Emphasis on winning led paradoxically to an indifference to defeat in college basketball in the Midwest last week. Morehead State, tied for first place in the Ohio Valley Conference, had a nonconference game at Illinois State, more than 400 miles away. Rather than subject the stars of his team to the 800-mile round trip, Coach Bill Harrell left his top six players at home to prepare for conference games coming up a few days later with Murray State and Austin Peay.
Illinois State, a mediocre 10-8 for the season, trounced the depleted Morehead team 113-74, but got little satisfaction from the hollow victory. Athletic Director Milt Weisbecker said, "It was a hoax on our team, our coaching staff and our fans. That man should not be in coaching, and I told him so." Coach Will Robinson said, "We were tuned to play the first-place team in the Ohio Valley Conference. This took all the fun out of it."
Harrell was unapologetic after the game, although a few days later he said he would resign as coach because of "lack of support" from the school. "We did what we felt was best for our chances," he said. "It's a long trip, and we've got two tough games this weekend. If our starters made the trip, there's no way we could prepare for them. Our kids would have no sap in their legs. We play in a very physical league, and our seniors have their hearts set on winning the conference."
Harrell made one more revealing remark. He said, "If Illinois State had come to our place and left their top players home, that would have tickled me. I'm always glad to get a win."
But despite that attitude and the reverence accorded Vince Lombardi's dictum that winning is the only thing, it isn't. The often misunderstood Olympic concept of "taking part" is fully as important. "Taking part" means trying to win, and trying to win is as vital to sport as winning. Maybe more so. Winning is what you want to do, and what you try your absolute best to do—because if you don't try, if you don't really take part, you cheat yourself and you cheat your opponent and you cheat your sport. If Harrell and Morehead State felt that the game with Illinois State was unimportant, they should not have played it. Once they committed themselves to it, they were bound by the basic concept of competitive sport to do their best.
Stanford's wrestling team was wiped out by Oregon, beaten so badly that in 10 matches Stanford failed to score a point. Pretty sad, but the final result was even worse. Stanford Coach Joe DeMeo was hit with a technical when he disputed a call during the match. A technical violation costs a team one point. Final score Oregon 48, Stanford -1.
When the American Basketball Association held a luncheon before its All-Star Game in Norfolk, Va. last week, 10 of the 20 All-Star players were missing. They bypassed the lunch, apparently because they were miffed that gifts had not been placed in their rooms. Gifts had been given to the players last year. Al Bianchi, coach of the Virginia Squires, said, "The players are paid $500 and $300 for this game, depending on whether they win or lose. Who says they're supposed to get anything more? Some of them are making $70,000 and $80,000 a year. Why are they worried about a little gift in their rooms? This is absolutely ridiculous."
People who paid $10 for the luncheon had been assured they would be sitting with the players. Because all 10 of those absent were black (16 of the 20 All-Stars were black), some felt the action was a boycott, but the black players insisted it was not. The nonexistent gifts were the reason.