I want to congratulate Anita Verschoth on the fine job she did with her Olympic Medal Forecast (Feb. 6). Unlike William Oscar Johnson and many other Americans who had high hopes for as many as 17 medals for the U.S., Verschoth accurately predicted eight medals for our Olympic team. In fact, she came very close to predicting the exact medal count and standings for every medal-winning country in the Games.
As for the disappointing (to some) overall showing of the U.S. team, I would say one thing: Most of our interest this time was centered on hockey, figure skating and the Alpine events. We should be aware that these three categories award a total of 33 medals, nine fewer than in the Nordic events alone. Until we somehow develop a financial incentive for our speed skaters and cross-country skiers to train and compete, we can continue to expect relatively low medal totals at the Winter Games.
I kept careful track during the course of the Olympics, and after totaling up the results, I found that Anita Verschoth's successful picks for medals were down from previous Olympics—she had a .333 average with 13 gold medalists in 39 events. In comparing her performance this time with her average for Lake Placid (.421), it occurred to me that this was truly an Olympics for the surprising underdog: Debbie Armstrong, Bill Johnson, Gaétan Boucher, Marja-Liisa Hämäläinen and Paoletta Magoni are a few who come to mind.
Verschoth did much better in terms of predicting those athletes who would win some sort of medal, if not always the one she had chosen. Here her average was a very respectable .496 (.590, counting dark horses). The fact that she could so often pick a medal winner attests to her (and SI's stringers') expertise, and partly makes up for her failure to mention Kitty and Peter Carruthers in the pairs skating predictions. They weren't even a dark horse!
Admittedly, hindsight is 20/20, but how could Anita Verschoth have ignored Gaétan Boucher of Canada? His two second-place finishes in world outdoor sprint speed skating championships must have made him a pre-Olympic favorite, and not only in Canada. The fact that he has yet to lose a 1,000- or 1,500-meter event since coming off a broken ankle last year is remarkable enough, but you still ignored him. He proved you wrong, to our delight.
FATHERS AND SONS, AND UNLV
Thank you very much for the positive article on Jerry Tarkanian, his son Danny and Nevada, Las Vegas basketball (The Son Has Also Risen, Feb. 20). As a graduate of the UNLV hotel school, I'm very proud of the basketball program Tarkanian has built. In the past I've been upset about the mostly negative press that has plagued UNLV basketball and Tarkanian. Jerry always has had great teams, and above all that, he has always taken care of his players, in school and out.
ANDREW J. SULTAN
North Miami Beach, Fla.
I commend Alexander Wolff for a well-written article on the Tarkanians. Certainly, my estimation of Jerry Tarkanian is much higher than it was. The article revealed a man who is truly and deeply concerned about the welfare of the young men who play for him, not a ruthless exploiter, which is what I had previously envisioned Tarkanian to be.
WILLIAM J. WARFEL
Alexander Wolff's article on the Tarkanians and UNLV depicts collegiate athletics as it is in this day and age. Jerry Tarkanian has led the Running Rebels to an outstanding winning percentage in the last 10 years. But is winning the bottom line? According to my rough calculations, in Tarkanian's 10 years at UNLV, fewer than 35% of his players have graduated. This sad scenario made me thank God for coaches like Joe Paterno and Dean Smith, who have excellent winning and graduating percentages.
Grove City, Pa.
The story of the Tarkanians was most interesting, and so was the sidebar on other coaches and sons in basketball. However, you left out two of the most famous father-and-son combinations: Adolph Rupp and his son Herky, who played for his father at Kentucky in 1959-62, and Ed Diddle and his son Eddie Jr., who was an excellent player for his father at Kentucky Western in 1948-51.
WALTER WENDELL ARNETT
Another successful father-and-son combination is coach Bob Bessoir and son Billy of the University of Scranton. Billy led the Royals to a Division III national title in 1983 and was the tournament MVP. Bob was voted Coach of the Year.