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College Basketball : Apparently, They Are Not Exactly Birds of a Feather

December 10, 1987|Robyn Norwood

Word of the trials and tribulations of Eddie Bird is spreading in the wake of Indiana State's game against Boston University last Friday night in Boston.

Just 1,000 fans had turned out to see BU play Massachusetts earlier in the week. For the Indiana State game, a Boston University home-record crowd of 3,548 turned out to see Bird, a 6-foot 6-inch freshman and the brother of the Celtics' ranking hero, Larry.

The Birds may be brothers, but they aren't clones. Eddie missed all 11 of his shots, although he was perfect from the line, scoring two points.

"Eddie just happens to be Larry's brother," said Mark Johnson, sports information director at Indiana State, the school Larry Bird led to the 1979 National Collegiate Athletic Assn. final, in which the Sycamores lost to Magic Johnson's Michigan State team.

"Eddie's just not that good of a player," Johnson said. "He started the first two games, and hasn't started since. Comparisons between him and Larry are ill-advised. They look alike, but that's all."

The Sycamores have another player with a surname familiar to basketball fans, Taju Olajuwon, brother of Akeem, a 6-8 freshman who is ineligible this season under NCAA Proposition 48 regulations.

"He's not as good either," Johnson said.

Further evidence of how little help a name may be: Chip Rupp, grandson of Adolph Rupp, who during his 41 years at Kentucky became--and remains--the winningest coach in NCAA history, has quit the Vanderbilt basketball team because of uncertainty over playing time.

Among the teams that were highly ranked and already have been upset this season: Syracuse, North Carolina, Michigan and Indiana.

Lute Olson's Arizona team has climbed to fourth in the Associated Press poll and second in the United Press International's poll, but he, for one, isn't complaining.

"That will put more pressure on us, but I like having pressure put on us," Olson said.

He will get an extra dose of it Saturday, when the Wildcats travel to play third-ranked Iowa, the school where Olson coached for nine seasons before leaving for Arizona.

Arizona and Iowa played in Tucson last season, and Arizona led that game by 13 before Iowa, now coached by Tom Davis, rallied for an 89-80 victory.

This year, with both teams in the top five, and Olson making his first official return since resigning rather suddenly after the 1983 season, interest should be high.

The Big Ten, one of the last holdouts against staging a postseason tournament to determine the conference's automatic representative to the NCAA tournament, is expected to approve a tournament for the spring of the 1988-89 season at Monday's meeting of the conference's university presidents.

Big Ten coaches have voted, 9-0, for a tournament with Indiana's Bob Knight, a vocal opponent, abstaining. Conference athletic directors favored a tournament, 7-3, and a joint vote of athletic directors and faculty representatives also was favorable.

Should the Big Ten adopt a tournament format, it would require shortening the 18-game conference schedule to 14 games, meaning that teams would no longer play each other team twice.

Among the 30 Division I conferences that have guaranteed berths in the NCAA tournament, only three do not have tournaments. The Ivy League and the Assn. of Mid-Continent Universities, which held a tournament last season but will not this season, are the others.

One big reason for a conference tournament: Money. The standard estimate is that a Big Ten tournament would produce $5 million in revenues--$500,000 a school.

Knight has said a tournament would "exploit the players," and has been staunchly against it. But his influence in the conference may be at a low, considering his recent reprimand after taking his team off the court and forfeiting a game to the Soviet national team.

Among the coaches who strongly support a tournament are Bill Foster of Northwestern, Steve Yoder of Wisconsin and Gary Williams of Ohio State.

"Some teams don't need it, but others would benefit," Yoder said. "If it means half a million dollars to a school, do we say we don't need it? To me it is a positive, and don't tell me about exploiting players. I think it would be second only to the Final Four."

Said Knight: "How many players have been asked? I've asked my players, and they're against it. Our kids enjoy playing everybody twice. And we're not going to get any more teams in the NCAA. Talk about exploiting the kids!"

Has the NCAA's Proposition 48 changed the face of high school basketball? Listen to the goals of Alonzo Mourning, who led Indian River High of Chesapeake, Va., to a 29-1 record and the Virginia AAA state championship last season: "I want to win another state championship and score 700 on the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test)."

Mourning, one of the nation's top prep players, has signed a national letter of intent with Georgetown. Unless he scores at least 700 on the SAT, he will forfeit his freshman year of eligibility under the terms of Proposition 48.

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