more than any other sport has come to be associated with the Olympics. But I can see nothing wrong at all with pro track. The track man should have his chance for equal rewards."
Surprisingly, before stepping down as AAU president Jack Kelly was not frothing at the mouth over the impending loss of Olympic-caliber track stars.
"I would hope that if they showed financial stability, nothing would happen to compare with what happened between the United States Lawn Tennis Association and Lamar Hunt's group," said Kelly. "They've really been at it. I feel tennis has become a big-time sport because of the pro players. Therefore, the response and participation on an amateur level has increased tremendously.
"Maybe pro track can do the same thing for track that Lamar Hunt's group is doing for tennis. If they do show such success, I for one would like to work with them instead of fighting them."
As badly as he wants ITA to succeed, O'Hara has decided, for the time being at least, to avoid as much as possible competing with the amateurs, although he admits ITA will be a "minor irritant at first." This is the reason he scheduled his meets to begin after the amateur circuit; why he announced that ITA will not sign athletes away from colleges; and why he did not approach Ryun, Seagren and others until after their Olympic events.
Still, the hint of bitterness to come popped up in Munich. O'Hara, aided by Liquori, was outlining his plans at a luncheon sponsored by Track & Field News. At that time he already had signed Seagren and Matson. A man in the audience yelled out, "Let's keep track and field pure and forget about turning the sport into another Roller Derby!"