On the Eve of the football season, there is evidence, in the Big Ten Conference anyway, that conditions have shaken down to normal. Tension is high at Ohio State and the laughs are building at Michigan State. Specifically, Coach Woody Hayes has blown his top at Columbus and Coach Duffy Daugherty has executed one of his more elaborate gags at East Lansing.
But Duffy couldn't have done it without Woody. And both are indebted to a score of touring sports-writers known as the Skywriters.
Every year at this time, the Skywriters fly around the Big Ten circuit in a chartered plane with Commissioner K. L. (Tug) Wilson as tour director. The arrival of the writers is a big event at most camps, with eager university publicity men pouring drinks and passing hors d'oeuvres and the head coach himself acting as genial host at a scrimmage and a press conference later on.
The routine is pretty much the same all around the conference, but the other day, Coach Hayes added a little something extra. After suffering the writers (and Commissioner Wilson) to witness about 10 minutes of scrimmage, he suddenly shouted to an assistant to get them (the writers and the commissioner) the hell out of there. And out they went.
Later, at the press conference, Coach Hayes apologized. He said a situation had arisen on the field that made it necessary for him to rebuke (as only Coach Hayes can rebuke) his players. He did not, said Coach Hayes, like to do that in front of people.
Next day, the Skywriters flew into East Lansing. They were met at the airport by the publicity men, driven to the practice field behind the 76,000-seat Michigan State Stadium. As they reached the gate, they were stopped by a guard. "Nobody allowed in here," the guard declared, "I don't care who you are. Nobody allowed in, that's Duffy's orders."
The writers cooled their heels for about 10 minutes while Fred Stabley and Nick Vista, the publicity men, looked for Duffy. They finally found him hiding in the equipment room. Duffy followed them down to the gate and faced the writers.
"I am sorry, men," he said, "You can't come in. I got to say something nice to my players, and I don't like to say anything nice to them in front of people."
P.S. Duffy doesn't play Woody this year—and maybe it's just as well.