Biggie and Duffy were old friends. When Biggie was made head coach at Syracuse University he made Duffy his line coach. They came to Michigan State together in 1947.
In 1953 Biggie resigned as head coach of Michigan State at the peak of his coaching career and became athletic director. He hand-picked Duffy as his successor and (as he said in a talk at Flint, Mich, just recently) told Duffy that Biggie Munn's office door would always be open whenever he wanted to talk football. But Duffy, his own man now, did not take advantage of the open door.
Instead, as his own man, he got off to a horrible start. He won three games and lost six. Biggie's public image was bigger than ever and there were mutterings among the alumni. Biggie kept his door open, expecting Duffy to seek his counsel. But Duffy did not come to call.
Then came 1955. The Spartans won eight and lost one and beat UCLA in the Rose Bowl. Duffy Daugherty was named Coach of the Year and the newspapers and the national magazines began to write him up. Duffy became celebrated as a great natural wit. He made the cover of TIME magazine. All the while, Biggie went largely ignored, although he pitched into his new job with all the vigor he had given to coaching. But the magnificent intramural buildings, the plans for the golf course, the slow building of a great and worthwhile athletic program for all students are not the stuff of which big headlines and magazine covers are made. Biggie missed the spotlight.
Biggie and Duffy began to quarrel more or less openly. Everybody knew about the rift between them. Little things became big issues. Duffy would ask permission to take four assistant coaches on a trip. Biggie would rule that three assistants would do. Incidents multiplied.
Finally Dr. Hannah took note of the affair by appointing Harold B. Tukey, chairman of the horticulture department, to act as arbiter. ( Dr. Hannah takes his football seriously; he was heard to remark at a cocktail party some years ago: "I would play against 11 gorillas from the circus if it would help Michigan State football.") Things went from bad to worse, and finally Dr. Tukey threw up his hands and said he had had enough. Dr. Hannah persuaded him to reconsider and then called Duffy and Biggie into his office and told them that if there were any more open hassles one or both would be invited to consider offers elsewhere.
Came 1958. Duffy's team opened the season by beating California, then stumbled through a 14-14 tie with Michigan. Duffy bounced back by beating Pitt. Then several regulars were lost, Duffy made wholesale changes and lost to Purdue, Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana. The next week was the big one with Minnesota—Biggie's alma mater. Biggie brought a lot of friends to the game and all watched in horror as Duffy's team got clobbered 39-12 by as poor a Minnesota team as ever ate a football.
Enter Pete Waldmeir. Or rather enter Biggie Munn into a Minneapolis restaurant where Pete Waldmeir was having dinner with a friend after the game. As Waldmeir remembers it:
"Biggie stopped by our table and leaned over. He said, 'I want to tell you fellows something. What happened out there today was terrible. I've never seen a poorer game. It really hurts to see something you've built, an empire you have made with your own hands come tumbling down. It's tough, I tell you, really tough to watch things go to pieces like this.' "
Waldmeir telephoned his office and dictated a story about the incident, figuring (he says) that it might make a sidebar feature for his story of the game. Instead, his editors yanked it out of the sports section and played it up big on Page One of the news section.