"The guy who was quoted more than anybody else, who I think started it all, was a second-string tackle named Bruce Olecki who didn't win a letter. Ten days before that grievance meeting we had our football banquet. Olecki didn't get a letter and I heard he was fuming about that. We'd given him one the year before, but it was a token thing. He never played much. I doubt if he'll win one this year, either. Another guy who was a spokesman for the group wasn't even on scholarship. Charles Hoffman. He only played in a few games. Some of the guys who were in that group that night hadn't been on the team for a year and a half. They'd quit or they'd been run off.
"Mr. Kehoe didn't stand up for the coaches at all. In all honesty, I don't think Mr. Kehoe knew any better, but he didn't stand up, period. When you listen to these gripes, and give the impression you maybe half-agree with them, you're encouraging it to go on and that's what happened. The whole thing was handled very poorly, very poorly by Mr. Kehoe. If there was a lack of communication anywhere it was between Mr. Kehoe and me. If I had to name two people who were responsible for what happened, they would have to be Bruce Olecki and Mr. Kehoe."
Kehoe—another irony—had been Ward's track coach when he was the star athlete at Maryland in the '50s. He had given Ward a "statement of confidence" when the rumblings started two weeks before the final confrontation. Asked about that afterward, Kehoe said, "I have an open mind."
Kehoe says now that he doesn't think coaches with a "rigid perspective" (like Ward) can operate in today's college environment because the kids are "so much smarter" and "more aware than they were 20 years ago."
Ward says he was made the scapegoat for a bad situation, pure and simple, and he declines to go further in his criticism. "I went to Maryland," he says. "I don't want Maryland's name to be spread around as a lousy place because it isn't. It's my school." For a long while Ward was so disturbed he said he doubted he would ever coach again, but in April he was named an assistant coach of the Ottawa Roughriders of the Canadian League.
"I'm in professional football now," he says. "I don't have to worry anymore about scholarships and keeping kids eligible and all the rest. I think I'm going to like professional football."
One obvious conclusion to be drawn from the Ward case is that the Maryland players did not relate to Ward, that they could not—or would not—accept his old-fashioned, Spartan way. At West Point it is the only way. There are other schools where football coaches have the latitude to operate in that manner—athletic dorms, tough on-field regimens, curfews, closely supervised study habits, etc. Many of them are in the South ( Alabama is the prime example), and the majority of these schools swear by the system because it produces winners. It is reasonable to assume, therefore, that if Ward's record had been better, the grumbles would never have been heard below the seventh floor of Ellicott Hall.
Those close to the Maryland scene say that Ward, fanatically devoted to the job, did go overboard, that the players had legitimate gripes. But Joe Paterno of Penn State, whose coaching methods are markedly different from Ward's, was so alarmed by Ward's dismissal that he sent a letter to the president of the American Football Coaches Association demanding an investigation.
"I don't know who's right or wrong," said Paterno, "but I think it's the proper function of the association to ask Maryland why it let Ward go. I don't think it's a good thing for a squad to fire a coach. As an association, we ought to know what happened. If a university fired an English professor because his class didn't like the way he was doing things, I know darn well that the American Association of University Professors would want to know what happened."
Events that followed indicated Paterno's concern was justified. Almost immediately there was speculation that the Maryland basketball coach was next. "If this isn't the end for Coach Frank Fellows, everybody will be surprised," wrote Bill Brill in the Roanoke Times. One Maryland player talked openly of the need to hire a "big-time coach." ( Lefty Driesell is now the Maryland basketball coach. On July 1, Fellows became administrative assistant to the dean of the College of Physical Education.)