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Archive for Saturday, October 1, 2005

Mayer: I can buy him a burger

October 1, 2005

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Keep in mind the term "prior relationship." That figures pivotally in the issue of "student-athlete for life" which emerged so controversially from Kansas University's June 7 self-report on possible NCAA athletic violations. It turns out to be a nifty shield against Sherlocks nailing somebody for illegal favors after a student-athlete has left school.

A lot of people were fearful they'd done something wrong, like sending gifts or providing favors for jocks and halter-tops after they'd finished college sports careers. The early interpretation seemed to be that no former student-athlete could EVER accept anything at any time in later life without compromising the school.

Confused? How about an example? Let's look at Bill Hougland, a former KU basketball great and two-time Olympic gold medalist. Say I run into Bill downtown and offer to buy him a burger or two while we reminisce on his personal history and my connection as a writer and friend. Hougland is, of course, a former student-athlete, but the "life" element doesn't factor in because I never had a hand in bringing him here from Beloit in the fall of 1948. If I had, legally I couldn't wine and dine the guy.

Even though our original connection was through KU basketball, I can't be considered a "booster." (Once anyone is labeled a booster through long contributions to a program, the NCAA considers THEM boosters-for-life. Typical NCAA reasoning, which too often makes no sense at all.)

But suppose I had contacted Bill in some way before his KU entry and tried to recruit him along with Phog Allen and Dick Harp. OK, I see him, say I'd always admired him and wanted to buy him dinner in tribute to all the fine things he did for KU, then and now. THAT is a violation, even though I promised nothing when I recruited him.

Prior relationship determines whether KU is vulnerable.

Here's the nugget that delights the daylights out of me. If some other school reports me for the latter generosity and the NCAA decides to nail my buns to the wall, they have to prove if I was a booster who recruited Bill and thus forfeited my right to immunity. Even the NCAA with all its zillions can't hire enough legal eagles to run all that down.

KU made it a bit too easy for the NCAA in the self-report by naming the likes of Joan Edwards, Dana Anderson and Bernie Morgan as people who had done things for jocks over the years. Certainly they're "boosters" because of the distinguished, and legal, actions of them all. They had "prior relationships" and that makes the wicket stickier.

Major crime? Nope. Just another case of how NCAA regulations have become a room full of feathers. Who makes, or at least formally approves, the rules for the NCAA? Why the presidents, chancellors and such. They head the institutions that make up the NCAA. Now and then they must look into the mirror, see what a morass of misunderstanding they have been a part of and tell themselves, Pogo-style: "We have met the enemy and they is us."

¢ History alteration: The 2005 media guide says Homer Floyd (1956-58) broke the modern-day football color barrier at KU. Great as Homer proved to be, he was a year behind John Traylor (1955-57) and John Francisco (1955-57). Coach Chuck Mather brought the pioneering African-Americans from Ohio, and Homer became an all-timer. But the hard-working Trayor and Francisco were the zone-breakers.

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