Sixteen members of the powerful Mission Viejo ( Calif.) swim team arrived in the U.S.S.R. last week for 12 days of meets and unique side-by-side training with members of the Soviet national team. The U.S. squad consists of 15 high school students and Stanford coed Valerie Lee. Missing are four collegians who belong to the club: UCLA's Brian Goodell, double gold-medal winner in the 1976 Olympics, Alabama's Mark Tonelli and Houston's Mike Miles and Simon Gray. They remained at home when the NCAA invoked a rule prohibiting non-collegiate competition during the college season.
Proponents of pending federal legislation that would, among other things, guarantee athletes the right to take part in international competition (SCORECARD, Oct. 31) have seized upon the issue. They say that the four Mission Viejo collegians had permission from their schools to go to the Soviet Union.
NCAA officials admit that although the rule against participating in international competition can be waived for members of a U.S. national team, there is no provision for doing so for a club. Furthermore, the NCAA claims that one reason the colleges involved didn't object to their swimmers going to the U.S.S.R. was that they were reluctant to say no to Mission Viejo Coach Mark Schubert, who churns out swimmers colleges covet, or to the four swimmers, which might endanger future recruiting. "This is the reason the rule was enacted," says William B. Hunt, NCAA assistant executive director. "It's to help schools resist the pressures that can arise."
This is startling. What Hunt is saying is that the colleges were able to hide behind the NCAA instead of dealing with their athletes in forthright fashion. Which is another reason why many people believe athletes need the "bill of rights" now before Congress.