Michael Carter, the NCAA shot put champion, will compete for the South Saturday in the National Sports Festival. That is good news for the folks who run the festival, because it adds another big name to the track and field competition.
It is bad news for Ian Pyka, the former IC4A champion from Maryland now taking graduate work at the University of Tennessee. It was Pyka, the 1979 sports festival champion, who was bumped to make room for Carter.
There is more to the story, of course. Terry Long, the South coach who is responsible for the selections, offered as explanation a tangled tale of confusion that accompanied the conclusion of the U.S. championships in Indianapolis, where the sports festival teams initially were chosen.
"It's unfortunate. Our decision was probably made on the basis of incorrect information, and I wish we could do something about it," said Long, the coach at Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Tenn. "Believe me, it was not malicious. I've called Ian and written him a letter telling him how sorry I am."
Pyka, however, is not in the mood for condolences. Besides the sports festival snub, he was bypassed for the World University Games team, although he had a higher finish in the U.S. championships than either of the men chosen, Carter and Augie Wolf of Princeton. Those selections were made by Larry Ellis, the U.S. Olympic coach who also happens to be the coach at Princeton.
"Because of schooling and work, the TAC meet was only my second of the year, and I was delighted to throw over 20 meters (65-11 1/2) and finish ninth," Pyka said by telephone from Knoxville, Tenn. "I was hoping to get some good competition in the sports festival and the University Games so I could improve and get a decent shot at the 1984 Olympics. Now, it seems my season is over.
"I just don't think it's fair. It's a total political move. I'm out of two of the biggest meets of the year and Michael Carter, who choked in the national championships and didn't even make the final, gets to go to both of them."
After the final in Indianapolis, Pyka was told by Long that he had been chosen for the South team. But he also was told to call Long the following Wednesday (June 22), at which time he was informed he had not been selected, "because I didn't check off one of the boxes on the form." Nevertheless, Pyka received a plane ticket Monday to Colorado Springs; he called United Airlines and was told the ticket had been canceled.
As for the University Games, Pyka read of the selection of Carter and Wolf and was able to track down Ellis by telephone in Los Angeles.
"He told me it was my fault, because I didn't fill out a form for him," Pyka said. "The TAC officials told me what forms to fill out and to be sure I had a passport. After the meet, I filled out every form and I filled out three boxes of eligibility--sports festival, University Games and Pan Am Games.
"The big joke is that we were told all day to fill out forms if we finished in the top 10. I wonder how Carter and Wolf got forms. They weren't in the top 10."
Past selections for the World University Games have been made on the basis of performances in the NCAA meet. This year, the U.S. championships were designated, instead. Although there was no direct stipulation that college-affiliated athletes be chosen in order of finish in Indianapolis, coaches here indicated that such was traditional and expected. Ellis could not be reached for comment, but Long's remark made it appear Ellis had chosen Wolf and Carter even before the Indiana meet.
Long said the confusion that resulted in Pyka's deletion from the festival began when the university games' coaches insisted that their athletes pass up the festival, a requirement that was later withdrawn when many said they would prefer to skip the meet in Edmonton.
"Michael Carter was my first choice for the South team, but he said he couldn't go because he had been selected for the university games and he couldn't do both," Long said. "This was on Friday (the day of qualifying at Indianapolis, when Carter failed to gain the final) and he left immediately, not knowing of any change in policy.
"Later, I talked to Ian and we were set with Ian. But following the meet, I did a double check on the master list and Ian had not checked off the sports festival. Then, on Monday, Michael Carter was told by Ellis that he could throw here and he told us he wanted to, so on Monday we went with Michael Carter.
"We feel the 68-foot throws of Michael Carter and Jesse Stuart during the year placed them on a higher performance level and justified placing them above Ian."