SI Vault
Edited by Jerry Kirshenbaum
November 22, 1982
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
November 22, 1982


View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue


There has been a lot of talk in recent days about whether it's necessary to cheat to win in college athletics. To understand what's behind that line of speculation, one need only note that the teams ranked first, second and sixth in SI's current college football poll, Georgia, SMU and Arizona State, respectively, are all on NCAA probation for recruiting violations, although only Arizona State is currently banned from appearing on TV. Add in the fact that Clemson, the defending national champion—and this week's 15th-ranked team—is reportedly about to be put on NCAA probation for recruiting violations and other transgressions (page 36), and you have what appears to be a damning comment on major-college athletics.

But is there a relationship between cheating and athletic success? Except for the case of Georgia, whose relatively minor recruiting violations were committed by an assistant coach, the allegations that got the above schools in trouble involved, in every instance, one or more infractions imputed to boosters, those zealous outside contributors who are often quick to bend the rules in the name of the universities they purport to serve. It further happens that the colleges with the best won-lost records are frequently those with the strongest booster clubs, one measure of that strength being that the clubs' activities are difficult for school administrators to control even when they're inclined to try. That helps put into perspective a point made by Harry Marmion, academic vice-president of Fairleigh Dickinson University in Rutherford, N.J. and a former director of the Commission on College Athletics of the American Council on Education. Although Marmion doesn't expressly claim that a precise relationship exists between cheating and intercollegiate athletic success, he seems to suggest as much when he says, "There's a direct correlation between the strength of the booster club and NCAA probation."

Those who deny a link between cheating and victory, on the other hand, are inclined to argue that the top football powers tend to get caught not because they're necessarily any more sinful than other schools but because they're such inviting targets for stool pigeons and NCAA investigators. The gist of this argument is that "everybody does it," or as Clemson President Bill Lee Atchley, whose school's booster club, incidentally, is considered the strongest in the country, put it not long ago in defending the honor of his institution, "I honestly believe there's no university anywhere in the country. I don't care who it is, which hasn't violated something." Atchley seemed to be saying, in other words, that it's necessary to cheat not only to win but even to play. Somehow that doesn't sound like any less damning a statement on big-time college sports.

A story in The Orlando Sentinel on Florida State Offensive Guard Stan Gavin reported, intriguingly, that during one of the Seminoles' preseason workouts, "Gavin—a muscular 5'11" 240-pounder with powerful legs—recorded the fastest time in his weight division in the 12-minute run."


The Mobile (Ala.) Press Register is a conservative newspaper that regularly inveighs against pacifism, the United Nations and those it perceives to be soft on Communism. After the announcement that this year's Nobel Peace Prize would be conferred on two diplomats who have dedicated themselves to working for nuclear disarmament, Alva Myrdal of Sweden and Alfonso Garcia Robles of Mexico, the Press Register voiced its strong disapproval in an editorial in which it called the new laureates "a couple of jaded pacifists who live in a dream world." The editorial concluded that because of the choice of Myrdal and Garcia Robles, the Nobel Peace Prize "now ranks on a scale far beneath the Crichton Optimist Club High School Football Player of the Week award."

While we didn't get around to eliciting the reaction of Myrdal and Garcia Robles to that comparison, we did seek out Victor McSwain, a past president of the Crichton Optimist Club in Mobile. Just as we suspected, McSwain allowed that he and other Optimists had read the editorial and were worried lest it be construed as a putdown of their club's high school football awards, which, he proudly noted, have been given over the years to such outstanding Mobile-area players as Richard Todd, Robert Brazile, Mike Fuller, Scott Hunter, Mardye McDole, Buddy Aydelette and Richard Caster, all of whom have gone on to the NFL.

"When I first read the editorial, I thought it could be interpreted two ways—either as derogatory to the Peace Prize or the Optimist club," McSwain said. "I called a friend of mine at the Press Register who's a member of the club, and he talked to the guy who wrote the editorial. He said that we should take it in a good vein and that they weren't downgrading our program at all." Playing the diplomat himself, McSwain declined to compare his club's awards with the Nobel Peace Prize. But he did say, pointedly, "The Crichton Optimist Club high school awards program has a lot of prestige."


Continue Story
1 2 3