The National Invitational track meet is seeking a large corporate sponsor to pay some bills, especially those concerning the care and feeding of athletes.
Friday's 13th edition at Cole Field House produced so many low and slow performances that even the normally polite fans who follow the soft-shoe performers were moved to boos.
There were no world records, although pundit Tom Jennings, of Pacific Coast Bluc notoriety, suggested that "they set a world record for the lowest travel budget."
World-class athletes were notable by their absence and the few who showed up found little in the way of competition.
The noteworthy exception, of course, was Renaldo Nehemiah, who overcame physical problems and lack of training to record a meet-record 7.01 in the 60-yard high hurdles. Nehemiah was running as a favor to the cosponsoring M Club and Catholic Youth Organization.
Few other athletes are competing for favors these days. The name of the game is money and meet director Gerry McGee, in maintaining the meet's policy of legal expenses only, talk with a lot of folks who were uninterested in competing.
"Our meet has suffered because of the lack of a large corporate sponsor with a lot of money," McGee said. "We're in the market for a sponsor. The way things are going, we need one.
"There are a lot more meets this year and guys are picking and choosing. The fact that so many are picking certain meets makes it easy to see why -- money.
"We had one top athlete already entered by his coach. The coach called back this week and made it plain that unless we paid, well beyond the legal limit, the athlete wasn't coming. We said no and he didn't come."
In other years, athletes wanted to compete here because this was the first meet and they could assure a winter of invitations with a good opening performance. The proliferation of meets, with two scheduled this year a week ahead of the National Invitational, plus the natural selectivity determined by Olympic training plans, nullified that factor this time.
Reinstated pro athletes, who might have boosted interest, were unavailable because McGee could have reneged on the Wessinghage invitation but refused to do so. After watching Wessinghage run, he probably wished he had.
The fans booed and whistled a mile so slow that the first quarter of the women's race was run one second faster. Wessinghage's winning time of 4:07.9 was the slowest in the 13-year history of the meet. The same record in reverse held true for the 880, won by veteran Byron Dyce in 1:55.6.
The final blow for McGee fell at 2:30 Friday, when Villanova Coach Jim Elliott called to say that Don Paige, Wessinghage's chief opposition in the mile, was "sick." Earlier the rest of Villanova's team, as well as Georgetown, had defected to other meets.
There were many other absentees, some of an embarrassing nature. For example, only three runners appeared, rather than the normal seven, for the first heat of the 60-yard dash. Navy ballyhooed over the loudspeaker as the favorite in the Metro mile relay, was not present on the track, having scratched earlier.
The normally exciting high jump was won by Rory Kotinek at a sorry 7-2. The pole vault went to Billy Olson at a more respectable 17-9, but it must be noted that Earl Bell cleared only 17-6. Mike Tully a mere 17 feet. m
These were good performances a decade ago, but this in 1980. The National Invitational apparently must meet the prices of the new breed of "amateurs" or be content with second-class status.