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There was this boy "Itchy" Czycnxwrovich. Graduates of Gowanus Tech around 1936 won't forget him—240 pounds and six and a half feet of bone and muscle, a rock on defense, a bulldozer on offense, the best guard in the conference. Czycnxwrovich had everything.
Well, almost everything. He was not exactly weak minded, but he was definitely stupid. He could dress and feed himself, tie his shoe laces and carry on a kind of grunting conversation, provided that the other person spoke slowly and the topics were limited to food, women and football. But who cared that he wasn't an Einstein when he took the field on Saturday to massacre hated Canarsie? His fraternity assigned an honor student to write his themes, and his instructors in physical education were eager to write special exams for his benefit.
Thus Czycnxwrovich kept his eligibility through three varsity seasons, although, of course, he never got a degree. Afterward he played professional football for eight years, made a good living and even had a little in the bank when he finally pulled up lame and had to retire. He went back to the Pennsylvania mill town he came from and bought a bar and grill there. But he couldn't keep his accounts straight and had to give that up; then he tried the mines. No one would trust him with blasting powder after the day he blew up the tipple, but he was great with a pick and shovel. Finally he learned to run one of those big ore carriers. That is what he is doing now. And as he drives his great, noisy machine through the tunnels, charging along as he used to charge the Canarsie line, he is a contented man, if hardly a living testament to the benefits of higher education.
Almost everyone has known or heard of Czycnxwrovich under one name or another. He was the All-America who ended up as a gas jockey at a friend's filling station; that star athlete from one's own school who now lives obscurely with his clippings and trophies and a bad heart—his life all anticlimax after the age of 21. Naturally, one realizes, such cases are not quite typical. There are football players who make good—one who became President of the U.S. But the image of Czycnxwrovich et al. is still not too far from the general conception of what awaits the football hero when he enters a world where mental rather than muscular skills are rewarded.
How true is this belief? If there is truth in it, then it should be most conspicuously true—one would suppose—at Notre Dame, the greatest football school of all. But the facts are quite the opposite. The average Notre Dame football player has about as much resemblance to Czycnxwrovich as the latter has to a gorilla; which is to say that while there is a superficial likeness, they actually belong to a different evolutionary order. The average Notre Dame player is not merely as well equipped to make a success in life as the average college graduate—from the record of his postcollegiate performance it seems that he is better equipped by a good measure. Notre Dame's executives don't have to guess about this. They know that it is so.
They know because, having smarted under the common and contrary belief for years, they finally determined to get the facts of the matter. At the request of Father Edmund P. Joyce, executive vice-president and chairman of Notre Dame's faculty board of athletic control, the department of education prepared a questionnaire and sent it to all the living winners of Notre Dame letters—monograms, as they are called—in all sports. There were 1,412 of them, including 485 football players. The rate of returns was about 50%, quite a big response as any alumni secretary can testify. Dr. John F. X. Ryan of the department and his staff proceeded to make a minute statistical analysis of the answers.
All of this material—not only Dr. Ryan's analysis but all the returned questionnaires as well—has been made available to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED by Father Joyce and Father Theodore Hesburgh, president of the university. Nothing was held back, the only restriction being that the comments many of the men wrote on their questionnaires should not be attributed to them without their permission. SPORTS ILLUSTRATED regards this study—the only one of its kind so far as is known—as a major contribution to the sociology of sports.
To confront the Czycnxwrovich legend at once, and money being the handiest measure of things temporal, how much do the former Notre Dame football players make? Their incomes vary by age groups, of course, and as in any group of college graduates picked at random, there are tremendous variations: the high man reports an income of more than $50,000 a year, and the low man only, $4,000. But the median—the point where half fall on either side—is $9,179. The median for male college graduates all over the country is only about $5,000.
What do they do? A great many of them, one might suppose, would be football coaches, athletic or recreation directors or the like. And the study shows that about two-thirds of them did go into coaching at graduation or after playing professionally for a while (as 39% did). But evidently coaching was chosen mostly as a temporary method of cashing in on a skill, as playing professionally naturally was also, since most of them went later into other kinds of work. As undergraduates, about a third of the whole group had been in liberal arts, about a fourth in commerce, the others in law, science and engineering, in that order. A surprisingly large number (nearly 30%) had gone on to do some kind of graduate study. These skills showed up later when, for the most part, they entered fields that have nothing to do with athletics. Well over half of the whole group now are owners, executives, or officials of some sort, and another third are in the professions. They have produced no very famous men; on the other hand the "failures" among them are almost nonexistent. According to TIME Inc.'s study of college graduates a few years ago (They Went to College, by Havemann and West), 16% of graduates land in clerical, skilled, semiskilled or unskilled work. No Notre Dame football player admitted being in any one of these categories. One man, John Rogers, '32, is a farmer, and his income is close to the median of the group.
On the whole, then, this undoubtedly is a successful group. And although the football men were only average in their college grades (82.3) compared with participants in the other major sports, their income is the highest. Not by much—the median for all the major monogram men is only $113 less, which would indicate that sports, at least at Notre Dame, are apt to have a good influence on future earning capacity. Here the point is, however, that the ability to make good in the very toughest kind of football competition, far from being a sign of future mediocrity, seems more likely to forecast future success.