It was a show-bizzy week in Ames, the rustic home of Iowa State. The Ali-Frazier fight film was doing a brisk business at the Collegian; Love Story was playing at the Varsity and Ronald McDonald, the eponymous clown who appears in the McDonald hamburger commercials, was signing autographs and giving away balloons at a stand on South Duff Street. They had to call out the police to handle the crowd at that one. By far the biggest attraction, however, was the three-day NCAA swimming and diving championships in Beyer Hall, where SRO audiences showed up to see the nation's finest swimmers—or, more precisely, to see if Indiana University could win its fourth straight title and live up to its advance billing as the Greatest College Team Ever.
Well, to paraphrase Flip Wilson, what the fans came to see is what they got. The Hoosiers turned the meet into a rout as early as the second event, the 200-yard individual medley. Indiana's top hope was Gary Hall, a sophomore who resembles a piece of muscular spaghetti and is the best all-round swimmer in the world. He won in 1:52.2—an NCAA and American record—but, more significantly, Hoosiers also finished third, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth for an unprecedented 53 points in a single event. "Oh my," or words to that effect, said USC Coach Peter Daland, who could see the handwriting on the, uh, scoreboard. "From now on it's for second place."
When the meet finally closed its record-breaking stand, the Hoosiers' domination was complete. They won eight out of 13 individual events; set four American and seven NCAA records; had, in Hall, the only triple winner of the meet and wound up with 351 points to 260 for perennial runner-up USC—a margin that would have been greater had not John Kinsella and Mark Spitz committed a. faux pas at the end of the 800-yard freestyle relay.
As the lead-off swimmers took their marks, everyone knew the relay was between Indiana and USC; the Hoosier team had turned in a 6:48.84 qualifying time to break USC's American and NCAA records. But nobody was taking the Trojans for granted, especially after Jim McConica and Kim Tutt opened up a length lead over Spitz and Gary Conelly. On the third leg Kinsella drew almost even with Tom McBreen. That left it up to the anchor men—Hall and Andy Strenk—and Hall was tired. Earlier that night he had swum the 400 IM in 3:58.25—an American and NCAA record—and Strenk touched him out. But both teams had reason to be proud. The times—6:39.05 for USC and 6:39.57 for Indiana—were more than nine seconds better than the American record.
Then came the announcement: " Indiana has been disqualified." What happened was Kinsella and Spitz jumped in the pool to congratulate Hall before the anchor men from the other four finalists had finished. It was a niggling offense, but the fine was dear: 26 points.
"That was a little too much team spirit," said the Indiana coach, Dr. James E. (Doc) Counsilman. "But all this means is that we're leading by 74 points instead of 100."
"It was dumb," said Kinsella.
Kinsella had earlier won the 500-yard freestyle in a smart 4:27.39 (an NCAA record, natch). "I was a little disappointed, though," he said. "I wanted to go faster." He did, in a sense, in the 1,650-yard free (66 lengths of the pool), which he swam in 15:26.51—almost 10 seconds below his own American record. "At the end my stomach was hurting," he said. "I think I ate too much breakfast. I was burping the whole way."
As for the spirited Spitz, he shook off the effects of a cold to win both butterfly events, and set an NCAA record (49.42) for the 100 in a heat.
The other member of Indiana's Big Four, freshman backstroker Mike Stamm, had a more dispiriting week. He qualified for the 100 with an NCAA record (51.5) but in the final he was upset by one of his own teammates, Santiago Esteva, a member of Spain's Olympic team.