THE HIGH PRICE OF AN ALL-AMERICA
Of the seven TCU football players who were suspended from the team by coach Jim Wacker after admitting that they received improper payments from boosters (SI, Sept. 30, et seq.), All-America running back Kenneth Davis was the most accomplished and best known. As might be expected, he apparently was also the most richly compensated. In an interview last week with SI's Bill Brubaker, Davis said that he received money on his very first recruiting visit to TCU and that before agreeing to attend the school he was given what amounted to a contract promising him $38,000 in cash and goods. Davis said he'd collected perhaps $20,000 of that amount at the time he was suspended.
Davis said that on his first recruiting visit in 1980 he was taken to a Fort Worth pizza restaurant named Mama's owned by TCU booster Chris Farkas. He was two slices into a 20-inch pie, he said, when he was nudged under the table by Farkas. "He gave me something which I stuck in my sock," Davis recalled. "I went to the bathroom to see what it was. I pulled my pants leg up, counted the money and there was $350. I had tears in my eyes. Coming from a family of 12 children, I'd never seen that much money before. I was on cloud nine. Before leaving the bathroom I looked at myself in the mirror and said, 'I'm going to be a Horned Frog.' " Farkas could not be reached for comment.
Davis said he ultimately chose TCU over Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas Tech not because of that meeting with Farkas but largely because of an offer that TCU boosters made to him in writing. "I'd signed a [nonbinding conference] letter of intent with Nebraska, and I was going to stay with Nebraska," he said. "But the day after I signed I got a call asking me to meet Dick Lowe and Chris Farkas at the municipal airport in Temple. I met them in the back of their Learjet, had a brief conversation with them, then they reached over and handed me this yellow sheet of paper with all this stuff on it."
Davis said that the unsigned document was written by Lowe, a Fort Worth oilman who has resigned from the TCU board of trustees after admitting paying athletes. It promised Davis, among other things, a $3,700 up-front payment, clothes, a job at Lowe's ranch, a $200 monthly salary for which he wouldn't have to work, a shotgun, a .22-caliber rifle and bonuses of $1,000 for signing a national letter of intent and $500 for signing a conference letter. Davis said that according to calculations Lowe made at the time, the total value of the package was $38,000. Lowe confirmed to SI that he wrote the letter and that the $38,000 figure sounded accurate. He said he drew up the contract to "clarify" TCU's offer because "Kenneth didn't really know what it was worth."
Davis said that he received the $3,700 in up-front money as promised, and that it came from Farkas, who "dropped an envelope behind me at practice one day." He said that Farkas also paid him the letter-of-intent bonuses. He said that the firearms were delivered to him by Lowe "at a party he threw for my family on his ranch." However, he said that the following year he renegotiated his contract insofar as the $200 monthly payments were concerned. "I said, 'Mr. Lowe, I'm in a financial bind. I got some bills.' He said, 'Hey, K.D., ain't no problem.' And he started giving me $400 a month." By the next summer, Davis said, he was receiving an additional $300 to $400 a month from another booster he wouldn't name. His salary of between $700 and $800 a month continued until Davis was suspended.
Despite the surreptitious fashion in which he said some payments were made to him, Davis told Brubaker he didn't realize he was violating NCAA rules by accepting them. "I thought it was legal," he said. "I didn't know it was illegal for you to receive this money, because Mr. Lowe was on the board of trustees. I thought the money I received went along with the scholarship. I thought college players were supposed to receive a salary."
Davis and his agent, Mike Trope, were scheduled to meet this week with NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle in New York to plead that Davis be allowed to be chosen via a special draft to play in the NFL this season. Davis says he needs the money. "I've got $20,000 worth of debts," he says. "I've got two car notes, a MasterCard bill and premiums to pay on the $1 million liability insurance policy I took out for myself to play at TCU."
MAAFALA IN FOR MAAFALA
Any sports fan with a dime's worth of ego knows that broadcasting a sports event is a cinch. But take a look at some of the names floating around in college football this season. Imagine that you have to quickly describe a complicated play involving Michigan's Olatide Ogunfitidimi or Notre Dame's Hiawatha Nahomia Nakomis Francisco. Or suppose you've been hired to do play-by-play for the University of Hawaii, whose team includes four sets of brothers—and not brothers with simple names like Smith or Miller or Johnson. What Hawaii has are the Kafentzises, the Nogas, the Goeases and the Maafalas. Not only the brothers have you seeing double: The Rainbow Warriors also have a fellow named Amosa Amosa. And until they dropped off the squad this year, Lefiti Lefiti and Feleti Feleti were on Hawaii's roster, too. So the next time you start daydreaming about grabbing a mike, try whipping out a handful of those names in a hurry.
SAILING WITH E.B. WHITE