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Dr. Edward H. Litchfield/Chancellor Of The University Of Pittsburgh
October 08, 1962
The head of one of our leading universities explodes the myth of the "tramp athlete." He discovers that resounding—and astonishing—success is scored by varsity players as students and professional men, proving that sport and education go very well together
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October 08, 1962

Saturday's Hero Is Doing Fine

The head of one of our leading universities explodes the myth of the "tramp athlete." He discovers that resounding—and astonishing—success is scored by varsity players as students and professional men, proving that sport and education go very well together

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Insofar as occupations serve as rough indicators of success, we judge that the incidence of success—both pecuniary and ennobling—among Pitt athletes has been remarkably high. I wish I could say I am not surprised. I should like to be able to dismiss such findings with the explanation that these men were, after all, recruited within the bounds of the university's highest scholarly aspirations and therefore could be expected to make the most of their education. To be perfectly factual, however, such was not always the case.

For almost 40 years, from the turn of the century until 1939, Pitt football teams were regarded almost perennially as national powerhouses, a distinction achieved partly by the gifted coaching of such men as Colonel Joe Thompson, Pop Warner and Jock Sutherland, and occasionally by the unsophisticated recruiting practices so prevalent in those decades. I am advised by Athletic Director Frank Carver, who has been with Pitt since 1927, that for a clinical study of recruiting practices that were supposed to have soiled the character of many American youths, veteran viewers-with-alarm may find it convenient to examine our history.

Far back in 1903, for example, out-university felt mortified to have been defeated two straight years by the football team of little Geneva College. Football in those days seldom made much money at the box office but many colleges recruited passionately, simply because they found defeat unbearable. In the wake of our losses to Geneva, corrective action was deemed imperative and there seemed only one surefire way of seeing to it that we beat Geneva the next year. We took it.

We lured to our campus most of the Geneva players and the following season, 1904, defeated Geneva 30-0. During the balance of the decade Pitt football teams lost only 13 of 71 games. Now what sort of boys were they, do you suppose, that could be proselyted so frivolously? Because many of them have passed on, we were able to trace only 17. Of that number, four were physicians, five dentists, two attorneys and one a Ph.D.

Today the player who transfers to another college is immediately labeled a tramp athlete, but the epithet actually derives from the first 15 years of the century, when husky young men made near-careers of attending colleges, traveling from one to another and sometimes playing as many as eight years of college football. Our 1901 squad—undefeated, untied and unscored-upon (282 points to none)—was looked upon as the last word in career football. Playing guard on that team was a burly young man called Dally Dallenbach, to whom alarmed educators of the day may well have pointed as a typically distressing example of the athletic system. Dally Dallenbach contributed his services to both Pitt and the University of Illinois as a football player, heavyweight wrestler and hammer thrower. He also attended Cornell, though he did not compete in athletics at that time. "I wanted to," he explains, "but Cornell felt they could not get away with it." As it happened, however, he had a graduate fellowship to carry him through Cornell.

Dally Dallenbach, you see, is Dr. Karl M. Dallenbach, a psychologist who in his spectacles and Vandyke beard looks every bit the part. He has won international acclaim for his research in such subjects as attention, spacial orientation of the blind and cutaneous sensation. At the University of Texas he planned and directed an experimental psychology program that has been acclaimed one of the world's finest. In 1961 he received—along with Scotty Reston of the New York Times and Harold Boeschenstein, president of the Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corporation—a University of Illinois Achievement Award. So much for Dally Dallenbach, tramp athlete, almost as coarse a product of Pitt's tramp footballers as William S. McEllroy, who went on to become dean of our medical school, and Bowman F. Ashe, who became president of the University of Miami.

Throughout the Roaring '20s and well into the Depression '30s Pitt people enjoyed having their teams trounce their opposition; the community felt a sense of pride in seeing Pitt go to the Rose Bowl, not once but four times. I do not know in specific terms how such success was managed, but I am given an inkling by the questionnaire returned to us by Robert H. Hoel, vice-president of a Chicago industrial concern. On a line marked Scholarship Aid, Bob Hoel, a 1932-34 tackle, wrote: "Going rate at the time."

Unhappily, in 1937, the university received a black eye which ultimately led to a prolonged period of de-emphasis in athletics and from which Pitt did not recover for many years. Pitt's '37 football squad, invited to the Rose Bowl, demanded that the university provide each player with $100 entertainment money. The university refused, knowing full well its refusal would mean the loss of $100,000 in Rose Bowl receipts, and thus the team remained home on New Year's Day. One may well imagine the notoriety Pitt received in the nation's press. Even allowing that the commercial tone of intercollegiate football had contributed to our players' attitude, no one could condone their behavior. But having recognized that, one must look beyond and see what has become of the mercenaries on our $100 squad. Did the system demoralize them?

Well, Howard Jackman, for one, is executive secretary of a Cleveland YMCA. George Musulin, formerly in military intelligence, fought with Mihailovic in Yugoslavia during the war and there helped set up the underground that smuggled out our flyers. Bante Dalle Tezze, captain of a tank company, died heroically in the Normandy breakthrough. Emil Narick is assistant general counsel for the United Steelworkers of America and is a member of our board of trustees. John T. Dickinson is an outstanding ear, nose and throat surgeon. Mad Marshall Goldberg, the most famous player on the squad and indeed probably the finest football player in Pitt history, is general manager of the Emerman Machinery Corporation, Chicago. John Michelosen is Pitt's head football coach. All told, that '37 squad, which might well have been held up as an example of all that is bad in the world of recruited athletes, went on to achieve such a degree of success, both in variety of fields and in level of attainment, that any university head would be content to see an entire graduation class do proportionately as well.

Certainly I am not making the point that commercialization of young athletes fosters successful living. I only suspect that such conditions, which may have been an unavoidable growing-up phase in intercollegiate athletics, did not warp the participants. The bygone era laid great stress on competition—on winning, if you will. Now we must get on to a sensible adjustment: rather than tar to the present the feathers blowing around from the past, we must preserve the old competitive values while conducting our sports programs in the light of contemporary academic standards.

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