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STUNG BY A SWARM OF Bs
Short of somebody letting the air out of the ball, what more can possibly happen to further deflate Arizona State's football program? While reports circulated in Phoenix last week that soon there will be even more shocking revelations of wrongdoing at Arizona State, the Pac-10 dealt the Sun Devils yet another harsh blow by ruling that the school had used eight ineligible players this season and ordering it to forfeit its three conference victories. That done, Arizona State offered to forfeit its two nonconference wins, transforming its 5-4 record to 0-9. Playing without the eight men, the Sun Devils then beat West Virginia 42-7 Saturday night. With two games remaining, they thus had a 1-9 record to show for their scandal-ridden football season.
The Pac-10's investigation of the eight Arizona State players centered on transfer credits they received last summer from Rocky Mountain College, a small school in Billings, Mont, that offers more than two dozen extension courses at various locations in the Los Angeles area. The Sun Devil players had each received a B grade for a three-credit course entitled Remediation of Reading, Mathematics and Language for the Exceptional Child. But conference officials say that the players never attended class and failed to complete any other work in the course.
One of the eight players, Arthur (Turtle) Lane, told The Arizona Republic that he had been enrolled in the course by John Rehfield, the academic adviser in the Sun Devils' athletic department. Lane said he was told that it was a correspondence course and that he needed only to write a term paper to pass. He said that he never actually wrote such a paper and that he and other players had asked Rehfield about this, "but every time he would say, 'It's O.K., it's been taken care of.' " Lane said he had since learned that somebody had forged his name to register him in the course.
According to officials at Rocky Mountain College, more than 80 students took the course in a rented classroom in a Baptist church in the Los Angeles community of Gardena. The course was designed for certified teachers, but Wiley Bowers, the instructor, admitted to SI's Jack Tobin that "there were so many people, we didn't pay as much attention [to whether students met the qualifications for the course] as we would have normally." Bowers said that stand-ins must have registered for the Arizona State athletes and signed in for them each day. "Someone was there," Bowers insisted. As for how grades were determined. Bowers said, "Students keep their papers. I would go around and check them and give them a grade—see what they were doing."
Rehfield would not comment on Lane's claim that he had told players that term-paper requirements "had been taken care of." He did say he had collected fees for the course from players and had asked Rocky Mountain College to send transcripts to Arizona State. He also said that Frank Kush, Arizona State's deposed coach, had told him "my job was to get our players eligible or I'd be fired." Although Kush has denied any knowledge of irregularities involving the course, The Phoenix Gazette quoted an unidentified assistant coach as saying, "Kush was totally aware of it. He was consulted because it was a somewhat questionable deal." Kush was suspended as the Sun Devil coach last month for allegedly lying to school officials after Kevin Rutledge, an ex-Arizona State player had filed a $1.1-million law suit in which he accused Kush of having hit him. Kush has filed a $40-million damage suit against Arizona State and others.
The Sun Devil forfeits were unwelcome to Southern Cal, which had a 5-0-1 record and seemingly had the Pac-10 title and a Rose Bowl berth sewed up. Because the forfeits turned Washington's loss to Arizona State into a win, the Huskies now have a 6-1 record and are back in contention. Meanwhile, Pac-10 Executive Director Wiles Hallock said he had "no specific evidence" on a report that athletes at Cal, UCLA, Southern Cal and Oregon State may have found it convenient to pick up credits by taking similar extension courses.
SAVING SPACE ON THE SPACEMAN
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar hopes to receive Oriental rugs for Christmas, while Los Angeles Laker teammate Magic Johnson has his heart set on a new stereo. Distance swimmer Diana Nyad will be looking for a portable Dictaphone under her Christmas tree. John McEnroe would like nothing better for Christmas than, for a change, a "good press." Tom Landry yearns for a third Super Bowl victory. Bill Rodgers for any kind of Olympic medal. Bruce Jenner wants socks and more drawer space for his T shirts. Maybe Jenner can solve his space problem by playing Santa to New York Jet Quarterback Richard Todd, who is hoping to receive some T shirts for Christmas because, "I can never get enough of them."