Biggie puffed on his cigarette and stared up at the ceiling. "All right. Let's begin with this idea. When a football player or any athlete walks out on a field, he usually has a number on his back. That alone identifies him. The people who have paid to see the game will judge him entirely by what he does. And what he does is out in the open for everyone to see. The player cannot hide behind anybody. His creed or color, what side of the tracks he was born on, how much money he has in the bank, his political affiliations—none of these things are involved. He is on his own. He cannot lean on anybody.
"I have always admired the boy who is willing to take part in a tough, combative game like football. This is competition of the highest order. It is true that not everybody is equipped for this kind of competition. Other people may take part in other activities—music, drama, debating and so on. They are not criticized for doing so. On the contrary, they are usually complimented. But sometimes those who are unable to take part in a physical contest resent the boys who do. They resent the crowds that cheer the athletes, they resent the publicity the boys receive. Well, publicity works two ways. It can build a man up, it can tear a man down. I know this all too well from my own experience."
Biggie took a sip of coffee and walked back and forth across the office. He took a deep drag on his cigarette and ground it out in the ashtray.
"College football," he said, "is the focal point of student spirit. It brings the alumni back to the university and draws everyone closer together. I cannot imagine Michigan State without its football team. It would not be the same place. You cannot tell me that the University of Chicago is what it used to be in the days of Alonzo Stagg."
Biggie slapped the desk with the palm of his hand.
"The boys who play football at Michigan State," he declared, "are not hired entertainers. They are students. They must meet the academic requirements that are set up by the Big Ten. They must compete in the classroom as well as on the athletic field. They live and work and study as part of the student body. They are not isolated in dormitories of their own. Now, I see no reason why these boys should not receive some help in return for their ability to play football. Scholarships are given for music, chemistry, the sciences and so on. It seems only fair to me. I recall the father of a boy, a man worth a lot of money. He came to me and said that although he was well able to pay his boy's way he wanted the boy to feel that he had earned something on his own through his efforts to become a good athlete. On the other hand, some boys have turned down help within the Big Ten regulations because their fathers were able to defray all their expenses."
Biggie drained his coffee cup and shook his head in response to Dorothy Miller's inquiring glance. She let her fingers play the stenotype machine for a moment and then reached for the telephone.
" Biggie Munn's office," she said. "One moment, please." She turned to her boss. "Biggie, this is Pete Waldmeir of the
. He wants one of those long telephone interviews for their weekly sports quiz. I think he tape-records them."
The pilgrim jumped to his feet, "I'll wait outside or roam around the halls for a while."
"Stay where you are," said Biggie. "Or roam around if you want." He reached down, pulled out a desk drawer and took out a fat scrapbook and some pamphlets. "You might like to look these over."