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SO WHO'S SHORTCHANGING WHOM?
When the USFL's New Jersey Generals signed Herschel Walker last spring before the University of Georgia star had used up his eligibility at the school (page 18), college coaches around the country screamed bloody murder. The USFL's signing of college players, they wailed, would interfere with student-athletes' dogged pursuit of their college educations and play havoc with the college game. In the face of these objections, USFL Commissioner Chet Simmons has publicly pledged that his league will not compound its supposed crime in signing Walker by also spiriting away Oklahoma Running Back Marcus Dupree. What Simmons hasn't said—but should—is that the complaints about signing still-eligible collegians are so much hooey. To consider them in order:
1) It interferes with education. So how much education do pro-caliber football players get, even when they dutifully spend all four years playing for Old Siwash? Compared with other college stars, Walker was considered to be unusually conscientious in the classroom, yet The Atlanta Journal and Constitution recently reported that Georgia's three-time All-America had only 92 of the 195 credit hours required for graduation. It's safe to assume, what with the distractions of the regular football season, postseason bowls, three pro All-Star games, pro tryouts, pro minicamps and banquet-circuit commitments, not to mention his then-envisioned pursuit of a berth on the 1984 U.S. Olympic team, that Walker still would have been light-years away from a degree even if he'd returned to Georgia for his final season. At any rate, Walker still is free to pursue his degree, and he has indicated that he intends to take courses at Georgia this fall.
2) It hurts college football. Let's look at the experience of Arizona State's baseball team. Baseball hotshots are protected from the pros only as freshmen and sophomores in college and can be freely signed either before or after that. Over the years Arizona State has had such ballplayers as Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando, Bob Horner, Floyd Bannister, Ken Landreaux and Larry Gura, but just as impressive is the list of those who signed letters of intent with the Sun Devils, only to turn pro before arriving on campus—including Jim Palmer, Dale Murphy, Robin Yount, Lee Mazzilli, Jeff Burroughs, Garry Templeton, Brett Butler, Chris Speier and Johnnie LeMaster. Arizona State received no value whatsoever from any of those players, yet because other college baseball teams have also been stripped of talent by the pros, the Sun Devils have remained a baseball power.
If all college football players were similarly fair game for the pros, life would surely go on in that sport, too. Indeed, not even Georgia can claim to have been shortchanged by Walker's defection. During his three years on campus, the Bulldogs played in three Sugar Bowls, appeared on network telecasts eight other times and increased their stadium capacity by 18,000 seats, which they filled for every home game. All told, Walker can be credited with having produced at least $3 million in extra revenue for Georgia, not a bad return on the school's investment—covering three years of scholarship, uniform, travel and other costs for Herschel—of perhaps $45,000.
NOW A POSTAL SUBSIDY?
SWINGING FROM YOUR FEELS
A researcher at Pittsburgh's Carnegie-Mellon University has discredited one of baseball's hoariest exhortations: that you should "keep your eye on the ball" from the moment it's pitched until it strikes the bat. That, says Dr. A. Terry Bahill, 37, an associate professor of electrical and biomedical engineering, is "physiologically impossible." Bahill came to his conclusion after studying the head and eye movements of one Pittsburgh Pirate and several Carnegie-Mellon varsity players and grad students. The subjects were asked to watch the flight of a computer-controlled pitch beginning 60'6" away and traveling at speeds of as much as 93 mph. Not even the Pirate, Brian Harper, came close to tracking the ball all the way from mound to lumber.