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TOO FAR, TOO FAST
Kent Hannon
March 20, 1978
Though Title IX was intended to enrich all women's college sports, the attention has gone to basketball. As a result, the game's unrestrained growth has burdened it with rules-flouting coaches and players who are transferring at will
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March 20, 1978

Too Far, Too Fast

Though Title IX was intended to enrich all women's college sports, the attention has gone to basketball. As a result, the game's unrestrained growth has burdened it with rules-flouting coaches and players who are transferring at will

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When Stanley talks about recruiting violations, she speaks from first hand knowledge, because she is one of those three coaches who have visited the home of June Olkowski, a blue-chip six-foot forward from St. Maria Goretti High in Philadelphia. It was also a representative from Old Dominion who gave Olkowski that big recruiting rush at the Spectrum doubleheader. These are definite no-nos, according to the AIAW Handbook. But, then, Rutgers Coach Teresa Grentz has been in the Olkowski home, too. So has Pat Meiser of Penn State. "This women's basketball," says a bewildered Mrs. Eleanor Olkowski, "it's getting to be a big deal, isn't it?"

Stanley, Grentz and Meiser are not being singled out for criticism. Richard Perry, the USC athletic director, doesn't even consider their activities reprehensible. "I find the AIAW's rule fiscally irresponsible," he says. "If we're going to spend thousands of dollars a year on athletic scholarships for women, we want to attract the best. That mandates evaluating those players, finding out what kind of people they are and what kind of homes they come from."

In lieu of in-person recruiting, the AIAW has instituted "auditions," which a coach may "hostess." Under these arrangements, a player who has finished her junior year in high school must pay her own way to an institution for a try-out. While she is there she can ask and be asked every question imaginable. This may sound like a clever alternative, but in practice it discriminates against students who cannot afford to visit campuses and, therefore, can never talk in person to coaches about playing college basketball—to say nothing about the inequities of the whole tryout system, which the NCAA long ago wisely outlawed. As Jean Balthaser of Pitt says, "AIAW rules actually make it easier to go after transfer students—I mean recruit strictly on the college level—than to try to deal with these silly regulations for assessing high school talent."

The transfer rule, which allows women to play without sacrificing a year of eligibility, was another major point of contention in Atlanta. Lopiano, a supporter of the rule, says, "Every year 15% to 18% of the 80,000 women athletes at AIAW schools transfer. Why should we penalize them? They have the right to seek a better education—maybe the second school has a better law program—and still participate in collegiate sports. And what if they do transfer for athletic reasons? Athletes should have the same rights as all other students."

That seems reasonable enough, except that basketball is supposed to be an extracurricular activity. With no women's NBA and certainly not enough college coaching jobs to go around, it is odd that an educationally minded administrator would support a system that encourages women to transfer solely for athletic reasons. In addition, under AIAW rules, a transfer student may play basketball immediately, but must forfeit her scholarship, which is sometimes essential to her remaining in school. The NCAA's method is to allow the athletes to keep the scholarships but lose a year's eligibility.

"Most of the athletes I've known who transferred did so because they wanted to be a starter instead of the third guard," says Detroit's Sims. "I should know, because I left the University of Michigan and a great business school just to play basketball at Immaculata but transferred back to Michigan when I realized my education would be more important to me in the long run. I am an assistant women's athletic director at Detroit mainly because of my degree in business from Michigan, not because I played basketball at Immaculata."

Though schools like Rutgers and Nevada-Las Vegas have already gained the nickname "Transfer U.," the row over the transfer rule centers around another young coach, Pat Head of Tennessee.

Two years ago, when Center Trish Roberts left Emporia ( Kans.) State and turned up at Tennessee for her senior season, opposing coaches winked at each other and congratulated Head on her good fortune. That was putting it mildly, seeing as how Roberts, a member of the 1976 U.S. Olympic team, poured in 51 points in her first game and led the Lady Vols to that third-place finish in last year's national tournament. When Forward Cindy Brogdon of Mercer University transferred this season to Tennessee—where she has averaged 23 points a game—rival coaches stopped winking and began blinking in disbelief. True, Brogdon had been Head's roommate in Montreal when they both played on the Olympic team. It is also true that Brogdon's coach at Mercer, the flamboyant Peggy Collins, had quit to take the Mississippi State job, and Cindy was ripe to be persuaded to go elsewhere. But how did the switch come about and who made the first move?

What disturbs Mercer officials is that Head and Roberts both showed up at the Georgia Hall of Fame dinner in Atlanta in February 1977. They had good reason for being there, because Roberts, a Georgia native, was being honored and logically would have been accompanied by her coach. The only snag is that Head was seen talking to Brogdon, who still had not finished her sophomore season at Mercer. Although this conversation may have been innocuous, the AIAW's reliance on self-policing left Head open to allegations of "tampering" by her rivals.

"If there was enticement by Pat Head, and if it happened that night, I can't prove it," says Mercer Athletic Director John Mitchell. "But Ed Nixon, the Alabama coach, is a friend of Cindy's, and he will tell you what she told him."

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