The Yale that Dowling returned to for his senior year 20 autumns ago was still all male. Members of the adult female gender were referred to as "girls" and therefore went to girls' schools, e.g., Vassar, Connecticut College, Briarcliff. "Just hearing one of 'em walk into the reserve room of the library, everybody looked up," Dowling recalls. "Girls even sounded different then. It was still pre-Nike, remember."
By 1968 Yale tuition had soared to $2,150 per year. The university chaplain, William Sloane Coffin, Yale '49, had been convicted, along with Dr. Benjamin Spock, Yale '25, of instructing young men in ways to avoid the draft, and William F. Buckley, '50, was having a bloody fit at the depths to which both God and boy had fallen at his alma mater. Bull dog! Bull dog! Bow, wow, wow,/Eli Yale!
A front-page banner headline in the Yale Daily News in 1967 screamed: POT PRICES HIT NEW HIGH. Priorities. A no-credit course in transcendental meditation was offered, but then, as at so many colleges, suddenly all courses at Yale had become pass-fail. Nobody was supposed to be judgmental.
Kingman Brewster, president of this new People's Republic of New Haven, announced that in order to prepare for the possibility of girls' being admitted into Yale, several hundred of that sex would arrive on campus later in the autumn of 1968 for a trial visit. The Daily News (always referred to as the Yalie Daily) put its ear to the ground and whispered that the students were showing "an interest in cohabitation rather than coeducation." The Reverend Malcolm Boyd, the Episcopal priest who had written the best seller Are You Running with Me, Jesus?, arrived on campus as a visiting fellow at Calhoun College, one of the university's residential units, and wrote a column for the Yalie Daily entitled "Man and Sex At Yale."
Down in New York City, editors of what would become the Universal Press Syndicate read Boyd's piece. They discussed with Boyd the possibility of his writing a syndicated column. They suggested that Boyd contribute more samples to the student newspaper—opening in New Haven, as Broadway shows had through the years.
Issues of the Yalie Daily spilled into the New York offices, and the editors flipped through them to see if they contained a column by Boyd. More and more, though, they had to read about the Yale football captain: DOWLING BRILLIANT AGAIN. And read about the entire undefeated, untied Bulldog juggernaut. Yale, the nation's original football factory, was cheek by jowl with all the Johnny-come-lately football factories. And there were pep rallies! At Yale!
Somewhat more reflective, Shorter says now: "We were in a bit of an ivory tower. We all knew that outside of Yale there was a lot of bad stuff coming down. We knew that the Rot-cee guys we saw walking around campus might not be around—alive—in another couple years. So to focus on Brian and the football team was an illusion.... So we did it."
The fellows down in the syndication offices in New York never did develop much of an interest in either the fortunes of the Yale eleven or in the musings of Rev. Boyd. But as time went on, they did notice something else that was occasionally buried in the inky pages of the Yalie Daily.
Brian John Dowling was born and raised in Cleveland, where his father, Emmett, was president of the Youngstown Steel Door Company. In junior high and then at St. Ignatius High, Brian did not play a complete football game that did not end in victory for his side. One time he was injured and, predictably, St. Ignatius folded without him. As he grew into a 6'2", 195-pound body, he also became a star in basketball and baseball and played a mean game of tennis. He drew 100 college scholarship offers, coast to coast, but his father opted to pay the full tuition and send Brian to Yale. "Why go cabin class when you can go first class?" Mr. Dowling asked.
As a freshman, Dowling led the Yale Bullpups to a 6-0 record. He was what was known as a Triple Threat: He passed, ran and punted. In the winter, he led the freshman basketball team with 24.5 points per game, and in the spring, after he won a few tennis matches with the Yale tennis team, he switched over to the freshman nine. Before Dowling played a minute in any varsity sport, it was being reported that the living embodiment of Frank Merriwell had at last appeared, in New Haven.