That Gordie Howe can play so well against kids 30 years younger than he is a tribute to his athletic ability. But to call him the greatest hockey player of all time is nonsense. That title goes to the athlete of the decade, Bobby Orr.
THOMAS P. LYNCH
Howe to survive? Through brutality, expansion and intimidation.
DAVID J. O'HARE
It was with great interest that I read Herman Weiskopf's article about Notre Dame Fencing Coach Michael DeCicco (A Man Who's Rarely Foiled, Jan. 7). When I arrived at Notre Dame in the fall of 1965, a scared 17-year-old from a school whose graduating class totaled 69, I was awestruck by the tradition and intimidated by other members of the freshman class. It seemed everyone was a valedictorian or an All-America. Curiosity, as well as a desire to compete in a varsity sport, led me to the freshman fencing organizational meeting. There were no cuts. DeCicco didn't believe in them. If you wanted to compete and were willing to put in the hours, you became a team member.
It was a comforting feeling at that first encounter to look around the room and realize that we were all starting from scratch. Coach DeCicco would teach us and then we would help teach each other. No scholarships, no headlines, just real friendships. The 54-2 record we compiled seemed to come as a natural result of this philosophy.
ROBERT A. BABINEAU JR., M.D.
I think an NCAA investigative team should check out Mike DeCicco. Isn't there a rule against winning and having a good time in the process?
Re Patrick J. McBride's letter (19TH HOLE, Dec. 24-31) in response to your article on the University of New Mexico basketball scandal, wherein he suggests that the NCAA could prevent abuses of collegiate athletic standards by "making the university president directly responsible" and subject to firing if standards are violated: the NCAA is an athletic association! It does not, thank heaven, govern a university, which, the last time I checked, was a great deal more than a bevy of athletic teams. Could the athletic committee of the Atlantic Coast Conference fire the president of Duke University? Could the national office of Phi Beta Kappa fire the president of Davidson College?
I also happen to think college and university presidents are ultimately responsible for athletic abuses, but not because the NCAA can decree it so. Shame on McBride for such a tail-wagging-dog assumption. And shame on SI for printing his letter without commenting on such misguided thinking.
JOHN B. ROGERS JR.
As sports fans and former educators, we are deeply concerned about the grave injustice being done to our student-athletes. We feel that our colleges and universities and the NCAA should recognize that not every gifted athlete is academically inclined or able, as is evidenced by recent exposures of academic ineligibility and falsifying of records. The real victims are those "student-athletes" who never should have been placed in a regular college program in the first place.
We propose that the powers that be consider an alternate plan for collegiate athletics: that is, continue having regular academic courses leading to a degree for those athletes who are capable, and at the same time establish a non-degree program in life skills—improved reading and math and a skilled trade—for those athletes who are now making a sham of the term "student." This should alleviate the pressure on coaches and athletes and benefit everyone.
NANCY AND REESE WOODLING
I would like to congratulate you on Bertram Gabriel's fine article Running to Nowhere (Nov. 26), in which he gave a factual picture of the problems reservation Indian youths face in their running careers. I was disappointed, however, that he did not point out some of the programs that have been established to combat this problem. A case in point is the Department of Recreation at the Pueblo of Zuni, of which I am a former director. This department has in the past sent athletes, through the AAU, not only to cross-country but also track and field meets throughout the country. This was done in the hopes that exposure to the outside world would help these athletes cope with the realities of leaving the reservation after graduation from high school. It was our hope that by competing against some of the better athletes in the U.S., and often coming out the winner in these races, Indian youths would build the self-confidence they need.