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THE WRITING IS ON THE WALL
John Underwood
May 19, 1980
The rash of phony transcripts and academic cheating spells out the fact that athletics are now an abomination to the ideals of higher education. Victims: the student-athletes. Culprits: the system and those who run it
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May 19, 1980

The Writing Is On The Wall

The rash of phony transcripts and academic cheating spells out the fact that athletics are now an abomination to the ideals of higher education. Victims: the student-athletes. Culprits: the system and those who run it

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After his first season, the Zephyrs moved to Baltimore and McGill was traded to the New York Knicks. The Knicks sent him a contract for $10,000. It was Downhill McGill from then on: to the St. Louis Hawks, to Grand Rapids of the old Continental Basketball Association, to the Lakers, to the Warriors. He played his last game for Dallas of the American Basketball Association in 1970. He was 28, with no money in the bank and no way of making a living.

"All I'd ever done was play ball," he says. "I literally walked the streets for a couple of years, trying to find a job. Any job." One night, in 1972, he found himself in a high-rise office building on Wilshire Boulevard, working for a janitorial service—scrubbing floors for $84 a week.

"I couldn't believe what had happened. I said to myself, 'Hey, I'm Bill McGill. This can't be happening.' " To his horror, he found he couldn't even scrub floors well. "I got fired because I couldn't swing a mop in that sweeping motion they use. My mother taught me to mop pushing it back and forth, but in those big buildings you cover a lot more floor space with the swinging motion."

He talked to "everyone you can imagine," looking for a job. "I slept in laundromats, bus stops, you name it, trying to find something. I even contacted the president of Utah to see if I could get an honorary degree, just so I could put it on applications."

Brad Pye Jr., sports editor of the Los Angeles Sentinel and the man who first called McGill "Billy the Hill," managed in 1972 to find him a job in general procurement at Hughes Aircraft in El Segundo. When a piece of equipment was lost in transit, it was McGill's job to "get on the phone and start tracking it down."

Although he worked at the same job without promotion for more than seven years, McGill slowly paid off some of the bills he had accumulated as a pro player. Of the $290 he earned each week, he took home only $62; the rest was deducted from his check and turned over to the Hughes credit union, which was clearing up McGill's old obligations for him. His wife, Gwen, an executive secretary at Hughes, took care of the bulk of the living expenses for the family, which includes two sons, Tommy, now 14, and Myron, now 15.

Last fall the roof once again caved in. In October, McGill aggravated a back condition that dates to his days as a pro. He wound up in the hospital, where he was in traction for a week. He filled out all the forms for medical leave from work, but his authorized absences extended only through Nov. 19. He was informed by telegram in late November that he had lost his job. "A technicality," he says,-"but it was really something between me and my boss."

McGill didn't feel he had been treated fairly, particularly considering that he had worked at Hughes for seven years, and filed a discrimination suit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that is scheduled to be heard on June 2. Once again healthy, he has applied several times to get a different job at Hughes but at the moment is still on the unemployment line.

Out of all McGill's frustrations, there is hope. He has completed his autobiography. The manuscript of From the Hill to the Valley is 254 pages long—handwritten—and awaiting a publisher. And lest anyone wonder, McGill can tell you for sure: there are no ghostwriters for fallen stars.

"I hung all my dreams on being a basketball player," he says. "Basketball was my whole life."

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