Off the Tour
John Daly's announcement last week that he was leaving the PGA Tour to check into an alcohol rehabilitation clinic left unclear what role, if any, Tour officials played in the decision. The Tour's substance-abuse policy gives commissioner Deane Beman the power to fine or suspend drug and alcohol abusers, but a spokesman for Beman said that the policy was not invoked in Daly's case. However, it's known that Daly had received stern lectures and written reprimands from Beman, who, like others in the sport, had become increasingly concerned about Daly's conduct.
Daly, who exploded onto the golf scene by winning the PGA Championship in 1991 and whose booming game made him immensely popular with fans and the media, was arrested for assault on Dec. 23 for allegedly throwing his wife, Bettye, against a wall during a rampage in which he also tore up the couple's house in Castle Rock, Colo. That was only the latest in a succession of ugly incidents involving the 26-year-old Daly, who has been hospitalized more than once for alcohol poisoning. Nevertheless, until last week Daly claimed he had his drinking under control, saying, "I don't drink anymore—just beer."
One hopes that Daly is going into rehab voluntarily, because the only way treatment can be effective is if abusers are willing to confront their addictions. At the same time, given that fines and suspensions can help persuade abusers to face up to their problems, it would be sad to think that the PGA Tour had refrained from taking such measures in Daly's case because of his popularity. Substance abuse occurs in golf as in other sports, and a policy to combat such abuse is of no value if it isn't enforced. Tour officials need to ask themselves just how far into the woods a pro should be allowed to go before he's asked to pick up.
Of the eight college bowl games played on New Year's Day, six suffered declines in attendance from the previous year. The only game that filled its stadium to capacity was the national championship Sugar Bowl showdown between Alabama and Miami. In the Orange Bowl not even the presence of Florida State could offset the combination of 1) the perennially drab bowl performances of Nebraska, 2) impending monsoon weather and 3) the TV competition from the hometown Hurricanes in the Sugar Bowl. The result was a crowd of 57,324, the smallest since 1987 and 17,000 short of a sellout. But how do you explain the fact that Washington and Michigan drew only 94,236 fans, the lowest turnout at the 104,000-seat Rose Bowl since 1955? Or that there were also decreases at the Hall of Fame (down 5,733), Cotton (2,113), Blockbuster (7,090) and Fiesta (909)?
Mike Tranghese, commissioner of the Big East Conference, blames the declines on the economy, figuring that a lot of fans didn't want to splurge on travel to bowls, especially with No. 1 playing No. 2 on TV. But Tranghese also suggests that fans may be sending the message that they aren't interested in meaningless bowl matchups. "If it were left to the public," says Tranghese, "we would definitely have a playoff."
Michigan's 38-31 Rose Bowl win over Washington salvaged a modicum of pride for the once powerful Big Ten, which, with Ohio State's 21-14 loss to Georgia in the Citrus and Illinois's 27-17 loss to Hawaii in the Holiday, is now 48-57-1 in bowl games and a woeful 29-44-1 since 1975, when the conference began allowing member schools to play in bowls other than the Rose.
Even with the Wolverines' victory over the Huskies, the Big Ten is only 5-19 since 1969 in the Rose. In fact, the Big Ten is pretty much an equal-opportunity bowl loser. Michigan's bowl record is 11-13, Ohio State's 11-14. The only Big Ten teams with winning bowl records are ones you wouldn't expect: Iowa (6-5-1), Purdue (4-1) and Northwestern (1-0).