For months assistant managing editor Craig Neff (Colgate '79) has found himself inhumed beneath a wall of papers, surveys actually, 305 in all, as the steward of our Jock Schools issue. In a covert and exhaustive operation, SI reporters unearthed data for the seven-page surveys on every Division I men's basketball school and then graded each one, as dutiful graduate assistants might. "The reporters became passionate about this piece," says Neff. "They couldn't wait to tell me that Cornell hockey fans throw fish on the ice or that Western Carolina has men's and women's intramural arm wrestling."
After Neff played the role of professor and assigned each school its final grade, the real fun began. Staffers were dispatched, mostly under cloak of darkness, to the campuses of our Top 20 schools. Reporter Kelvin Bias found it difficult to render an unbiased account considering his assignment: Profile Arizona. Bias, a former walk-on football player for the Wildcats who keeps his Arizona helmet in his office but still awaits a letterman jacket, was one of eight SI journalists sent to report on their alma maters. "Dude, I could have written this in my sleep," says staff writer Alan Shipnuck (UCLA '96), who nevertheless revisited Westwood. Reporter Rich Deutsch (Texas '92) happened upon a 12-hour sportsfest when he landed in Austin. "If I'd known what Texas had to offer when I was there," he says, "I would have been on the 10-year plan." Staff writer John Walters (Notre Dame '88) found the undertaking cathartic. "I always knew I wasn't good enough to play football at ND," says Walters, whose office features a cap-and-gown photo of himself and 1987 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown. "Now I know I wasn't good enough to play women's intramural football."
A few reporters who worked on the project did distinguish themselves on the friendly courts, fields, pools and tracks of life. Bev Oden (Stanford '93), a member of the U.S. Olympic volleyball team in Atlanta, led the Cardinal to the NCAA title in 1992, two years after she had been voted national-college player of the year; Loren Mooney (Cornell '93) was a three-time All-America middle-distance runner for the Big Red who was also heralded in these pages when she was but an eighth-grader; Grace Cornelius (Princeton '95), a three-time swim team MVP for the Tigers, still holds nine national age-group records and competed in two Olympic trials; and Grant Wahl (Princeton '96), who covered Cornelius's aquatic exploits for The Daily Princetonian, was also an Olympian—of sorts. "I ran in Princeton's Nude Olympics one year and supervised it the next," says Wahl, making him the Juan Antonio Samaranch of au naturel events.
Because the nature of the survey was hush-hush, our reporters had to be evasive in their dealings with various sports information and recreational sports directors. "Some were suspicious," says Cornelius, "like the man from BYU who wondered why I was asking if there were any good sports bars in Provo."
But no one had a tougher task than reporter Seth Davis (Duke '92). Davis, who is not averse to the idea of naming his firstborn Krzyzewski, was sent to profile North Carolina. "It could have been worse," says Davis, still smarting from his labors. "I could have attended North Carolina."
Yes, the passions ran deep on this one.