"He never had a car in high school," says Erdman, "so he never had to have a job to support a car, and he never had a steady girl friend. Do you know what I'm saying?"
"That there were only sports for him, so naturally he tried them all."
"Right. He was a kid. Kids don't want to specialize. When you're a kid everybody wants to do everything. Now, even the pro scouts want you to specialize. They want to see what you can do if you really concentrate." This is said with a pointed look at Jones.
"That's the breaks," says Jones. "Sure, I think about it. But when I do, I can't figure out what one I'd like to try."
"Still a kid," says Erdman, content.
Fred Wilson, mustachioed, blunt, humorous, country-articulate, has been the athletic director at Lewis and Clark for 24 years. Originally from Warrenton, Ore., at the mouth of the Columbia, where he graduated in the top six of his high school class—that being all there were in it—he is specific about the mission of his department. "The college funds this program because, like the others, it's part of the educational process," he says. Coaches at the school are faculty members. Coaches' salaries and capital expenditures aside, men's athletics—10 sports—are run on a modest budget of $83,000. "It's important to us that we avoid being in a position where we have to win for the money," says Wilson.
He's firm on that because he's convinced that there is a clearly recognizable point beyond which college sport departs from sound educational principles, a point when a program no longer serves its athletes, but the converse. "You lose control when you're told, or when you volunteer, to go raise your own money," he says. "The major-college A.D.s are being run by supporters, by alums and donors. When that happens, what's best educationally goes out the window. You see the recruiting and academic credit scandals; you see dropping sports so there is more money to go, ironically, to the moneymaking sports. Here, if we can't justify it educationally, we don't have it. Now that sounds altruistic, but it's practical as well."
Practical, Wilson contends, because in a period of economic retrenchment even the most opulent athletic programs are in jeopardy. "USC has problems despite its television revenues," he says. "The Ivy League does, too, even with its rich alums. So does Michigan, with a great salesman like Don Canham as athletic director. And the insidious thing is that the mistakes of the big schools are being repeated by the small. Our Northwest Conference schools, Willamette, Linfield, Pacific, Whitman, Whitworth, Pacific Lutheran and Lewis and Clark, are all private liberal-arts colleges with essentially the same athletic budgets, standards and rules, one being that you have to participate in nine sports to be a member of the conference."
Wilson slams in a desk drawer. "That should be our pride and joy. That should be sacred to us. Throughout our history, NWC schools seldom had national goals. The idea was to win the conference. The occasional time you went to a national playoff, that was gravy. But with the NAIA and AIAW getting some TV money, the national allure is so great that members of the conference are now developing programs aimed at national playoffs. Already some are saying. 'We've got to be more flexible, got to be allowed to go in fewer sports,' so they can build up one or two to national level. I can see it coming. We're going to lose them from the conference, or we're going to surrender the principles that have made us valuable. There won't be any more Dan Joneses when that happens. If you have to win to survive, coaches require athletes to go year round in one sport. There's no question in my mind that the disappearance of the three-sport athlete is a wholesale indictment of the educational ethics of American colleges."
Wilson explains that Lewis and Clark gives no athletic scholarships, yet every student, athlete or otherwise, accepted into the college can be promised enough financial aid, on a basis of need, to finish school. Tuition, fees and room and board now total $6,939. "Jones got no aid at all his first two years, and minimal aid this year only because he now has two brothers in college," says Wilson. "And he got $300 from the NAIA in the form of the Emil S. Liston Award for being the best junior scholar/basketball player/citizen in the country. But the point of not having athletic scholarships, aside from ensuring that no coach feels he has bought a kid's exclusive services, is that not only does a student-athlete have to want to come here, but his parents have to want it, too."