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Ever since Imperial Valley College of Imperial, Calif. was founded in 1922, its teams have been known as the Arabs because of the desert conditions in that part of the state. Now coaches and students want to drop the nickname, and not because irrigation has since turned the valley green. Doubts about the nickname cropped up during the Arab oil embargo in 1973 and became widespread during the Iranian hostage crisis, even though most Iranians are not Arabs. Mike Swearingen, who doubles as the college's baseball coach and assistant football coach, says athletes have found it embarrassing to travel on the school bus, decorated with IVC ARABS and other signs carrying the nickname. "We traveled to Las Vegas to play a football game against the Las Vegas-Nevada junior varsity," Swearingen says. "On the bus there was a sign saying THE ARABS ARE COMING. As I stepped off I heard a guy say, 'What in the hell are Arabs doing here?' When I explained to the guy that we were a college football team and that Arabs was our nickname, he said, 'if that's your idea of a joke, it's in poor taste.' We've had to deal with laughter and jeers. It's hard for our players when they're riding on the bus and see cars going by with everyone inside offering an obscene gesture. It's even tough to recruit. You bring a prospect to a game, and when the players are announced, half the people in the stands are jeering and the other half are laughing and making gestures."
A fortnight ago, the student assembly discussed the matter inconclusively. Final action is up to the board of trustees, which meets next month. New nicknames offered for consideration are Raiders, Desert Raiders and Marauders. Swearingen doesn't care what new nickname is picked so long as Arabs bites the dust. "I'd just like any name without a political connotation." he says.
THE HEISMAN JINX
How many Heisman Trophy winners are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame? The surprising answer to that trivia question: none. While such Heisman winners as Leon Hart, Alan Ameche, Billy Cannon, Paul Hornung and Mike Garrett went on to have fine NFL careers, all have been denied immortality at Canton.
Of those five players, the strongest case for induction into the Hall probably can be made for Hornung, the Heisman winner in 1956. A running back who played on four champion Green Bay teams in the 1960s, he led the NFL in scoring three times, amassing 176 points in a 12-game season in 1960, a league record that nobody has seriously challenged even in today's 16-game season. "There's no question that Hornung is of Hall of Fame caliber," says a former Packer teammate, Bob Long. "Inside the 10-yard line, he was probably the finest football player I've ever seen." Hornung speculates that his prospects for enshrinement at Canton were damaged by his suspension in 1963 for betting on games. But he adds, "A lot of Packers are in the Hall of Fame, too, and maybe that's also a factor."
He could be right. In the latest election, a 29-member panel of football reporters elevated Placekicker George Blanda, End Morris (Red) Badgro and two of Hornung's Green Bay teammates, Center Jim Ringo and Defensive End Willie Davis, to the Hall of Fame, increasing the number of players, coaches, league officials and owners so honored to 110. Selection of Ringo and Davis means that Vince Lombardi and seven alumni of Green Bay's championship teams of the '60s are now in the Hall. With other former Packers also meriting future consideration, Hornung could find himself crowded out indefinitely. But any notion that Hornung might be the victim of some kind of Heisman jinx will be dissipated in 1985 at the latest. That's when the '63 and '68 Heisman winners will become eligible for their inevitable induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Roger Staubach and O.J. Simpson.