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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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The Coach said he knew I'd be dropping by because, although the weather was good, his knee was acting up and his sinuses had filled. Accordingly, he said, he had canceled his dentist appointment and moved his golf game back an hour. Swinging a wooden-shafted putter, he led the way to a canopied patio and motioned for me to take a chair opposite the one with the ottoman, which I knew to be his favorite. I remarked that making all the big pro-ams had improved his tan. He massaged the head of the putter against the leg of his Pierre Cardin slacks and ignored my gratuity.

"We are into a renaissance, Scribe," he said without preamble, hovering over me but keeping his eyes on the putter, which he hefted in a manner befitting a five handicap. "College football has experienced a breakthrough. A bright new era dawns, maybe the brightest. Not only is the game on the field a joy to behold, but enlightenment has come to its administration. The 30-95 scholarship rule [a maximum of 30 athletic scholarships to be granted per school per year, with no more than 95 scholarship athletes on campus in a given year] works. The eight-assistant-coach limit works. Costs are down and competition is up. Parity is being achieved despite the grieving conservatives."

He winked knowingly, having been one himself.

"What is more," he continued, "the subdivision of Division I is less than a year away. You can bet on it. When the NCAA meets in January, the brothers will divide the 144 institutions in Division I into 1-A and 1-AA. The 75 or so big-football schools that have been threatening a pullout will get their way within the system. The lions will no longer lie down with the lambs. Michigan will go its way, Marshall its."

He hunched over an imaginary ball, lining up a putt, stroked it confidently and watched it fall into an imaginary hole. When he turned to face me, his steel-blue eyes had narrowed.

"But if you had been listening to me all these years, you would have absorbed enough to know those things. I assume you are here looking for the fly in the ointment. Well, the fly is there, all right, Scribe. The cheating is worse than ever."

His putter head dropped heavily onto his Astroturf carpet, making a thudding noise. I flinched.

"The worst kind of cheating. Academic cheating. Exploiting every well-intended loophole, every regulation that never got written. Marginal morons are getting football scholarships today, and nobody seems to be outraged."

His voice was rising. He began to pace. I watched uneasily as he brandished the putter.

"I don't know what the figures are, but I daresay the percentage of star halfbacks who would break into a cold sweat at the mere prospect of having to write a simple declarative sentence is staggering. And you want to hear something really ironic? The colleges are as much the victims of this travesty as they are the perpetrators. The shameful process begins beneath the college level. High schools cheat. Junior colleges cheat.

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