An Honest
Day’s Word

By Joe Edwards

Wednesday, December 24, 1997

Rules won’t keep
the ‘haves’ from ruling

TIS the night before . . . and the silliness just keeps coming.

Out in State College, Pa., Penn State running back Curtis Enis finally fessed up about how he got that natty suit he wore to the Doak Walker Award ceremony a week-and-a-half ago. On Monday he said his girlfriend bought it for him. Yesterday, he admitted an agent paid for it.

Shoulda just told the truth, big fella.

But the real issue here is the hypocrisy of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which purportedly is there to benefit student-athletes.

Truth is, the NCAA is out to make wads of cash for itself and the coaches and, oh yeah, throw great cocktail parties at the Final Four.

The athletes? I don't believe the NCAA really gives a rip.

It's ridiculous that college coaches can make loads of money from say, Nike, for dressing their players in trendy sportswear, but if someone wants to buy a student-athlete a suit to wear to a function that might enhance his future employment, the kid gets suspended from the team.

Take the rules away.

If Mike McKenna wants to let Alika Smith drive around in one of his new Ford Broncos, he should be able to without getting Alika in hot water.

The argument against this, of course, is that unfettered largess would create a group of haves and a group of have-nots in major college sports.

To this I say, look around. The schools with the Nike and Reebok logos on their jerseys already are the haves. Their athletic departments rake in the cash from those companies. It's no coincidence that those teams also win most of the national titles. The two go hand-in-glove.

Speaking of which, the next item is out of Los Angeles, so it's not too surprising, I guess.

Shaquille O'Neal, who sometimes plays center for the Lakers, will be sidelined another couple weeks because he fractured his hand while hitting a heavy bag during a workout.

Let me see. Basketball player, rap artist, Pepsi huckster, movie star, boxer?

Then again, the way the NBA is going these days, hitting the ol' heavy bag is probably a requisite. I just hope Del Harris doesn't ask Shaq Daddy to put a little more zip on his passes next time he actually takes part in a Lakers practice.

According to reports, O'Neal's injury won't require him to wear a cast and won't prevent him from dribbling or shooting a basketball.

Dribbling and shooting? What a concept.

What do you say we put Shaq and Latrell Sprewell in a room together and see which one is the first to figure out that it is basketball that makes all their other stuff possible.

The last bit of brilliance happened last week and it, too, comes from L.A. It deserves comment if only because USC might have avoided the whole mess had its football team just beaten UCLA.

For that matter, if the Trojans had managed that, they, and not Washington, might be playing in the Aloha Bowl and John Robinson might still be coaching.

First, athletic director Mike Garrett cans Robinson by voice mail. Then he hires one failed head coach - Paul Hackett, who was 13-20-1 at Pitt - to replace a guy who he thinks is a failure, too. Makes sense. With decisions like this one, it'll be Garrett who gets the boot next.

Shoot, Mike, it could have been real simple, too. You're at USC. Handle the change like a pro and you would have had coaching candidates lined up all the way to Disneyland.

One glimpse of that last Rose Bowl video might have given you a clue.

Here's a hint.

The coach on the other side of the field from your lads?

His name is Gary Barnett.

Joe Edwards is sports editor of the Star-Bulletin.

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