SI Vault
 
SATURDAY'S HERO IS DOING FINE
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
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
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

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4 5

Our third measure, which we hope will establish a pattern for a national crackdown on the cheap deceits by which winning teams often are recruited and held together, goes right to the heart of the contention that college heads must bear responsibility. It is simply this: at regular intervals each institution will draw up complete academic records for each of its athletes—from the freshman class through the senior class—and submit those records directly to the heads of the rival universities. Thus in the office of Chancellor William P. Tolley of Syracuse and in that of President Eric A. Walker of Penn State, the records of Pitt athletes will be scrutinized. If we have been found to have admitted an unqualified freshman or to have played a varsity athlete who is not meeting in every respect the requirements applied to non-athletes, Chancellor Tolley and President Walker will act. They will not merely tell me to get that boy out of there. They will say: "Chancellor Litchfield, at the expiration of the series of games for which we have contracted, we shall play Pitt no more."

And that will be that.

It is no light matter to commit ourselves to such procedure, for one false step by, say, Pitt or Penn State will result in the termination of a popular Pennsylvania athletic rivalry that goes back to 1893. (One can almost hear now the furor in the state legislature, upon which both State and our own privately endowed institution rely for millions each year.) Why not, then, be satisfied with the conscientious and surprisingly effective police work of the National Collegiate Athletic Association? Principally because in the end such reliance is nothing more than abdication of responsibility.

Already we detect results from our efforts. In recent years the football staffs of Pitt and Penn State have groused loudly, one insinuating that the other has recruited unqualified students. This year we have not heard a peep.

Still, opponents of highly competitive sport may well ask of us, "Really, is it worth all the trouble it's putting you to? And is it worth the risk of scandals?"

We at Pitt think so, even knowing from personal experience the proximity of those who cause scandals. (Two of our own basketball players reported having been offered bribes, and their exemplary response resulted in the prompt conviction of the would-be briber.) To the question of whether our sports program is worth the trouble and risk, our answer—again borrowing from the memorandum of 1959—is this: "Intercollegiate competition provides a dramatic illustration of sports competence and thus helps to develop an interest in sports activities of a personal and intra-institutional character. This, plus the competitive drive which is encouraged and the institutional loyalty which is engendered, provides the rationale for intercollegiate contests."

Unfortunately, in the minds of some athletes and their parents, the rationale for intercollegiate sports seems to be only that they enable a young man to acquire a "name" and therefore a springboard to success in business or in the professions. I suspect the advantages of publicity are exaggerated, but, in any case, as I return to the facts of our survey I am heartened to learn that our athletes have by no means overlooked humanitarian and spiritual vocations. Despite the absence of divinity studies in Pitt's curriculum, 13 of our lettermen have gone on to the ministry. Others include an executive of the Red Cross, a manager of a society for the improvement of the poor and an executive director of a philanthropic foundation. Almost directly from the glamour of a packed-to-capacity stadium, a lanky halfback named Chuck Reinhold has gone to the Ethiopian jungles as a missionary; Sam Haddad, a lineman whose Syrian extraction earned him the nickname Camel Driver, turns up in the Middle East and in Latin America directing labor education under our foreign aid program. In the research sciences we find Pitt athletes at work as microbiologists, meteorologists, geologists, and metallurgists—as physicists, chemists and psychologists.

Nonetheless, to parents who regard athletics as a stepping-stone to monetary success, I would risk one word of advice: forget the advantage of publicity and raise your son, sir, to be a student manager. Make of him a busy creature who tends equipment, packs trunks, counts heads on the road, compiles statistics for the coach and answers to every organizational emergency. Unlike our athletes, none of our managers is to be found among the clergy or in government and few have entered education. Our managers, largely, are men who make money. They range all the way from Frank Scott, business agent for professional baseball and football stars, to the director of marketing for the Union Carbide Plastics Company (a division of Union Carbide Chemical), to a retired president of Talon, Inc. (buttons, Zippers, etc.).

If it seems only logical that student managers should become members of the managerial society, then what destiny would logic reserve for pugilists? For a brief period in the less genteel '30s Pitt had a varsity boxing team. Well after we dropped the sport, colleges by the dozens began abandoning it, generally on the grounds that it expressed a brutality that had no place in college life. As a matter of curiosity, then, one looks to see what has become of the brutes who passed through Pitt's fleeting experience in boxing. We are able to trace 24. Fourteen hold advanced degrees. Among that number is Herbert J. Cummings, director of the foreign service division of the U.S. Department of Commerce. And for those who enjoy picking on eggheads, we offer from our boxing ranks, of all places, a chap who defected from the faculty of a West Coast university to live behind the Iron Curtain.

There emerges from our study a titillating relationship between the violent spirit and the probing, often creative mind. We leave it entirely to experts on human behavior to interpret the fact that time and again our survey informs us that men notorious for their uncouth conduct in contact sports have addressed themselves to scientific and cultural challenges. As the head of a university that is sweepingly expanding its campus, I am in constant discussion with Patrick J. Cusick Jr., executive director of the Pittsburgh Regional Planning Association. A key implementer of the city's prodigious renaissance, Cusick is regarded as one of the most imaginative and dynamic city planners in the nation, yet as I watch him chart the future of a metropolis I am amused to recall that a) Pitt dropped the sport of hockey after a brief trial marked by constant violence and that b) Defenseman Pat Cusick, always the first to join a brawl, seemed to possess a talent not for rebuilding a city, but rather for destroying the inhabitants thereof.

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5