The American track community has been threatened with chaos by the recent reinstatement of high jumper Dwight Stones, the self-confessed under-the-table collector of excess expenses, and varied refugees from the short-lived professional troupe.
Certification as amateurs by the Athletics Congress, a legislation-forced reorganization of the old Amateur Athletic Union track wing, does not provide international purity, however. So meets in the United States must choose between foreign competitors and reinstated Americans, at least until the International Amateur Athletics Federation acts in March to clarify the issue and allay foreigner's fears of suspension by association.
The National Invitational meet, to be held Friday at Cole Field House, will take the international route, although its foreign delegation is close to nonexistent in this Olympics year.
To accept Stones or ontime hurdling king Rod Milburn, meet director Gerry McGee would have had to cancel an invitation already issued to defending mile champion Thomas Wessinghage of West Germany, and that McGee would not do despite the obvious box-office implications of a duel between Milburn and Maryland's Skeets Nehemiah.
"Only Milburn expressed interest (of those reinstated) and I am unhappy I couldn't accommodate him," McGee said."But he and the others are not cleared internationally and I have a commitment to Wessinghage. I won't go back on my word. It is not negotiable with me."
McGee has assembled some good high jumpers even without Stones, as comebacker Rory Kotinek joins AAU indoor champion Franklin Jacobs and NCAA indoor king Nat Page. The pole vault field is outstanding, too, with Earl Bell, Mike Tully, Billy Olson and Bruce Simpson.
The running events lack the usual depth, however, for a variety of reasons. Georgetown will have its outstanding distance corps to Hanover, N.H., instead, for a crack at the indoor four-mile relay standard, and Villanova will be competing at Knoxville, Tenn., going for fast times on Tennessee's new 300-yad track.
More important, many top athletes are limiting indoor competition, or ignoring it, to prepare for the Olympics. McGee, the coach at Catholic University, thinks they are making a mistake.
"It is early, but in past Olympic years we've still put together outstanding fields," McGee said. "This year, though, the word seems to be out, 'Don't compete too much, save yourself, wait until later in the season.'
"As a coach I think that's a bad idea. A runner ought to compete early to see where he is, then back off. Most guys are just running in the woods now. This is a good time to step on a fast track to see where you are. If you wait too long, it may be too late to do anything about it."
Despite the defections, McGee has assembled some class fields. The mile has Paul Cummings, second a year ago in 3:57.8, back to challange Wessinghage (3:57.2). Don Paige will run either the mile or the 880. The two-mile is headed by Ireland's John Treacy, the world cross-country champion.
The major consideration of meet officials, as usual, is the weather, which has been atrocious on meet night for five years in a row. When former meet director Bob Comstock heard the prediction of snow for last Friday, he said, "They must be confused and think the meet is this week."
"This is it," McGee said. "If the weather is bad this time, we're switching to a later date."