The battle between the NCAA and Big Football described in Frank Deford's recent article on the NCAA convention (SI, Aug. 25) broke into the open last week when the University of Alabama, which is about as Big as Football can get, filed suit against the NCAA. Alabama challenged the new rules adopted at the NCAA convention that limit the size of football squads. Specifically ' Bama said that athletes who had been given scholarships before Aug. 15, the date the limiting regulations were adopted, should not be affected. Because most incoming freshmen were recruited before that date, what the Alabama suit is asking is that full enforcement of the regulations be delayed for four years or until these incoming freshmen are through playing for the Crimson Tide.
Paul Skidmore, an attorney for the university, charged that the NCAA restrictions were "an unlawful abridgement of existing contract rights." The president of the NCAA, John Fuzak of Michigan State, replied indignantly. The reference to contracts was "curious terminology," he said, since the NCAA has always maintained that players on scholarship were not under "contract."
And there's the rub. The NCAA insists on regarding Big Football as an amateur sport. Alabama and the other powers approach it as a professional endeavor. As successful businessmen they know you have to spend money to make money, which is why they reject the NCAA's efforts to impose arbitrary restraint on the costs of operating a football team.
As Deford wrote, unless the colleges can isolate Big Football from the rest of the NCAA the conflict will go on. And Alabama's suit may turn out to be the Fort Sumter of this civil war.
AGED IN THE WOODS—AND IRONS
Four golfers in Bend, Ore. play nine-hole rounds together at least four times a week, their scores usually ranging from the low 40s to the mid-50s. Nothing very amazing about that—except the ages of the four players. William Stephenson is 90, Lyle Banks is 87, Oscar Glassow is 85 and the kid of the group, Elmer Panner, is 83. They call themselves the Antique Foursome and they believe they are the oldest regularly playing quartet of golfers in the world. Anybody want to argue with them?
A different sort of oldtimer, Henry Aaron, is winding down. He is batting only about .230 for Milwaukee, with barely a dozen homers and 50 runs batted in. This is probably his last season in the majors. As quiet as ever (the only time he ever has excited national attention during his 22-year career was when he broke Babe Ruth's home-run record), he is heading for his last curtain without notice.
That may be the way the unassuming Henry wants it, but it seems a shame that the extraordinary accomplishments of this gifted player are not being saluted in every town he appears in during these finals weeks of his career. For instance, he broke Ruth's record, yes, but the magnitude of that accomplishment makes us overlook the astonishing fact that he has hit 200 homers more than such Hall of Fame sluggers as Mickey Mantle, Jimmy Foxx, Ted Williams and Mel Ott, who are among the few (11 to be precise) who have hit at least 500 home runs. And Aaron has batted in more runs than anyone—more than Ruth, more than Lou Gehrig, more than Rogers Hornsby; Joe DiMaggio is justifiably praised as a superb player, but Henry has batted in 700 more runs than DiMaggio.
He has played in more games than any other player in baseball history, has been at bat more times, has had more extra-base hits (doubles, triples and home runs), more total bases. Only Cobb and Ruth have scored more runs, and only Cobb has more base hits; Aaron has 250 more hits than Honus Wagner, 400 more than Nap Lajoie, 500 more than Paul Waner.