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A consumer's guide to the best and worst of sports media and merchandise. Ground rules: If it can be read, played, heard, observed, worn, viewed, dialed or downloaded, it's in play here.

July 26, 1999|LARRY STEWART

What: "Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel"

Where: HBO, tonight, 10-11

One thing you can say about the latest edition of HBO's award-winning sports magazine show is that it is well-balanced. There are two stories dealing with the underbelly of sports--one on a sports agent accused of wrongdoing, another on the academic fraud scandal at the University of Minnesota. And then there are two uplifting features--one on popular New York Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter, the other on Southern Californian Marion Jones, who next summer in Sydney, Australia, will be seeking to become the first track athlete to win five Olympic gold medals.

The first story is on sports agent Tank Black, who had five clients selected in the first round of the NFL draft this year and seven of the top 46 selections. But he was dropped by four clients when it came out that he was under investigation by the NFL Players Assn. and the University of Florida police for giving cash and gifts as incentives to prospective clients. Black claims he is being singled out because he is African American, although the original complaint came from sports agent Ray Anderson, who is African American, and the NLFPA is headed by Gene Upshaw, who is also African American.

Most sports fans are familiar with the University of Minnesota basketball scandal, but reporter Armen Keteyian and producer Cindy Babski take an in-depth look. The story broke last March, on the eve of the Gophers' first-round NCAA tournament game against Gonzaga, when the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that Jan Gangelhoff, who had worked as an office manager in the school's academic counseling office, admitted writing more than 400 class papers for at least 20 basketball players from 1993 through '98. Four of those players were declared ineligible for the Gonzaga game, which Minnesota lost.

The Gophers' 1997 NCAA Midwest Regional final against UCLA is also part of the story, as HBO looked into the case of center Courtney James, who claimed he wrote a paper in his hotel room the night before the game when actually Gangelhoff had written the paper three years earlier.

Gangelhoff is interviewed at length, as is former player A.J. Whaley, who flunked out of school as a freshman. Also interviewed is the professor who accepted the paper written by James and gave it an A. Alonzo Newby, the men's basketball counselor who first asked Gangelhoff to write papers for basketball players (he was fired in June), would not comment. Neither would former basketball coach Clem Haskins, whose contract was bought out by the school in June. On Saturday, Dan Monson, the Gonzaga coach, was named to replace Haskins.

One line that sticks out in the HBO show comes when Keteyian asks Gangelhoff if the players sat next to her as she wrote their papers. "Some," she says. And what were others doing? "Watching ESPN," she says.

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