By the end of spring practice, 23 players had left the squad, some voicing extreme bitterness. Shelby Lee, a sophomore back, left because, his mother said, "He has too much character to want to get out and kill." Another said, "I'm sure Coach Bradshaw's methods are necessary to develop a winner, but I don't believe winning is worth the price." Dale Lindsey, an All-America high school halfback, said, "To me, football is a game. It's a rough game, and you expect the physical punishment, but it's supposed to be fun, too. When it gets to the point that it isn't any fun, why continue?" Another said, "The way I look at it, football is Coach Bradshaw's business. But to me it's a sport, not a business." One boy, a devout Baptist, said, "At first I was impressed with Coach's tie-in of Christianity and football. But now I'm convinced it's nothing but hypocrisy. Christ taught love. Charlie Bradshaw teaches us to punish, to destroy the other man."
(Bob Ford has two pictures on his wall, one of Robert E. Lee and the other of Stonewall Jackson. Pointing to Lee, the intensely serious Ford said to a visitor, "You see this man here? He was a real Christian gentleman. He taught a Sunday school. But he went out and killed, didn't he?")
Not all the players quit, and not all those who quit were bitter. "The practices were tough physically, but we all took the same knocks," said Tom Hutchinson, the All-America end who stayed on the squad. "I don't believe anyone was unequal to the butting and the banging. It was the mental stress and the day-after-day demands that wore a lot of guys down. I suspect that this thing just snowballed and got out of hand—sort of like mass hysteria."
Mike Minix, a pre-med student with an A average, agreed. "It was a form of contagion; one quit and the others followed. Football is an emotional game, and that's how Coach Bradshaw approaches it. I found him a stimulating coach and if I had an easier curriculum I'd still be out at practice."
One of the players who jumped the squad in spring training was Darrell Cox, a halfback and the team's best punter, who stated, "I refuse to be anyone's trained killer." Next day Cox tried to rejoin the team, but Bradshaw would not let him, at least not then. Instead, he phoned Bear Bryant in Alabama.
"What the hell are you calling me for?" roared the Bear. "You want to stiffen your guts so you can tell that Cox he can't come back? Let him sit it out for a while. He'll be just as anxious to come back in September as he is now."
Cox did rejoin the team in the fall and was a standout player both in Kentucky's opening game, an 0-0 tie against a superior Florida State team, and in the game with Mississippi. Critics of Bradshaw pointed out that of all the players who left the squad, only Cox and Center John Mutchler were expected to make the first two teams. The implication was that Bradshaw had deliberately cleared his squad of dead wood.
One Southeastern Conference coach said privately, "It's obvious that the practices were made so brutal that un-talented players were forced to quit. It's not a new pattern. It's an old one set by Bear Bryant. He did the same thing at Kentucky, at A&M and at Alabama. He made it so tough on players with little ability that they quit, leaving him plenty of scholarships to recruit more talented boys. It should be investigated."
Mississippi's John Vaught was more outspoken. In conversation with Earl Ruby, sports editor of the Louisville Courier-Journal, Vaught said with some heat, "Don't those boys who got chased off the squad know that under the rules they're entitled to four full years of room, board, tuition and books, whether they lay a hand on a football or not?"
Ruby suggested that the boys had quit, that they weren't chased.