Down from the Rockies the snow came, driving across Montana and the Black Hills, across Deadwood and Spearfish and the wide plains of South Dakota to lay a blanket upon the town of Huron the Wednesday before the game. Fat cattle along the Missouri and the James turned their tails into the biting wind and sought shelter in the brakes. Farmers in the eastern part of the state, struggling into their storm coats and their boots, watched the temperature drop below zero and allowed as how it was going to be a long winter. At tiny Huron College they worried only about how the snow and cold would affect the game.
As it turned out, the weather didn't affect the game, at least not Huron's part of it, although there was a lot of mud from the melting snow and something certainly seemed to be bothering General Beadle. General William Henry Harrison Beadle came to the Dakota Territory in 1869 as surveyor general and remained to become superintendent of public instruction; he is recognized as the man who saved South Dakota's public lands for the schools. Today, however, General Beadle is no longer a him but an it, a small college once called Madison State Normal but renamed in the old soldier's honor a few years back. On Saturday the Huron Scalpers took care of his namesake as the Sioux were never able to do with the general himself. The football team massacred General Beadle.
The score was 31-7, but neither its size nor the victory was surprising, for Huron College has one of the most amazing football teams in the land. It is undefeated and untied and only two touchdowns have been scored against the Scalpers all year. Meanwhile, Huron has scored 408 points of its own in nine games, far more than any other team in the nation, and with traditional old foe Northern State Teachers still to play, the Scalpers may be on their way to a record. In fact, Huron thinks it already has a record, but where small-college football statistics are concerned, it is sometimes rather difficult to nail down the figures.
To the millions of football fans who focus their attention each Saturday afternoon on Syracuse and Southern Cal, on Northwestern and Texas and LSU, small-college football is a world apart. Yet there are far more small colleges in the U.S. than big colleges and hundreds of them play football every weekend in the fall. Some play very good football indeed.
DEGREES OF SMALLNESS
In this number there are big, wealthy schools, which are smalltime only in an intercollegiate athletic sense: Cal Poly, with its enrollment of 5,000; Mississippi Southern, with 3,825; and dozens of schools, such as East Texas State and Mankato Teachers of Minnesota and Hofstra on Long Island, all around 3,000. Then there are the medium-size small colleges, schools with 800 or 1,000 or 1,200 students, like Lenoir Rhyne in North Carolina, Juniata and Bloomsburg in Pennsylvania, Hope and Hillsdale in Michigan, Adams State in Colorado, Whittier in California, Willamette in Oregon. They play good football, too.
And finally there are the small small colleges: Emporia of Kansas, Presbyterian of South Carolina, Sewanee of Tennessee—and Huron. Governed in most cases by the NAIA ( National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) rather than by the NCAA ( National Collegiate Athletic Association), even their rules are different. They still have unlimited substitution, for example, to which the big schools are slowly returning. Freshmen are eligible for varsity competition. They have never adopted the two-point conversion nor have they widened their goal posts, partly because many of them can't afford to pull down and put up new goal posts every few years. But the game is the game; that isn't hopscotch Huron has been playing out there.
Huron is the fifth-largest city in South Dakota, a statistic which fast begins to lose its impressiveness when one remembers that there are fewer than 700,000 people in all of South Dakota. Only 16,000 of these live in Huron, and of these only 395 attend Huron College, which makes Huron not merely a small small college but almost invisible.
There is no great campus, only a small plot of land located near the downtown business district of Huron which an energetic hiker can cross in a couple of minutes. No ivy-draped towers grace the land, only three aging red-brick buildings and one shiny new one. The football coaching staff does not have to be reintroduced before practice each day; there are only two members, and by now they know each other pretty well. No vast, tiered stadium rises close beside the school; there is a small one, but this belongs to the local high school. It is 10 blocks away and seats but 1,500. The team does not travel by jet; in fact, not one of the players has ever been on a jet and some have never been on any kind of an airplane. They travel by bus, chartered from the Jackrabbit Lines. There are no shining rows of white cabinets or whirring diathermy machines in the trainer's room. There isn't even a trainer. But Huron College plays good football.
The line averages 200 pounds and is rangy and quick. They gang-tackle viciously, their blocking opens gaping holes and there always seems to be a cluster of them downfield whenever a Huron ball carrier breaks loose. And in the backfield there are a couple of honor students at quarterback, two big, rough brothers, Bob and Dick Lopour—one a senior, the other a freshman—at fullback and a 205-pound right halfback, Ken Heier, who can move.