Although the hot tub photo was the last straw, it was only the latest in a series of scandals that have rocked Rebel basketball. As one former UNLV athletic department official said, "Someone let the water out of the Shark tank. But it had been leaking for some time." The photo was published just as the school was finishing a 300-page response to 29 alleged rules violations with which the basketball program had been charged last December. In addition, UNLV is about to go on probation as the result of a 1977 NCAA disciplinary action that Tarkanian unsuccessfully fought all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And when the defending NCAA champion Rebels were upset by Duke in the semifinals of this year's NCAA tournament, the Shark became expendable.
Tarkanian says he asked the Board of Regents and school president Robert Maxson for a meeting last week and offered to retire after next season. But athletic department sources say that if the coach hadn't volunteered, the offer would have been made for him.
Tarkanian insists he has no plans beyond next season at UNLV, his 19th with the Runnin' Rebels. Who will succeed him is already the subject of intense speculation. Tarkanian supports his longtime assistant, Tim Grgurich. Other names that have surfaced include Georgetown coach John Thompson and Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins.
"Whoever it is," Tarkanian said, sinking even deeper into his chair last Friday, "is going to have to win."
The Hunt Club
On his farm, Ron Hunt is raising ballplayers
Former major league second baseman Ron Hunt and his wife, Jackie, have their very own farm team. Actually, they have their own farm, a 110-acre spread in Wentzville, Mo., and their own team, 44 teenagers known as the Ron Hunt Eagles.
For 10 weeks each summer the Hunts, acting on the recommendations of coaches and scouts, invite a group of promising players, aged 15 to 18, from around the world to their farm. "Their lives consist of eating, sleeping and playing baseball," says Ron. "We make it clear to them that this is not the place to come if they're interested in meeting girls and socializing." What the boys miss in the way of parties, they make up for with exposure to college coaches and major league scouts. In the five previous summers that the Hunts have hosted the Eagles, 60 of the invitees have been signed to college scholarships and three have been drafted.
Life on the cattle farm begins each day at 9 a.m. when the team gathers to eat a breakfast prepared by Jackie and her mother. Then the boys take to the infield and the batting cages that Hunt has built on his property. "We let them rest up in the early afternoon, because generally we play a doubleheader against local teams every evening, and they're on the field from five till midnight," says Ron. Surprisingly enough, the Eagles have no drills on how to get hit by a baseball. That was Ron's specialty during his 12-year career; he is the alltime National League leader at getting hit by a pitch (243 times).
The Hunts came up with the idea for the Eagles seven years ago when Ron, who retired in 1974, became disgruntled with the way one of their own sons was being coached in American Legion ball. Jackie told her husband, "It's time to give something back to baseball." The original 1985 team consisted entirely of players from the Wentzville area. This year's club, however, has players from four states, as well as from Canada and France.
Ron has been known to put players to work on the farm if they've broken one of his many rules. Alumnus Neil Ioviero, now a pitcher for Rutgers, says, "We built stables for his horses, cleaned the stables and cut down weeds that were taller than me. He didn't miss a thing." Ron's strictest rule, though, applies to baseball: Everyone plays in every game, no matter the situation.