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Jerry Kirshenbaum
April 03, 1972
This was the plan: Southern Cal would ignore Indiana's big three and throw everybody into the pool in a mass race for the team title. But somewhere along the way the strategy sank
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April 03, 1972

Run Fast, Run Deep

This was the plan: Southern Cal would ignore Indiana's big three and throw everybody into the pool in a mass race for the team title. But somewhere along the way the strategy sank

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One nagging worry Counsilman had going into the NCAA meet was Kinsella, who had been struggling ever since a poor showing at the AAU outdoor championships last August. A blocking back on the swim team's strong entry in Indiana's intramural touch football circuit, the beefy Kinsella was once the hardest-working man in the pool. He earned his nickname, "The Machine." "I've been finding it more difficult to work hard every day," he says now. And he was not keen about the added pressure of being entered in the meet's first event, the 500 freestyle. "If John wins the 500, we'll be all right," Gary Hall said. "If he loses, it will affect his confidence—and that could affect the whole team."

Kinsella's plan for the 500 was to go out fast, then hold on against expected strong finishes from Southern Cal's Jim McConica and Tom McBreen, the latter a sophomore with eyesight so bad—he is 20-300 in his good eye—he has to grope for his glasses at the end of each race before he can locate his towel. So much for plans. Kinsella plunged in and he was still pulling away from his USC rivals when the race mercifully ended. His time was a new American record of 4:24.50. USC's 2-4-6 finish of McConica, McBreen and Bengt Gingsjo, a freshman from Sweden, enabled the Trojans to outscore Indiana in the event but Kinsella was understandably elated. "I think everybody now realizes there's going to be good times turned in at this meet," he said. "At least on our side."

By the end of the first day—which also included an American record of 1:51.51 by Hall in the 200 IM—Indiana had a 116-99 lead. The next night the score was 263-227. But then came the payoff of the saturation strategy. On Saturday the Trojans placed three men in the top six in both the 1,650 and 100 freestyle, and suddenly, tantalizingly, they found themselves in the lead 303-287. True, Indiana's strongest events were coming up, but Counsilman might well have wondered at that moment how he had let fellows like Stanford's Brian Job and SMU's Jerry Heidenreich slip through his recruiting dragnet. Job, a junior, set two American breaststroke records, including a 56.83 in a qualifying heat of the 100, an event he then lost to the previous record-holder, UCLA's Tom Bruce. Heidenreich, a senior winning his first NCAA title, did it with a 200 freestyle record of 1:38.36.

Another in this parade of record-breakers was Princeton's Chuck Campbell, a junior who took the 200 backstroke in 1:50.56, outdueling three Indiana rivals including Hall, owner of the old record. A Los Angeles native whose heart is free of any fondness for Indiana—"the press calls them the greatest in the world, and they admit it," he says—Campbell revealed afterward that a Southern Cal jersey was among his prized possessions. "My USC friends gave it to me," he said. "In exchange I promised to beat Indiana." Having kept his word, he made for the Southern Cal cheering section to lend further comfort to Indiana's enemy.

But it was all in a lost cause.

The 100 butterfly won by Spitz on the final night touched off some controversy but, unlike the old days, he was not involved in it. His victory, along with third-and fourth-place finishes by teammates Larry Barbiere and Pat O'Connor, gave the Hoosiers a whopping 39 points to wash out the lead that Southern Cal had enjoyed so briefly. The triumph was marred, however, when two swimmers from Tennessee, a school that likes to celebrate its emergence as an aquatic power by wearing coonskin caps and orange warmup suits, dawdled along behind the Indiana leaders, obviously not trying. The crowd, its sympathies largely with underdog Southern Cal, booed noisily.

The Tennessee swimmers, sprint stars Dave Edgar and John Trembley, actually were conserving their energy for the 400 freestyle relay, the last event of the meet. Edgar, whose earlier victories in the 50 and 100 freestyle made him the only non-Indiana man to take two events, seemed embarrassed when he climbed from the pool following the butterfly. His coach, Ray Bussard, pointed to the tight race for third place in team standings as the reason he had ordered Edgar and Trembley to take it easy in the race. "The only way we can finish third is by winning that relay," Bussard said. "Sometimes you have to sacrifice individuals for the team."

The move paid off as Tennessee won the relay in a record 3:01.12, enabling Bussard's team to finish third overall, two points ahead of UCLA. As for any lift Indiana might have received in the butterfly, Southern Cal's Daland was slow to rile up. "I'd say the Tennessee coach made the right decision under the circumstances," Daland said. One probable reason for Daland's restraint was that even if the Tennessee swimmers had gone all out in the butterfly, the Indiana contingent still would have amassed enough points to virtually wrap up the team title.

After Indiana's butterfly success the Hoosiers added a few more points in three-meter diving. USC had not brought along any divers at all, having elected to fill every available spot on the team with swimmers.

At the end the only way Southern Cal could still win the championship was if Indiana failed to score in the 400 freestyle relay—and the only way Indiana could fail to score at least a few points was if it were disqualified. Spitz, whose position of leadership also is reflected in his being the only Indiana swimmer with a heated water bed, sternly warned the other three members of the relay team against hitting the water prematurely. "It doesn't matter if we finish last," he said. "Just make sure we don't get disqualified."

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