In room 1016 at the Netherland-Hilton Hotel in Cincinnati the other day a small group of very serious men finished the outline plans for a jet-age college football conference. This is the first news of it.
Room 1016 is a big room, decorated in tones of brown—brown rug, brown and cream drapes—but the big men crowded it. The room belonged to Tom Hamilton, athletic director of the University of Pittsburgh, and the men scattered about the room represented 11 of the nation's great football powers. They had met twice before during the week-long NCAA convention in Cincinnati, and this final meeting was a summing up of their discussions plus committee reports on the various problems of operating a conference that would stretch from California to New York.
In a college-football climate made uncomfortable by the ever-growing competition of professional football and the withdrawal of more major conferences into round-robin schedules which virtually exclude the independents, these major independents were seriously considering an adventure in Togetherness.
By the time they adjourned for dinner at the end of the late-afternoon session, the blueprint for the new conference was clearly drawn. None of the schools represented is committed—the actual go-ahead signals will have to come from the college presidents—but the athletic directors are now able to go to work on arguments and presentations to submit to the top executives involved. As outlined in Cincinnati, the conference will consist of 12 schools divided into eastern and western divisions. In the East will be Army, Navy, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Penn State; the western division will be Southern California, UCLA, California, Washington, the Air Force Academy and perhaps Stanford. Each team will play four games in its own division and one in the other. Due to scheduling difficulties—most major colleges are scheduled three or four years ahead—conference play cannot begin before 1964 or 1965 and will involve, at the beginning at least, only football. In other major sports the schools propose to play to divisional championships, then determine the conference champion in playoffs.
These were the major accomplishments of the meeting. Still open to discussion and arbitration are the thorny problems of recruiting, scholarships and eligibility rules.
Here are the men who were present and who will thresh out these problems soon: Tom Hamilton of Pitt, unofficial chairman of the group; Colonel Francis Roberts of West Point; Captain Slade Cutter of Annapolis; Lew Andreas of Syracuse; Moose Krause, athletic director of Notre Dame, and Father Edmond Joyce, executive vice-president of Notre Dame; Ernest B. McCoy of Penn State; Colonel George Simler of the Air Force Academy; Wilbur Johns, athletic director, and Bradford Booth, faculty athletic representative, UCLA; Jess Hill, athletic director, and Hugh Willett, faculty athletic representative, Southern Cal.; George Briggs, athletic director, and Jack Gose, faculty athletic representative, University of Washington; and Greg Engelhard, University of California. Absent but interested was Stanford Athletic Director Chuck Taylor, who told us, "We'll be most interested in reading what you fellows write about it."
The toughest problem they have to solve has to do with athletic scholarships, recruiting and academic requirements.
"Some of the California schools could not live under the restrictions of the eastern colleges," says Cutter, the outspoken representative from the Naval Academy. "Nor could we live under some of their rules. All of the colleges involved, however, have high academic requirements and it is not impossible to develop a comfortable framework for the conference as a whole."
The two eastern service academies, which have been somewhat restive under what they consider irksome and sometimes unfair restrictions imposed upon them by the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference, are leery of additional restrictions.
The benefits of a national conference for the independents are fairly obvious. Notre Dame's Moose Krause says, "The best reason for the creation of a new conference is that each scheduled conference game immediately assumes greater importance because it helps determine the member college's final place in the conference standings." As it now stands, a game between, say, Navy and Syracuse is important only if one of the two schools happens to be in the top 10. "I think those ratings are foolish," says Cutter. "But that's the way it is now. If we were in a conference with Syracuse, the game would be more attractive not only from a spectator's standpoint but from a publicity standpoint as well. It would give the sportswriters something additional to write about."