Tennis suspension a Wimbledon topic; college football's 'Kickoff' game
Things have been buzzing around Wimbledon this week, and not just with news about the latest tennis upset. Another hot topic is the one-year suspension from the game of Guillermo Vilas, which was meted out by the Men's International Professional Tennis Council.
The suspension, which came shortly before Wimbledon, was sudden and severe, and came as a clear warning to others to watch their step. Vilas, who has 30 days to appeal the suspension from all Grand Prix and Davis Cup events, has been suspended for accepting guaranteed appearance money to play in a Rotterdam tournament.
If it was ever a secret, the practice of giving out appearance money is no longer. Insiders say it has been standard, if illegal, operating procedure for some time. Only usually it is done shrewdly enough so that no one's hand is caught in the cookie jar. Many top players, of course, are up in arms about what has happened to Vilas and have issued a statement of concern over his suspension.
Vilas did play here, but was upset in the first round by unseeded Nigerian Nduka Odizor, who played collegiate tennis at the University of Houston and hails from Lagos, the hometown of Cougar basketball star Akeem Olajuwon. Jose-Luis Clerc, Vilas's Argentine countryman, was also dispatched in the first round. The South American stars prefer clay over the grass of Wimbledon, where they played not at all last year because of Britain's war with Argentina over the Falklands.
Tracy Austin withdrew from the tournament after experiencing shoulder difficulties while warming up for her opening match.
Trey Waltke donned long pants and shirt in a lighthearted attempt to give his match with Stan Smith a yesteryear look. Waltke won the match when Smith was forced to retire in the fifth set. TCollege football icebreaker
The Kickoff Classic, a game aimed at benefitting the College Football Hall of Fame, will launch the 1983 season Aug. 29 in the New Jersey Meadowlands. Nebraska and Penn State meet in the inaugural prime-time contest, with selected collegiate powers to meet in succeeding years.
Georgia might have been a natural for this year's game if Herschel Walker, the Bulldogs' Heisman Trophy winner, hadn't turned pro a year before his college eligibility ran out. Ironically, he's now a fixture at Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands, playing for the New Jersey Generals of the United States Football League.
As a spectator attraction, the Kickoff games may suffer from their sheer earliness.
They'll be played in a vacuum, with no buildup provided by what has occurred during the course of the season.
Penn State actually opposed establishing a kickoff game at the latest NCAA convention. Joe Paterno, the school's coach, felt it would be unfair to ask players to begin practicing any earlier. After the game was approved and Penn State invited, however, Paterno talked to his players and found they wanted to play. The game with Nebraska is a 12th game tacked on to the regular schedule, which, for Penn State, was set to begin Sept. 10 against Cincinnati.
The Nittany Lions should help the Classic get off to a creditable start. They have played Rutgers and Syracuse in recent years at the Meadowlands and drawn big crowds. And, of course, last season Penn State beat Nebraska in the last seconds at University Park, Pa., so there should be some built-in emotion. The problem is that several key participants in that game, such as Todd Blackledge, Curt Warner, Roger Craig, and Dave Rimington, have graduated. Touching other bases
* There should be a lot of Olympic-style electricity in the air during this weekend's US-East Germany dual track meet. The competition pits two of the sport's superpowers right where the 1984 Games will unfold, in the Los Angeles Coliseum. Because everybody wants to become familiar with the surroundings, both teams are expected to be at full force, not like last year, when some Americans bypassed the meet in East Germany. That meet, incidentally, went off beautifully for the host country, which also won the overall competition, thanks to a strong showing by the German women. Now, in the rematch, seven Americans and six East Germans enter the meet holding world bests for this year.
* Scott Hamilton, the men's world figure skating champion, would like to bring a more athletic image to his sport. ''Figure skating is too often promoted as an artistic event rather than an athletic one,'' he said, commenting on his desire to get away from elaborate, sequined outfits. Hamilton says a comment by Dan Reeves, a friend and coach of pro football's Denver Broncos, got him to thinking about changing apparel. ''Dan once said one of my outfits was the prettiest thing he'd ever seen, and he meant it,'' Scott recalls. To cultivate a more sporty look, Hamilton has taken to wearing a speed skating-type body suit.
* In a move that seems to further dilute the post-season, the National Basketball Association has decided to expand the playoffs from 12 to 16 teams, beginning next season. The new format will eliminate first-round byes and the best-of-three mini-series that coaches considered a form of basketball roulette. Rather than making the regular season less meaningful, the NBA expects additional playoff slots will stimulate greater interest, as well as generate more revenue.
* The National Football League could someday expand into Mexico and Canada, where there are already many NFL fans. In the meantime, the league will nurture followers wherever it finds them - including England. On Aug. 6, Wembley Stadium in London will be the site of the third NFL pre-season game played outside the United States. Others were played in Tokyo in 1976 and Mexico City in 1978. St. Louis and Minnesota are slated to meet in the league's first European game, which should be well received judging from the 4.5 million Brits who watched Super Bowl XVII.
* Golfing great Ben Hogan wasn't as tight-lipped as some thought judging from an old Sam Snead story. Rejecting the notion that Hogan never talked during a round, Snead once said, ''He talks to me all the time. He says, 'You're away, Sam.' ''