Player (confident): 'At's awright, Coacher, Joe Bob'll stick him.
Finally, when you get all of these talented athletes together, the ones who can truly gore and sting and press the button (throw a touchdown pass), then you have a crucial, guts-up game, or what used to be referred to as a sheepshearing but is now something more ferocious: a formal dance.
This season all of the athletes who like to specialize in these character-building pursuits will get to do exactly that. Free substitution has been creeping up for five years—remember the "wild card"?—while the coaches tried to reconcile being in both the entertainment and educational business. The rulesmakers have at last settled on the tiniest compromise possible—and what in essence is two-platoon football. Two players will be permitted to enter the game at any time. Complete units, however, may go in only after the ball has changed hands, generally after a punt. The offensive team will have to know how to tackle and the defensive team will have to know how to block on this one play or there will be a lot of funny punt returns.
While college spectators after 13 pleasant years must again endure seeing 44 players on the field at once when the platoons switch, the new rule will accomplish one wonderful thing. It will abolish last season's idiotic loophole that encouraged coaches to delay the game for 30 seconds and take a penalty in order to get their kicking teams in.
Perhaps the easiest thing of all for the trend-conscious follower this year will be knowing which are the superb teams (see box). All he has had to do lately is memorize Texas, Alabama, Nebraska, USC and Arkansas. These are the teams that stay at the top. Each seems to benefit from spectacular coaching. Over the last three years, for instance, Texas' Darrell Royal (30-2-1), Alabama's Bear Bryant (29-4), Nebraska's Bob Devaney (28-5), USC's John McKay (25-6) and Arkansas' Frank Broyles (25-7) have had the finest records in the land.
Broyles, Royal, McKay and Bryant, in that order, have coached the last four (and only) unbeaten, untied teams in the nation, and Devaney has come dangerously close twice. Every decade manages to produce one coach who somehow rises above the rest. The 1920s had Knute Rockne, the 1930s belonged to Minnesota's Bernie Bierman, the 1940s to Notre Dame's Frank Leahy and the 1950s to Oklahoma's Bud Wilkinson. The man of the 1960s undoubtedly—barring World War III—will be Royal, Bryant, Devaney, McKay or Broyles. Or he may be Ara Parseghian, now that he has Notre Dame to coach.
It does not seem possible for any of these ever to run out of good athletes. Texas annually turns out a stockpile of recruits, enough to keep seven Southwest Conference teams happy and competitive, and Royal takes his choice. Bryant and Broyles have entire states going for them. The southern California area has always been a wonderland of athletes, and McKay's personality lures most of the best to USC. And Notre Dame is still Notre Dame. But Devaney, in rebuilding Nebraska, has profited from an entirely different set of circumstances. Quite apart from the coach's wisdom and talent that will help make Nebraska the best of all in 1965 is the fact that he has benefited from rules weakening the nearby Big Ten. Consider:
Nebraska had a ponderous 109 athletes out for spring training, 68 of whom were from out of state (from 19 different states, in fact) and 43 of those came from Big Ten recruiting areas! Should Nebraska put its best 11 players on the field at any one time this season, no fewer than nine of them would be from Big Ten sectors—three from Ohio, two from Illinois, two from Michigan and one each from Minnesota and Wisconsin. While Devaney is a persuasive recruiter, it cannot be denied that the Big Ten's limit on scholarships (70 per year for all sports) and its rule against red-shirting have helped truck plenty of top performers to nearby Nebraska.
Having the players is one thing, but getting the most out of them is something else, and Bob Devaney does that, too. He has turned Freeman White and Tony Jeter into perhaps the best pair of college ends in the country. Walt Barnes, the center and middle guard, is considered by no less than three pro scouts to be the nation's best player. Bob Churchich and Fred Duda combine to give Nebraska the most reliable quarterbacking depth in college football this year, and Halfback Harry Wilson could well be the finest breakaway runner. And a quick glance at the schedule insists that the Cornhuskers can lose only once (to Missouri) if at all.
Winning a national championship of some kind these days is not really as hard as it may seem. After all, there are a lot of them to go around. Last year, for example, there were three champions. Alabama was voted the best by the Associated Press and United Press International, Arkansas was awarded the Grant-land Rice Trophy from the Football Writers Association of America and the No. 1 prize from the Helms Athletic Foundation. Even Ara Parseghian's exciting Notre Dame team was not left out. After it blew all the top ratings in the final game against USC, the National Football Foundation and the Howard Jones Memorial Award Foundation managed to cough up trophies.