MISSION, Kan. (AP) _ Enforcement director David Berst collapsed Wednesday morning while announcing that SMU had received the NCAA’s first death penalty, and then a telephone computer error made his bad day even worse.
Because no long distance calls could be made from the 214 area code in Dallas for several hours, Berst’s family and co-workers back in Kansas City, aware only that he had been in distress, spent the day wondering why he hadn’t called.
″A Dallas radio station was carrying the news conference live, and we were having it piped in here,″ said Cynthia Gabel, Berst’s secretary. ″When they said he had collapsed, well, we were very, very concerned. He had told us this morning on the phone that he wasn’t feeling well.″
Berst got up from his chair after outlining SMU’s punishment, the toughest ever handed a football program, walked toward the door and droppeds to his knees.
Ashen-faced, he was rushed to a side room and attended to by medics.
″I don’t remember blacking out like that since I played in a basketball game and missed the shot that would have given us a victory in overtime,″ Berst quipped to reporters. ″That was embarrassing to me, but some of you may have enjoyed that.″
After answering a few more questions, Berst began to sweat profusely and again left the room. He returned a second time and completed the news conference.
In the meantime, his fellow NCAA staffers in Kansas City kept waiting for him to call.
″We were practically frantic,″ Gabel said. ″He always calls to get his messages. We knew he was planning to fly right back to Kansas City and be in the office about 3:30. We were sort of staring at the phone. We were just sure he would call from the airport.″
Gabel contacted Nancy Berst to ask if she had heard from her husband.
″And all I did was start her worrying too,″ she said. ″We didn’t know if he’d gotten on the plane. We didn’t know anything. He told me on the phone this morning that he felt really bad and he was worried his voice might not hold up during the news conference.″
Berst called home and office as soon as his late-afternoon flight landed in Kansas City.
″To say we were all relieved would be an understatement,″ Gabel said. ″Gosh, we were really starting to worry.″
Berst said he had been fighting a ″mid-winter cold,″ and began feeling ill Tuesday evening.
″I ate a seafood dinner late Tuesday night and that probably didn’t help. I knew everybody back here would be worrying. But there was nothing I could do but get on the plane and hope the phones were working at the Kansas City airport when I got there. This has been an amazing day.″