His first season at Pittsburgh, Majors said, he signed 70 high school seniors. The NCAA limit is now 30 a year.
"At Pitt, we already had our staff," Majors said, "and we knew what we were going to do. so I just turned the coaches loose to recruit. We were 10 weeks on the road. I told everybody to report on the weekends to see where we stood. We didn't get many blue-chippers, but we did get guys with fire in their eyes. They were desperate to succeed."
With the plane airborne, Majors loosened his seat belt and took out a cigarette, exposing hands surprisingly large and big-boned for a small man. As the Tennessee tailback in the mid-'50s, he played at 162 pounds and led the team in rushing, passing and punting, played safety, was a unanimous All-America and second to Paul Hornung in the 1956 Heisman Trophy balloting.
The pilot turned the Piper north and west, sliding above threatening clouds and into open sky.
Recruiting, Majors said, is never easy, but the degree of difficulty varies. "At Iowa State they hadn't won in so long—a 2-8 record the year before I got there, no tradition, no enthusiasm. That first year we got nothing but nubs. We busted our tails for seconds and thirds. You'd talk to a kid and he'd look at his watch.
" Iowa got all the good state boys. We had to become a national institution to cope. I sent Joe Madden to Pennsylvania. I didn't know anything about Pennsylvania, but I sent him. Joe brought back a newspaper clipping. It said, 'Some schools soft-sell their program, but some don't. Iowa State sends in the Music Man—drums pounding, pamphlets flying around.' "
Majors leaned forward and slapped the armrest of the facing seat. "We had to be like that, like the Music Man. We had to do tap dances just to get their attention. We were living on air, fighting for our lives. Trying to outrecruit teams like Kansas State. But it was a good time to be in the Big Eight. I don't believe you ever knock the opposition; you praise what you've got. One year the Big Eight was 28-8 against outside opposition. I didn't have to say anything against Iowa or Michigan. I could say, 'You play in the Big Eight, you have a chance to play with the best.'
"The second year we ran out of recruiting money while our guys were still on the road. I got my back up and said, 'Stay out. If we don't do it now, we'll never do it.' We spent $15,000 over budget. Not much by Tennessee's standards, but Iowa State couldn't throw money around. We signed George Amundson, the quarterback from South Dakota. About five good players come out of South Dakota a year, and we had one of them. The third year we played Oklahoma to a standstill and lost 29-28. It made our program. The last two years we went to bowl games. Iowa State had never been to a bowl game."
Majors studied his list of recruits. Of the 28 who had signed Tennessee grants, 17 were from within the state. He said you could usually count on at least a dozen and no more than 25 good players a year in Tennessee, so it was necessary to mine the bordering states—Kentucky, for one—and to go into Pennsylvania and Ohio and east to the tidewater area of Virginia. The mathematics was inescapable: in Tennessee, 296 high schools field football teams; Pennsylvania has 567.
Franklin said they had just missed one hot number in West Virginia, a halfback who billed himself 'Alexander the Greatest.' Alexander, he said, had signed with West Virginia—in that state's Capitol Building with Governor John D. Rockefeller IV on hand.