Byers seems to be edging toward the idea of a kind of local option for the NCAA's member schools. "For some institutions the efforts to put a ceiling on [financial] aid and recruiting limits are the problem," he says. "They'll want to go what I'd call the Olympic way. They'll say, 'Look, we can't police this thing, and there's nothing wrong with it. Let's take off the cap and let the players get what's needed, and let's go.' The other group will say, 'No, I don't think that's the way to go.' So I see an open division that would want things one way—Olympic-style 'amateurs,' if you will—and a group that says, 'No, let's keep things within an institutional framework.' "
The cynical view to take of all this is that Byers is simply reading the writing on the wall. The NCAA has suffered setbacks of late, most notably the Supreme Court's antitrust ruling voiding its TV football package and the semidefection of 105 member schools to the College Football Association. Also, it's not unthinkable that some college athletes would hope to achieve, either through a union or lawsuits, an even more sweeping liberalization than that envisioned by Byers. In speaking out, Byers may be hoping to preempt the NCAA's challengers and assure a continuing role for his organization in intercollegiate athletics.
But it also happens that Byers is essentially right in what he says. Many college sports programs are already semiprofessional, and he's merely suggesting that administrators end the hypocrisy and acknowledge as much. Since colleges won't relish getting into an all-out bidding war for talent, Byers presumably wants only what would amount to pay increases for athletes—not an open labor market. It follows that rules and enforcement would still be necessary; if you say that an athlete can have a free car, some coach will inevitably want to give him two cars. Another danger is that legitimizing semipro college sports might increase the win-or-else pressures that have led schools to flagrantly compromise their admissions and educational standards. Lest athletes become nothing more than mercenaries, pains must be taken to keep the economic liberalization Byers is talking about from extending to academics.
Does Byers really want an open division? He says only, "It's my intention in the months ahead to raise the possibility among the different forums that deal with higher education policy." It will be interesting to listen to Byers and see how his trial balloon flies.
THE BOWIE SHIFT
The more baseball people have thought about it, the more perplexed they've become by commissioner Bowie Kuhn's solution to the Wrigley Field lights conundrum (SI, Aug. 27 et seq.). Faced with a choice of allowing the Chicago Cubs, assuming they make it that far, to host the World Series in the only big league ball park without lights (resulting in the loss of a reported $700,000 per major league team in prime-time TV income) or forcing the Cubs either to install lights (and run afoul of state and city laws enacted to prevent night baseball) or to move home Series games to Milwaukee or Comiskey Park (horrors!), Kuhn came up with what he obviously thought was a Solomonic compromise. While ruling that the Cubs could play without lights at home, he sought to minimize the TV revenue loss by altering the sequence of games. This year the National League team was supposed to have the home-field advantage during the Series, playing host to Games 1, 2, 6 and 7. But Kuhn ruled that if the Cubs are the National League representative, those four games would be played in the American League city; Games 3, 4 and 5, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, would be in Chicago. Of those three, only the game on Friday would normally be played at night. As a consequence, the loss would be held to perhaps $175,000 per major league club.
The decision to deprive the Cubs of their home-field advantage was questionable enough. The Cubs have the best home record in baseball (45-23 through Sunday), and manager Jim Frey fumed about Kuhn's ruling—although Chicago alderman Bernard Hansen said confidently that the Cubs will wind up playing only two games at home anyway because "they'll sweep the first four games." Worse was the fact that the Bowie shift applies only to the Cubs and not to any other National League Series hopefuls, like, say, the San Diego Padres. As a result, it's possible that none of the American League's various World Series contenders will know until the end of the National League playoffs whether they'll be at home or on the road on Oct. 9, the day the Series is scheduled to begin. This is already playing havoc with hotel bookings in Detroit, Minneapolis, Anaheim and Kansas City and is also causing uncertainty for airlines, rental car companies, fans hoping to buy tickets and media trying to set up telephone lines. "The World Series is a floating convention, and arrangements are difficult under the best of circumstances," says one baseball writer. "Bowie's crazy decision is causing absolute chaos."
Kuhn is stepping down as commissioner on Sept. 30. Although it's probably too late for him to restore the Cubs' home-field advantage, he might at least assure a semblance of order by amending his ruling so that the Series starts in the American League city, no matter which National League team is playing. It would make what figures to be the last major action of Kuhn's 15-year reign as commissioner a little less objectionable.
ANDY TAKES A BRIDE
Latonia Race Course in Florence, Ky. began its new meeting last week with a flourish: Andy Furman, 34, the track's go-getting, anything-for-some-ink publicity man, and aide Wendy Loney, 26, were married in the paddock shortly before the first race.