REDSHIRTING. The Big Ten and Ivy League prohibit the practice, and it is to their disadvantage. Others allow an athlete to complete his eligibility over a five-year period, because nowadays it usually takes the student-athlete five years to wend his way through undergraduate school. Some coaches take better advantage of redshirts than others ( Alabama averages about 10 a year; Texas had nine seniors age 22 or 23 when it played—and routed—Indiana). It is more likely, however, that if a boy is good enough he will play the first three years of his varsity eligibility. The exception is the talented one who suffers an injury, and the Big Ten makes allowances for him. Michigan's Vidmer and his favorite target, Split End Jack Clancy, were both redshirted due to injuries. The secret is getting more than just a shirt out of a redshirt. North Carolina State, for instance, had 19 boys who were 21 or over for its game with Michigan State, and should have had an advantage over the comparative babies from Sparta. It lost, however, 28-10.
Scholastic requirements are close to being just and equal across the country. There are some exceptions that might pinch the Big Ten—their requirements are slightly tougher, say, than the Big Eight's, and Big Eight teams have been particularly tough on the Big Ten lately. But, as is true in all conferences that take their athletics seriously, the Big Ten will get that borderline case into school if he can borderline it from goal line to goal line in 9.6 seconds. The Big Ten's 1.7 scholastic-average requirement is negligibly higher than the 1.6 prescribed by the NCAA. But the Big Ten's 40-man limit for traveling squads (other teams begin at 44 and go as high as 55) is, although a minor handicap, absurd. Football money in the Big Ten is big money. If university officials and freeloaders want to go on football trips so badly that they limit player space, they ought to charter another plane.
It is probable that the Great Leveling Off long ago affected the high schools across the country and that that is now playing a part in the Big Ten's decline. Certainly the days are gone when a Bernie Bierman could recruit entire teams of big, tough, immobile players from within the state of Minnesota and win three national championships. High school talent in most of the Big Ten area (save Chicago and Ohio) is behind that of other areas today, mainly because of spring-practice restrictions.
So far, most of the Big Ten coaches have found the 1966 season a painful and unrewarding experience; two weeks ago Washington Halfback Don Moore gained more yards rushing (211) against Ohio State than the combined total of 190 yards gained by four Big Ten losers—Indiana (87), Ohio State (40), Northwestern (40) and Minnesota (23).
In an effort to cope Big Ten recruiters are ranging far afield, and there is no better ranger than Duffy Daugherty. On the starting Michigan State defensive team, which has intimidated quarterbacks and stifled running backs and reduced cavities four ways, there are only two players from Michigan. Bubba Smith, who tools around East Lansing in a 1966 air-conditioned Buick Electra with BUBBA on the side, just in case he might be mistaken for some other 6-foot 7, 278-pounder, came all the way from Beaumont, Texas to do his intimidatin'. Another All-America candidate, Rover Back George Webster, is from Anderson, S.C. End Gene Washington, who caught his third touchdown pass of the year to put the Michigan game out of reach, is from LaPorte, Texas; Fullback Bob Apisa, who ran for 140 yards Saturday and was the day's best back, is from Honolulu; Quarterback Jimmy Raye is from Fayetteville, N.C.
Smith, Webster, Raye and Washington are all southern Negroes who at a later date might have wound up on integrated teams at Duke or Kentucky or South Carolina or SMU. Thus will come another phase in the Great Leveling Off that will ultimately affect the Big Ten. Equality is here, and the proud old Big Ten must live with it. If Duffy Daugherty and Bubba Smith will just cooperate.