What's a Fair `Wage' for College Athletes?

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THE question of pay for college athletes comes up with some regularity these days. One of the chief arguments against it is that a four-year, full-ride scholarship is no small payment in itself, and a college education enhances one's lifetime earning value. Nonetheless, few students are greater generators of revenue than athletes, primarily those in football and basketball, and some form of additional compensation might be appropriate.

Derrick Brooks, an All-American linebacker on the Florida State University football team, has an idea the academic community might consider palatable. In College Sports magazine, he suggests that student-athletes be paid something, perhaps $5,000, but only if they graduate. ``Or maybe the student-athlete could put that money toward furthering his education,'' he says. ``I think that would up the graduation rates 100 percent.''

Brooks, incidentally, sat out the season's first two games for letting a pro agent foot the bill for a shopping spree. Despite this indiscretion, he is not using college merely as a stepping stone to a pro sports career. He is an excellent student with a 3.2 grade-point average in communications. Jordan's early tenacity

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DURING last week's ``Salute to Michael Jordan,'' the glitzy, televised extravaganza thrown at the new United Center in Chicago for the retired Bulls basketball player, one flashback fact may have startled many viewers. Namely, that Jordan was once cut from the varsity basketball team as a sophomore at the Laney High School in Wilmington, N.C. He worked on his game, eventually made the team, and wound up shattering all the school scoring records.

Ultimately, Jordan became the game's greatest one-man highlight film, inspiring two videos, now available in a set, on his life and basketball exploits. One of these -- ``Michael Jordan: Come Fly With Me'' -- is the most successful sports video in history. Troubled pool waters

CHINESE swimmers may find the atmosphere at the 1996 Olympics hostile. Already the Chinese women are under a heavy cloud of suspicion because of their East German-style domination at the recent world championships.

Many coaches are convinced that the Chinese teams rely on drugs to improve their performance. No tests have found any wrongdoing, but a group of 18 international coaches has called on the sport's world governing body (FINA) to tighten testing procedures, primarily by going to random, year-round tests that make it harder to avoid detection. This issue needs to be addressed, lest the Olympic competition turn ugly.

Americans are accustomed to seeing their swimmers excel; if there is any hint of cheating in Atlanta, accusations could stain the Olympic swimming competition.

At least one key person implying that the suspicions are groundless is Juan Antonio Samaranch, president of the International Olympic Committee, who says he thinks the Olympic movement is winning the war on drugs. Last week in Lisbon, during a meeting of European national Olympic committees, Samaranch said, ``It's not strange that a country like China, with more than 1 billion people to choose from and a ... government that actively supports sports, is producing [winning] athletes.''

Maybe not, but many observers continue to wonder why China's women swimmers have achieved spectacular results and the men have not. Touching other bases

* Tired of being mistaken for Swedish professional golfer Liselotte Neumann, fellow pro Dottie Mochrie has gone from blonde to redhead. The two players are among the leaders on the Ladies Professional Golf Association tour.

* Jake Gaither, who successfully guided the Florida A&M Rattlers football team for many years, was one of the giants of the black college coaching fraternity. His passing earlier this year sent some back to George Curry's 1977 book chronicling Gaither's career: ``Jake Gaither: America's Most Famous Black Coach.'' One of Gaither's central tenets bears sharing here: ``Kindness is the universal language that all people understand. I made it a habit never to leave the football field with a boy feeling I was mad at him. Before I left the field, I'd pat him on the shoulder and say, `Don't think I got anything against you.... You're still my boy.' That means a lot to a kid.''

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