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School officials somewhat lamely argue that the cost of athletic scholarships should not be counted as an athletic department expense, a bookkeeping dodge that might actually enable the intercollegiate sports program to show a small profit. And they reiterate that in any event, they are not all that concerned with the bottom line. But this is mocked by the obvious care with which they scrimp on scholarships in sports besides football and basketball. For instance, while the NCAA allows up to 13 baseball scholarships, NU limits Coach George McKinnon to six free rides. And, instead of getting the new arena-complex they feel they need, NU's basketball, wrestling and track teams go on using McGaw Hall, a drafty old field house with a dirt floor and splintered seats. It is, obviously, a losing proposition for them: without fancy facilities to attract good athletes—or indeed, without sufficient scholarships—it is certainly going to be tough to build winning teams in those sports.
Caught in an obvious bind, Strotz somewhat wistfully suggests reforms to eliminate the evils he sees in college sport and, not incidentally, to put Northwestern on more competitive footing. The proposed changes are aimed at influential alumni by means of whose legislative clout state schools construct vast stadiums and then go to great lengths to create winning teams to fill them. To reduce alumni control and break this cycle, Strotz suggests that state legislatures increase funds for athletics at state schools, freeing them, in effect, to lose money and football games, too. He says that schools determined to go the big-business route—meaning Michigan and Ohio State in the Big Ten—should split off into a "superconference" and "let the rest of us keep college athletics as a college activity for the benefit of students."
But it is Northwestern that appears out of step. This became evident during a recent showdown over the Big Ten's longstanding 50-50 split of gate receipts between home and visiting teams. The 50-50 arrangement was distasteful to a school like Michigan, which didn't fancy playing before meager crowds of 30,000 or so in Evanston. It began urging Northwestern to play all future games in the rivalry at Ann Arbor in front of those 100,000-plus throngs the Wolverines can always count on drawing. Nothing doing; Strotz wouldn't let Northwestern become a "road show" and insisted on maintaining a home-and-away arrangement with Michigan. However, last spring the Big Ten adopted a rule that will require home teams to guarantee visitors a $100,000 minimum, a move that delighted Michigan's aggressive athletic director, Don Canham. Northwestern, which didn't come close to providing visiting teams with $100,000 in 1977, was the only school to vote against the proposal.
Unless attendance at Dyche improves in a hurry, the new regulation figures to add $85,000 a year to Northwestern's already substantial athletic deficit. Faculty representative Nobles is bitter. "All I hear from that————Canham is dollars, dollars, dollars," he says. "He seems to be doing everything he can to put us down."
After passage of the gate-receipts change, there was renewed speculation that Northwestern might get out of the Big Ten. When he hears such talk, John Pont reaches into a desk drawer and pulls out a copy of a newspaper clipping he keeps handy for such occasions. Dated 1969, the clipping declares flatly that Northwestern was making arrangements to get out of the Big Ten. "These stories are like a locust plague," Pont says in a tone of distaste. "We have no intention of getting out of the Big Ten."
That commitment may well be as firm as Pont makes it sound. If so, the usual reasons given—considerations of prestige and the like—are only part of the story. It also happens that NU officials feel, in a very real sense, trapped in the Big Ten. They have considered withdrawal more carefully than they sometimes let on and have concluded that switching to a less demanding schedule might only further deflate attendance and revenues—and maybe dry up some alumni contributions as well. Obviously, they sometimes think about dollars, too.
The other familiar option urged on Northwestern—that it bend a little on its academic requirements for athletes—is rejected out of hand. School officials say that admissions procedures are the same for athletes as for everybody else—and that they will stay that way. They also insist that today there are few, if any, McGoo-style courses. What is more, having long required phys-ed majors to take solid academic courses like biology and English—rather than rhetoric and beginning football, as at some schools—Northwestern is now phasing out phys ed as a major.
"They expect football players to do the work," says Frank Malec, a starting guard under Pont and a selection to last year's All-Big Ten academic team. "They don't postpone midterms for you, either. A lot of times I'd come back from an away game Saturday night and have to head straight for the library."
Northwestern may eventually have to swallow hard and agree to play, say, two out of every three years in Ann Arbor. At least that would help relieve its financial plight. And its coaches may have to heed Parseghian's example and sell the school to athletes capable of making the academic grade. That is the course followed by Stanford, an academically impeccable school that tries to have it both ways—and more often than not actually wins. It is also the course followed by NU's women's tennis team, which qualified last spring for the 24-team AIAW nationals. To hear Coach June Booth tell it, that kind of success doesn't seem out of reach of NU's men's teams.
"What bothered me when I came to Northwestern," says Booth, "was that some of the men's coaches seemed to expect to lose. We women came in with a positive attitude. We've gone after intelligent, career-oriented women who don't want to drown in a big school."