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They have squared off in thunderous scrimmages, run countless miles, spilled rivers of sweat, consumed whole herds of beef, swallowed oceans of milk. The tang of autumn is in the air, the playing fields lie lushly green in the September sun, and now the trim and muscular young men who have contracted to do or die for dear old Puntsville State have nearly finished rehearsals.
As football's first big weekend approaches, a vast audience waits in the wings, impatient to hail its victors valiant and fling laurels to its conquering heroes—or hang losing coaches in effigy. With this fifth annual football issue SPORTS ILLUSTRATED salutes the great autumnal game and joins that expectant audience. We have done our own wind sprints, so to speak, and have assembled in these pages our estimate of the 1959 situation.
Old 77, Illinois' immortal Red Grange, again nominates the eleven best elevens and begins his weekly predictions of the outcome of leading games (page 54); scouting reports pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses of 130 teams (page 58); an illustrated essay tackles the complexities of modern football, giving the alert fan an expert appraisal of what to look for and why (page 45); the story of Northwestern's fine young coach, Ara Parseghian, tells how he transformed pussycats into Wildcats (page 128).
Like Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd (above) and comrades-in-cleats all over, Parseghian has spent the first weeks of September whipping his players into proper physical and mental condition for the campaign ahead.
For easy reference, coaches may be roughly classified according to the ancient Greeks' four temperaments: sanguine, melancholic, phlegmatic and choleric. Alabama's Paul (Bear) Bryant is choleric, for example, if a player reports overweight for fall practice. He assigns a specific target weight for each man and advises him to make that weight or not report at all. No one risked the Papa Bear's wrath this year. A single-minded individual, Bryant moved out of his own home and into the athletic dormitory to keep an eagle eye on his players. When the boys aren't knockin' they're meetin' and when they aren't meetin' they're sleepin'.
The September grind is no picnic anywhere, but it is rarely as tough as at Alabama. The routine at Purdue is more typical. Jack Mollenkopf put his team through two two-hour sessions a day, six days a week, and called four evening skull sessions each week. During the season weekday drills ordinarily extend from 3:30 to 5:30 and nightly team meetings from 6 to 6:35.
At UCLA agility drills have become highly refined. In the one called the hula a player dances sideways, swinging his hips like a man escaping from the police down a narrow alley honeycombed with ashcans.
Fast preseason footwork is not confined to the practice fields. The publicity men have their own mental agility drills; they leave no stone unturned that might have a picture gimmick beneath it, as the pictures at right so amply prove. At Southern California, hustling Publicist Don Richman is exploiting a gift from on high: identical twins. These are the McKeevers—Marlin, an end, and Mike, a guard. This year Richman changed their numbers. He gave Mike 68 and Marlin 86 and posed them as though one were standing in front of a mirror which transposed the numbers.
Along with the pictures goes a barrage of printed material covering every conceivable episode or idiosyncrasy that might make news, sell a ticket or give an All-America candidate a leg up. On game days the press is plied with food and services that would have caused newsmen to faint dead away in Jim Thorpe's day, when they often had to walk up and down the sidelines to cover a game and just guess at the identities of the unnumbered players. Not all press boxes are palaces of comfort like Michigan's $700,000 model (many of the oldest and coldest are in the East and Midwest, where the weather is the most severe), but rare is the perch in which the press is not supplied with game information in minute detail.
The cleverest press agent in the world cannot, however, bring the crowd to its feet with a dazzling run or heroic tackle. The glory must still be dearly won by the players who have toiled on September's practice fields.