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The same could be said for Western Michigan guard Steve Amundson. Over the summer his father painted a three-point practice line on his driveway. It paid off on Dec. 4, when Amundson's three-pointer beat Michigan with four seconds remaining.
Speaking of paint, Mack McCarter of the Chattanooga News-Free Press figures college basketball could rid itself of the three-point rule for a mere $73,665. How? McCarter says it would take 2½ gallons of paint remover to eradicate one three-point arch. That's five gallons per gym to rub out both of them. A gallon of Heavy Bodied Klean Strip remover costs $16.37, which comes to $81.85 per gym. Multiply that by 900, the approximate number of gyms the 840 NCAA teams use, and you get $73,665—"less than what some colleges pay for a 7-footer." concludes McCarter.
Steitz's group might wish that the new rule had tiptoed in and taken a seat in the back row, but that didn't happen. Instead, it draped itself in a bunting of controversy in the very first game of the season, the Nov. 22 Tipoff Classic at Springfield, Mass. With Steitz at courtside. North Carolina State nipped Navy 86-84 with the help of a Kenny Drummond three-pointer that should have counted for only two. As Drummond shot, one referee extended his hand and held out two fingers, the old sign for a field goal. However, another referee interpreted the two fingers as the first-stage signal—good if it goes—for the three-pointer. And it went.
Shortly thereafter, Nevada-Las Vegas staged a sizzling three-point floor show at the preseason NIT. Over four tournament games, the Rebels made 35 of them, including one binge that overcame a 21-point deficit in the final against Western Kentucky, which hadn't grasped the mathematical ramifications of the new rule. Vegas was 10 of 27 on three-pointers in the final, the Hilltoppers 1 of 4. Final score: UNLV 96, Western 95.
Imagine that. Coaches who were certain that the three-point shot would bring on Armageddon saw it happen in the first week of the season. "I just hope the rules committee comes to its senses and allows college basketball to return to sanity," said Western Kentucky coach Murray Arnold. Responded UNLV's Jerry Tarkanian, "If he gets beat by it, the coach ought to shut up."
Heck, Tark, nobody else has. "We were beaten by the rules committee and a man with a paintbrush," said Baylor coach Gene Iba after a key three-point shot by Oklahoma State's Nolan Richardson helped beat the Bears on Dec. 1. After Eastern Kentucky converted 12 three-pointers to defeat Miami of Ohio (which was 0 for 2 from three-point range) on Dec. 13, losing coach Jerry Peirson huffed, "From now on I'm going to put them on the foul line in that situation." Even Eastern Kentucky coach Max Good hates the rule. "It takes no timing, no execution, no team play to make a three-pointer." says Good.
Some players who are benefiting from the shot don't really respect it. "You start getting taught 19-footers in junior high." says UCLA's Reggie Miller, whose 21 of 55 three-point figures are more modest than anticipated. Adds Drummond. "Nineteen feet, that's nowhere." What we have here, obviously, is the Rodney Dangerfield of rules.
But there's another side to the controversy, one taken by such respected three-point advocates as North Carolina's Dean Smith. Kentucky's Eddie Sutton. UCLA's Walt Hazzard and Miami's Bill Foster. "Years from now." says Smith, "we'll look back and wonder what all the controversy was about. It'll be like the center jump being done away with after each goal."
Although almost everyone agrees that the college game has never been healthier—the recent $159 million TV contract attests to that—Steitz's committee was concerned with two growing problems: 1) congestion and physical play in the lane, and 2) a trend toward decreased scoring. Has the three-pointer helped?
Yes, says Miller: "There are more lanes because defenses are covering the outside on us." No, says Jacksonville coach Bobby Wenzel: "Everybody said it would clean up the middle, but it's still rough in there." Seconds Louisville's Denny Crum: "I don't see any difference." Conclusion: too early to tell. But it seems doubtful that a three-pointer, even at 19'9", will alter the game's pound-it-into-the-paint evolution.