Co-Captain James Kelley, a tackle who won special attention on last year's Little All-America, said, "I don't think any of us are playing for Hopkins. What welds us together is our love of football." Tailback Joe Cioni said: "How can you be a football hero on a campus that doesn't care for football? Anyone who takes his lumps for glory's sake is nuts."
In recent years players have been quitting the squad with growing frequency, and it has now reached the point where you often see better players in the stands than you do on the field. At the start of this season four lettermen from last year's team failed to report for practice, as did five promising players from last season's freshman squad, leaving Coach Fewster with a varsity squad of 28 men.
Although Fewster, a 34-year-old former star athlete at Hopkins, hasn't had a losing year since he became head coach in 1957, he is, as might be expected, a case study in almost total frustration. "Just once," he says, "I'd like to be able to look back at my bench and see 25 or 30 men."
"I guess," Fewster adds, "I'm not very bright. While I can see how overemphasis has hurt college football, I can't understand how it helps the game to kill it through over-de-emphasis, if there is such a word. I think it makes more sense to be realistic and give the game a fair break, by offering a few athletic scholarships to academically qualified players. But I can't sell anyone the idea. As a matter of fact, I can't even persuade the admissions department to let me talk to prospective players when they come in for an interview. They see over 2,000 boys annually, and I'm sure a lot of them have played football. But I'm lucky if the admissions department remembers to call me once a year to tell me there is a prospect in their office. Most of the time they forget the athletic department is part of the university.
"And with our football budget—$6,900 this year, exclusive of salaries—there's no money for me to take trips in search of the occasionally serious-minded young player whose primary interest lies in what college can give him in the way of an education—which is the one thing I have to offer. So what can I do but bite my nails, watch the squads shrink, and dread the approach of the day when I don't have enough players to field a team? The way things are going, that day may not be far off."
Even the school's administrators are unhappy about the direction the game has taken. They all approve of the football program in principle; they are all dissatisfied with the way it has worked out in practice; and, short of subsidizing players, which they refuse to do, they haven't the vaguest idea how to improve matters.
Dean G. Wilson Shaffer, a psychology professor, says, "Frankly, I'm at the end of my rope. From a motivational point of view, I just can't see what more we can do to stir up the student body or to provide football men with incentive."
This cannot be an easy admission for Dean Shaffer to make, for he is the father of the Hopkins athletic program. It was he who instituted the basic plan in 1935. And he played a leading role in persuading the university authorities to carry the plan to its logical conclusion in 1938 by the elimination of admission charges.
Yet today Dean Shaffer no longer believes that the plan he fathered will ever have any appreciable effect on the college football world. "I still think our program is right in principle," he says. "It's being defeated, though, by the trend of the times, by the fact that football is rapidly being converted from a wholesome sport into a multimillion-dollar branch of the entertainment business. Already the game has become so overblown and its values so wildly distorted that Hopkins football is now completely out of line with what is taking place on the national scene. And if the trend gathers any momentum I'm afraid it could conceivably kill football at Hopkins. I'm afraid for all small-college football."
Alumni President Levy believes it is up to the college administration itself to give some heat to the lukewarm football spirit at Hopkins. He says: "Something has gone out of campus life at Hopkins, something that belongs on every college campus: a school's pride in its team and the excitement and high spirits that grow out of that pride and make a football weekend such a happy experience. The Hopkins undergraduate today is getting short-changed, and there's not a thing the alumni, the coaches or the athletic department can do about it.