On Oct. 3, the day after the Mets lost their general manager, the Knicks opened training camp and the Red Sox played for the AL East title, the lead story in The New York Times sports section was about the Wyche-Tom incident, and Times columnist George Vecsey called for Wyche to be suspended.
Last Thursday the league informed Mike Brown that Wyche was being summoned to New York for a Friday morning meeting with Tagliabue. Wyche then went into a team meeting and told his players that assistant coach Bill Johnson would serve as head coach in his absence. At the same time, Paul Brown was phoning Tagliabue to tell him that taking a head coach away from his team so close to game day would be devastating. Tagliabue relented. Wyche could have his hearing with the commissioner that night by phone. Bengal p.r. man Al Heim then stuck his head into the Bengal meeting room and said, "Sam, you don't have to go to New York."
The next day Tagliabue informed Wyche of the fine and told him to adhere to the league's written policy on equal access or face a tougher penalty the next time he broke the rule. Tagliabue's point was clear: If there's going to be a judge and jury on the issue of women in NFL locker rooms, it won't be Sam Wyche.
"Sam has been in the league as a player, assistant coach and head coach, and he knows if club personnel have disagreements with league rules or the way they're implemented, there's a proper and nonpublic procedure in which to lodge that complaint," the NFL's Joe Browne said. "He has never lodged a complaint on this issue—we've never heard a word from him on women in the locker room—and subsequent to his action he chose to appear on Good Morning America to explain what he did instead of explaining it to the commissioner."
The Bengals went on preparing for the Rams. "But we're so screwed up," Esiason said last Thursday night, "that it'll be like a preseason game for us." Even Wyche admitted, "The competitive balance of this game has been ruined."
Wyche received little support for his locker room crusade from friends or enemies in the NFL. Longtime bitter adversary Jerry Glanville, the coach of the Atlanta Falcons, said, "The people who say, 'Well, I wouldn't want my daughter in [the locker room],' well, your daughter's probably not covering sports. This is 1990. Let's not back up."
But Wyche had the backing of some fans in Anaheim. "You know what happened to me today, walking through the lobby here?" Wyche said last Saturday night. "I had about 20 people come up to me and give me money. They're saying to me, 'Don't give up, Sam!' and 'You're doing the right thing, Sam!' and reaching into their wallets and pulling out dollar bills and five-dollar bills and stuffing them in my hand. They want to help me pay the fine. Incredible."
While the Wyche chapter in this locker room saga appears to be over, the Olson incident is far from being settled. As of Sunday night, special counsel Philip Heymann, appointed by Tagliabue to get to the bottom of the matter, was continuing his investigation. Tagliabue said that Heymann "is trying to get it done within a month from now, hopefully a little quicker." Mowatt was proclaiming his innocence, based on the results of a 5½-hour lie detector test he said he took last week in Miami. And Olson, who reportedly had received death threats, went on a one-week vacation to recuperate from the stress brought on by the national media coverage.
Sam Wyche knows the feeling.