"You shouldn't make an exception even for someone as special as Skinner," Battle said recently. "That's what kids are in rebellion against today—inconsistency by established authority."
What's left of the track team, with Rohe gone and Skinner ineligible, has bowed to the inevitable. "I expect we would have voted that Skinner should compete," says Captain Tom Carmichael. "But when Rohe left, Woodruff took over and the vote idea was dropped. We would probably have been overruled by the athletic department in any case. You get the feeling around here that trackmen are second-class athletes. But the football team is what brings in the money, and I guess we have to be realistic. Without a successful football program we wouldn't even have a track team."
Stan Huntsman, a quiet, thorough man who had been coaching track at Ohio University, was rushed in last February to replace Rohe. Recently he sat in the athletic-department lounge at Tennessee and tried to explain what it is like to be the new man in the middle. "We had similar rules regarding appearance at Ohio," he said, then paused for a moment to look at the floor and shake his head. "Well, no. That wouldn't be a completely fair thing to say about my old school. Actually, we had no rules at Ohio regarding appearance. I haven't really been able to think this thing out. But I'm compatible with the University of Tennessee rules."
This compatibility extends to the highest administrative levels. Dr. Earl Ramer, the faculty chairman of athletics and the current NCAA president, told Skinner that while he saw no reason why anyone couldn't wear a mustache he didn't want to interfere with department rules. Noninterference is also the policy being followed by Dr. Charles Weaver, the university's high-spirited and witty chancellor. Not long ago Dr. Weaver seemed positively eager to elucidate his position.
"As an administrator I reject the conventional university pecking orders of Department A looking down their noses at Department B," he commenced, smiling and gesturing and leaning forward over his desk. "I also reject the stigma that might be attached to an athletic program. I think the athletic department does teach. I think that character building does go on. Athletics are a vital part of the university and coaches are part of the teaching faculty.
"After Kent State I made six assumptions about running a university and one of them was that the professor was king of the classroom," Weaver continued, drawing a 3" by 5" file card out of a jacket pocket and holding it in front of him. "I also made a list of things that teachers do to students in their classes. Some count off on grades for late work. Some make students write their reports on special paper. As a student I once had a professor who actually insisted that we write our reports in India ink. Another of my professors locked the door before a lecture. Those of us inside used to hear students actually beating on the door trying to get in. One professor who was fussing at me about Bill Skinner confessed that he finally had to throw a student out of one of his classes for sitting in the front row and loudly popping his bubble gum. A lot of what a teacher does with a class ties in with discipline, the need to run an orderly classroom. As far as mustaches and long hair are concerned, I personally couldn't care less. I think mustaches are attractive. My own children wear long hair. I have a motto that I recite to the balding alumni who visit the campus and complain about the long hair they see: 'If you've got it, flaunt it." The point is that in all these cases the administration has only one choice and that is to back the professor. If I was walking down a corridor, looked through an open door and saw students in a classroom down on their hands and knees pushing peanuts around the floor with their noses I would not automatically assume that this was a bad thing."
Skinner is quite naturally disappointed that he has received no administrative backing, but this week he graduates with honors, a 3.0 grade average in industrial education and a citation from a national honor society, and he has every reason to feel confident about his future once he shakes the dust of Big Orange Country off his feet. He has a steady girl friend, a tall, attractive blonde of 26 named Nelda Dunn, who earns almost as much in her job as a quality-fashion buyer for a chain of Tennessee department stores as Skinner once made as a welder. After a slow start this spring, Skinner is throwing well and he is growing optimistic about surpassing the world record of 304'1�" held by Finland's Jorma Kinnunen.
No radical changes are expected to take place at Tennessee after Skinner leaves, but perhaps there will be a few minor adjustments.
One might be to acknowledge that it is sophistic to make a comparison between asking students to push peanuts around the floor with their noses and demanding that they be clean-shaven. Few would deny that the former, whatever its educational value, is a wholly parietal activity; many would question whether the latter isn't a curtailment of personal liberty.