College football's new "wild card" rule permits a team to send a "free" substitute into the game after each play. Whether he stays in for one play or 20, he can be sent back as often as the coach desires as long as he is designated as the "free" substitute and not a serious replacement. (Serious replacements are allowed only one "re-entry" per period; then they have to become "free" substitutes themselves). Coaches introduced the rule last winter, ostensibly to permit proper employment of specialists, but the substitute also can become a mere messenger between bench and team.
On football's first big weekend, one coach promptly and devastatingly exploited the new rule. Seated high up in a press-box radio booth, where he had a better view of the patterns and tactics of the game than he would have had at ground level, Oregon State's Coach Tommy Prothro telephoned his instructions before each play to an assistant on the bench; these were transmitted to the "wild card" substitute, who took them onto the field. The upshot: Oregon State defeated USC (an 18-point favorite) by a score of 14-0 to provide one of 1960's first major college upsets.
Writer Tobin sat next to Prothro throughout the experiment. This is his account of the first football game ever completely quarterbacked by remote control.