Ten years ago bowling was about as popular on campus as a three-credit course in applied astrogeophysical nuclear thermodynamics. "We had two tournaments a year, and that's all the bowling we ever did," says bearded Terry Nenaber, who bowled for Arizona State in the late 1960s and now coaches the Sun Devil women. Walter Byers, the executive director of the NCAA, reportedly once told representatives of the American Bowling Congress that the game "is a recreation, not a sport" and, thus, there would be no bowling tournament on the NCAA calendar.
The NCAA still stubbornly ignores bowling, but now it is part of a very silent minority, as was evident last week during the fifth annual National Collegiate Bowling Championship in Milwaukee. Bowling is big on campus these days. In fact, more than 15,000 bowlers competed in college programs this season. "We had 24 sanctioned conferences and close to 100 tournaments on the college schedule," says amateur bowling official Roger Dalkin.
In 1972 Nenaber started a New Year's tournament at the Showboat Hotel in Las Vegas and only 30 teams showed up. "This year," he says, "we had 111 teams." Penn State budgets some $20,000 for its men's and women's bowling programs, and while $20,000 might be small change for Joe Paterno's football team, the Nittany Lion bowling coach is not griping.
As the 12 men's and 12 women's teams began to roll away at the Red Carpet Celebrity Lanes in Milwaukee, Arizona State was ranked No. 1 in the nation in both divisions. Neither the Sun Devil men nor women survived the first cut, however. In the women's competition, Penn State easily gained the finals against Hillsborough Community College of Tampa, which qualified by ousting defending champion Wichita State, thus gaining minor revenge for last year's loss in the finals. "Girls from all over the country want to join our team," said Hillsborough Coach Delores Alvarez. "They want to bowl after high school. They want to travel like we do. and have a good time like we do."
Hillsborough had a minor personnel problem: Terry Yoshihara, who has a 185 average, was back in Tampa with the measles. "But we have Cindy Walker." Alvarez said, "and all season Cindy's been the one who has punched out when we needed it. We used to call her ' Turkey' because she'd bowl a 240 and then a 140, a 238 and then a 138. But now she's outgrown that."
Wichita State had won the women's title three of the last four years, and bowling is a serious matter there. With no big-bucks budget at their disposal, the Shocker bowlers once raised $1,200 by staging a bowling marathon. "We got people to pledge amounts of money for each hour we bowled and then had members of both our teams bowl continuously for one week," said Gordon Vadakin, the coach of the women's team.
Bowling under the Baker format, in which each of the five bowlers on a team rolls a frame apiece, then follows the same batting order through the second five frames, Wichita State broke to a 119-96 lead over Hillsborough after six frames. Then Hillsborough rallied with strikes in the eighth and ninth frames, and in the 10th Walker got three straight strikes to give the Hawks a 206-198 victory.
For the championship match, Penn State Coach Don Ferrell settled on a lineup that had Heidi Derk in the lead-off position followed by Liz Baude, Becky Wilson, April Long and Valerie Bright. Earlier in the tournament Ferrell had benched Derk, who had been Penn State's leadoff bowler all season, and replaced her with Wilson, who was a last-minute addition to the Lady Lions' traveling squad following Ferrell's suspension of another Penn State bowler for disciplinary reasons.
Ferrell's lineup rejiggering paid off. Hillsborough jumped to a 116-96 lead after six frames, but Baude and Wilson rolled strikes, Long added a spare and Bright—"the sweetest bowler and the best leader in the country," Ferrell says—finished with two strikes in the 10th frame to give the Lady Lions a 192-180 victory and the championship.
In the men's semifinals, Vincennes University's bowling majors—all six members of the squad are enrolled in the Indiana school's two-year bowling-lanes management program—started with a dreadful run of six open frames and were routed by the University of California's coachless wonders, 236-121.