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LOCK THE DOORS! HERE COMES TOMMY!
Melvin Durslag
September 04, 1967
That, in essence, is what his bitterest foes say of UCLA's controversial Tommy Prothro. Here he analyzes such plays as the Z streak and hints at future ones—all tricky but legal
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September 04, 1967

Lock The Doors! Here Comes Tommy!

That, in essence, is what his bitterest foes say of UCLA's controversial Tommy Prothro. Here he analyzes such plays as the Z streak and hints at future ones—all tricky but legal

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While UCLA staggered under the injustice of the vote, Prothro offered no complaints. "Tommy's interests are so diversified," says Vic Kelley, athletic news director of UCLA, "that he is able to lose himself quickly in other activities. He is a tournament bridge player. He plays chess. He goes to the theater, the ballet, even to tennis matches. How many football coaches watch tennis?"

A better spectator than participant, Prothro avoids physical activity. He does not golf, hunt or hike and, with pardonable pride, he points out that he has fished but once since the age of 9. Prothro occupies himself mostly with reading and football. He subscribes to five newspapers and nine magazines, and he usually keeps a novel going on the side. Much of his time is spent in the den, where he plays with mountains of NCAA football statistics. His research with figures has strengthened his confidence in the use of the onside kick. He has found that the average kickoff is returned to the 32-yard line of the receiving team.

"An onside kick that fails," he adds, "is normally recovered by the opposing team on its 45. This means that when the onside kick doesn't work the kicking team is losing but 13 yards. If you can drill your team to where it can recover two of every six onside attempts, you will be well out in front."

Prothro spends roughly five hours a week during the fall rating the top 118 teams that play college football. His method—totally mathematical—involves no personal judgments.

"This is strictly a performance system," he says. "It doesn't take into consideration injuries, wide-scale subbing by either side or the quality of the previous week's opponent. Interjecting opinion, you occasionally can rate clubs more soundly than you can by computation. But over the long haul there is no substitute for mathematics, and I feel my system is the most accurate I've seen."

The top 10 last year, according to Prothro, were, in order: Notre Dame, Alabama, Michigan State, Houston, Wyoming, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia Tech, Arkansas and Purdue. UCLA, with its best season record since 1954, was only 11th in its coach's ratings.

Prothro sometimes disagrees with ratings arrived at by his system. Others do, too. For instance, at a time last year when Nebraska was rated among the first five in both the AP and UPI polls Prothro was asked at a football writers' luncheon how he appraised the club.

"I like the team very much," he answered. "But my system has 'em 49th."

Add Nebraska to the list of those who will be competitive the next time they meet up with Tommy Prothro.

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