Matters of moment in the West are a Hollywood epic called Birth of the AAWU; another installment in the thrilling, real-life story of the Air Force Academy; and a new chapter in the career of a small school's big, big fish, Dick Bass.
The new Coast epic is a sequel to that gripping drama of civil strife and secession, Gone with the Pacific Coast Conference
, whose pivotal scenes were laid in and around the football-happy city of Los Angeles.
True addiction to college football on the nation's western slope was once the boast of the Angeleno, the Pasadenan, the San Marino-ite. By and large, his school was Southern California, and he exulted in the trouncings it gave the rest of the country in intersectional games. Its victory within the good old PCC was almost a foregone conclusion. If our fan was not a USC devotee, he was apt to be a Stanford man. Either way he was pretty smug about it. In the Bay area the University of California had its own claque, to be sure.
Then the emergence of UCLA as an athletic force complicated things. A great football coach, the late Red Sanders, began producing first-rate teams. This stuck in throats at Stanford and Southern California, and whether consciously or driven by frustrations and jealousies, the entrenched Bourbons of Coast football set out to vex Sanders and UCLA. The waters were further muddied by bad feelings between the big, rich California schools and their adherents and the smaller schools of the Northwest.
In any case, UCLA, USC, California and first-cousin Washington, of the Northwest, were all slapped with heavy penalties three years ago for impulsively illegal recruiting tactics.
Collegiate football gave up Los Angeles to the professional game and—some think—may never get it back. Whether the game will continue to wither depends on the remedy prepared for it. This is the new amalgam of the four bad boys of the old PCC, which officially expired June 30, and Stanford, whose moleskins were clean and whose stature was badly needed to help give the new group some semblance of the oldtime tradition.
This Athletic Association of Western Universities is, to say the least, loosely governed. Article VII of its code carries the astonishing proviso that "there shall be no central enforcement agent of this association." The members hired as executive director Admiral Tom Hamilton, the onetime Navy star and coach who left a job as director of athletics at Pittsburgh. His duties are exceedingly vague, to say the most.
As one official of a member school put it, "In Hamilton you have a powerful, forceful guy—with no power and no force. He will be a little like Mr. Anthony on the radio. He will talk over problems and quarrels between schools and try to get them together to resolve their differences before they hit the courts again. Each school will govern itself under the honor system. The expression for it in the AAWU is 'mutual confidence,' and believe me, it will be a confidence game."
Not everyone is so cynical. Both UCLA and USC, for example, report season ticket sales far above last year's level. Followers of UCLA, who have been driving around for three years with Rose Bowl stickers on their windshields proclaiming, "We'll be back!" pray that this will be the year. Indeed, this is the first season UCLA has been out of the doghouse and able to go to the Rose Bowl since the scandals broke. ( USC, however, got its hand caught in the cookie jar again last year and cannot go to the Rose Bowl next January even if it has, as appears likely, the best football team on the Coast.)
Says Art Spander, a student at UCLA: "The feeling down deep inside is, we might go!" This is a feeling devoutly shared by the novelist Paul Wellman, as rabid a UCLA fan as you will find. "Last year," Well-man says, "if there had been two points difference in three games, UCLA would have won the conference championship. Who can say they won't this year?"