The University of Michigan's baseball program was among the nation's best in the 1980s, winning six Big Ten championships, making four trips to the College World Series and producing such major league players as Barry Larkin, Chris Sabo and Jim Abbott.
The Wolverines, however, opened their season Thursday in a tournament at Nevada Las Vegas under investigation by the Big Ten and NCAA for recruiting and rules violations--the first time any Michigan athletic program has been so targeted.
Also hanging over the program is a controversy involving former Coach Bud Middaugh. A felony warrant charging embezzlement was authorized against Middaugh last week by the Washtenaw County prosecutor's office.
The one-count warrant accuses Middaugh of fraudulent disposal of university funds that were under his control between Sept. 1 and Nov. 30, 1987. It alleges that Middaugh diverted an unspecified amount of money to his players from the sale of football programs.
Middaugh was in charge of the crew of athletes who sold programs at home football games during the 1987 season. Figures compiled by the university's athletic department show that football-program revenue dropped from the six-game total of about $120,000 in 1986 to about $104,000 for seven home games the next year.
The charge against Middaugh resulted from an investigation by the university.
Middaugh apparently did not profit from the alleged diversion, said Lynwood Noah, senior deputy assistant prosecutor.
Under Michigan law, embezzlement of more than $100 is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a $5,000 fine or both.
Middaugh, who resigned last July 14 with a 465-145-1 record in 10 seasons with the Wolverines, is scheduled to turn himself in for arraignment on Monday.
Neither Middaugh nor his attorney could be reached for comment.
"I can't comment on either investigation except to say that the Big Ten investigation is ongoing," Jack Weidenbach, associate athletic director, said last week. Weidenbach will become interim athletic director March 1, when Bo Schembechler begins his indefinite leave of absence to become president of the Detroit Tigers.
Michigan alumnus Bill Freehan, a former all-star catcher with the Detroit Tigers, replaced Middaugh.
Rulings by the Big Ten and NCAA are not expected until late March or early April.
Power surge: The stance and the stroke are virtually the same.
UCLA Coach Gary Adams says the only difference in Paul Ellis this season is a new, aggressive attitude at the plate.
Ellis, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound junior catcher from Danville, Calif., hit only five home runs in his first two seasons with the Bruins.
"For a big kid, he was a very timid hitter," said Adams, in his 16th season at UCLA. "He went to the plate time and time again and did not use his great size, strength and swing. It was a waste."
This season, Ellis has regularly deposited pitches over the fence. Entering Friday night's game at Arizona State, He led the nation with 10 home runs and 30 runs batted in.
"I'm being less selective," Ellis said. "I'm not being afraid to get a good swing--even if look stupid when I get fooled on a changeup."
Ellis' power has sparked UCLA to a 12-3 record, the Bruins' best start since 1982.
The Bruins, ranked 17th by Baseball America magazine, lost two of three games to Stanford in their opening Pacific 10 Southern Division series last weekend.
Fast ball: The time has come for change.
That, at least, is the opinion of the Missouri Valley Conference, the first in the nation to adopt the use of a clock to speed up college baseball games.
"There's nothing that's going to kill college baseball faster than four-hour games," said Wichita State Coach Gene Stephenson, who proposed the use of the clock. "We've got to have better marketability."
Under NCAA rules, pitchers and hitters are allowed 20 seconds between pitches. The rule, however, is rarely enforced by umpires.
To make sure that it will be--and to get teams in the habit of playing faster--MVC schools are installing clocks on their outfield fences. When no runners are on base, pitchers who fail to begin their windups within 20 seconds of the last pitch will be penalized with a ball. Batters failing to get into the box in the allotted time will be assessed a strike.
In addition, teams will have just 90 seconds to get on and off the field each half-inning.
Stephenson, who has seen the clock used effectively each summer at the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, believes the measure can lop 45 minutes off the average game.
Junior Express?: Reid Ryan, son of major league strikeout leader Nolan Ryan, has made an oral commitment to the University of Texas.
Ryan, a 6-0, 170-pound right-hander from Alvin High in Alvin, Tex., reportedly throws 86 m.p.h.
"People expect you to be the same as your father," Reid said. "I don't think I'll ever be like my dad, but I try to copy him.
"I'd like to pitch until I'm 43."
College Baseball Notes