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Hung Out to Dry
UCLA's water polo team was an hour into drills on March 6 when two athletic department administrators appeared at poolside. Said team member Philip Hadfield, "They called us over to the side and said the school could no longer afford to fund water polo. No warning. Nothing. We were completely shocked."
So were members of the Bruins' men's and women's crews when they were told their teams, too, would be eliminated effective June 30. According to UCLA athletic director Peter Dalis, the cuts were made because of the athletic department's $3 million budget deficit, which was on course to rise to $11 million by 1995. Dalis refused to be interviewed, but said in a statement, "We have investigated every possible way to erase our deficit, and in an era of limited resources, the university's conclusion is that we cannot do it without eliminating sports."
That crew and water polo were the chosen lambs was unfair, considering UCLA spends just $115,000 a year on water polo, $166,000 on men's crew and $50,000 on women's crew. The rest of the money the teams need comes from alumni and boosters. "They told us it was a financial decision, but given the amount they spend on other sports, our expenses don't seem like much," said women's crew coach Kelly Salonites. Indeed, UCLA's total athletic budget for 13 men's and 10 women's teams is estimated at $20 million.
UCLA's action brings to the fore a disturbing trend among Division I schools to cut so-called minor sports. Most athletic departments are suffering financially, and jettisoning minor sports is seen as an easy remedy.
As it happens, UCLA's water polo team and crews have 100% graduation rates, and all three teams have been successful athletically as well. Last year the water polo team and men's crew were third in the nation and the women's crew was fourth.
Water polo coach Bob Horn said that petitions in favor of restoring water polo will be circulated on campus. The crews, which start their seasons in early April, will also try to garner support for reinstatement. Still, the future looks grim for those water sports at UCLA.
What a Card
Kids do the darndest things. Take Bryan Wrzesinski, a dimpled 13-year-old from Addison, Ill., who last April paid $12 (plus 81� tax) for a 1968 Nolan Ryan/ Jerry Koosman rookie baseball card that was really worth $1,200. Bryan, who has some 40,000 cards in his collection, bought the Ryan card at the Ball-Mart in Itasca from a frazzled clerk who misread the price tag. Although a sign in the store says ALL SALES FINAL, owner Joe Irmen is suing Bryan either to recover the card or for damages. After several delays, the trial began last week in DuPage County small claims court.
Small claim or not, the case shows how big card collecting, once the pursuit of children, has become. It took a child, though, to enliven the trial. After more than four hours of testimony on March 5, Bryan casually dropped a bombshell: He had traded the Ryan card the previous evening for a 1967 Tom Seaver and a '65 Joe Namath, both rookie cards, with an estimated combined value of $2,200.