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Last year was coach Greg Quick's first at Chicago. He was a center on the 1978 Division III championship team at Baldwin-Wallace, in Berea, Ohio, and has coached both high school and college ball since graduating. Yet, there were some surprises at Chicago. "When I came here," he says, "I called a meeting of the upper-classmen. All 48 of them were on time. I tell them to keep the him room clean, and they do it. Every little piece of paper, every pop bottle gets picked up. The chairs are back in place, and the last man turns out the light. Discipline isn't a problem with these kids."
Quick was also struck by the way his players passed time on the team bus on the way to their first road game, at the University of Rochester in upstate New York. "I don't know what I expected, exactly. The usual, I guess. Sports pages and girlie magazines. But these guys were reading The Economist and The New Republic. One of them was paging through War and Peace, and another had a copy of Emerson's essays. I knew these kids tested smart, but I didn't think they would be so involved in intellectual things."
Their braininess has worked to Quick's advantage. Once, preparing a two-minute drill, he showed the offense a series of five plays that would be run automatically, with the quarterback calling the formation at the line of scrimmage according to the spotting of the ball. "We gave that to them one night, one time, and the next afternoon we called for it at practice. They went through it the first time without a single mistake and then did it again during the game."
The downside for a football coach of Quick's intensity is obvious: There is no way that his players can make an unequivocal commitment to football. "We try to get them to schedule their labs on Monday, when we don't do anything at all until eight o'clock, when we have a meeting and look at some film. Still, we get guys who have seminars that last until after practice starts on other days. We have labs and exams. We have to adjust."
Quick is plainly not as phlegmatic as MIT's Smith about the concessions a coach must make to academics. Also, Quick believes that it is possible to sound echoes of Chicago's football past, albeit at a fairly low volume. There is a fading black-and-white photograph on the wall of Quick's office that shows 15,000 people crowded into the old Stagg Field in 1907 to watch Chicago play Carlisle. "The school was only 15 years old then," he says with something like amazement. "In 1905, they beat Michigan when the Wolverines hadn't lost in four seasons. I'd like to bring a little of that tradition back."
Maybe he can. But what he has inherited is already pretty remarkable. Before practice, on a field a few hundred yards from the lab where, in 1942, Enrico Fermi accomplished the first sustained nuclear chain reaction, ushering in the atomic age, Quick's 59 players loosen up and talk among themselves about the things that are important to them. One conversation involves an application for a Rhodes scholarship. One man sits on his helmet, just like a Raider, reading a paperback anthology of Molière's plays. Quick and his assistants run a tight, physical practice with lots of yelling by Quick himself. He has a big voice, and it carries across the campus. Joggers look up suddenly when he roars, "B——, that's——! Now line up again and do it the way we told you."
After one practice last fall, Alan Schafer, the student body president, lingered on the field. A defensive lineman who weighed 205, he made grades good enough for the Dean's List, sang bass in the prestigious Motet Choir, was house manager for his fraternity, Phi Delta Theta, and worked 15 hours a week as a building supervisor at the Henry Crown Field House to qualify for some financial aid. When he graduated in June, he entered a business management training program at G.E. Capital in Minneapolis.
Asked why he came to the University of Chicago, he said, "Well, mainly because of its academic reputation. But also because I wanted to play Division III football. I knew I could play here, and I probably couldn't have played at the Ivies. But it was the academics first. There might be better engineering schools, but I don't think anyone beats Chicago in my field."