Blackman has turned down offers from several big-time football schools. He will not say he will never leave Hanover, but at present he gives an appearance of permanence. He has a two-year contract (at $14,000, originally) renewable every year. He has settled his family into a $40,000 California ranch-style house, specially built and overlooking the third hole at the Hanover Country Club. When summer comes, he plays the course. He also plays squash with the college vice-president. He is, by the best organizational standards, In.
Some Ivy League coaches, however, are not won by his ingenuous smile. They are reluctant to discuss him. They object privately to his seemingly ungracious attitude toward losers. A Columbia man recently said, "Blackman is not likely to say anything—anything—nice about anyone else's team." Others say he poormouths before the season and moans about his injuries, most of which are miraculously healed by game time. A number of his critics thought it ludicrous when Blackman said after this year's Brown game: "I was as worked up about Brown as I would have been if we were playing Ohio State." Dartmouth won, 41-0.
Explaining every mistake
Some of the criticism is perhaps valid; some is sour grapes. Ivy League coaches generally don't fraternize enough to know each other's moods. Blackman is, in fact, an inveterate perfectionist who feels impelled to explain every mistake. He is unaware of the criticism. John McLaughry of Brown says he likes Blackman and says everybody respects him, "and if they don't they're crazy."
Blackman is a remarkably complete coach whose teams are as imaginative and daring and sound defensively as they are offensively. (Cornell's Tom Harp says Dartmouth is more difficult to prepare for than anybody, Navy included.) He gears to do complex things in a simple manner; his offense will run the same plays from a variety of formations, including his own creation, the V, in which the fullback lines up on the quarterback's heel, between the guard and tackle, to act as a blocking back in the fashion of the single wing. It is a power formation, especially effective for short yardage.
Blackman makes quick, subtle changes on defense to confuse the eye. "What looks like a standard 5-3 may in reality be something else," he says.
Long proud of their defense, which shut out five teams this fall, the Indians brooded over Cornell's scoring 21 points the week before the Princeton game. Dartmouth won, 28-21. Where the defense failed, the offense was superb, as it was against Princeton. The Indians do not fluster on the attack; they have a coolness of execution and an almost professional surety of accomplishment.
Blackman had his first real success with the three-platoon system this year (this was his biggest, deepest squad), but in serious scrapes—as against Cornell and Princeton—the system gave way to some rather frantic scrambling. It was at these times that King and Linebacker McKinnon and Halfback Tom Spangenberg were sacred members. Quarterback King, from Richmond, Va. is a special delight to the purists because he gets no scholarship help; his father, a Dartmouth grad, is president of the Virginia Bar Association. More important to Dartmouth football, King is the best quarterback in the league, better than Gary Wood of Cornell, better than Archie Roberts of Columbia. He may be the best in the East and possibly as good as the Bakers and Miras and Myers of the nation. He set six Ivy records. He captained the Indians, he ran, he passed, he blocked, he kicked, he made speeches at banquets in compelling Southernese ("Lord sakes, we bettah win Sattaday") and charmed his elders with his courtliness.
King uses himself freely, especially near the goal (13 touchdowns this season) and is positively audacious on third and fourth downs. He had uncanny success against Princeton: a 24-yard pass on fourth down to set up one touchdown, a 19-yard third-down pass to keep a touchdown drive going, a 23-yard third-down pass to set up a touchdown in the third quarter. But the most audacious was in the fourth quarter, third and nine on the Dartmouth 13 and an aroused Princeton trailing, 27-31. Blackman called for a quick kick into the wind. Spangenberg, a junior, suggested in the huddle that the wind might hurt him, "Why not run?" At the line of scrimmage King checked off the quick kick, called a pitchout and Spangenberg ran 29 yards to the Dartmouth 42. Minutes later he scored the clinching touchdown.
Ernie Roberts, the Dartmouth publicity man, has been charged with dressing five men at a time in McKinnon's No. 51 jersey, the logic being that no one man could cover so much ground. Black-man unashamedly plumps McKinnon for All-America. He stops films at quarterback luncheons to point at McKinnon's image: "Now," he says, "watch him on this play," and, sure enough, No. 51 performs the predicted atrocity.