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Joe Jares
February 16, 1970
The league of privileged scholars has two nationally ranked teams now and its best crop of freshmen ever
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February 16, 1970

Rise Of The Bossy Ivies

The league of privileged scholars has two nationally ranked teams now and its best crop of freshmen ever

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A certain school, not noted for its academic excellence, met the basketball champions of the Ivy League in the NCAA regionals more than a decade ago. The school's coach gathered his squad around him just before the tip-off and gestured toward the Ivies. "Look at those unmentionables over there," he said. "I want you to go out and beat the living stuffing out of them because in five years you'll be working for them!"

The economic relationship has not changed much (a recent study shows that the average Ivy League graduate earns $100,000 more in his lifetime than the average non-Ivy graduate), but the frustrating thing for all the Brand X schools these days is that the Ivy intellectuals are beginning to make a habit of drubbing their future employees. The worst offenders so far this year are at Penn, where graduates of the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce can look forward to an average starting salary of $270 a week. The Quaker basketball team is 11-1 against all outsiders and still unbeaten after eight Ivy League games.

Penn is a well-balanced team that plays good stingy defense despite having no senior in the starting five. Its only loss was to Purdue—by three points—in New York's Holiday Festival in a Christmas vacation period that saw Dartmouth beat the host team and finish second in the Vanderbilt Classic, Yale win the Rainbow Classic, Cornell beat BYU and Villanova in the Quaker City Tournament and Columbia smash Wake Forest and Villanova en route to second place in the same tournament.

The Ivy League does other things that are strictly against the code. Heyward Dotson, a high-scoring Columbia guard, actually skipped one of the Lions' games to be interviewed for a Rhodes scholarship. His coach, Jack Rohan, and his teammates gave him their blessings, then won without him as Forward Jim McMillian scored 44 points. Dotson, following in the sneakerprints of Princeton's Bill Bradley, won the scholarship. Rohan, an associate professor who feels his teaching assignments hamper his recruiting, was pleased but not surprised. Three seniors from last year's 20-4 team, including one who was first in his class in the engineering school, were accepted by Columbia's choosy School of Law.

But by and large, ol' Penn is the liveliest place in the league right now and—particularly on the nights when the Main Line alumni, future bankers and brokers from the Wharton School and lots of plain, unaccredited people crowd into the Palestra to watch the basketball team—the jumpingest spot in Philadelphia. It is extra fun at Penn because the Quakers are in two leagues, the Ivy and Philadelphia's Big Five city league, which includes those four perennial seekers after national fortune, Temple, St. Joseph's, Villanova and La Salle, all of which Penn has already beaten.

Coach Dick Harter, in his fourth year as headman, has put together a cohesive yet diverse team. Sophomore Bob Morse, 6'8", is a Quaker who is a Quaker and he is not only the best shot on the team but the best student. Center Jim Wolf, 6'8", who picked Penn from among 134 schools that wanted him, is a defensive ace who cares not at all about points. Guard Dave Wohl was an all-state quarterback at East Brunswick, N.J. but has given up football. Sophomore Corky Calhoun from Waukegan, Ill. grew two inches over the summer to 6'7", and Harter swears he will play backcourt in the pros. He guards the toughest opposing forward.

Last of the starters is Guard Steve Bilsky. He is small—5'10"—and he does not get a penny out of the school. His father is a New York attorney and able to pay the more than $4,000 a year it costs to put a student through Penn, and in the Ivy League if you can pay you do, even if you are Lew Alcindor. Bilsky seems tiny on the court, but Harter starts him anyway because of his shooting and his knack of drawing fouls.

Behind these five there are several seniors with lots of experience and the two top substitutes, sophomore swing-man Al Cotler and junior Forward John Koller. It is a team with spirit and plenty of what it takes to be ranked among the country's strongest college teams—but the whole thing was almost blown by something that could happen only in the Ivy League.

After Yale became embroiled with the NCAA over the participation of Jack Langer in the Maccabiah Games in Israel last summer Bilsky and Cotler, who had turned down invitations, said that with the Ivy title at stake and the risk of jeopardizing other Penn athletes with chances at NCAA titles, they had "no decision at all."

Yes, there was, said John Koller, who decided to quit the team before he was persuaded at a special team meeting that it would not be a blot on his conscience forever if he failed to react. Still, Koller was some time simmering down. "It was such a blatant denial of the personal rights of Steve and Al," he said, "that I thought it presented an opportunity for the university and the league to stand up for the principles they had established for themselves."

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