THE CLEMSON AFFAIR
Thanks for your views on the ABC-TV report concerning Clemson's possible recruiting violations (SCORECARD, Dec. 14). With one exception, we are South Carolina natives—and all of us are students at or graduates of Furman—and we applaud your support of ABC. The way the fans in our state and the NBC radio affiliate in Greenville reacted the week after the report, you would have thought that ABC had announced God was dead.
Regardless of a team's ranking, it is a newsworthy event when recruiting violations—a problem that plagues college sports—are suspected at a school. We feel that fans who are as avid as Clemson's appear to be should be concerned enough to face the question of possible illegalities on the part of the school's athletic program.
We're also sure that those fans who cried "bad journalism!" in response to the ABC report weren't concerned about NBC's coverage at about the same time of UCLA's then impending basketball probation.
After observing the local media coverage of the ABC-Clemson affair, I found it refreshing to read a more objective account in your Dec. 14 issue.
DAVID G. ELLISON
I take exception to your defense of ABC-TV for its treatment of Clemson during the telecast of the Penn State-Pitt game. The charge by two former Knoxville high school stars that they had been given money to attend Clemson was essentially old news, which had been reported by the South Carolina media before the football season even began. Indeed, even SI made no more than a passing comment about the situation in its Nov. 16 article on Clemson (The Paws Have Given Cause for Pause).
You say that ABC commentator Jim Lampley was "bending over backward to suggest that [James] Cofer and [Terry] Minor [the two players in question] may have had axes to grind," because they were trying to secure a release from their commitment to Clemson. If so, why did ABC include in its nine-minute report an interview with former Clemson Basketball Coach Tates Locke, who resigned under pressure in 1975 in the midst of an investigation of Clemson for basketball recruiting violations? How was Locke's contribution relevant to this situation? To many Clemson fans, ABC seemed to be saying that because Clemson was guilty once, it must also be guilty this time.
Beyond the Cofer-Minor report, ABC was guilty that day of yet another journalistic inequity in the eyes of Clemson fans. Arguably the biggest story in college football this year has been the inability of No. 1-ranked teams to hold on to the top spot. With a Penn State victory over Pitt a foregone conclusion early in the fourth quarter and ABC's dream Sugar Bowl matchup between then No. 1 Pitt and No. 3 Georgia in shambles, the announcers were silent about which team—Clemson, of course—would be likely to rise to No. 1 in the polls the following week. This omission was reminiscent of ABC's coverage of the 1978 Gator Bowl, during which the announcers made no mention of the fact that, as millions looked on, Ohio State Coach Woody Hayes had punched, yes, a Clemson player.
Whether there was any "Machiavellian intent" by ABC to denigrate the Clemson-Nebraska Orange Bowl game is debatable. But what is apparent is that ABC's presentation of Clemson wasn't totally objective or ethical, and certainly wasn't deserving of SI's praise.
The real losers in this story are the members of Clemson's undefeated football team. Theirs is a story of dedication, team effort and fan support. It's a pity ABC didn't see that.
You failed to mention several pertinent facts: