A Reggie Solution

Oh, he was The King, all right. The King of Halfbacks, they called him Forty-seven hips he could throw a hundred different ways.

Hugh McElhenny also knew his way around financial restrictions imposed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

He entertained half a hundred writers at Super Bowl XIX, which was held at, of all places, Stanford Stadium, and The King was the designated Old-Timer of Honor that week.

The King couldn't resist recalling his days at the University of Washington, which followed a high school career at Washington High in Los Angeles and a year at Compton College.

He recalled Hall of Famer Frankie Albert's assertion that McElhenny was the only player ever to take a pay cut when he entered professional football.

True, McElhenny said. ``Washington paid me more money than I could get anywhere else -- $75 a week for a job where I didn't have to do anything – and promised my wife a job. In my three years at Washington, we were getting more than the $7,000 I signed for with the 49ers''.

Why do I bring up McElhenny and his Washington deal?

Well, because of the Reggie Bush charges and the NCAA's ongoing pursuit of facts and fantasy.

For more than a year, I've had a plan I can't seem to sell to the folks at USC.

First, a little Schrader family history. I returned from World War II submarine service and met the loveliest young woman. I fell in love immediately.

But she was a Catholic of deep faith and I hadn't been inside a church of any sort for more than a decade. She let me know there would be no wedding unless I changed my attitude about religion.

I came up with a quick solution – I would join the Catholic church. Anything to persuade this woman to be my wife.

Turns out it was one of the best things I've ever done. The priest who gave me ``instructions,'' as Catholics call the indoctrination process, was terrific and, within months, I was a devout Catholic.

I cite this experience because there's a link between the Bush case and a Roman Catholic university known as Notre Dame.

A decade ago, Notre Dame was up to its hips in sharks with the NCAA over what was known as the Kim Dunbar Case.

Dunbar was a member of Notre Dame's Quarterback Club, at that time an official university organization, and she also was in the process of embezzling more than a million dollars from her employer.

And, it should be added, spending a goodly portion of it entertaining at least 11 Notre Dame football players in a fashion to which they had become accustomed during the Knute Rockne era.

Trips to Las Vegas, outings at a resort in Ohio, luxury boxes at Chicago Bulls games. Nothing was too good for these football warriors, including bedroom activity that yielded a child fathered by one of the players. Plus, there was evidence that one of the assistant coaches had knowledge of some of these obvious NCAA violations. There also were secondary activities, such as attempting to sell player game tickets.

Since Dunbar was what the NCAA views as a heinous crime, a ``representative of the university's athletic interests'' because of her Quarterback Club affiliation, the nation waited for the hammer to come down on the Irish – at a minimum, a public defrocking of the pope.

Brace yourselves for the verdict. First, the NCAA decided that the player who had fathered the child was free to accept Miss Dunbar's largesse because there was a ``love interest'' between the two. This opened the door for future generations of athletes -- if you want to cheat like hell on NCAA rules, just make certain you have included lovemaking among activities you've had with the person handing out the gifts.

Anyway, to make a long story even longer, the NCAA flailed away with the facts, including a debate over Dunbar's status as a representative of the university's athletic interests, and finally came up with a solution.

Or perhaps it should better be known as an absolution.

Notre Dame was placed on probation, with no sanctions concerning bowl activity or television appearances or football victories or anything of substance, and was docked one scholarship one year and another scholarship the following season.

Now, we need to back up nearly a century to finish this story.

Back in the early days of the University of Southern California, the school more than once had some of its toes hanging over a financial cliff. Several times, the Methodist church, which had an active community in the area of the university, came through with financial aid.

There never was an official affiliation with the church, but USC athletic teams were known in their early years as the ``Methodists'' or the ``Wesleyans.''

What I'm hoping is that the head honchos at USC give my suggestion serious consideration as a way to resolve the Bush situation. After 62 years of marital bliss, I can attest to the rewards.

Dump the Methodists and convert to Catholicism.


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