HERE'S WHY HERSCHEL WALKER SHOULD BE MOVED TO QUARTERBACK
For the fourth time in as many years, Herschel Walker kept the football world holding its breath over which uniform he would don the following season. In 1980 he agonized over his choice of college, waiting until nearly the end of his senior year in high school before settling on Georgia. In 1981, after considering a three-year, $1.5 million offer to play in the Canadian Football League, he handed out a typed statement saying he would return to Georgia for his sophomore season. In 1982 he threatened to seek the right to play in the NFL by mounting a court challenge to that league's prohibition against drafting undergraduates, but then held a press conference to say he would remain at Georgia for his junior year. Last week Walker huddled in Athens, Ga. with J. Walter Duncan, the owner of the New Jersey Generals of the U.S. Football League, about the possibility of playing for the Generals. Once again the Dawgs won out. Walker emerged from the talks to announce at a press conference (right) that he would stay at Georgia for his senior year.
But that didn't quite end uncertainty over Walker's athletic future. Under NCAA rules, college athletes, on their own or with the help of advisers, may field or even seek out offers from professional teams to determine their worth in the marketplace, but they forfeit their college eligibility if they sign a contract or enter into full give-and-take negotiations with pro teams. Although both Walker and his lawyer, Jack Manton, denied that anything had transpired that would jeopardize Walker's NCAA eligibility, The Boston Globe's Will McDonough reported that Walker had signed a three-year, $5 million contract to play with the Generals. McDonough also said that after walking around the Georgia campus, Walker returned to the motel where he'd been meeting with Duncan to call the deal off.
If Walker had indeed put his name on—and had stuck by—the deal reported by the Globe, it would have been the most lucrative pro contract ever for an athlete coming out of college and the richest ever for any football player. Whatever the facts concerning the signing of a contract, Walker had obviously come close to bolting to the USFL. What's also clear is that he initiated the dealings with the Generals. On Walker's instructions, Manton had gotten in touch with Duncan, who arrived in Athens by private jet Wednesday night to meet with Walker. Talks continued on Thursday, and at 10:30 that night three members of the Generals—former Saints Quarterback Bobby Scott, former Bills Defensive Back Keith Moody and rookie Offensive Lineman Wayne Harris—were stationed by a telephone at the team's training camp in Orlando, Fla. for a possible call from Walker, who had reportedly expressed curiosity about the team's personnel. The call never came. The meetings in Athens continued until the wee hours on Friday, and a press conference was called for 3 p.m. that day, at which time Walker was to announce his plans. One indication that something big was brewing was that Walker's parents had driven over from Wrightsville, Ga. to be on hand. Another was the departure of Generals Coach Chuck Fairbanks from Orlando for the team's headquarters at New Jersey's Meadowlands sports complex, where, according to some reports, Walker was to be introduced to the New York press as the USFL's proud new acquisition. Instead, Walker announced in Athens that he was staying at Georgia, adding that he never received a concrete offer from Duncan and "never saw a contract."
Was Walker telling the truth? We may never know. Noting that Georgia had faithfully come forward in the past with details of Walker's dealings with pro football suitors, an NCAA spokesman said he assumed it would do the same this time. Meanwhile, he said, the NCAA had no plans to investigate whether Walker had jeopardized his eligibility. This was probably just as well. Given the gross abuses that some colleges and athletes have committed in recent years, the mere signing and tearing up of a contract no longer seems all that terrible an infraction.
Still, Walker's image as college football's golden boy may have lost a little of its luster as the result of his dealings with the Generals. This latest minuet with yet another pro team adds to a suspicion that he likes to play games with the media. At his press conference, Walker said he had met with the Generals because "they had heard a lot of rumors that I wanted to play professional ball," an odd statement in view of the fact that it was he who approached the Generals. Asked what his fiancée might think of the stir he was causing, Walker said, "I reckon she'd say I'm a person that loves to create excitement." From the way Walker orchestrated last week's excitement, Georgia Coach Vince Dooley may want to consider switching him to quarterback.
But it must be remembered, as Dooley told SI Correspondent Kent Hannon following the press conference, that Walker is still "only 20" and that he has grown accustomed to an awful lot of attention for one of such tender years. Dooley was naturally relieved that Walker decided to remain at Georgia, and the rest of college football and the NFL also had cause to cheer the decision, because if Walker had joined up with the USFL, it might have triggered an explosive bidding war between the two pro football leagues over underclassmen. That would have been truly exciting.
LOOKING AT THE EPA
President Reagan complained at his press conference last week that the constitutional confrontation between the Environmental Protection Agency and Congress had obscured the EPA's "splendid record." Credit the President with at least focusing on the right issue. What is ultimately involved in the continuing uproar over the EPA isn't executive privilege or separation of powers but the agency's success—or lack of it—in carrying out the mission implied by its name, i.e., protecting the environment.
By deeply slashing the EPA's budget and staff, the Administration has, in fact, severely curtailed the agency's ability to enforce environmental law. The EPA has been especially lax in discharging its obligation to clean up the toxic-waste dumps that threaten public health throughout the U.S., and it was this laxity—plus the Administration's refusal to cooperate with attempts by various House committees to monitor the agency's cleanup program—that brought about the confrontation between the White House and Congress. When EPA Administrator Ann Gorsuch refused to turn over documents subpoenaed by one of the committees, she was cited for contempt of Congress. The possibility that some of those documents have subsequently been destroyed has only deepened the showdown.