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Colson says he'd like to latch on to some more Brazilians, but the days of fast-selling, late-night visits to the campus and designated shooters are happily at an end. With the retirement of legendary UCLA Coach John Wooden, Los Angeles became an open city for recruiting. "We can recruit head to head with UCLA and USC right now," says Colson. "We've made steals already."
"You'll see," says Flintie Ray Williams. "From now on Pep'll get the best players from the city—from the name high schools like Freemont and Verbum Dei. LeRoy Porter is out there and, man, he's the Pied Piper." For his part, Porter claims to have top-notch city players lined up all the way through 1980.
Wayne Wright, Pepperdine's athletic director, revs the motor of his new Cadillac DeVille and slips some Grand Ole Opry music into the tape deck. A native Tennessean, Wayne went to David Lipscomb with Banowsky, Colson and several other Pepperdine administrators. ( Pepperdine students often snicker at the school's Bible Belt influences, and one favorite line is to call the Malibu campus " Lipscomb by the Sea.") Cruising toward a seafood house on the Pacific, Wright peers at Rose, who is seated in back. Rose, who just bought a Fiat, is visibly moved by Wright's auto. "It doesn't cost that much more to go first-class, Bob," says Wright.
More than an idle aside, the words are indicative of Pepperdine's philosophy in other areas, particularly athletics. "We do go first-class," says Wright. "Our teams stay in nice hotels, eat good food and travel first-rate. But we don't waste money. Of the $600,000 used on our whole program, we're talking about $400,000 just in grants-in-aid. It costs $5,000 a year merely to go to Pepperdine. Of course, the athletics don't pay for themselves, but I think the programs are justified as an image builder. Back East I don't know how many people have heard of the Pepperdine English Department, but I'll bet they've heard of our basketball team."
The use of athletics as a public-relations device is a concept that comes from the top. To some degree it has been a Pepperdine tradition all along. "Sports are important," Banowsky has said. "They are a part of the great tradition of Greek learning in which I believe—education for the body as well as the mind. But sports aren't new at Pepperdine. We didn't move to Malibu simply so we could recruit. In the '40s Pepperdine had powerful track teams, after World War II we had good football teams. Successful recruiting is just a byproduct of our move."
There are those at Pepperdine who wonder if the sports program is actually as innocent as that, if it isn't really the beachhead by means of which Banowsky planned all along to lead a hesitant school into the future. "You've got to admit that one way to make a place an example of high-quality education is to get a good athletic reputation and then get better students," says Assistant Athletic Director Laurie Billes. "I mean, for a while there we were getting students I don't think should have been in college."
"Another thing sports have done here is create an atmosphere of success throughout our whole campus," says Wright. "Last year our baseball players went to Arizona and got absolutely killed—they lost by a total score of 36 to 5 in three games. They were almost afraid to come back on campus. The fact that all the other teams were doing so well really put the pressure on them. So what did they do? They went on to the best record ever in WCAC, 16-2."
Wright sets out on a new tack. "Right now, when every college is facing a tremendous monetary struggle, one of the first things you have to do is lower the cost of recruiting. Well, we're right next to Los Angeles, the greatest sports hotbed in the nation. We don't have to travel to get our kids anymore. Most Southern California kids want to stay in the area. They like the climate and the fact that they have a greater chance to advance in pro sports. We may have as many as 15 or 20 major league scouts at a home baseball game, and I've sold kids just on that."
What with the increasing costs of running a major college sports program, when will Pepperdine have to taper off? "Well, the Board of Directors has given us constant endorsement because they continue to approve our budgets," says Wright. "So like in this new women's thing—we've only got three sports, so I say, let's win it all. Why not? I mean, we started women's basketball last year and, frankly, I was embarrassed by the whole thing. If we're going to have these sports, let's elevate them. I think our job is just to keep asking for money, to go as far as we can. Just how far that is, I honestly don't know."
One Monday at the all-school chapel in the gymnasium. Dr. Howard White, the executive vice-president of Pepperdine, follows the hymns with a short lecture on the values of discipline in education. He then moves on to another important topic: sports. Wright gives him two checks representing proceeds from last year's volleyball and baseball games, and White thanks him graciously. "We spend a lot, but we bring in a lot," he tells the crowd, to a smattering of applause.