The days of handing out ``parking tickets'' to chronic cheaters in college sports are over. That, basically, was the message sent by the National Collegiate Athletic Association when it lowered the boom on Southern Methodist University's football program this week, invoking provisions of the NCAA's ``death penalty'' legislation. A maximum sentence would have shut down the program for two years, and even though the NCAA didn't go that far, it came close. The Mustangs will have to suspend football operations next season and will be limited to a seven-game season in 1988, when all games must be played against Southwest Conference opponents on the road. The school can give no athletic scholarships this year and only 15 next year, and, as is usual in such crackdowns, no TV or bowl appearances will be permitted during the probation period.
SMU might not recover from this spanking for years, since it will be working out of a hole, with a tarnished image and fewer top players, when the probation is eventually lifted.
There is little question that SMU was asking for trouble. This, after all, was the school's fifth run-in with NCAA rules in the past 12 years. Furthermore, the football program was already on probation when additional evidence of wrongdoing was discovered. The major culprits, it appears, are boosters and intermediaries willing to pay players, plus the players, who certainly know better. To get to the bottom of this scandal, the NCAA went along with the school's request for anonymity to the guilty parties.
The only previous program suspensions ordered by the NCAA occurred in basketball, where Southwestern Louisiana's team was shut down for two years in the 1970s for offering illegal financial aid and Kentucky's program was shelved in 1952 for point shaving. Chamberlain's score-athon
Every so often a point-thirsty basketball crowd will break into a chant of ``We want a hundred.'' Only once, however, has that exhortation been directed at a player, at least at the pro level, and not a team. On the night of March 2, 1962, Wilt Chamberlain heard the chant in Hershey, Pa., where he single-handedly scored 100 points in a National Basketball Association game.
The league doesn't miss a trick these days, and has issued a reminder that Monday marks the 25th anniversary of perhaps the NBA's most monumental feat.
There were several quirky aspects to the `Big Dipper's' triple-digit outing, not the least being the peculiar playing site in Hershey, where the Philadelphia Warriors held their training camp and scheduled some ``home'' games. Only 4,124 spectators witnessed the sensational effort, which propelled the Warriors to a 169-147 victory over the New York Knicks. When Wilt scored his 99th and 100th points on a layup with 46 seconds left, the fans rushed the court, causing a premature end to the game.
Chamberlain had been on the floor every second till then, not unusual, considering that he played a full 48 minutes in 79 of 82 games that season. What was surprising, though, was Wilt's free-throw shooting. Generally frustrated at the line, he made 28 of 32 attempts on this magical evening, to go along with 36 of 63 from the field.
Hitting the century mark helped him establish a record single-season average of 50.4 points a game. The closest anyone has ever come to 100 points in a game, incidentally, is 78, by Wilt himself earlier that same season.
Today, he is a budding movie producer and avid volleyball player who would like to earn a spot on the US Olympic volleyball team in 1988. Surface issue for Aussie tennis
The Australian Open may give tennis its first Grand Slam championship played on artificial turf. Tournament officials have decided to switch from grass when the event changes sites next year, and a synthetic turf is under consideration. The prospect doesn't thrill the players, many of whom were surveyed on the subject at last month's Australian Open.
Seventy-three of 77 listed artificial turf as their last choice, behind grass and two kinds of hard composition courts (clay apparently isn't under consideration). The survey was conducted by Wendy Turnbull and Paul McNamee, Australian players who favor keeping the traditional grass surface, used since the tournament began in 1905.
The drawback to grass is that it's hard to maintain, expensive, and not suitable for night play and year-round use, which officials envision at the new $70 National Tennis Centre being built in Melbourne. While artificial turf meets certain criteria, it scores low with the athletes because it is hard and a heat reflector.
Until now there has been one Grand Slam event on clay (the French Open), one on rubberized asphalt (the US Open), and two on grass (the Australian and Wimbledon).
When the Australian championships were played in December, they became something of an afterthought among the Grand Slam events - a nice ``major'' for players with the time, energy, and inclination to head down under at the end of the year. Now that the tennis calendar has been restructured, however, the Australian kicks off the Grand Slam, making it a command performance for anyone with slam ambitions. Consequently, the choice of a surface becomes increasingly important to the top players.