Let those followers of big-time collegiate basketball who have been wondering whatever happened to Forddy Anderson wonder no longer. The former coach at Drake and Bradley and winner of a Big Ten championship at Michigan State may here be observed making his way through a field of corn. Forddy is not lost—that field of corn is destined to become part of the 275-acre campus of brand-new Hiram Scott College on the outskirts of Scottsbluff, Neb., a brisk and tidy town of 20,000 in the heart of the North Platte River Valley, hard by the old Oregon Trail, 23 miles from the Wyoming border and 40 minutes by air from Denver.
Somewhere in the cornfield that Forddy Anderson is exploring is Hiram Scott's first permanent unit, a dormitory built around a quadrangle and housing 386 of the college's 525 charter students who were on hand for the opening classes on Oct. 11. Eventually where the tall corn now grows there will be student centers, science and social science centers, an administration building, chapel, auditorium, dining halls and a library. Meanwhile, Hiram Scott (which was still in the talking stage up to a year ago) is holding classes and operating administration offices all along Broadway in downtown Scottsbluff—in office buildings, in once-vacant stores, up over still-vacant stores, in a movie theater and in the National Guard Armory. The basketball and wrestling teams work out in the new field house of the high school in the neighboring town of Gering. Back in Scottsbluff, in a spacious second-floor suite with a big window, a choice location right next to Sears, is the office of the athletic director, head basketball coach and director of student affairs—all of whom happen to be Forrest A. (Forddy) Anderson. The hip, sophisticated, dapper Forddy—lecturer, world traveler, bon vivant—seems completely at home in this environment.
How did Forddy Anderson ever find his way from the great campus of Michigan State, with its 35,000 students, to Hiram Scott, whose entire student body could be squeezed into Athletic Director Biggie Munn's big office back in East Lansing?
"Well, first of all," Forddy was saying over coffee in a Broadway drugstore booth, "One day last April I was called in by Biggie, seated in a chair facing his framed certificates naming him as an All-America, Coach of the Year, member of the Hall of Fame—among others—and informed that there would be some changes made in the basketball situation. In other words, I was canned. Now, frankly, I was surprised. There was good reason for canning me after several bad seasons, but I expected to get the bad news near the end of the season or immediately after our final game. When a month passed, I thought maybe I was to be given another chance, because our recruiting had been going very well.
"I certainly do not have any serious resentment against Biggie personally. I know that he was merely expressing a consensus of opinion among those on high. Michigan State doesn't like losers any more than any other big university. As a matter of fact, as far as Biggie was concerned, he had frequently given me encouragement. I recall that when we won the Big Ten a luncheon was held at the Elks Club in Lansing, and I was presented with a framed citation from the Michigan State Alumni Association. Biggie was sitting next to me, and as I brought the citation back to the table he looked at it and patted me on the back. 'That's a nice little certificate,' he said. 'Of course, the one they gave me would make yours look like a postage stamp. But keep up the good work.' "
Forddy took a sip of coffee and acknowledged greetings from a group of passing students. "As for getting the bad news from Biggie," he went on, "although there were others who agreed with him about my usefulness to Michigan State, I sometimes think that I drove the final nail in my own coffin at a meeting of the entire coaching staff that had been called by Biggie. He had a complaint about coaches who ran around making speeches and going to clinics and accepting honors of one kind or another. His main target was plainly Duffy Daugherty. Duffy finally said, "The speeches I make off season are done on my own time, Biggie. I'm supposed to be off on weekends after football, and I think I have a right to talk where I please.' Biggie didn't agree. Well, now here I was, my job hanging by a thread. But this was a chance I couldn't resist. 'Biggie,' I said, pointing to Duffy, 'this Irishman has done more for Michigan State than any 10 men in its history. I don't think you've got any right to humiliate him before his assistants and the rest of the coaches.'
"Biggie got red in the face, but he ignored my remarks. Later, after the meeting, assistant coaches crowded around, slapping me on the back, complimenting me on my 'guts' for sassing the famous Biggie Munn right out in front of everybody."
Forddy shook his head and smiled. "Later I was reminded of the old story about the cop who had a choice beat in the city and suddenly was banished to the sticks during the dead of winter. He was sent to a district where the streets weren't even paved and there wasn't a house in sight. One day some of his old friends on the force drove out to see him. They found him slapping his arms around his chest and blowing on his freezing fingers. His friends had come to cheer him up. 'Pat,' they said, 'we just wanted you to know that the boys at headquarters are still talking about the way you chewed out the sergeant.' "
For all of that, Forddy Anderson might have stayed on at Michigan State indefinitely because he had tenure as an associate professor. He put in his time, after turning in his whistle, by going on some recruiting trips for the new basketball coach, his friend and onetime assistant John Benington. He was not being presumptuous in expecting that a coaching offer would come along in time (although the 1965-66 jobs were already filled), because his overall record was excellent, he had developed seven All-Americas, written two standard basketball instructional books and conducted hundreds of coaching clinics all over the U.S. and in Japan and the Philippines.
As it happened, the first call came from an old friend of Forddy's Bradley University days, Dr. Anthony Marinaccio, a distinguished educator whose four degrees include an M.A. from Ohio State and a Ph.D. from Yale. Dr. Marinaccio, an eloquent and persuasive speaker before large audiences, across his desk or on the telephone, was brimming over with enthusiasm. He told Forddy all about Hiram Scott, of which he had been named the first president. He said this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be in on the birth and development of a four-year liberal arts college of the kind that was needed in just such areas as western Nebraska. He said that, all around the country, 100,000 qualified students would not be able to get into college this academic year. He promised that Hiram Scott would have 1,000 students next year, 5,000 in five years and a complete campus long before that. He said that Forddy Anderson was just the kind of athletic director and coach he was looking for, and would Forddy just agree to come on out and see what was being accomplished? "Tony," said Anderson, "I'll come out and look around on one condition."