By 1954 the colleges had abandoned two-platooning, and had their men play both offense and defense as they claimed the good Lord intended. Now, seven years later, there is doubt. College one-platoon offenses weren't too exciting, nor were defenses overly strong, and the influence of the professional competition was strong indeed. Even a high-principled conservative like Red Blaik found himself going in for spread formations and lonely ends. The college rules committee firmly stuck with one-platoon football. But with the ringing cheers of pro football's cash customers coming to them clearly from across town, the committee members neatly fixed it so that coaches could make about all the substitutions they wanted anyway. As a final stimulant, the first scoring change in 46 years was added—the possibility of making two points after a touchdown.
Tall teams, big money
Basketball saw two significant changes, the first simply a matter of biology. All Americans are taller, so basketball players are taller yet. Coaches now talk of wanting "little" 6-foot-3 forwards. A center should be 6 feet 8, at least.
The other development was the practical application of the discovery by colleges that basketball teams make money. The result has been a marked increase in magnificent new field houses: Maryland, San Francisco, SMU, Georgia Tech, Ohio State, Texas Tech, Illinois, St. John's and Wichita, to cite just a few completed or abuilding.
And once again in a major sport the top professional league has expanded from coast to coast and found new competition, in the form of the adventuresome American Basketball League, which hopes to compete from Pittsburgh to Honolulu. The ABL promoters have some money, and will need a lot.
The availability of money has been a major factor in the sporting change everywhere. In horse racing there were only 21 $100,000 added events in 1954. Last year there were 38, and this year there are still more. What enables tracks to give away greenbacks like Green Stamps? The bettors, of course. From gleaming new plants, such as Aqueduct, to the crummiest half-mile oval on the leaky-roof circuit, the gambling American bet $3,366,000,000 last year, 50% more than he did in 1954. The nine-race card became a commonplace, a move calculated to improve the very considerable profits of both state and management, if not to improve the breed.
Flat racing merely grew, but harness racing grew up. Betting doubled, from $400 million to $800 million, and attendance went from 10 million to 15 million. The expansion from dusty state fairgrounds to all-weather metropolitan tracks brought new earnings to owners, who applied a lot of it to the breeding of finer horses. In 1954 there were 35 horses able to equal or better that standard of topnotch performance, the two-minute trot or pace. Last year 67 horses did it a total of 120 times.
Humans were running faster, too. The improvement in track and field has been almost unbelievable, partly because of new equipment but primarily because of ability and international competition.
Thoroughly broken since 1954 are marks once considered unattainable: the seven-foot high jump, the 27-foot broad jump, the 60-foot shotput, the 9.3 100-yard dash. What Roger Bannister started in 1954 with the sub-four-minute mile has continued brashly and inexorably.
Those Americans who haven't been running around tracks have been running to the water. As Kansas City sizzled in its summer inferno last Friday afternoon, a bumper-to-bumper line of automobiles stretched for miles out of the city on U.S. Route 50 towing a variety of inboards, outboards, and center-boards to the Lake of the Ozarks, a watery Shangri-La 150 miles away. In 1954, there were only 50 sailboats sold in Kansas City; last year there were 500. Utah, high and relatively dry in the middle of the desert, had little boating, fewer boats. Now it has a commission controlling 11,000 registered power craft. In Detroit a beleaguered harbor patrolman protested that "every jerk with 20 bucks owns a boat," and the New York area Coast Guard towed 229 disabled craft to safety last week as the country seemed hellbent on going to sea in a sieve.