Racetracks have long prided themselves on their security measures, but pride goeth before a fall, usually because it covers up inadequacies. Dick Beddoes, a columnist for The Toronto Globe and Mail, says he and a friend were waved casually into a track in the summer of 1968 (the year of the Dancer's Image Kentucky Derby scandal), even though they had adopted broad Southern accents and had loudly identified themselves as two men then persona non grata at tracks in the U.S. and Canada. Last week Beddoes asked a horseman if security people around the tracks were competent. The angry horseman replied, "They're so bad they couldn't find the trail of an elephant with a bloody foot in four feet of snow."
At the Sugar Bowl tournament last winter, Johnny Dee, the basketball coach at Notre Dame, had some fun with hyperorganized football coaches by introducing some of the boosters who had accompanied his team to New Orleans as "my free-throw coach," "my center-jump coach," and so on. Rudy Feldman, head football coach at the University of New Mexico, wouldn't have batted an eye. Feldman has a movie-scout coach. No, not somebody who scouts the opposition via film. This is a coach who picks out a movie for the players to watch. Feldman likes to take his team to a film the night before a game, partly to keep an eye on his players, partly to keep them in a proper frame of mind. He therefore sends Reed Johnson, an assistant coach, on a scouting mission ahead of time to select the proper film. Johnson's job is not easy because Feldman does not want a movie with a great deal of sex in it; he feels sex is not conducive to the proper frame of mind for playing football the next day. Violence, on the other hand, is just fine.
Don't laugh at New Mexico's Coach Feldman. Paul Brown, one of the most successful of all football teachers, has somewhat similar views. Whenever he has taken one of his pro teams (the Cleveland Browns in years past, the Cincinnati Bengals today) to the Pacific Coast, he has tried to delay departure until the last possible moment. He flies his troops West the afternoon before a game, has dinner with them at the hotel, then takes them to a movie. Attendance at the movie is mandatory. Brown then tucks them into bed, wakes them in time for the kickoff and afterward beats a hasty retreat to Middle America.
"All football players are young and healthy," he says. "You get them out there early and it just gives them time to wear themselves out. There are women out there who are devastating, really just devastating. A trip to the Coast can do funny things. We like to get our guys out there late, then home again as soon as possible to see their families."
The University of South Carolina has taken an adamant position in its attempt to force the Atlantic Coast Conference to lower its academic requirements for incoming athletes (SCORECARD, Sept. 7). Rather than wait for a decision to come out of the league's winter meeting next month, the school's trustees have authorized its athletic department to begin recruiting under the NCAA's 1.6 grade rule. If the ACC stands by its minimum College Board score requirement (a total of at least 800 in verbal and math aptitudes), South Carolina, a charter member of the 17-year-old conference, will become an independent by default.
There is no intention to pick on racing this week, but here is something that seems eminently worthy of note. It has been traditional, for as long as anyone cares to remember, for Churchill Downs to announce each year that the crowd at the Kentucky Derby was "in excess of 100,000." Precise figures were never available. However, it develops that accurate attendance figures have had to be filed with the Kentucky Department of Revenue for admission-tax purposes. A little digging has uncovered the interesting intelligence that, even including the 4,000 or so complimentary passes that are issued to horsemen, the press and so on, total attendance at the Derby has been in excess of 100,000 only twice, this year and last year. Indeed, although growing year by year, it did not get as high as 80,000 until 1963. Here are figures for the last decade:
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
The abrupt falloff in 1967 was the result of bad weather and a threatened demonstration. The big jump in 1969? That was the year everyone came to watch President Nixon watch Majestic Prince against Arts and Letters.