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SPORTS WEEKEND | TV RADIO

Packer Has No Time for '60 Minutes'

March 20, 1998|LARRY STEWART

It's not likely that Billy Packer, the next time he is visiting his CBS bosses in New York, will stop by to say hello to the "60 Minutes" gang.

Packer is no fan of the show.

" '60 Minutes' is a cancer in our organization, and you can quote me on that. I don't care how much money they bring in," he said from his home in Charlotte, N.C.

Packer was called for some comments on tonight's UCLA-Kentucky game, which he is working with Jim Nantz, when the mention of "60 Minutes" got him going.

Packer, CBS' lead college basketball commentator, doesn't like the way the CBS news show treats his beloved sport.

"They've done four college basketball stories around NCAA tournament time, and they always look for the most negative thing they can find," he said.

"They go in with a preconceived plan and stay on the story until they get what they want. About 99% of college basketball is positive, and they look for the 1% that is negative.

"I'll tell you, I wouldn't want to find them on my team in a foxhole."

What set Packer off was the "60 Minutes" program on Jerry Tarkanian and his criminal-laden Fresno State program. Eight of the 10 scholarship players have missed games because they were suspended, ineligible, in rehabilitation or quit. Four were convicted felons.

The story, aired last Sunday, turned out to be timely; the next night center Avondre Jones and recruit Kenny Brunner were allegedly involved in criminal activity that got them arrested.

They were accused of pointing a gun at a man, beating him with the blunt edge of "samurai swords" and stealing his money and a camera in Jones' apartment.

The "60 Minutes" piece was an embarrassment to Tarkanian, Fresno State and college basketball in general, but Packer still questioned the fairness of it.

He said that it was typical, considering the show's history in dealing with college basketball.

"They had Connie Chung go after Bobby Knight for his 'Women should lay back and enjoy it' comment [about rape], they spent three days on a story that bastardized the University of Louisville and Denny Crum and they had Leslie Stahl do a story on sneakers," Packer said. "Leslie Stahl wouldn't know a sneaker if she saw one.

" '60 Minutes' goes in with a predetermined plan designed to get ratings. Take the Kathleen Willey interview. Now I'm no fan of President Clinton, believe me, but isn't it interesting that by Tuesday it came out she had written letters to him and was involved in a book deal.

"It's so shoddy. Either '60 Minutes' knew this and chose to leave it out or didn't know, and that would be sloppy journalism."

Mike Wallace, who did the Fresno State piece for "60 Minutes," had this response: "Although I've never met him, I'm sure Billy Packer is a fine fellow.

" '60 Minutes' just finished its 30th season on the air, and we take certain pride in that we try for accuracy and fairness and I believe our report on the Bulldogs was a fair one, which was borne out by the arrest of the ballplayers on charges of robbery and assault."

Wallace noted that Fresno State President John Welty has since threatened to pull the team out of the National Invitation Tournament and said his patience was at an end.

Wallace also pointed out that the Chung piece on Knight was done for another news program other than "60 Minutes."

As for Tarkanian, Wallace said, "I actually like the man, and he is accurate when he says I told him he wouldn't be disappointed in the piece. But that was before we got very deep into the story. As it developed, I mean, what could we do?"

OH YES, THE GAME

Packer did have a few comments about UCLA's task tonight. He believes the loss of Baron Davis because of his knee injury is a big one, even though Toby Bailey did so well playing at the point against Michigan.

"What is so critical is that Davis and Earl Watson play with an exuberance you only see in freshmen," he said. "Sometimes seniors come in feeling so much pressure and the world on their shoulder they get tight.

"But Davis and Watson came in feeling like this is where they belong, and they played with such fire and moxie against Michigan they lifted the whole team."

A NIGHT FOR OSCAR

David Hill, Fox Sports president, has come up with interesting counter-programming for Monday's Academy Awards show on ABC--an Oscar Night. Hill originally looked into putting an Oscar De La Hoya fight on Fox opposite the Academy Awards but because De La Hoya is under contract to HBO, that was not possible. So instead De La Hoya will serve as host and commentator, with James Brown, on a two-hour boxing show Monday at 8 p.m. The main event will feature Yory Boy Campas against Anthony Stephens, with the winner in line to face De La Hoya if he gets past Frenchman Patrick Charpentier in June. . . . De La Hoya, who has expressed an interest in acting, was asked during a conference call with reporters if he had aspirations of someday winning an Oscar. "You know, I just told a friend the other day that, give me 10-15 years and I promise you I'll get an Oscar," he said.

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