Computer magnate H. Ross Perot's campaign to reduce the time and money lavished on school sports in Texas has picked up surprising support here from a key figure in the state's interscholastic athletic establishment.
Bailey Marshall, longtime director of the state's University Interscholastic League (UIL), on Wednesday proposed a sweeping list of athletic program cuts to a blue-ribbon education review panel appointed by Gov. Mark White (D) and headed by Perot.
"I am tired and I'm emotional because last night I did a lot of soul searching," Marshall said. He predicted that "a lot of special interests will be mad at me" but added that he expects the school superintendents, who ultimately set UIL rules, to go along.
Marshall's proposals include:
* Penalizing "redshirting," a custom that has seen parents and/or coaches have children repeat seventh grade so they'll have another year of growth before they start high school sports. Students held back for that reason would lose a year of high school sports eligibility.
* Requiring high school athletes to be passing four courses, instead of the current three, to remain eligible.
* Banning interschool contests below the seventh grade and banning junior high school games on week nights.
* Allowing schools to provide only "basic equipment" for sports. "Towel dryers, hand warmers, names on jerseys . . . things we do not need to conduct the programs" should be eliminated, Marshall said.
* Limiting the number of coaches at a school. "I don't think we need one for every position," Marshall said, half in jest. Perot says there are high schools in the state with a dozen football coaches.
* Imposing a five-year moratorium on new school athletic programs.
* Moving golf and tennis competition to the summer vacation months and considering a reduction in the number of baseball, basketball, volleyball and soccer games.
Perot, who has blasted the Texas public schools as "places dedicated to play," said he was "surprised and pleased" by the proposals. He called Marshall "courageous" and accepted his invitation to appear before the UIL council when it meets next month to consider the changes.
"I'll bring along a bunch of college graduate football players who can't do anything but sell dope for a living," Perot promised.
He said he would continue to press for a complete ban on junior high school interscholastic sports, even though such a step would "tear up the [high school] coaches' farm clubs." Marshall stopped short of recommending a full junior high ban.
Perot also told reporters that UIL activities are not the biggest "time thief" from the academic day. He said 4-H programs were even worse, and that some west Texas principals had complained to him that such programs allow "a kid. . . to disappear" and miss school time.