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Gwilym S. Brown
October 23, 1972
Some think Jack Scott looks like the comedian, others say he acts like one. And Scott? Hired as Oberlin College's new athletic director, he agrees he is way out—but not dangerous
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October 23, 1972

Jeepers! Peepers Is In Charge Now

Some think Jack Scott looks like the comedian, others say he acts like one. And Scott? Hired as Oberlin College's new athletic director, he agrees he is way out—but not dangerous

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?The system is elitist. Mass participation ends by early adulthood, and those who are excluded become spectators. We are a nation of "peeping jocks."

?The structure of most organized sport is conservative and self-perpetuating. It is drifting farther and farther from the mainstream of American life.

Scott's solution to the evils he claims to see is not as radical as his detractors imply. He still believes in winning. "No one is going to practice or train three or four hours every day and not want to win," he says. "But a greater cross section of young people ought to be encouraged to participate. More attention should be paid to women's sports. At California only a few dollars of the annual athletic budget of almost $2 million is spent on women. Finally, coaches have to stop being cops and start teaching. They should serve the athlete, not the other way around."

Scott's beginnings as an athletic shaker and mover came during his junior year at Syracuse in 1965. After unsatisfactory dips into academic life at Villanova and Stanford, he had finally settled down to serious study, working 25 hours a week as a research assistant and earning A's in the classroom. Despite an injured foot he also won a letter in track as a member of the sprint relay team. During the summer after his senior year he trained with three of the team's distance runners, acting as in loco mentoris coach. When school reopened in the fall the trio insisted on continuing to train with Scott. The regular coach, they said, was authoritarian and racist. The result was predictable. All three were forced off the team and lost their athletic scholarships. When they tried to continue private workouts, the school barred them from using its facilities. Despite the harassment, they improved their individual times under Scott's tutelage. But they were never invited back on the team, except under the original conditions.

Somewhat naively, Scott was shocked at the school's stand. "We seemed to be everything the perfect jocks should be," he says. "We proved we were not quitters, that we were highly motivated and that we could achieve excellence."

The episode had a profound effect on him. "Coaching suddenly began to seem exciting and important," he recalls. He and Micki, whom he had married just before he returned to Syracuse, now headed west. Scott accepted a computer job with the Navy Department in San Diego but never reported. "I felt a certain uneasiness," he says. "I was trying to figure out how to involve coaching in my life."

A friend persuaded him to come to Berkeley, where for the next two years the Scotts lived a life that by almost anyone's standards would be called unstructured. He audited courses at Cal, read heavily in sociology and humanist psychology and earned a small income doing odd jobs and writing articles for Ramparts. In 1968 he enrolled formally to study for his Ph.D. He was also named an editor of Ramparts, for which he covered the 1968 Mexico City Olympics and the Black Power boycott. And that spring he met Harry Edwards, the movement's leader.

"I was involved with the black athletes' boycott only as a writer," Scott says, "but the experience gave me deeper knowledge of sports. Suddenly I was able to tie together a great many of my experiences."

After returning from Mexico, Scott went to work on Athletics for Athletes, a potpourri of opinion by him and other writers, all with a common thread of criticism that is now standard weaponry in the Scott arsenal. Track & Field News had originally agreed to distribute the book, but the editors dropped it like a hot baton after reading it. The Scotts spent $1,300 in savings to have a soft-cover edition of 2,500 copies printed. They put an ad in Track & Field News and mailed copies out from their apartment over a garage in Oakland. The book excited considerable comment in track and held circles and received a favorable review in Newsweek . Scott had made his first impact as a guru.

"I would never write anything like that today," he now says. "It was too polemical, but I don't regret it. It was a stage of my development."

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