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Archive for Saturday, May 20, 2006

Mayer: Payola not rampant at Kansas

May 20, 2006

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A college lands a high-profile athlete and there's no instrument that can measure how quickly people in opposing camps ask, "How much you slipping him under the table?" Loyalists may be equally inquisitive, but they don't go public with their queries.

Phog Allen's pursuit of Clyde Lovellette spawned countless rumors; Wilt Chamberlain's choice of Kansas University drew sheets of derogatory rain; ultimately KU got penalized when some people helped Uncle Dippy on a car deal. What else? He never went hungry or hurt for gasoline, but I cannot document one thing.

Larry Brown was barbed for hiring Danny Manning's dad as an assistant. Many are amazed at various KU athletes who drive around in Escalades and Hummer-types. Lester Earl got $6,000 and wound up with a truck while at LSU. No taint here.

Payoffs are everywhere, but we media folks are the last to learn.

Kansas recently got a commitment from touted Texan Darrell Arthur. Kansas State has lined up promising people like 7-foot-3 Jason Bennett and 6-10 Luis Colon. Considering KU is getting deep scrutiny under an NCAA microscope and had that $5,000 goof involving Darnell Jackson, you can guess Bill Self and Co. have the cleanest noses in the country. The infamous Bob Huggins at KSU, well, you can be sure there'll be plenty of unfavorable speculation about how he's assembling such a promising crew so fast.

You'd think that in some 60 years of association with college sports and people in them I could delineate innumerable examples of payoffs for jocks. Stablemate Tom Keegan asked me what I might have seen; I admitted to a virtual blank. He, too, said that he has no such fodder, and he's also been to the picnic and back plenty of times.

I personally have witnessed only one payola for a KU superstar, and it happened AFTER he'd finished college eligibility, so call off the NCAA firing squad.

KU was playing NIT champion LaSalle in New York in 1952 to gain seven berths on the U.S. Olympic team. Night before the game, Mitt Allen, Phog's lawyer son, half-jokingly told Clyde Lovellette that if he got 40 points against LaSalle, he'd buy Clyde a dozen tailor-made shirts at one of the shops around the Paramount Hotel. Cumulus Clyde needed special shirts, had seen some he liked.

Mt. Lovellette erupted for 40 as KU won, and the next morning I went with Mitt and him to the store. The shirts Clyde picked cost a whole $10 each. Mitt nearly busted an aorta when they brought that $120 bill, plus tax. But he kept his word, Clyde savored the moment and the new duds.

Couldn't mention it, though, because the "Amateur" Athletic Union was the gateway outfit to the Olympics and anti-Phog officials like Avery Brundage and Harry Henschel would have loved to get at Doc by declaring Clyde a pro, unfit for the Helsinki Games. But that's the ONLY thing like that I can attest to.

Oh, I've seen people buy kids hamburgers or ice cream bars, illegal though they may be under today's silly rules. And one time a KU basketeer of terribly modest means showed up at the train station here for a bitter winter trip to Colorado wearing only a summer suit, which was all he had. Jayhawks dressed for trips those days.

A couple women fans there to see off the team ran out and bought a topcoat and some gloves for the kid, who eventually became a top-level physician.

Good heavens, the venal sins KU fans have committed to benefit their beloved Jayhawks!

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