Does the NCAA have a statute of limitations? The question leaps to mind because that punch Bill Walton and Jack Scott threw at the Portland Trail Blazers was merely the second of a combination directed toward the sports establishment.
The target of the first was UCLA and the NCAA already has started to investigate the charges with a surprising twist. The charges begin on page 212 of Scott's book. "Bill Walton on the Road With the Portland Trial Blazers," where Walton is saying:
"I hate to say anything that may hurt UCLA, but I can't be quite when I see what the NCAA is doing to Jerry Tarkanian only because he has a reputation for giving a second chance to many black athletes other coaches have branded as troublemakers. The NCAA is working day and night trying to get Jerry, but no one from the NCAA ever questioned me during my four years at UCLA."
Earlier, Walton had said: "It's hard for meto have a proper perspective on financial matters, since I've always had whatever I wanted since I enrolled at UCLA."
How might that have happened?
Well, Scott describes a confrontation with Sam Gilbert, a Los Angeles construction man long suspected of being an angel of sorts to the UCLA basketball program. There were mutual insults and then Scott said:
"I have a copy of a letter before me that was sent to you by a UCLA basketball star after he signed a lucrative pro basketball contract. The letter states the athlete was paying over $4,500 back to you that you had given him while he played basketball for UCLA."
Scott quotes Gilbert as saying: "Are you going to use that letter? UCLA would have to return four NCAA championships. What I did is a total violation of NCAA rules."
A page earlier, Scott had quoted Gilbert as saying: "Tarkanian's violations were nickel-and-dime stuff compared to what goes on at UCLA and USC."
Scott has not been a fan of the NCAA for years, especially since it investigated Oberlin College while he was athletic director. Now he offers apparent evidence of the sort that has led to other schools being placed on probation and stripped of NCAA honors. And a distinguished alumnus of UCLA, Walton, seems willing to cooperate.
Scott add that, "Bill and I doubt John Wooden was aware of the 'support' his star players regularly received, and these revelations should not detract from his brilliant coaching record."
One point needs to be made: during the years UCLA was establishing basketball records as impressive as any team in any sport, amateur or professional, the NCAA investigative staff was woefully undermanned.
Only in the last few years has the field staff been increased from three. Once there was just one investigator for the entire country. So there was no time for the massive search into UCLA's closets; the NCAA was troubled enough with nationally obvious suspicions, schools leaping from athletic obscurity to prominence almost instantly.
Why search for thieves when somebody is robbing the bank next door?
Now the NCAA has nearly a dozen investigators. There is no excuse not to follow up on such available clues and willing witnesses. Many of the NCAA's penalties involve surrendering money and titles, anyway. The only change this time - if UCLA was found guilty - would be a longer time frame. And the biggest embarrassment within intercollegiate athletics since he point-shaving scandals.
In fact, an NCAA enforcement source said last night that Scott was contacted and refused to cooperate.
"He refused to provide the letter," the source said. "He refused to cooperate in any way. He even refused to assist the NCAA in locating Walton. Normally, we don't comment on investigations, but this has received so much attention because of Scott."
Scott was not immediately available for comment.
Walton already has skewered the Trial Blazers, for injecting a painkiller that would allow him to play in important games last season on a foot that they apparently knew was broken. What a comfort to know this sin at least breach of contract.
In will be a surprise here if Walton signs with any team other than San Diego. The newest NBA team has the money and the location, Walton's hometown, to whip the Knicks, Celtics, Warriors and everyone else in this bidding war.
Being new means San Diego does not have a fixed salary structure, nobody to get in the way of Walton being paid very nearly close to his actual worth. And what would this be? Consider some numbers.
It would not be out of line to suggest the most valuable player in the NBA would mean 8,000 more fans at each San Diego home game. It also would not be out of line to suggest the average San Diego ticket price will be $5.
So Walton could generate $4,000 each home game and more than $1.6 million for the season. That does not include local radio and television contracts - or playoff money a healthy Walton almost certainly would guarantee.
Is Walton worth $1 million a year? At least.