Virginia tech is a team the Southern Conference no longer has to worry about. Coach Jerry Claiborne's school pulled out of the league, going independent and laying plans to increase its stadium capacity to 35,000. Claiborne is one of the best of the young coaches tutored by Bear Bryant. His name keeps popping up when jobs at better-known schools become available, and once he nearly left but stayed on after discussing the move with Bryant, who reportedly told him, "As much as I've moved, I never left any place where I hadn't finished the job I started out to do."
Claiborne's job seems to be starting over now that Quarterback Bob Schweickert is gone. Sixteen other lettermen have also left, depriving Tech of much offensive punch. Bobby Owens and Tommy Stafford, who sat around last year, are the two who must take up where Schweickert left off. Good running should come from Tommy Francisco and Sal Garcia. But there are just six lettermen seniors on the whole squad, and Virginia Tech will be a while climbing back to where it was.
Memphis state was brought rudely to earth last year after Coach Billy Murphy's unbeaten season in 1963. Still the result of that fine year when Memphis State tied Ole Miss is a new stadium seating 50,160. Opening this year, it is supposed to lure big-name teams into Memphis (State this year has players from 16 different states), and most likely will if Murphy can get back to winning. To do so this time, he will depend heavily on Quarterback Billy Fletcher, a 5-foot-9 senior with speed and know-how, and sound running is expected from the likes of Dave Brown and sophomores Tom Wallace and Dale Brady. If Fletcher can throw better than he has shown in the past, the fans may consider the investment in the new stadium well justified.
Another school striving to make the big time as an independent is SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI and, if experience counts, 1965 could be the year the school gets closer to the top. Coach Pie Vann, with 23 lettermen, has room for only two sophomores among his top 22 players. Vic Purvis is a quarterback who vows to throw more. At least one of his receivers sounds like he might have speed—Rabbit Brown.
Not so well off is CHATTANOOGA, but Coach Scrappy Moore's team has fewer pretensions to grandeur. There are always a few good football players in residence, but never enough of them. Best this time should be Fullback Tom Schaefer and Quarterbacks Don Shaver and Larry Elmore, younger brother of Doug, who once quarter-backed Ole Miss.
Things couldn't have gone much worse for LOUISVILLE last year. The Cardinals lost nine of 10 games, were last in the Missouri Valley Conference, were shut out three times and finished the season with 70 points to the 217 scored by the opposition. It will be difficult to initiate immediate improvements, because the player the Cardinals depended upon most, Quarterback Tom LaFramboise, is around no more. But Coach Frank Camp is hoping that Benny Russell will perform adequately in place of LaFramboise and that 10 good sophomores can begin to smooth over a portion of the weaknesses in both platoons. To be sure, this will all take time—probably all of 1965.