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After lengthy investigations into alleged recruiting violations by the schools, the NCAA placed both on probation—Illinois for three years, Missouri for two—banned both from postseason play this year and imposed heavy restrictions on their recruiting and granting of scholarships for the next two years. The penalties were more than slaps on the wrist, but considering the seriousness of the NCAA's findings, both schools were fortunate to get off with the penalties they received.
NCAA investigators didn't uncover enough evidence to substantiate the most serious charge against the Illini: that assistant coach Jimmy Collins offered recruit Deon Thomas $80,000 and a Chevrolet Blazer to sign with Illinois. But they did find, among other violations, that three Illini players purchased cars, without "meaningful credit information," at an auto dealership owned by an Illinois booster; that Illini coaches arranged for recruits to get tickets to the 1989 NCAA basketball tournament; and that there was a "lack of institutional control" of the program. The main findings against Missouri were that it had awarded a scholarship to an academically ineligible recruit, P.J. Mays, and that assistant coach Bob Sundvold had arranged for the university to buy Mays a plane ticket.
Predictably, representatives of both programs called the NCAA punishment too harsh. Collins said of the penalties assessed to the Illini, "I don't know if it was because we were too honest [in cooperating with the NCAA]." Illinois's athletic department has now been sanctioned three times in the last six years (the previous two actions were against the football program). "Too honest" is a description it need not worry about for a while.
In the wake of Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson's suspension for testing positive for anabolic steroids at the 1988 Summer Olympics, there was hope that track and field athletes would learn from his sorry example. And perhaps some did.
Yet last week, barely a month after Johnson regained his eligibility, the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF), track and field's governing body, announced that two of the U.S.'s biggest stars, Randy Barnes and Butch Reynolds, the world-record holders in the shot put and the 400-meter run, respectively, had tested positive for steroids. The IAAF said that Barnes's urine sample, taken at a meet in Malmo, Sweden, on Aug. 7, contained methyltestosterone, and that Reynolds's sample, taken five days later at a meet in Monte Carlo, had nandrolone in it. Both athletes were suspended for two years, which would keep them out of the 1992 Summer Olympics. Barnes and Reynolds maintain their innocence—as did Johnson—and have appealed the suspensions.
STRAWBERRY GOES HOME
On Nov. 7, only two days after this year's baseball free agents were permitted to negotiate with any team that might care to sign them, outfielder Darryl Strawberry became a former New York Met by signing a five-year, $20.25 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Two sources said that Strawberry received a higher offer from another team but chose to return to L.A., where he was born, still lives and has always wanted to play.
Strawberry said the Mets, for whom he has played during his entire eight-year career, didn't want him back. They did, but not badly enough to offer more than $15.5 million over four years. "They never made an offer close to market value," said Eric Goldschmidt, Strawberry's agent. After losing perhaps the best non-pitcher in his club's history, Mets general manager Frank Cashen said, "You can't replace him in kind, but in a two-year frame, we'll be better than ever."