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.
football, only 40 to 50 high school standouts were needed to find the 12 to 15
who could play either offense or defense.
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.
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
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."