"Such an extreme measure," K.C. Jones was saying. "Such a shock. I might not have been in college at all if it hadn't been for them. Same with Bill Russell. Took a little guy with nothing and gave him a reason to stick his chest out. Lotta good memories."
A generation after the University of San Francisco was the only school to offer scholarships to two men who embody most of what is virtuous in basketball, its president ordered the sport abolished for all that is corrupt. Hard to imagine, isn't it, that K.C. Jones and Quintin Dailey played the same position?
Jones and Bill Russell helped make USF nationally respected; Dailey helped make it a national disgrace. To regain integrity, Rev. John LoSchiavo decided last week to kill off what had eroded it so totally. Offering little more than a chance in the mid-'50s, USF thrived; offering everything 20 years later, it self-destructed.
"After the first (NCAA) championship (in 1955)," Jones said, "I bought a car, a '43 Chevy, with no reverse, for $126. Russell bought a '43 Chrysler, and his was fancier. It had a running board. A player came here, after he'd read about the title and the consecutive games we'd won, and couldn't believe we were running around in one-horse buggies."
What Dailey reportedly got has at least one number to the left of the comma.
Raymond McCoy, who later transferred to De Paul, said he got "375 to $400 a week by check, whether I worked a full week or not."
Wallace Bryant said the going rate for his doing almost nothing was $14 an hour.
In 1979, the NCAA punished USF for six years of basketball recruiting violations with probation for a year. Came another year and another probation. Last year's was called "unsanctioned probation."
There will be no next year.
"The third game of the '54 season we lost to UCLA by six points," Jones said. "We were expected to lose by 20, so we came out of that egotistical maniacs. Next week we beat 'em by 15 or 20. That started the (unbeaten) streak that lasted till we were gone. Fifty-six games for us.
"The funny thing is Russell and I helped break the streak we started. The '56 Olympic team was the first to beat 'em, and we were part of it. Illinois snapped the streak against colleges. All of us were Californians except Warren Baxter, a 5-8 second-string guard behind me."
Alums and coaches are said to have participated in the USF payoffs. McCoy said former coach Don Belluomini gave him "about $1,000" for a television and stereo shortly after he enrolled at USF; Belluomini has denied it. Pete Barry, hired by LoSchiavo to replace Belluomini in an attempt at reform, also has been accused of payoffs.
The NCAA was about to pounce on USF again before LoSchiavo's announcement. An NCAA official said LoSchiavo has suffered deeply over these last two years, so intent was he to root out what caused the 1980 embarrassment. He had fired two coaches then and ordered an independent investigation that came to the same sad conclusion as the NCAA.
The revelation that his zealous pursuit of winning honestly had failed evidently caused LoSchiavo to jettison the program in disgust.
"Nobody was much excited about us till '54," said Jones. "Then we were the talk of the city, then of California. Eventually it swept across the nation. A guy named Harold DeJulio, who played on the '49 NIT team, would drive us around town for summer games the first couple of years, before we were able to buy cars. But all we had (from alumni) was company. No money at all.
"We played in Kezar Pavilion, which held about 5,000, and practiced in a high school gym. We played in the Cow Palace once the streak got going. Russell built the gym we never played in. He's the main reason any of us got anywhere, with his attitude and ability, how he played."
If a man as determined to win fairly as LoSchiavo cannot succeed, what of the rest of college sport? How many others have failed, as he had, to bring about change? And then ignored the matter instead of meeting it head-on? Why not acknowledge the obvious professional tone of collegiate basketball and football in the last decade and pay the players openly for what they generate?
The president of Clemson University, Bill L. Atchley, sermonized in the New York Times a month ago: "When you stop to think about the actual mechanics of professional athletic teams coexisting with a university and competing under the school's colors, the idea becomes unrealistic . . .
"But the winking (about abuses in the present system) has gone on long enough. The time has come, I believe, for college presidents and chief administrative officers to take greater responsibility for athletics on their campuses . . .
"Most important, college administrators must insure that athletes are not run through a diploma mill. An athletic scholarship is no guarantee that a college degree will be handed an athlete when his eligibility runs out; yet we must guarantee the athlete an equal opportunity for a quality educational experience."
Assuming the best, Atchley has taken control of an athletic department embarrassed by scandal in the '70s and under investigation now for alleged recruiting violations. He may be more than a bit naive about the sporting scheme on his campus, but we wish him the same dedication as LoSchiavo. And with more hopeful results.