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The arrangement in the Southwest Conference generally, in Byrd's opinion, is "perfect," but the strain under which even the most perfect of setups sometimes labors showed up in his concluding words. "If the University of Oklahoma keeps raiding us," he said, "we're going to have to do something. I think it isn't right for them to ask a boy to break a letter of intent he has signed to go to a Texas school, like they did the other day with Mike Dowdle, a boy who has signed a letter of intent at Texas and who has worked for me all summer."
What's the sort of thing that alumni and boosters like Byrd might feel they have to do in such cases? He didn't say, but a case in point, that of Claude King, a 17-year-old halfback from Vicksburg, Miss., illustrates the problem. Young King signed a grant-in-aid with the University of Mississippi last December, but subsequently changed his mind in favor of the University of Houston. The reason? Summer jobs. He is working now for the Quintana Petroleum Company, owned by H. R. Cullen, chairman of the board of regents at the University of Houston, washing, waxing and generally taking care of the company's three airplanes. Mississippi, he said, had offered him a job, "but it didn't appeal to me. It didn't pay much, just $1.20 an hour."
How much, he was asked, does his job in Houston pay?
"I'm making," said young King, "$2.60 an hour."
TENDERLOIN GOES HIGH
This sort of situation, of course, ripens like fruit on the tree every year when recruitment time rolls around in football country. Many of the stories about the "tenderloin" players who receive new convertibles, paid-up endowment policies, money paid to their parents to get rid of the mortgage on the old homestead are fanciful or exaggerated creations. But there's a germ of truth, nonetheless. "Recruiting," said an old coach looking up from the dregs of his despair one day, "is as many-sided as sin." Unlike sin, however, the virtuous can't simply be against it. Recruiting has developed out of big-time football as surely as the forward pass and winged-T: all colleges recruit players in one way or another, and, properly handled, it can be of real service to the high school football player who not only has ambitions to be an outstanding college athlete but is seriously interested in an education.
But there are excesses in this area, and in the final analysis the burden of responsibility for proper recruitment practices must be placed on the head coach. As Don Faurot said in the first part of this study: "I feel that the worst thing about college football is not what the colleges themselves do but what the coaches ask the alumni to do in the way of buying athletes for their schools.... The alumni are merely tools in the coaches' hands and never recruit a boy that the coaches do not want."
In all our major institutions recruitment is a big operation. Football coaches subscribe to newspapers all over the country. Usually assistant coaches are assigned various sections. Scrapbooks are faithfully kept on every star high school player in his particular section. He knows the various high school coaches in his assigned area; he often speaks at the football banquets (for free) and sometimes when there is a real "tenderloin" prospect hanging in the balance the head coach will be brought in. If the college is national in scope prominent alumni will be assigned to a particular player or school. If the institution does not have a widespread alumni representation, then "bird dogs" will be hired to check the merits of the various players and later to bring a few carloads to the campus for a visit. Bird dogs are usually high school coaches who are glad to pick up the extra money acting as scouts for material and also possibly form a good contact with an institution for a future coaching job. Many assistant college coaches got their jobs because they happen to have a fast halfback or two hulking tackles "who will go anywhere that I go."
Statistics are not available but I know from my coaching experience that many colleges spend at least $50,-000 a year for the recruitment of players alone. This figure has nothing to do with athletic scholarships, grants-in-aid, etc. It represents for the most part travel expenses for coaches (I know many assistant coaches who leave the campus after the last game and don't return until time for spring practice) and travel expenses and entertainment for athletes visiting the campus.
This expenditure, gathered from many sources, is not as sinister perhaps as it sounds. It does give prospective athletes a chance to visit the different campuses and it does allow the coaches to visit the homes of the boys and talk to their parents. For the most part I believe it is better for the coaches to represent the institution to the prospective athletes and their parents rather than the alumni, who oftentimes become overenthusiastic with their missions and accomplish them at any price. If the head coach is made responsible to the president of his institution for proper recruiting practices many abuses will be remedied.