SI Vault
Edited by Sarah Pileggi
January 29, 1979
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January 29, 1979


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Revenge is sweet, and golfer John Mahaffey is getting a taste of it. A year ago, when Mahaffey had lost his exemption after a long siege of injuries and bad luck, he wrote letters to dozens of tournaments asking for one of the eight spots in every field known as sponsor's exemptions. Some wrote back and said yes. Others wrote back and said, sorry, we're filled up. Others did not reply at all.

Now Mahaffey is making up his schedule for 1979 and the shoe is on the other foot. As PGA champion and winner of the Bob Hope Desert Classic, the first tournament of the year, Mahaffey is a hot property and therefore in a position to make his absence felt.

"Those tournaments that wrote me back last year to say they were sorry but they'd given out all their exemptions, I won't discriminate against them," he said last week. "But the ones that didn't even bother to write me back, didn't have that courtesy, well, they won't see me."


College basketball fans who were befuddled by the absence of jump balls after the opening tip-off, in the Arkansas- North Carolina game two weeks ago, would have been further confused by the goings-on at the start of last week's Arkansas- Texas A&M game. Aggie Coach Shelby Metcalf sent 5'11" Dave Goff out to jump against 6'11" Steve Schall. Arkansas won the tip, of course, which is just what Metcalf wanted.

All of this is an experiment, begun in the Southwest Conference last season and extended this year to the Atlantic Coast Conference, by the NCAA's basketball rules committee. The committee had tired of listening to complaints from coaches about refs who couldn't toss the ball up straight. It decided to try eliminating all jump balls except the opener and giving the team that loses the opening tip possession of the ball out of bounds to start the second half. Metcalf had figured it mathematically, he said. "The team that wins the opening tip has a 1-in-4 chance of getting an extra possession. So does the team that gets the first possession of the second half. I'd rather have it in the second half."

As for tie-ups that would normally result in a jump ball, possession is awarded to the two teams on an alternating basis. The team whose turn it is puts the ball in play with an in-bounds pass.

The system can produce interesting tactics such as Metcalf's, but it also produces some lousy basketball. The trouble is, the team with the better defense is penalized, especially in the closing minutes of a close game. Those who watched Arkansas play North Carolina saw Razorback U. S. Reed tie up the Tar Heels' Jimmy Black with less than three minutes to play and Carolina leading by six points. It was a deft bit of defense in a crucial situation, but it did the Razor-backs no good because it was Carolina's turn to get the ball.

In the matter of the jump ball, straight thinking is even more desirable than straight tossing right now. For the good of a good game, why not declare the no-jump experiment a failure and try a clinic in tossing for referees instead?


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