FOUL SHOT DUE?
A decision to be made by the International Amateur Basketball Association in the next two weeks in Montevideo, Uruguay may severely limit or bring to an end the participation of U.S. basketball teams abroad. The international board must choose a U.S. representative that will have the right to control and sanction basketball activity by American teams.
For years the Amateur Athletic Union had this franchise and did little with it. It promoted few games between U.S. and foreign groups and on occasion even thwarted by technicalities the matches that had been scheduled. But four years ago the U.S. Basketball Federation—a college-oriented organization—asked for the international job. As a compromise, the international board granted the federation certain sanctioning powers while continuing to recognize the AAU's control over the Olympic and World basketball tournaments.
The U.S. Basketball Federation took advantage of its new powers to set up the most elaborate international program in the game's history. In 1966 more than 200 games were played between U.S. and foreign teams. And this spring the number doubled to more than 400. Top college teams like Michigan, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Brigham Young and Wichita State traveled abroad under the federation's program, playing in such places as Japan, Australia, Chile, Iran, Pakistan and Greece.
There was a time, in the 1920s and 1930s, when AAU basketball teams were the equivalent of the NBA teams of today, but since the development of the professional leagues AAU basketball has been dying. There are now only four major AAU teams (compared to 25 in the 1920s), and the AAU championship game this March in Denver drew only 3,000 spectators. Basketball is no longer a major concern of the AAU, but it is a vital interest of the U.S. Basketball Federation, a group composed of the country's college basketball teams. We cast a strong vote for the federation, and hope the same position will be taken by the sport bosses in Montevideo.
Three cheers for the National Hockey League's new Stanley Cup playoff scheme. This is a plan geared to expansion. Next fall six U.S. teams—Los Angeles, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco- Oakland and St. Louis—will begin play as a separate division. Next spring the top four will be eligible for Stanley Cup competition. Following the old NHL pattern, No. 1 will play No. 3 in a best-of-seven series, while No. 2 plays No. 4.
Now comes the part we like. The new boys' 1-3 winner will play the older division's equivalent winner, and the 2-4 survivors in each division likewise will be paired. This means that the new guys will have two chances for upset drama in the semifinals. The winners of those two series then will play for the Cup itself.
The finalists, obviously, are likely to be teams from the older group for some years to come, and a case can be made for separate eliminations and a final series matching old and new—in other words, a pro football-style superseries or, to be realistic, superanticlimax. Hockey's way will double the interdivisional rivalry and thus, as we see it, double the fun, but at the same time it will ensure that the final series is played between the two best teams in hockey.