SI Vault
 
ONE IS MORE LIKE IT
Douglas S. Looney
September 03, 1990
Want to know how to make the college game better in almost every way? It's easy. Just return to one-platoon football
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
September 03, 1990

One Is More Like It

Want to know how to make the college game better in almost every way? It's easy. Just return to one-platoon football

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue

CUTTING COSTS

One big-time athletic director calculates that one-platoon football would enable his school's program to cut its annual budget by 23%. The figures assume 60 scholarship players, compared with the current 95.

Budget Line Item

Current

One-Platoon

Salaries/wages[1]

$1,301,750

$930,000

Scholarships

1,010,480

753,000

Physical plant costs

720,000

720,000

Distributed expenses[2]

710,000

550,000

Overhead[3]

483,000

375,000

Team clothing/uniforms

260,000

150,000

Team travel/autos/lodging

210,000

170,000

Game operation

200,000

200,000

Recruiting expenses

200,000

160,000

Training exp./room/board

200,000

125,000

Individual/general travel

110,000

50,000

Telephone

100,000

70,000

Printing/publishing

90,000

90,000

Team supplies/misc.

70,000

40,000

Officials' fees/travel costs

50,000

50,000

Repairs/maintenance

50,000

30,000

Training/medical supplies

45,000

30,000

Advertising

40,000

40,000

Hospital/medical costs

40,000

30,000

Coaches' clothing/supplies

35,000

20,000

Mailing/postage/shipping

30,000

25,000

Drug testing

20,000

15,000

Insurance

20,000

15,000

Office supplies

20,000

10,000

Office equipment/furniture

20,000

10,000

Film/photography

15,000

15,000

Rented equipment

11,000

5,000

Individual consulting

10,000

10,000

Programs

10,000

10,000

Other equipment

10,000

5,000

Auto repairs

5,000

3,000

Dues/memberships

2,000

2,000

Special stadium repairs

2,000

2,000

Total

$6,100,230

$4,710,000

[1]Projected staff cuts would leave five assistants instead of the current nine.

[2]General athletic department expenses--such as tickets and public relations--that are charged to football.

[3]Special "auxiliary enterprise" fee owed to the university by football.

"College football's costly two-platoon era, which introduced the gridiron specialist and bankrupted the football programs of many small colleges, came to a sudden end today."
—ASSOCIATED PRESS, JAN. 15, 1953

Wouldn't it be wonderful to pick up the morning paper, nearly 38 years after those words were written, and see that news reported once again? Except things have gotten so much worse that today the word small would have to be deleted. Imagine a return to iron-man football, a time when men were men and football players played real football. Which is to say, a time when the same guys played offense, then defense, then offense. All afternoon.

Remember Chuck Bednarik, possibly the best linebacker ever and among the best centers? In four years at the University of Pennsylvania he practically never left the field, and he didn't let up when he arrived in the NFL, either. Bednarik played on both sides of scrimmage during nearly all of his 14 years, 1949-62, with the Philadelphia Eagles. He put the New York Giants' Frank Gifford out for a year with a world-class hit, and he stopped the Green Bay Packers' Jim Taylor, one-on-one, to preserve the Eagles' NFL championship in 1960. And he hardly ever flubbed a center snap to such greats as Norm Van Brocklin and Sonny Jurgensen. It's time for another Bednarik. That was down and dirty football, before prissy wide receivers started streaking onto the field as play-carrying messengers and myriad other substitution travesties multiplied.

"They couldn't do it. They'd run out of gas," Bednarik, now 65 and a sales rep for a corrugated box company, says of today's athletes. "Before the half, they'd be suckin' and huffin' and puffin'. We keep hearing how great they are. One-platoon football would let us really find out how great they are."

"If it were up to me," says Penn State coach Joe Paterno, "I'd love to go back to one-platoon football right now. It would get us back to a lot of basic values." He falls silent, then says, "Wouldn't that be great? "

Former University of Pittsburgh coach Mike Gottfried says, "It would get college football back to where college football was." Glory be and hallelujah.

Sadly, those marvelous days lasted only through 1964, when unlimited substitution—otherwise known as the two-platoon system, so named by Colonel Red Blaik, the Army coach who naturally thought in military terms—was again foisted upon us. Just as sadly, almost nobody today is seriously talking about a return to the good old days. But they should be, for seven quite sensible reasons:

1) Expenses would be cut. Dramatically. Kansas State president Jon Wefald thinks one-platoon football could result in at least a 40% savings. And that is directly in line with the sentiments of the NCAA Presidents Commission, which, says Wefald, "is in favor of cost reduction in all sports. But football is the sport most associated with overemphasis. We've got to bring this thing under control, because football has become the tail that wags the dog."

Dave Nelson, the secretary-editor of the NCAA Rules Committee since 1961, suggests that if one-platoon rules were reinstated, the NCAA's current limit of 95 scholarships per school could easily be reduced to 60. As things stand, the 106 Division I-A schools can award a total of 10,070 scholarships, at an average cost of $10,000 each, which is $100.7 million a year. The reintroduction of one-platoon football would mean that schools could cut their scholarships back to 6,360, at a cost of $63.6 million. Bingo, a savings of $37.1 million. Nelson estimates that the average major school would save about $350,000 a year in scholarships. Stanford, where a football scholarship is valued at $20,805 a year, would save $728,175. And that's in scholarships alone. There would be additional savings in uniforms, transportation, recruiting and so on.

And to those who express concern for those 3,710 players who would lose out under a new 60-scholarship rule, Iowa State coach Jim Walden says, "Nobody promised we'd have trees to cut down forever or that people would burn coal forever or that we'd have 95 scholarships forever." Even at Iowa State, where a scholarship for an in-state player is valued at only $4,900, that would represent an annual savings of $171,500.

Continue Story
1 2 3 4