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INSIDE TRACK | PAGE TWO / RANDY HARVEY

This Sport Has Gotten Too Big for Its Beaches

September 11, 1997|RANDY HARVEY

While Los Angeles' favorite center, action hero and rapper is relaxing after returning from "Shaq's Ram and Jam" tour of Asia, his agent, Leonard Armato, is enjoying the sun and sand.

No, he didn't go to the beach. The beach came to him.

Moving 2,700 tons of sand to the L.A. Tennis Center at UCLA for the World Championships of Beach Volleyball was his idea. Whether it was a good one, we should know by Saturday's championship matches.

Before Armato achieved super-agent status along with Leigh Steinberg, Dennis Gilbert and Arliss, he was a beach volleyball player.

"I played in the time when the winners maybe got a free meal," he says.

Going hungry, he went into management. He and Sinjin Smith founded the Assn. of Volleyball Professionals in 1973, giving beach volleyball some semblance of organization.

By 1996, beach volleyball was big enough worldwide to become an Olympic sport and have different governing bodies fighting over its control.

Frustrated because the feud prevented some of the best players in the world from competing in Atlanta, Armato, 44, served as the liaison among the FIVB, AVP and WPVA to establish the first world championships.

Naturally, they belong in Los Angeles because this is where beach volleyball began. Unnaturally, they will not be played at the beach.

"Just as baseball started as a game played at picnics and grew into stadiums, we've got to move beach volleyball off the beach if we're going to take it to the level of a major sport," Armato says.

Prize money for this tournament is $600,000. Winners can buy their own meals.

*

Dave Williams, president of the Women's Professional Volleyball Assn., signed an exclusive marketing agreement Wednesday with Armato's Management Plus, saying the timing is right for all women's sports to receive more exposure because of the WNBA's success. . . .

"Rising tides raise all boats," Williams said. . . .

Some think women in the beach volleyball world championships already are exposed too much for the good of UCLA's football team. . . .

David Leon Moore writes in USA Today: "Yo, Bob Toledo, if I were you, I'd move football practice off-campus this week. When your players get a look at these, uh, uniforms, they might not be fully concentrating on the 36 Power Trap." . . .

Considering the, uh, uniforms men volleyball players wear, UCLA women's soccer Coach Joy Fawcett might be having similar problems. . . .

UCLA has played football at Texas only once, in 1970. The Longhorns, in the 22nd game of a 30-game winning streak and ranked No. 2, scored on a 45-yard touchdown pass play with 12 seconds left to win, 20-17. . . .

Bruin quarterback Dennis Dummitt passed for 340 yards, then a school record. . . .

No doubt watching at the Coliseum with great interest as USC's running game sputtered against Florida State was Justin Fargas, the highly recruited running back from Notre Dame High in Sherman Oaks. . . .

True freshmen can start for the Trojans, as proved this season by tight end Antoine Harris from Loyola High. . . .

Harris' late father, Robin, was a successful comedian and actor. . . .

"Fool, you're 30 cents away from a quarter, you're raggedy as a roach, you eat holes out of doughnuts," was his great line in "Do the Right Thing." . . .

So, you wonder if Peter O'Malley is still interested in getting an NFL team here? Well, one of the most influential NFL owners, Jerry Richardson of the Carolina Panthers, was his guest Wednesday night at the Dodgers-Braves game. Probably just coincidence....

The other thoroughbred track in Southern California, Pomona's Fairplex Park, opens its 18-day season today. . . .

Free House, who broke his maiden as a 2-year-old there last year, will be honored Sept. 20. . . .

If Juan Antonio Samaranch could bring the Olympics to Barcelona, maybe Anita DeFrantz could do it for Los Angeles. The IOC's newest vice president, she would make an exceptional president when, I mean if, Samaranch retires. . . .

Hill & Knowlton Sports of Irvine and London assisted Athens with its public relations, an element that was absent from its losing bid for the 1996 Games. . . .

Now here's a man who thinks as I do: Regarding Arizona quarterback Kent Graham's indecisiveness, TNT's Pat Haden said, "Don't give him the wine list."

*

While wondering what the odds were on Bill Frieder stepping down, I was thinking: Malaefou MacKenzie and Petros Papadakis are going to play a bigger role in USC's running game, broadcasters prefer Delon Washington, Hector Camacho is 30 cents away from a quarter.

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