TROUBLE AT A&M
A two-month investigation by the Dallas Times Herald claims to have uncovered evidence of extensive improper payments to football players at Texas A&M under Jackie Sherrill, the Aggies' coach since 1982, and Tom Wilson, who coached the team from 1978 to '81. The paper reported last week that players at the school have received thousands of dollars in signing incentives and bonuses, as well as weekly allowances, performance payments, car deals and other favors from A&M coaches and boosters. Former A&M lineman Gary Rogers is quoted as saying he received some $20,000 from Dallas banker Riley C. Couch III: "It's like this guy would actually go to work for me. I mean as far as money-wise, he was giving me a lot of money.... I would say more than an average person can make on a job in a week." Couch denies the allegations.
The Times Herald tells of envelopes filled with hundreds of dollars being slipped into players' lockers and under dorm-room doors. It quotes Kathy Leonard, a former A&M athletic department tutor, as saying, "[Alumni] had a very organized system for a player being paid. According to his ability, he would be assigned a 'sugar daddy'...[the players] would always joke about it: 'My sugar daddy is richer than your sugar daddy.' " One unnamed former Aggie told the Times Herald that when it came to stars like Earnest Jackson (now of the Eagles) and Johnny Hector (Jets), "The sugar daddies were fighting over them." Jackson says he received no money or favors from alumni; Hector has refused to comment on the matter.
Just as disturbing as the Times Herald's allegations of improprieties is what the paper says were actions by Sherrill to block its efforts to look into A & M's football program. Sherrill told at least some of his players not to talk to certain newspaper reporters, says the paper, and issued a directive barring the release of players' campus phone numbers. The Times Herald says Sherrill induced most of his players to sign secrecy requests, effectively blocking the paper's attempt to obtain their car registration records from the school.
Sherrill told the Times Herald that he knows of no improprieties in his program, and that a current internal investigation has revealed none, though "if I or [any coach] sits here and tells you that there are 100 percent clean sheets [in his program], that guy either has his head in the sand or he's lying." Regrettably, Sherrill has apparently shown little interest in airing A & M's laundry. And the picture drawn by the Times Herald is that of a man who has something to hide.
PUT A SHRIMP ON THE BARBIE FOR YA?
The Great Blunder Down Under—that's what some were calling last Saturday's comically misrun Australia Bowl in Melbourne. Dreamed up by Sydney ad executive Barry Shawyer as a way to introduce American football in his country, the game matched the two worst teams in the Western Athletic Conference, 2-8 Wyoming and 1-9 Texas-El Paso, both of whose coaches, Al Kincaid and Bill Yung, had been fired and were working their last game. Financially shaky, the game, which drew only 19,107 fans to a 75,000-seat stadium, was nearly called off at the last minute after several corporate sponsors, unable to agree on distribution of possible profits, threatened to pull out. Bills went unpaid and the teams, for financial reasons, had to make an 11-hour bus trip to Sydney to catch the flight for home. UTEP still doesn't know if it will ever receive its $55,000 guarantee.
On the other hand, the Aussie spectators seemed to find the new sport—which they kept calling "gridiron"—entertaining, if confusing. During halftime, the PA. announcer, who had come from the U.S., asked the crowd, "Do you understand the game yet?"
"Nooooooo!" came the reply.
"Are you having fun?" he continued.