A few years ago, I was taking a flight to Raleigh-Durham and, by chance, then-N.C. State basketball coach Jim Valvano was a fellow passenger. I asked him about an effort by the NCAA to impose tougher ethical standards and tougher penalties on cheaters in college sports. Valvano, whose Wolfpack had won the NCAA title a couple of years before, declined to comment, saying he was comfortable doing whatever the rules allowed.
I've never been a Valvano fan -- I would rather have John Thompson or Mike Krzyzewski as a role model than Valvano -- but it's hard not to take his side against those who say ABC Sports should not have hired him this week as a college basketball analyst in a three-year, $900,000 deal.
The NCAA did not find him culpable when it put N.C. State on probation. No coach can get away with his team's academic nonperformance the way Valvano did without the approval -- tacit or not -- of the university chancellor and/or the board of trustees. So the university, following a still unproven allegation -- by ABC News -- that some of Valvano's players fixed games, bought out his contract.
Valvano, who was not implicated or accused in the point-shaving allegations, has the same kind of personality as former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann. Announcers can't deliver extra ratings points, but Valvano, with his knowledge of the game and its attendant parts, can give a first-hand perspective that educates and informs us.
Kevin Kiley, WJLA-TV-7 weekend anchor, is going to work for Turner Broadcasting, and among his duties will be a role in TNT cable coverage of NFL games. And, Washington area viewers will watch him on his home station, since WJLA outbid three other local stations for the over-the-air rights to Redskins games in Turner's four-year, $445 million deal with the NFL.
Unlike Major League Baseball, the NFL protects the over-the-air fans in their home markets when Sunday night games are televised on TNT and ESPN cable. The Redskins have two games on TNT this season -- an Aug. 31 home exhibition game against the Rams and a Sept. 30 NFC East game at Phoenix.
Jane Cohen, WJLA's vice president, was ecstatic yesterday, but also very protective about the fee paid by Channel 7 because "there are no Redskins games on ESPN this year and we'll have to bid on them in the future." She called winning the bid "no small feat," and, when asked what the ABC affiliate paid, replied, "Enough." Sources said WJLA is paying between $200,000 and $250,000 per game.
John Walden of Turner Programming Services, who came here and conducted the bidding, said three of the bids "were very competitive" and that one other wasn't. The interesting note, sources said, is that Channels 5 and 20 bid, meaning that either CBS affilliate Channel 9 or NBC-affiliate Channel 4 did not bid. Officials at those stations were unavailable for comment last night.
Now that ABC Sports has made peace with Al Michaels, CBS Sports is expected to keep Jack Buck as its lead play-by-play baseball man next season, and that's a plus for the baseball fan. Buck, 65, a legend in the Midwest and a member of baseball's Hall of Fame, is the consummate baseball announcer, and his pairing with Tim McCarver gives the announcing booth a sort of good-cop, bad-cop combination.
CBS Sports President Neal Pilson and baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent could keep the streak going -- and create unbelievable goodwill by reinstating a Saturday game of the week. And the timing may be perfect.
There should be no renegotiation of the contract either as baseball tried to do when CBS increased its Saturday afternoon coverage by four games, to 15. That still leaves 11 Saturday afternoons unaccounted for, and CBS not having NBA playoffs or college football to interfere.
With the advertising market flat, CBS should be happy to have 11 more games for which to sell commercial spots and recoup what industry sources expect to be a revenue beating in this first year of a four-year, $1.06 billion deal.
And Vincent, who has taken the heat for a contract that a Peter Ueberroth prote'ge' negotiated, would be relieved of defending a contract many fans find indefensible.
To two entities that need positive publicity, maybe that solution is too simple.