And how would Robinson have kept Dickerson on the team? "I would have paid him more," he says.
The Bean Counter
Robert Morris College has been around for 73 years, and it has never felt the need for a football team. Until now.
A business college in Coraopolis, Pa., with an enrollment of 5,500 students—mostly commuters—Robert Morris has been smitten with the notion that a Division I-AA football program, sans revenue-draining athletic scholarships, will perk up everything from student spirit to sagging enrollment. The first Colonial team is set to kick off this fall, playing home games at nearby Moon High School Stadium while marching to the drum of none other than former New York Jet coach Joe Walton.
Walton, 58, who hails from nearby Beaver Falls and was a two-time All-America tight end and linebacker at Pitt, finds this venture compelling. After losing his job as the Pittsburgh Steelers' offensive coordinator in 1991, he did p.r. for a moving company but found that to be pretty dull stuff. So here he sits, unlit cigar dangling from his mouth, making $45,000 with this little school, trying to figure out how much a jockstrap costs.
"I believe they're $3.50 apiece, cheaper in bulk," he says, shuffling through papers on his small desk in his small office inside the small athletic department. While going 53-57-1 with the Jets from 1983 to '89, Walton never thought about jocks. He never thought about the cost of anything.
"I can't tell you how many things I've learned since taking this job." he says. "I never thought about how helmets were fitted, who ordered shoulder pads, where the team was going to play. I played pro ball with the Redskins and Giants, became a scout with the Giants and then a full-time coach in the NFL. I always felt bad I didn't have any college experience."
Now he has it at its most elementary level. He has only one full-time assistant and a budget the size of the Jets' snuff bill. Basically, if he wants something done on this blank slate, he had better do it himself. He grinds the stogie in his teeth, unearths the appropriate notepaper and puts on his glasses. "O.K., to outfit a player—practice stuff, game uniforms, shoes, helmets and everything—comes to $328.46 apiece," he reads. He looks up, then studies the paper once more. "I got it down to about $300. Jocks at $1.53. See here?"
Most of the Robert Morris kids will be freshmen and not the greatest specimens in the world, and more than likely they will get their butts handed to them by the likes of Duquesne and Mercyhurst. Walton doesn't care. He's working 20 minutes from home, and as he says, "I was getting bored. Coaching's been my life. You get used to your kind of people."
He also feels good about being, as he puts it, "an extension of the admissions office." While most colleges pay dearly for their football troops, Robert Morris sees its athletes as so many cash cows. It received 228 applications for this year from football hopefuls—most of whom, if they attend, will pay the $6,540 tuition.