Rock bottom occurred in 1926 when a contest was held to provide the team with a new nickname. Students, faculty and fans competed for a $10 prize, won by a freshman named Margaret Hamlin. Her idea came from a pair of overshoes manufactured by the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company in Akron. The shoes were called "Zippers" and, consequently, so was the team. Today they are still known as the Zips.
When Gordon Larson left an assistant's job at Ohio State to become the Akron coach, Zip fortunes revived. In nine years Larson has never had a loser, and last season Akron went 9-1. The Zips should go undefeated this fall because Larson has 18 starters returning. Best of the lot are senior Halfback Jack Beidleman, who scored 98 points a year ago, and Split End Dan Ruff, who averaged 23 yards a catch.
Despite Larson's success, students at Akron are apathetic toward their football teams. They commute (11,000 by day and another 7,000 by night) to the school's campus in downtown Akron. The Zips' home field, the Rubber Bowl, is located five miles away on the city's outskirts. Even if all Akron's round-the-clock students were willing to make the trip, their attendance would barely dent the 35,000-seat bowl. The Rubber Bowl, however, is usually filled for the season opener, the annual Acme-Zip game, for which thousands of tickets are sold in the city's Acme supermarkets. Zip seats purchased by Akron's housewives right there alongside the TV dinners and detergents! What would Heisman think?
The college is as old-fashioned as the donor of its gym who, legend has it, stipulated that if a dance was ever held on campus the building would be burned to the ground. Just last year when a professor was discharged for using a four-letter word during a lecture the administration faced the first full-scale demonstration in the college's 148-year history. Students protested by cutting chapel. Then there was the censoring of the student newspaper for favorably commenting on Hugh Hefner's Playboy Philosophy. All in all, last year was uncommonly eventful for sleepy William Jewell College, a tiny school (900 students) consisting of seven red-brick. Colonial buildings built by the Baptists in the northwest corner of Liberty, Mo.
Of course, there was the usual stabilizing factor. The Jewell football team won its 11th consecutive Missouri College Athletic Union championship. The Cardinals have become a dynasty partially because they operate from a dusty single-wing-type formation with a few modern gadgets thrown in—a split end, wingback and a flanker. It is an unorthodox formation, so foreign to the opposition, in fact, that a rival coach once requested rescheduling the Jewell game to the final day of the season.
Like St. John's, Jewell has a no-cut policy. "Our philosophy is that football has educational implications just like our other extracurricular activities," says Coach Jim Nelson. "We try to give everyone who wants to a chance to sing in the choir, appear in school plays and play football. We tell our new players, no matter how unpromising, that if they will stick it out and be patient with us eventually they'll get to play in a game."
Jewell has its 12th conference title assured, thanks to the presence of four excellent athletes: Wide Receiver Alvin Lowery, Wingback Tracy Woods, Fullback Bill Cantrell and Quarterback Danny Brown. "Brown is like another coach," says Nelson. "He has initiated several of the wide-pass patterns we have installed in our offense."
Nelson can use the help. In his 20 years at William Jewell he has been a one-man athletic department: director, sports publicist and coach of the tennis, basketball and track teams. Recently he resigned as dean of men. He is an example of the small-college football ideal, the coach as Renaissance man.