Originally created 01/29/97

Flight flap spurs another round of ideas



Now that the scary part is over, now that we know Ricky Moore's college basketball career will continue unabated after this five-game speed bump, we search for lessons, we look for meaning.

Thankfully, the former Westside High School star told the truth to University of Connecticut officials. Yes, he accepted a plane ticket from that sports agent, somebody named John Lounsbury of Wolcott, Conn.

But Moore didn't know he was dealing with an agent until after taking the trip back home in October 1995. And he didn't lie when the gumshoes starting sniffing around.

His teammate, Kirk King, didn't tell the truth. Barring a successful appeal of last week's NCAA ruling, he'll miss the rest of the Huskies season. A senior captain, King's college career apparently is over.

Moore will move on from this. He'll learn from this. Next time somebody offers him a free trip home, he'll decline the help.

Still, Dorothy Moore wonders why things have to be this way. Ricky Moore's mother is tired of the hypocrisy inherent in big-time college sports. She wonders why she can't see her son more often. She wonders why schools can't provide two trips home per year to each scholarship athlete.

"The schools are already exploiting them," she said recently. "These schools are making billions of dollars off these kids and they don't want to give them anything. They need to understand how devastating it can be for a young kid to go off to college when he's never been away from home before."

Earlier this month, at the NCAA Convention in Nashville, the university bigwigs passed legislation that allows student-athletes to work during the school year. Legally, these kids may earn enough to cover the difference between their college costs and their scholarship payout.

(Which begs the question: Why would anyone on full scholarship have a gap to fill in the first place?)

Many coaches have ripped the school-year job rule, noting that between classes, study hall, games, practice and offseason training, their players don't have the time to flip burgers or run the cash register at a convenience store. Tennessee's Kevin O'Neill predicts the new rule will result in "40 to 50" violations, everything from kids getting paid for not showing up to that most heinous - and non-policeable - of thoughts, the $1,000 tip for pizza delivery.

Mrs. Moore doesn't like the new rule either. She'd rather the NCAA deal more directly with the problem.

"I feel like if the kid is a long way from home, the school should at least give him two trips home a year," she said. "Let them choose which trips they want the school to pay for. I know I can't afford to get Ricky home every time he's out of school."

She has a point. Think about it.

When the regular students go home for breaks each fall, winter and spring, student-athletes are left to fend for themselves. Odds are they have matriculated from the farthest distance and are the least-equipped to find (legal) transportation.

And trips home are just the tip of the problem. Mrs. Moore would like to see even more done for these talented kids who fill campus coffers.

"I always hear how these kids ought to be grateful, how everything is free for them," Mrs. Moore said. "OK, my son got a full scholarship. But look at what your child gets. My child has no free time to study. Every day he has practice, interviews, weightlifting. Athletes work for everything they get.

"They say `full scholarship' but what about the clothing, the change in climate? Ricky's first year at UConn he needed a completely new wardrobe. This year it was another complete wardrobe because of the body change. His old clothes were too small from lifting weights all the time. We had to pay for all of this. The schools don't offer anything."

And as we have been reminded once more, the bigger the void left by the school, the larger the window of opportunity for another slimy agent.