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LETTER TO BIGGIE

Dec. 06, 1954
Dec. 06, 1954

Table of Contents
Dec. 6, 1954

Pat On The Back
  • Herewith a salute from the editors to men and women of all ages who have fairly earned the good opinion of the world of sport, regardless of whether they have yet earned its tallest headlines

Road Race
The Army-Navy Game
Soundtrack
The Wonderful World Of Sport
Fire On Ice
Tennis
Acknowledgments
Fisherman's Calendar
Yesterday
  • A jaunty Frenchman helped glamorize the 20s with a pair of boxing gloves on his brittle hands and gallantry in his heart. But Georges Carpentier was too small to live the dream which idolizing millions created: he couldn't dethrone Jack Dempsey

19th Hole: The Readers Take Over

LETTER TO BIGGIE

Last week Biggie Munn, athletic director of Michigan State College, blasted the one-platoon rules change in football for SI's readers. Now an old friend answers him

Dear Biggie,

This is an article from the Dec. 6, 1954 issue Original Layout

I read with interest and amazement your dissertation on the demise of the free substitution rule, erroneously referred to as the two-platoon system. I was particularly proud that an old guard—who could never, by the farthest stretch of imagination, have been called a "watch charm guard"—wrote such an excellent eulogy to your late lamented two-platoon game. It refuted, for all time, the saying that a guard is a fullback with his brains knocked out.

I can't blame you for having fond memories of the platoon system of football because no coach was more successful during this era. But let me ask you a personal question, Biggie. I happen to remember a 220-pound (program weight) guard from Minnesota who played not only on offense and defense but did all the punting and sometimes carried the ball. He was a helluva all-around football player. His name was Biggie Munn. How would you have played him under your specialization system?

Tears welled up when I read your opening sentence: "The rule makers have chased the good little man out of college football." And I was saddened by the thought that the 175-pound guards and tackles, who made up the Michigan State roster both offensively and defensively, would be gone forever. Seriously, Biggie, the platoon system gave the big, slow lineman a chance to play on defense while the smaller, more mobile men could man the offense. If any one type is hurt under the present rule it is the slow candidate, be he big or small, who can't go both ways-and that's as it should be. As you know so well, size and speed are not. synonymous. A big fast man will be better than a small fast man. Ask the pros.

INTEREST HIGH, ATTENDANCE UP

There has never been more interest in football, and this goes for both the college teams and the professionals. Attendance is up. The players, practically to a man, like to play both ways. The coaches, who voted 8 to 1 against the present rule two years ago, voted 3 to 1 for it last year and will be 90 percent in favor of it this coming year, except for a few minor changes. More men are participating in games this season than did two years ago. As I said early in the season, a kind of two-platoon system is in vogue. Coaches are playing separate units, substituting whole teams at a time, but the boys are enjoying the experience of playing both on offense and defense.

I don't as yet have any statistics regarding the injury ratio this season compared to the days of the free substitution rule, but I do know that the biggest cause of injuries a few years ago was having the players of one team "cooling their heels" on the bench while their counterparts were engaging in their particular specialties, and then being rushed back into the game on the exchange of the ball without a chance to loosen up.

YOUR MEMORY IS SHORT

You said that one-platoon football was more difficult to follow for the fans, "with players being jockeyed in and out of the game..." Boy, oh boy, your memory is short. How about players shuttling back and forth on every play to call the coach's signals from the bench? How about the punter for fourth down, the punt-returning specialist, the kick-off specialist? Actually, one coach had to be assigned just to keep track of the number of players on the field. The range would run from nine to 19. I will never forget an incident when I was coaching at Yale in 1949. We were playing Lou Little's Columbia team, when suddenly Levi Jackson, our left halfback, broke through the Columbia line on a simple quick opener and raced, untouched, 53 yards for a touchdown. After the game everyone was congratulating Jackson on his sensational run. Levi modestly protested and said all the credit should be given to Walt Clemens, our left tackle, who had completely obliterated his Columbia counterpart. Late Sunday morning Lou called me in New Haven. "Herman, you remember that long run of Jackson's, don't you?" I assured him that I did. "Well," he continued, "I've just finished looking at the pictures of the game. No wonder there was such a large hole. My defensive right tackle forgot to go into the game."

THE COLLEGE PRESIDENT'S BOY

I have learned through the grapevine that you have just finished coaching another undefeated team and that your son and the college president's boy were the regular guards on this seventh-grade outfit. I never did find out whether they were offensive or defensive specialists, but it could have created a problem, if the president's son wanted to play both ways. I'll bet they both wanted to, and did.

Yours for "the big game."

Sincerely,
Herman

P.S. Speaking of "playing the big game" and your worries over it—you can stop worrying. Last Saturday in the Army-Navy game offensive football seems to have rolled right over the proponents of platoon play and left them six feet under. Army and Navy couldn't have displayed it in more awesome fashion than in the big one. What's the old poker-playing expression: "The winners tell funny stories and the losers holler 'deal' "?

PHOTOHERMAN HICKMAN