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Fewer Is Finer Except for Some Flaws
John Underwood
September 05, 1977
The mythical coach is back, and now he likes the new scholarship cutdown. What bothers him are the non-scholars
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September 05, 1977

Fewer Is Finer Except For Some Flaws

The mythical coach is back, and now he likes the new scholarship cutdown. What bothers him are the non-scholars

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"Is something wrong with your jaw, Scribe? You seem to have lost control."

I closed my mouth. "I don't mean to interrupt your answers with a lot of questions, Coach," I said, "but I'm not sure I follow all this."

The Coach stroked in another 10-footer and sat on the edge of the ottoman, resting the putter between his legs.

"I will go slower, Scribe. At what point did you leave the trail?"

"Well, to begin with, last year this time you weren't so high on the 30-95. The 30-a-year was fine, but four times 30 still doesn't equal 95."

"I think 95 is an arbitrary figure," he said, "and that 105 would be a more realistic one. Part of my concern, however, was out of my own conditioning. I remembered with horror the days when some colleges had designated hatchetmen whose mission was to make life so miserable for the lesser athletes that they'd quit. I saw that coming again. Now I'm not so sure. Being limited to 30, a coach has to recruit selectively. He can't be sloppy. Ergo, he should never have more than a couple players who can't hack the competition.

"Attrition will take care of some others, of course. Boys being boys, 10 or so will quit, flunk out or run off with a belly dancer. By the end of this year we'll see how much 'firing' is done, and then maybe an adjustment can be made.

"As far as I know, only two conferences have had trouble getting down to the 95 this season—the Big Eight and the SEC—which figures, because those two have always gone in for volume recruiting. In the SEC only Alabama had to give pink slips. Nine of 'em. Each was tempered by a heartfelt letter of apology from Bear Bryant. Bear did the honorable thing. He got the nine fixed up with academic scholarships, a guaranteed education apart from football. Notre Dame did the same. Poetic justice. The Notre Dames and the Alabamas can afford to pay for their mistakes.

"It remains to be seen how the other schools will handle it. I think the best and simplest way is just to shut off the spigot when you reach 95. There's nothing in the rule that says you have to take 30 boys a year. But that might strike some of the brethren as too radical."

He chuckled. "For sure the 30-95 accomplished an overnight miracle. The main idea was to cut costs, but the greater effect was to parcel around the talent. All of a sudden there was the sound of giants crashing. In one week alone last year, Alabama, Arizona State, Notre Dame, USC and Texas were beaten and Nebraska was tied. Nothing like that ever happened before in my memory."

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