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WHERE IT STOPS...
The corruption in Arizona college football seems to run about as deep as the Grand Canyon. Last fall Arizona State Coach Frank Kush was dismissed for trying to cover up the fact that he had hit a player, and shortly thereafter the Sun Devils forfeited five of their six victories because of revelations that eight players' academic credits had been falsified. Last week the University of Arizona lost its football coach, Tony Mason, when he resigned after having been accused of submitting phony expense reports and committing violations of recruiting rules and other NCAA regulations.
Both the Tucson Citizen and The Arizona Daily Star have been on Mason's case since January, and they have charged, among other things, that he filed expense reports for trips he never took, that promises of free trips home and money were made to recruits and that players were given loans and no-show jobs. Most of the allegations center around the travel expenses. Vouchers were made out for airplane tickets and per diem on 10 imaginary trips. In addition, Mason submitted expense reports that resulted in his being doubly reimbursed. Mason defended these practices as necessary to cover his and his assistants' "out-of-pocket expenses" that the state would not pay. The expenses, he said, included such items as drinks, movie tickets, shoeshines and Lifesavers.
That doesn't explain, though, the $6,000 allegedly paid to players by the Tucson Parks and Recreation Department for work they did not perform. Or the trip, paid for out of athletic-department funds, for the woman from California who stayed in a room at a resort while she was in Tucson. The university says the trip was a thank-you for her assistance in West Coast recruiting. Her former husband happened to own a massage parlor.
One player, a starter for Arizona, was quoted last week as saying that he received three sizable loans from Mason on the understanding that he didn't have to pay the money back. "The coach told me it was no problem," said the player, "that he could help me out but that I would have to pay him back. Then he laughed to let me know I didn't really."
The Arizona athletic department is now faced with the twofold task of quickly finding a successor to Mason and conducting an investigation of its football program. Donald Myers, a former Arizona faculty chairman, says, "There ought to be more than merely an administrative investigation. I don't think the resignation [of Mason] itself solves the problem. The real problem is the prevention of recurrences in the future." While Athletic Director Dave Strack stopped short of directly defending Mason, he did say, "The per diem and other reimbursements authorized by the state do not begin to cover the amounts that these coaches actually pay for their expenses." Maybe he should just tell his coaches to take it easy on the Lifesavers.
The last word on that Speech Communication 380 course at Southern Cal (SCORECARD, March 31) is that 26 enrolled athletes who never attended it and were allowed to take a makeup will now have to complete a makeup of the makeup. The whole thing started last December—four weeks before the Rose Bowl—when it was discovered that the athletes, most of whom were football players, weren't attending the classes. They were then given a five-day "crash course" and, forthwith, declared by their instructor to have completed the requirements for Speech Communication 380. But last week Southern Cal President John R. Hubbard announced that the second makeup will be required because of "irregularities discovered in the conduct of the first makeup." Among the irregularities was the submission by some student-athletes of work that was not their own.
The course has already cost the speech instructor and the athletic department's academic coordinator their jobs, but it isn't about to cost USC its 17-16 Rose Bowl victory over Ohio State. Both the NCAA and the Pacific-10 say that as long as the students were enrolled in the fall semester—which ends in late January—they were eligible to play. One of the ironies of the situation is that the athletes weren't even supposed to take Speech Communication 380 in the first place: the course was open only to members of the debating team.