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THE TULANE SCANDAL: A TIME FOR HARSH MEASURES
It has long been obvious that if the mess in big-time college sports is ever going to be cleaned up, university presidents are the ones who will do it. But when Tulane president Eamon Kelly moved last week to deal with his school's burgeoning athletic scandal, it was too late for any but the most drastic measure. Reacting to evidence of a point-shaving scheme involving Tulane's basketball team (SI, April 8) and allegations of improper payments to players, Kelly said he would recommend to Tulane's 23-member Board of Administrators that the school's basketball program be disbanded. He described dropping the sport as "the only way I know to demonstrate unambiguously this academic community's intolerance of the violations and actions we have uncovered."
Some Tulane boosters and students objected to Kelly's proposal to drop basketball, and on Saturday a crowd of 200 marched on the president's house in New Orleans to protest. But Kelly predicted that the Board, which is scheduled to meet on April 18, will endorse his recommendation. The Board will have to consider these new developments:
?After hearing evidence in the point-shaving case, an Orleans Parish grand jury last week returned indictments against eight people, including Tulane star John (Hot Rod) Williams and two other players, David Dominique and Bobby Thompson, who were accused of plotting to fix three Tulane games this winter. Two other players, Clyde Eads and Jon Johnson, have admitted involvement in the scheme and have been granted immunity from state prosecution.
? Tulane head coach Ned Fowler and two assistant coaches resigned. Kelly said that a university investigation had found that Fowler had made cash payments to players in violation of NCAA rules. According to a source close to the case, Williams said in a taped confession that in 1981 two Tulane recruiters had given him a box containing $10,000 to attend the school. Williams said one of them was former Tulane assistant Tom Green, now head coach at Fairleigh Dickinson. Investigators believe the second man was Robert Thompson, father of Bobby Thompson. Green denies any wrongdoing. The elder Thompson is now serving a three-year federal prison term for making illegal loans. Williams also reportedly said he received $100 a week from Fowler at Tulane. A source close to the case said that Johnson and a third player were also given money by Fowler. Fowler declined to discuss the allegations.
?Two sources, one of them a Tulane player, told SI that several team members used cocaine and marijuana on game days. "Some of them said they played better," one source said.
?Mark Olensky, one of three non-basketball-playing Tulane students indicted in the point-shaving case, was identified as the son of William Olensky, who's reportedly associated with a sports tout service. According to one source, father and son had a costly mix-up on lingo when the younger Olensky called his dad and told him to "get two dimes down" on the Tulane-Memphis State game on Feb. 20, one of the games in which point shaving allegedly occurred. The son called back and asked his dad if he'd gotten the $2,000 down. The father said he thought the son had meant $200. The source said the younger Olensky told his dad to "stick it...." Neither Olensky would comment.
? Tulane political science professor William Gwyn told SI that he has seen admission test scores of Tulane athletes and that they are "immeasurably below standard." Gwyn added, "We're not here to run a school for gladiators—that's not our purpose at all."
Given the malaise in college sports in general, it's fair to ask just what the purpose of Tulane and other universities really is. As Kelly sought to eliminate basketball at Tulane, a 44-member NCAA presidents' commission was preparing its own, presumably less dire proposals to deal with the rampant corruption in college athletics. The proposals will be considered at a special two-day NCAA convention in June. The convention couldn't be scheduled for a more appropriate site: New Orleans.
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