Quarterback Steve Suttle had no intention of playing college football. McLaughlin invited him out to watch a practice session one day. "When I saw that the players weren't a bunch of goons," says Suttle, "I changed my mind." Suttle also went back to his dormitory and talked his friend Ned Hobbs into trying out. Hobbs became the right end and is now a captain of the team. Jerry Hyatt had never played football before he entered Washington and Lee, because his high school in Maryland had no team. Hyatt tried out anyway, made the team and is now an outstanding center.
In 1959 the team won three games, one more than it had won the previous four seasons. And last year Washington and Lee was undefeated, being tied only by Johns Hopkins. With each victory the howls of the alumni to return to big-time football diminished and interest in the team grew. Once again people showed up to watch Washington and Lee play football, and if most of them still left at half time occasionally it was because the team was winning by such big scores, not losing.
This year's team, after barely winning its first game against Hampden-Sydney 7-6, has scored 148 points in its next four games to its opponents' 12. There have been no outstanding stars, although Fohs, the little linebacker, has again led the defense. A dozen players have scored touchdowns for Washington and Lee. In last week's victory over Emory and Henry, for instance, the four touchdowns were made by four different men. Coach McLaughlin generally uses most of his 50-odd players, not because he is kind but because the talent is evenly distributed. Washington and Lee uses a running game, passing only when necessary. "When you pass," says McLaughlin, "three things can happen and only one of them is good."
The resurgence of football at Washington and Lee has created a new worry among university officials. At the close of last season there were a few moments when it looked as if the school might lose McLaughlin. Virginia was looking for a new football coach and McLaughlin had graduated from there in 1941. But McLaughlin, if he got an offer, turned it down and now says he has no intention of ever leaving.
"I have the best coaching job in the world," he says. "I have the rank of associate professor, tenure and extra benefits. This is a nice town, a fine place to live. And I work with nice boys."
McLaughlin recently gave a small party for some of the faculty. One of the guests was Dana Swan, a young man who in his first season as coach of the freshman team has had the unhappy experience of watching his team lose every game. In fact, the team has yet to score a touchdown.
As the guests were leaving, McLaughlin came over smilingly to Swan's young wife. "You've probably heard already," he said, "but in case you haven't, your husband is doing a fine job." At Washington and Lee, even the football coach is a gentleman.