Look Who's on Board With America's Cup Crew Switch

Look Who's on Board With America's Cup Crew Switch

IN an announcement that may have surprised many people, the Women's Sports Foundation came out in support of placing a man on what had been an all-female sailing crew. Foundation executive director Donna Lopiano, whose organization is dedicated to promoting sports and fitness opportunities for girls and women, conceded the logic in tapping tactician Dave Dellenbaugh to help the America3 crew in the America's Cup defender trials.

Lopiano said the boat's owner, Bill Koch, deserved applause for trying to remedy the crew's experience gap, and that the crew's support sent ''a powerful message about the ability of women to play team sports and do whatever it takes to put a great team together.''

That a lack of seasoning, not male athletic prowess, was the issue prevents this from being more gender explosive. Nonetheless, giving up on the avowed intent to stick with women was the athletic version of George Bush's retreat from his 1988 ''Read my lips: no new taxes'' campaign promise. Koch's move rankled some observers, including a female fan who said, ''I'd rather have them lose with all women than give up their dream.''

A tennis Dream Team?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA may have retired from the women's tennis tour in November, but she's not past grabbing a racket now and then. In April she will play for the United States in the Federation Cup, the major international women's team competition.

Navratilova's friend Billie Jean King, the team's nonplaying captain, apparently wants to create as many interesting roster options as possible for the 1996 Olympics. To be eligible there, women players must have participated in either the 1995 or 1996 Federation Cup matches.

King's Fed Cup shopping list, announced at the Lipton Championships in Key Biscayne, Fla., late last week, includes Monica Seles, Jennifer Capriati, and Venus Williams. Seles, who became an American citizen last year, has put her career on hold since an attack on her in 1993. Reigning Olympic gold medalist Capriati is rebounding from personal troubles. And 14-year-old Williams has played in only one professional tournament. Joining Navratilova on the US Federation Cup squad in April will be Lindsay Davenport, Gigi Fernandez, and Mary Joe Fernandez.

Youth golfers can shoot par

FOR children to even approach par on a single hole of regular golf can be a major achievement. Most courses do little to acknowledge this, practically inviting frustration and discouragement among young players. Ah, but the United States Golf Association is riding to the rescue with its Junior Par System.

The idea is to create realistic standards based on varying ability levels -- beginner (course handicap of 41 or above), intermediate (25 through 40), and advanced (24 or below). Using this system, Junior Par on a 375-yard hole is 8 for a beginning girl and 6 for an intermediate. For boys playing a hole of equal length, par is 7 for a beginner and 5 for an intermediate.

Touching other bases

* Pop quiz: Who is the only Chicago Bulls basketball player, besides Michael Jordan, to have his number retired? Hint: He's now a National Basketball Association coach. (Answer below.)

* For people who know their men's college basketball history, the Final Four playoffs in Seattle April 1 and 3 couldn't have produced a much better field. North Carolina has long been synonymous with basketball excellence; UCLA is returning to the position of prominence it once held under Coach John Wooden; and Oklahoma State represents a World War II-era power that has reemerged after a long absence from the national limelight. Throw in Arkansas, the defending national champion, and you've got about as tasty a championship stew as one can imagine.

* Quiz answer: Jerry Sloan. A Bull from 1966 to 1976, Sloan now coaches the NBA's Utah Jazz. Incidentally, some are already wondering if Jordan will be the first professional athlete to have two jersey numbers retired. The Bulls already retired his No. 23, prompting use of a new number (45) for the current sequel to his NBA career.

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