It is perfectly clear that Georgia's Wally Butts committed an indiscretion when he discussed his team's offensive and defensive formations with Alabama's Bear Bryant. That cannot be denied, but the importance of the information conveyed by Butts to the attentive Bryant has been magnified many times over, most recently by Eugene Cook, the Attorney General of Georgia.
Last week Cook summed up a two-week investigation. Butts, he said, gave Bryant "vital and important information that could have affected the outcome" of the Georgia-Alabama game. Nothing in the testimony Cook heard should have led him to that conclusion. A close examination of an 18-page, single-spaced typewritten transcript of an interrogation of Johnny Griffith, who succeeded Butts as Georgia's coach, does not reveal a single specific instance where Butts's words worked to Alabama's advantage. Griffith's main point—that Butts told Bryant what formations Georgia would use—was vitiated by his admission that not once during the game did he feel that Alabama had any foreknowledge of his plays.
Georgia, Griffith told SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, "called about the usual number of 'audibles' [signals at the line of scrimmage] against Alabama. That would be three or four." In other words, all but a few of Georgia's plays were called in the secrecy of the huddle. As Texas Coach Darrell Royal pointed out in this magazine last week, it is more important for a defending team to know when a particular play is going to be used than merely to know the play itself.
As we said last week, if Attorney General Cook has further evidence against Butts, he should disclose it. If not, his attempt to impugn Butts by press release—rather than due process—is a disservice to football and to justice.
A LITTLE EDUCATION
Fishermen always complain about the tiny fish they catch in stocked streams. You can't blame the fishermen, but neither can you blame the fish. Since they are no longer being fed regularly as they were at the hatchery, they are hungry. They strike at the first lure they see and never grow up into mean, frustrating but delightfully huge old lunkers.
A South Carolina hatchery took steps to solve this problem. Before they transferred their largest bass to public waters, the attendants put the rookies through a vigorous spring training, fishing for them with fly rods and barbless-hook lures. At first the bass slammed the lures with reckless abandon, but after being jerked around on the end of a fly line for a while they smartened up. In a month it was hard to fool them, and they were deemed ready for the big leagues. Now they're sulking around under logs, sneering at the best lures money can buy, and growing into nice, big trophy fish. The fishermen are still complaining, of course, but it's better to have them moaning about fish they haven't caught than fish they have.
Harold Wilson, leader of Great Britain's Labor Party and the winter book favorite to succeed Harold Macmillan as Prime Minister, is a sports fan. Like Macmillan he is a golfer, but his real love is soccer, which sits well on a Labor Party leader. (One would guess that a Conservative Party leader would prefer cricket.) When Wilson was 11 years old, in 1927, his father began taking him to see the local soccer club, Huddersfield Town, and to this day Wilson carries a picture of that year's team in his wallet. He can recite the names of all the 1927 players from memory, and even though Huddersfield Town has fallen into the second division of the English Football League, Wilson's interest in the club continues unabated. "How's Huddersfield doing?" he will ask almost anywhere of anyone who looks as though he might know.