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A MAN AFTER HIS OWN HEART
Gerald Holland
November 19, 1962
That's one opinion of Biggie Munn, athletic director of Michigan State, shown here (far left) as he addresses a football dinner. In the foreground, looking slightly askance, is his onetime protege, Coach Duffy Daugherty. A contrary opinion of Biggie is that, under his own rules for greatness, he just happened to fill the bill
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November 19, 1962

A Man After His Own Heart

That's one opinion of Biggie Munn, athletic director of Michigan State, shown here (far left) as he addresses a football dinner. In the foreground, looking slightly askance, is his onetime protege, Coach Duffy Daugherty. A contrary opinion of Biggie is that, under his own rules for greatness, he just happened to fill the bill

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There was hell to pay. Biggie's loyal friends rallied around and assured him of their support. Duffy's friends were out in force, too, and many influential ones demanded that he make this incident the final showdown. They pleaded with him to go to President Hannah and say, "All right. This is it. Who do you want—Biggie or me?"

But Duffy said nothing at all. He was summoned, along with Biggie, to President Hannah's office. What was said within that sanctum only the three men know. Duffy and Biggie emerged from the judgment chamber arm in arm. They haven't been arm in arm since, but the situation is stabilized. In public, strangers would take Biggie and Duffy for reasonably good friends. They attend all affairs involving the football team—luncheons, dinners, buffet suppers. But Biggie does not go to parties at Duffy's home and Duffy does not frequent the basement bar in Biggie's new five-bedroom house. "They've learned to live with the situation," a friend of both has said. But in the saloons of downtown Lansing, the betting is that Duffy would think long and hard about an offer from Notre Dame and that Biggie would put his handsome new house on the market tomorrow if the expected offer from Minnesota should come tonight. And perhaps President Hannah would be on the phone trying to find out if Ringling Brothers' gorillas had an open date on next year's schedule.

The pilgrim, returning to Biggie's office, sat down and opened one of the pamphlets Biggie had given him. It was entitled: "Have good courage." The text began:

"After serving as a football coach for 22 years, Director of Athletics, Health, Physical Education and Recreation for seven [now eight] years here at Michigan State, I have arrived at the conclusion that if a coach sets out to build men as his number one project, he will win games. I have seen evidence throughout the sports world where I am sure Christianity was the difference between winning and losing. For example, at Michigan State for the last 15 years and long before that at other schools, our teams would say a prayer before the game. There was only one rule, and that was that they couldn't pray for victory; they had to go out and earn it. It was a great sight to see these young men kneel down along with their coach and say a silent prayer in their own way.

"In 1951 we played Ohio State at Columbus and won the game 24 to 20 in the last few seconds. As I was walking across the field, a very fine young man, who was our linebacker, by the name of Bill Hughes, walked up to me and said, 'If it was good to say a prayer before the game, why don't we say one after?' So from that time on a prayer was said, whether the team won or lost...."

It was a typical Biggie Munn pronouncement, after the fashion of such other great leaders and persuaders as Frank Leahy, Branch Rickey, Billy Graham and Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. Biggie's friends love his little sermons.

The Pete Waldmeir telephone interview was drawing to a close. Biggie was saying that present-day head coaches have too many assistants ( Duffy Daugherty has seven) and are in grave danger of turning into directors of coaches rather than players. He denounced the modern football helmet as being top-heavy and resembling a birdcage. He said he never wore a face guard on his helmet, nor did any of his players. ("Some people who didn't wear face guards," Duffy Daugherty said one time, "haven't got teeth.") Biggie held the phone away from his ear for a moment and grinned at the next question. "Duffy?" he said. "Oh, a lot of things that have been said about us have been exaggerated. Things are going very well between Duffy and me. I think that—well, suppose we just change the subject."

The interview over. Biggie swung around in his chair and looked out over the thickly wooded campus, brilliant with red and gold leaves fluttering down in the bright sunshine. He got up and walked away from his desk, scanning the pictures and plaques on the crowded walls.

"As I told you at the beginning," he said, "leave me out of all this. Put the emphasis on the intramural aspects of our athletic picture." He stopped and looked up at four certificates framed side by side. "But here's something I might mention just in passing. These four citations here. All-America guard at Minnesota 1931. Unanimous choice. Christy Walsh's 25-year All-America covering the years 1924 to 1948. Coach of the Year 1952. National Football Hall of Fame 1959." Biggie took a deep breath. "Now, the point is," he said, making an apologetic gesture with one hand, "the point is that no other man—living or dead—has all these citations."

The pilgrim rummaged through a lapful of material he had accumulated. He found his Michigan State Football Facts Book and flipped through the pages to Biggie's biography. "Plus," he said, looking from the Facts Book to Dorothy to Biggie, "all sorts of other honors. Captain of Minnesota 1931. Unanimous choice for all-Big Ten. Winner of the Chicago Tribune's award as the Big Ten's Most Valuable Player. Elected to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S first Silver Anniversary All-America in 1956."

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