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The rule makers have chased the good little man out of college football. That is the only conclusion possible after watching college football this fall. One-platoon rules have forced a return to the big man, the 220-pound lineman who can withstand the pounding of two-way football. The average guard or tackle just cannot absorb the punishment of both offensive and defensive play and retain the quickness which earned him a place in the platoon game.
Once again, when an alumnus recommends a high school star, college coaches are asking the question: "How big is he?" Size is the first consideration. We're headed back to a college game reserved for a comparative few big men of exceptional physical qualities. And good big men capable of playing two-way football are hard to find, particularly when almost all high schools still play platoon football. A college coach cannot afford to pass up any big boy who looks as though he may be a two-way performer, and he will need a squad of between 80 and 100 freshmen recruits to find the 12 to 15 two-way players he has to have each fall to build and keep a winning team.
In two-platoon football, only 40 to 50 high school standouts were needed to find the 12 to 15 who could play either offense or defense.
LOSING THIS CHANCE
The good little high school player is losing his chance to play college football. This is happening at a time when more high schools than ever are playing the game and graduating each fall more boys who would like to play in college as well.
Lest anyone mistake these words as an alibi for Michigan State's defeats this fall, let it be understood that Michigan State will make its adjustment to the one-platoon game and we'll win our share, perhaps even a few more. But we at Michigan State are definitely sympathetic toward a style of football which permits a place for the good little man who can contribute speed, quickness and desire to the game. We're genuinely sorry to see that little man chased to the sidelines by a rules change. We don't think it is in the interest of football as a spectator sport or that it is in keeping with the philosophy of college athletics.
The finest days of my coaching life came here at Michigan State when we developed the platoon system to a degree that allowed the use of small linemen. It was a pleasure to watch 175-pound guards and tackles play big-college football by using speed, quickness and desire to overcome the natural advantages of the 220-pound opponent. By using these small guards and tackles—in effect we were playing four guards—we were able to develop our version of multiple offense, a system of attack that stressed deception and maneuverability. We played the "big game" on offense, the all-out game that presented exciting football to the fans. We were able to use the little man on defense too—the 175-pounders who loved combat and fought like tigers against bigger opponents. In some games we were able to play as many as 60 boys. This year, against Notre Dame, we used only 25 and Notre Dame played only 19. We were able to award 49 letters in 1952. That number will be cut in half in another year or so.
A boy doesn't practice all week just to sit on the bench on Saturday. How can anyone condone a system of play which reduces the number of participants? Squads will become smaller as coaches concentrate more coaching on fewer boys. To teach offense and defense effectively, coaches will have to eliminate those boys who do not measure up to two-way football. Is this what we want in our modern educational system?
Also, we are headed back to slow-motion football. There is only time to teach the rudiments of offense and defense. More than ever the school with the big horses will dominate. Raw physical ability will be the premium in a game of simple offense and defense. In contrast, two-platoon football was an intriguing game of new ideas and developments. It was a game of imagination—more new ideas were developed in the two-platoon football days than during any like period in the history of the game. If the present trend prevails, I fear that the fans will in time be forced to look to professional football for new ideas, for action, for the "big game."