Gunther makes running off sound like the firing of an incompetent employee. Trouble is, the "employee" in this case doesn't have workmen's compensation, can't form a union and doesn't have the right to bargain for a higher salary or better working conditions. He can't even readily seek employment elsewhere; under NCAA rules, incredibly enough, even players who are run off must sit out a year if they transfer to another school. And the justification that scholarships are of one-year duration doesn't tell the whole story. In offering athletic scholarships, coaches almost always paint four-year pictures of what a recruit can expect; seldom do they hint at the possibility of a scholarship being reduced or withdrawn for poor play.
In trying to defend this one-sided situation in which the athlete has all obligations but no rights, Steve Morgan, the NCAA's director of legislative services, says that running off is subject to "a real-world check," in that the practice can hurt a coach's reputation in recruiting other players. But this check didn't help the five North Dakota players, who will have to either transfer—and lose a year of basketball eligibility—or come up with some other means of financing their education at North Dakota. And, oh yes, although he also had a part—in fact, by any conventional measure of judging a college team, the major part—in last season's disappointing showing, Gunther hasn't offered to take a cut in pay.
COLLEGE ATHLETICS III
Now that we've discussed college athletes 1) who can't read and 2) who get run off by their coaches, we move on to the subject of Kevin Ross, who was still virtually unable to read or write after playing center and forward for Creighton's basketball team for four years and who claims that in his senior year he had to resist the efforts of Coach Willis Reed, who was disappointed in his play, to hound him into quitting the team.
Belatedly accepting its responsibility for Ross's academic failings, Creighton in effect extended his scholarship for a fifth year by paying his tuition at West-side Prep in Chicago, an innovative private school with a reputation for helping youngsters overcome educational deficiencies. After he enrolled at Westside last September, photos of the 6'9", 23-year-old Ross in a classroom with seventh-graders attracted national attention, as did the news that he'd tested at the second-grade level in reading.
The Ross story now has an almost happy ending. On May 25 Ross will graduate from Westside Prep, and he'll take with him academic skills he failed to acquire either in high school in Kansas City, Kans., where he received a diploma, or at Creighton, where he loaded up on such courses as Theory of Track and Field, Squad Participation (basketball), Introductory Ceramics, Photography and First Aid. A recent test revealed Ross's reading skills now to be at the national average for high school seniors, and he says proudly, "I know about Plato's Republic now. I didn't know who Plato was when I came here."
Ross's dramatic academic improvement at Westside demonstrates, as does the progress of some of the athletes in Iowa State's remedial program, that colleges could do a far better job of providing a real education to the disadvantaged athletes they lure onto their campuses. It also underscores the need to modify the NCAA's recently enacted Proposal 48, which starting in 1986 will make minimum scores on standardized tests a condition of academic eligibility. Such mini-mums would throw the baby out with the bath water, barring eligibility—and probably as a practical matter, the awarding of athletic scholarships—to many academically deficient students who need only the proper opportunity and appropriate catch-up help to succeed in the classroom.
Instead of Proposal 48, the NCAA should adopt and enforce proposals that will require its member schools to educate those athletes they now only exploit. Then we wouldn't have to qualify occasions such as Ross's graduation as being "almost" happy. Ross says he's considering returning to college to pursue a degree in earnest—he's thinking about the University of Illinois-Chicago or Roosevelt University—and he pronounces himself pleased with his academic turnaround, saying, "Creighton labeled me 'rejected,' and I turned it over, and I put 'accepted.' " But he also says, "This is no time for me to celebrate because I know there are a lot of people out there like I was." Ross will have an opportunity to expand on this theme on graduation day at Westside Prep. He's scheduled to give the commencement address.
Owing to the inability of the two bickering leagues to work out a scheduling conflict, the San Diego Sockers may have to start their NASL outdoor season even before finishing their current championship series against the Baltimore Blast in the Major Indoor Soccer League. Having already once delayed their NASL opener, the Sockers, whose indoor roster includes most of the same players who are expected to be on the San Diego outdoor squad, now are scheduled to debut against Team America on May 21. As for the MISL finals, the fourth game, if necessary, of the best-of-five series is set for May 19 and the fifth for May 23. And so, it could come to pass that a team may actually start a new season while its last one is still in progress. Because of the lengthening of pro sports schedules, it has, until now, only seemed as though that had been happening.
Fordham University Baseball Coach Paul Blair started the following lineup the other day for a game against Long Island University: Vinny Ferraro, SS; Tony Russo, 2B; Billy Santo, 3B; Ed Napolitano, 1B; Mike Stefano, LF; John Blanco, CF; John Macaluso, C; Darryl Porfilio, RF; Joe Vanchiro, DH; and Tony LoBello, P. Is it a mere coincidence that the coach who filled out the lineup card for that game—which the Rams won, 7-6—used to play for the O's?