? Marietta's offensive and defensive lines average exactly 200 pounds per man. The fastest player runs a 4.7 40, and only five Pioneers can bench-press more than 300 pounds. "I don't think we are blessed physically," says first-year Coach Mike Hollway.
Hollway, 31, went to Marietta last April with the immediate intention of burying the past and laying a foundation that would attract better players. The previous coach, Tom Mulligan, 1-25-1 over three seasons, is perhaps best remembered for installing the Play of the Week; he invited students, gas station attendants and any other interested parties to suggest plays, the best of which would be used in that week's game. Mulligan resigned after last season.
Hollway comes from a much different tradition. His father, Bob, is the defensive coordinator with the Minnesota Vikings and the former head coach of the St. Louis Cardinals. Mike Hollway never played a down of college football, but he was a graduate assistant at the University of Michigan for two years under Bo Schembechler. For the next seven years, before coming to Marietta, he was the defensive coordinator at Augustana (Ill.) College, where his 1982 unit allowed only 7.1 points per game.
"We don't have a tradition here," Hollway says with quiet intensity. "We have to get one. I think we will win a couple of games this year."
His first step was to insist on an almost exaggeratedly positive attitude on the part of his players. No one shows discouragement even at the end of blowouts. "Keep your head up!" has become the Pioneer battle cry. Of the losing streak, Hollway says, "We don't discuss it." End of discussion, but not of losing streak.
The citizens of Marietta (pop. 16,000) don't discuss the losing streak either. In fact, they don't pay much attention to the football team at all. Their town, which was planned by a group of New Englanders in 1787 and hasn't changed much, has handled adversity with Midwestern stolidity ever since 1793, when Marie Antoinette, for whom Marietta had been named, was beheaded. As for most of the 810 young men and 446 young women who pay as much as $8,000 a year in tuition to attend Marietta, a private college, they seem to be more drawn to picnics on the nearby banks of the Ohio and Muskingum rivers on Saturday afternoons than they are to Don Drumm Field.
But even the successful baseball team and crew fail to attract big student followings. Marietta is more noted for its academics than its sports, particularly in the fields of petroleum engineering and sports medicine. Its most famous graduate is Charles Dawes, who was Vice-President under Calvin Coolidge and a Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1925. The school's most notable athletic personages are the first American League president, Ban Johnson, and Pittsburgh Pirate Reliever Kent Tekulve, another guy who isn't overly blessed physically.
"Even though the football players hate to admit it, the vast majority of the students don't care whether we win or lose," says senior David Henrie. Henrie recently was the target of some choice words from football players after he told the campus newspaper he hoped the Pioneers would lose every game, "so we can get some kind of record," He didn't realize the NCAA record for consecutive losses is 50, set by Macalester College of St. Paul between 1975 and 1979. "I guess I sounded a little harsh," Henrie admits.
Marietta players have been losing for too long to see anything funny about ribbing from fellow students. At Saturday's game, six Marietta undergraduates took their seats wearing brown paper bags over their heads a la New Orleans Aints fans. But they took them off after being confronted by a band of hardcore football supporters. "Nobody knows how to have any fun around here," said Robert Coleman, one of the bagmen. "We want the team to win."
"We're proud to play for Marietta," said senior Linebacker Tate Plachecki, "but on campus everyone views us differently from the way we view ourselves. As a team we feel positive about what we do. It's never been a joke and it never will be. I just wish I were a freshman again."