"I know two coaches in this district who were undermined by their administrations. One ordered a player to get a shave and a haircut. He was told, 'Don't you dare do that or he'll quit.' The coach backed down. In Cleveland a college player sat down during the playing of the national anthem."
The coach involved in this incident was Ron (Buzz) Ellis of Adelbert College. Ellis suspended the unpatriotic player at halftime, noting that there are "no rules about standing for the national anthem, but no rules about dropping a player who doesn't do it, either." The suspension became a cause c�l�bre. Ellis, supported by his other players but attacked by the school paper and found in error by an investigating committee, has given up coaching.
"It boils down to two things," continues Cratsley. "One, will the coach run it or will the kids? Two, how important are the intangibles—discipline, attitude, sacrifice—rising against the odds?
"Athletics are the last stronghold of discipline on the campus. It may be that they are in a life-or-death struggle of their own. I read somewhere—I clipped it out—that the aim of the New Left is to replace the athlete with the hippie as the idol of kids. I don't know if it can be done, but it seems society is intent on destroying Horatio Alger Jr. The oddball is getting control. The good guy is outnumbered. America seems interested only in glorifying the loser."
Ray Hanlon is another victim of changing times. Until May, he was the track coach at Providence (R.I.) College. He is the intense, unrelenting type many athletes contend has gone out of style. His rules are strict, his discipline swift. He says he wants no "social butterflies" on his squads. His teams have won many championships, but Hanlon is more proud of the runners he has had who go on running for pleasure years after they leave school, particularly the eight who, after arriving at Providence with no particular goal in mind, went on to become doctors or lawyers.
Last December, Hanlon was in a dormitory room shared by four of his athletes for the purpose of removing a refrigerator he frowned upon—when, lo and behold, he discovered a television set. Television sets and studies don't mix, said Hanlon. He said the four track men could just as well watch TV in the lounge downstairs, and he removed the temptation, with the provision that they could reclaim it if they decided they didn't want to be on the track team.
Forced to choose between the TV set and running, the four athletes chose the TV set. Hanlon suspended them. The athletes responded with what Hanlon called "a temper tantrum." He said, "I took their set away, and they jumped up and down. They wanted me to come down to their Howdy Doody mentality, rather than coming up to my level of proficiency."
Other squad members, out of sympathy with the four, began dropping off the team, until by early January there was no track team left. The spring schedule had to be canceled. A Statement of Dissatisfaction was drawn up against Hanlon and signed by all 19 team members. Alarmed, the school president, the Very Rev. William Paul Haas, appointed a five-man advisory committee to study the situation. It recommended that Hanlon be retained, but for some reason the committee was overruled. Hanlon was fired.
With precedents such as these, it is no wonder coaches have been forced to back down, to eat their words. When two black members of the Purdue track team refused to shave their mustaches, Athletic Director Red Mackey suspended them, explaining that " Purdue has had a good-grooming rule for athletes for 20 years." A third Negro, a sympathetic teammate, who had already been suspended for disciplinary reasons, passed a remark that was interpreted as a bomb threat just prior to a team flight. He was arrested. Black students marched on City Hall in Lafayette, Ind. The charges against the bomb talker were dismissed. A few days later the other two athletes were reinstated—their mustaches intact. The Purdue coaches subsequently consulted with their respective teams and new good-grooming standards were drawn up.
In matters of race, there would seem to be no ground firm enough to stand on. At the University of Toledo last winter a black basketball player named Bob Miller, the team's leading scorer, showed up for practice on a Thursday afternoon when he was supposed to be in a political science class. His coach, Bob Nichols, spotted Miller as he came on the floor. Nichols asked Miller if he didn't have a class that day. (Miller had been in academic trouble.) Yes, said Miller. Then you'd better go, said Nichols. No, said Miller and walked off the court. Nichols suspended Miller the following day "for refusal to attend regularly scheduled classes." A blow for education? A coach who cared about a kid's studies? Isn't that the picture? Not at all, said the activists. It was an "infringement on the right" of a student to skip class.