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TO BRING FOOTBALL BACK TO ITS RIGHTFUL PLACE
In opening this two-part survey on the present crisis in college football, the editors of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED are motivated by two considerations. One is the conviction that football's problems must be viewed in their own context. It does the game no service, nor does it illuminate the truth, to stand on the sidelines and preach, unmindful of the particular pressures which have shaped it over the years.
The second motivation is a strong and enduring attachment to the game. Football is a part of the very fabric of the American way of life. In all its ramifications, it is our greatest participant sport and a strong social force, as well, to young American men and women—boys and girls, if you please. To have it sullied is a hurtful thought. To have it ruled out of school or college curriculums is an unendurable one. But to prevent this, its problems must be exposed and discussed honestly, thoroughly and with constructive purpose.
These problems are not new. A generation ago in the famous Bulletin No. 23, the Carnegie Foundation Report on American College Athletics of 1929, published the following: "About 1919 there began to spread through the East and South and along the Pacific Coast a contagion of ready assistance for promising athletes, which was initiated and coordinated mainly by older hands. The result is that today, notwithstanding many statements to the contrary, the colleges of the United States are confronted with acute problems of recruiting and subsidizing, especially with respect to intercollegiate football. In the words of one of its coaches, there is 'cut-throat competition' for...athletes."
Today the contagion to which Bulletin No. 23 referred has increased many fold. In the two years of this magazine's existence, it has already been discussed from many points of view—by Father Hesburgh in presenting the principles of Notre Dame (SI, Sept. 27, 1954), by President Whitney Griswold of Yale as a spokesman for the Ivy League (SI, Oct. 17, 1955), by Harvey Knox of California as the symbol of the all-out booster (SI, Sept. 6, 1954) and many others.
Through such men, football has spoken for itself in the pages of this magazine—and this magazine has gained in prestige thereby. Now in the summer, before the excitement of the game could intrude, the editors felt that the moment had come to use that prestige to obtain the cooperation of all of these interested parties in an effort to speak out clearly, positively about college football. The intent is neither to tar nor whitewash, but by presenting facts and opinions to help in some way to bring football back to its rightful place in the heart of American sports.
For these facts and opinions, the editors went to the men who make the game. Detailed questionnaires were sent to 24 college presidents, eight conference commissioners and 21 coaches and athletic directors all over the nation. Their response, which was statistically close to a return of 100%, was impressive and gratifying. To interpret their answers SPORTS ILLUSTRATED's football expert Herman Hickman drew on his own exhaustive knowledge of the game to which he has devoted his life. In the following pages, the facts of the situation are presented.
One basic fact must be recognized at the outset in any realistic discussion of the problems besetting college football: the very things which support it create those problems. Of all those who answered SPORTS ILLUSTRATED's questionnaire, none expressed this more graphically or more succinctly than Lloyd Jordan, head coach at Harvard University and a past president of the College Football Coaches Association.
"It's a big sport," he said. "It's the Big Top. And in every Big Top many lines extend to the ground to keep it from falling. These lines in football are Administration, Faculty, Student Body, Press, Public, Radio and TV, Alumni, Manufacturers, Trainers, Doctors, Squad, Coaches, Building and Grounds Crew. The idea is to keep each line taut. Let one line loosen, and all the others will loosen too, and then down it comes."
These are football's pressures. They hold it up—and they can cause its downfall. But they can't be done away with. And from all the answers I received to the questionnaires sent out in the course of this survey to college presidents, athletic directors, coaches and even players, it is clear that this basic fact has to be considered in any honest attempt to find a realistic and constructive solution to the present college football crisis.