- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Clifton Pondexter was not even given time to find peace of mind. Just a few days later, crashing the funeral as it were, recruiters from several schools, including UCLA, tracked him down and tried to talk him into transferring.
The headlines—Long Beach State "Slammed," "Gunned Down," "Socked"—elicited angry countercharges of "kangaroo-court farce," "Gestapo tactics" and "secret squealers." Said Colonel Stangeland: "The NCAA coming into Long Beach on its witch hunt is like the United Nations marching on Poland for not fighting fair against Germany in World War II."
Tarkanian, who has vowed never again to set foot in Long Beach, flew to Los Angeles for a press conference. "It makes me sick," he said, "that anyone can punish athletes and rip a coach to pieces without giving them a chance to defend themselves. And how can they say the violations are the responsibility of the former administrations? Horn has been at Long Beach for four years and Comer three."
In San Francisco, meanwhile, the beset Horn was waging another futile war of words. Shunted from one NCAA committee to another, he tried to appeal the ineligibility ruling against Roscoe Pondexter and Glenn McDonald, arguing that "it violates every precept of Anglo-Saxon law. First you send a guy to the chair and then you try to get a writ of habeas corpus to see if you can revive the body." But the more Horn struggled the deeper he sank into the quagmire of NCAA rules and went under without a ripple.
The bereft 49ers proved more buoyant. Before the tip-off of a game against the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Olson told Clifton, "You'll have to play for both Pondexters tonight." Underdogs because of the absence of the two starters, Long Beach State hit 65', of its shots and Clifton scored 17 points and raked in 14 rebounds as the 49ers won 72-53, dealing Pacific its worst home-court loss in 13 years.
The next day Harry Simon, a self-styled "people lawyer," performed a legal fast break that proved just as successful. He won for Pondexter and McDonald a federal court temporary restraining order that reinstated the two players. Pondexter and McDonald celebrated by teaching their lawyer how to lay on five.
Tarkanian's lot was not as jubilant. That night, during a game between his Las Vegas Rebels and St. Mary's College in Moraga, Calif., rival fans pointed at Tarkanian and chanted, "Crook! Crook! Crook!" Lois Tarkanian burst into tears, and the Rebels lost 69-66.
Long Beach fans were not much more heartwarming. On Jan. 17 Don Dyer, president of the 49er Athletic Foundation, sent a letter to all boosters announcing that the city council had declared Jan. 26 Long Beach State Loyalty Day. The key passage read: "The most important contribution that any of us can make that day is to fill the Arena for the basketball game that evening against Northern Illinois. This will be our first home game since the NCAA sanctions have been announced and will give us an opportunity to show the University and the basketball team that we are not going to desert them in this their most difficult hour." On Loyalty Day night Long Beach State defeated Northern Illinois 106-71; there were 3,500 empty seats in the Arena.
Perhaps it was President Horn who put Case No. 427 into the sharpest human perspective when he said: "We got to the top so fast that none of our people had a rigorous education into what things are accepted and which are no-nos."