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The Midwest has been described as "the most American part of America" and "perhaps the richest area of its size mankind has known." Rich in fertile soil, tall corn, vast forests and great factories, it is rich in football tradition as well.
By and large, Midwesterners believe they have the best college football in the country. It is a point they feel has been undeniably established in the record books, in the national rankings and in intersectional games over the years. Card-carrying Southeastern and Southwest Conference fans may argue the matter until blue in the face; your Mid westerner simply accepts his football superiority on Saturday as part of the established order, along with church and chicken on Sunday.
The eminent teams are, of course, those of the big, rich schools of the Big Ten, of Notre Dame and of Oklahoma (the latter geographically in the Southwest but formally in the Midwest's Big Eight Conference).
If a certain amount of de-emphasis has set in—the Big Ten's inability to muster enough votes to renew its Rose Bowl contract after the present series expires on New Year's Day; the restrictive recruiting rules adopted in 1957, with grants-in-aid based on the athlete's need—enthusiasm for football has not fallen off one whit.
"I see no reason for a decline in interest around here because of the Rose Bowl picture," says Kenneth Doyle, a World War II fighter pilot who now runs a bar in Madison. "I think people realize that Wisconsin has a good football team this year. They'll go to see a good football team any time."
"I think," says Al McGuff, a Chicago businessman and talent scout for Purdue, "that each Big Ten school has a rivalry overshadowing the Rose Bowl. As far as I'm concerned, the Rose Bowl is an anticlimax."
Old Wisconsin grad William Nathanson, 47, a Chicago lawyer, is one who thinks the tough recruiting code is just fine. "We've got bigger squads now than we ever had," Nathanson says. "We lose a few kids, but those are the kids who are out for the buck. Generally, they don't turn out to be such good players anyway. We're rather proud of the way the program has been working out. The effect is to give a boy the impetus to make the top quarter of his high school class. We're making scholars out of these kids as well as football players."
Columbus insurance salesman Joe Boyce is counting on that old prestidigitator Woody Hayes to bring off another fine Buckeye season. Although he feels Ohio State does not pass enough and admits that the team may be a trifle green this fall, Boyce says, "Hayes knows what he's doing. That Woody, he's smart."
Coach Forest Evashevski of Iowa's Rose Bowl champions has imbued all Hawkeyes with a similar spirit. Says Ralph Young, publisher of the Marion, Iowa Sentinel: "We were down so low so long that it's a wonderful feeling to know we can hold our own with any of them now. We can hold our heads up."
For Waldo Ames, a former track athlete and now a Chicago insurance executive, football means a chance to see old friends. "I think the game has a great value in that it keeps the older alumni tied to their schools," Ames says. "This wouldn't be possible if it wasn't such a wonderful game. It has an interest above all other sports. It's a sport in which everybody pictures himself as the hero."