SI Vault
Edited by Douglas S. Looney
July 04, 1988
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July 04, 1988


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News that Alabama's athletic department has run up a debt of $39 million is stunning. Does this mean 'Bama, with one of the most successful intercollegiate athletic programs, is in financial trouble? Will it have to borrow footballs from Auburn?

The answer: probably not. The Crimson Tide's sports programs are expected to take in about $14 million this year, and expenditures are budgeted at $11 million. This will enable the athletic department to meet its $3 million in annual debt service without strangling itself financially, school officials say. They also report the debt service will be reduced to $1.7 million by 1995 and paid off totally in 17 years. Still, Don Canham, who is retiring this week as AD at Michigan, where sports produce $20 million a year, tops in the country, says of 'Bama, "I think it's a lot. We have never been in debt more than $7 million, and I would hesitate to go out any more."

The Tide is in hock mostly for capital improvements, including a $17 million modernization of Bryant-Denny Stadium, a new football office building and an indoor multiple-sport facility at $5 million each and a $1.2 million airplane. 'Bama athletic director Steve Sloan says that when he took the job in 1987, "the total debt was scary to look at. But when you look at the resources we's not scary anymore."

Contributing to Sloan's boldness is the fact that Alabama's athletic facilities fell way behind under Bear Bryant. And since impressive facilities are essential to recruiting, a case can be made that Alabama is making a sound investment in its athletic future. Which raises the question, Is Alabama too deep in debt or is everyone else not deep enough?


One of the most famous phrases in sports is "Gentlemen, start your engines." Those words would have been particularly appropriate the other day in Washington, D.C., when 51 two-man teams, one from each state and the District of Columbia, competed in the annual Plymouth-AAA Trouble Shooting Contest. Working against the clock, each team had to figure out what was wrong with a car that wouldn't start or do much of anything else, and then fix it. Said John Moore, the national contest manager, "This may not be the Olympics, but it's the greatest spectacle in auto mechanics."

The winners, Derrick Olheiser and Travis Wood, both 18, from Mount-lake Terrace, Wash., took a mere 21:50—a time that should make every auto mechanic who charges by the hour apoplectic—to make eight critical repairs, including fixing an open circuit on the throttle-position sensor. There also was a written test that figured into the scoring.

The contestants, all high school seniors, were flown to the event, even the team from neighboring Maryland. Explained one of the Maryland competitors, Scott Morgan, "I guess they figured if we drove down, we might have car trouble."

Just when we thought that the world was safe from chain letters, along comes one asking us to send a basketball T-shirt to the top name on the list. The reason we should do this, we are told, is "because we can all use 216 shirts."

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