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A LEARNING EXPERIENCE
San Diego State Coach Claude Gilbert tried to prove that college football could actually have something to do with higher education and higher values. Gilbert taught his players lessons in humanity and fair play, witness the testimonial of Defensive Back Johnny Moore, who quit the Aztecs after his sophomore year, briefly matriculated at a couple of other schools and then returned last year. Another coach might have derided such a player as disloyal, but not Gilbert. Says a grateful Moore, "The only thing Claude told me was, 'Johnny, it's good to see you back. We all have to do things to get away at times.' "
Moore's experience isn't unique. There's also the case of Quarterback Mark Halda, who lost his starting job this season but says, "Coach Gilbert never got down on me as a person. He felt as bad about the trouble I was having as I did." Then there's Tailback Craig Ellis, who was dismissed from this year's team for disciplinary reasons but was allowed to keep his scholarship. He says of his coach, "The man cared for me, not for Craig Ellis the football player." Gilbert also won the admiration of San Diego State faculty members, one of whom says, "Claude never interfered with the teaching other than to support us. If he did intervene, it was to encourage one of his players who was doing well in the class to help a teammate who wasn't doing as well. I listened to players talk about Claude. You could tell he cared about them."
But the 48-year-old Gilbert committed an unpardonable sin. After having a 57-18-2 record in his first seven seasons, he slipped to 2-8 this year, and last week, with two games left in the season, he was fired. Disappointed about his sacking, which is effective at the end of the season, Gilbert said bravely, "I'm going to drive into the mountains and talk to a cow. I'm going to watch a butterfly and listen to a bird, and after that I'm going to find an ol' coach another job in coaching. I love the kids, I love the game." Despite his love of his sport, Gilbert may have wound up proving that college football doesn't have much to do with higher education after all. What it does have to do with was underscored by Aztec Athletic Director Gene Bourdet, who explained Gilbert's firing by saying, "We cannot succeed with the crowds we've been getting. We cannot survive unless football makes the revenue."
LOST AND FOUND
By now the details of Koch's Folly are well known, even outside the Big Apple: 1) how New York City Mayor Ed Koch, returning last winter from a trip to China during which he'd seen hordes of bicyclists on the streets of Peking, decided it would be environmentally efficacious if New Yorkers rode bikes, too, and accordingly spent $290,000 to install five miles of curbed, six-foot-wide bicycle lanes along several Manhattan thoroughfares; and 2) how last week, barely a month after the bike lanes had been dedicated, they were ripped up at a further cost of $100,000, Koch having abruptly decided that the project was a dismal failure.
A politician admitting an error is a rare and wonderful event, but Koch seemed almost too eager to purge himself. In dismissing the bike lanes as a flop, he accurately noted that they had made Manhattan's streets even more congested than usual and that they had caused a lot of hard feelings among pedestrians, motorists and cyclists. Koch also insisted, somewhat contradictorily, that the bike lanes were going virtually unused.
There's reason to wonder how committed the mayor was to bicycling to begin with. In creating bike lanes without adopting corresponding measures to restrict auto use, his half-Koched scheme virtually guaranteed clogged streets. And many of the nastier spats involving cyclists might have been averted had police more strictly enforced traffic regulations regarding the riding of bikes; cyclists, for example, tended to run red lights at will. Some City Hall aides conceded that the lanes were being jettisoned just as an uneasy coexistence was starting to develop between cyclists and their foes.
And why the haste? A transportation department supervisor overseeing the dismantling on the Avenue of the Americas noted that there was a hint of snow in the air and speculated that it had belatedly occurred to Koch that plowing the narrow lanes might be tricky. The lanes were eliminated, he theorized, to avoid the political backlash that would ensue if some of the bundle-laden Christmas shoppers so dear to the city's merchants started slipping and falling as they tried to traverse ice-clogged bike lanes.