There was this boy"Itchy" Czycnxwrovich. Graduates of Gowanus Tech around 1936 won'tforget him—240 pounds and six and a half feet of bone and muscle, a rock ondefense, a bulldozer on offense, the best guard in the conference.Czycnxwrovich had everything.
Well, almosteverything. He was not exactly weak minded, but he was definitely stupid. Hecould dress and feed himself, tie his shoe laces and carry on a kind ofgrunting conversation, provided that the other person spoke slowly and thetopics were limited to food, women and football. But who cared that he wasn'tan Einstein when he took the field on Saturday to massacre hated Canarsie? Hisfraternity assigned an honor student to write his themes, and his instructorsin physical education were eager to write special exams for his benefit.
Thus Czycnxwrovichkept his eligibility through three varsity seasons, although, of course, henever 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 uplame and had to retire. He went back to the Pennsylvania mill town he came fromand bought a bar and grill there. But he couldn't keep his accounts straightand had to give that up; then he tried the mines. No one would trust him withblasting powder after the day he blew up the tipple, but he was great with apick and shovel. Finally he learned to run one of those big ore carriers. Thatis what he is doing now. And as he drives his great, noisy machine through thetunnels, charging along as he used to charge the Canarsie line, he is acontented man, if hardly a living testament to the benefits of highereducation.
Almost everyonehas known or heard of Czycnxwrovich under one name or another. He was theAll-America who ended up as a gas jockey at a friend's filling station; thatstar athlete from one's own school who now lives obscurely with his clippingsand 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 footballplayers who make good—one who became President of the U.S. But the image ofCzycnxwrovich et al. is still not too far from the general conception of whatawaits the football hero when he enters a world where mental rather thanmuscular skills are rewarded.
September 23, 1956
How true is thisbelief? If there is truth in it, then it should be most conspicuously true—onewould suppose—at Notre Dame, the greatest football school of all. But the factsare quite the opposite. The average Notre Dame football player has about asmuch resemblance to Czycnxwrovich as the latter has to a gorilla; which is tosay that while there is a superficial likeness, they actually belong to adifferent evolutionary order. The average Notre Dame player is not merely aswell equipped to make a success in life as the average college graduate—fromthe record of his postcollegiate performance it seems that he is betterequipped by a good measure. Notre Dame's executives don't have to guess aboutthis. They know that it is so.
They know because,having smarted under the common and contrary belief for years, they finallydetermined 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 ofathletic control, the department of education prepared a questionnaire and sentit to all the living winners of Notre Dame letters—monograms, as they arecalled—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 secretarycan testify. Dr. John F. X. Ryan of the department and his staff proceeded tomake a minute statistical analysis of the answers.
All of thismaterial—not only Dr. Ryan's analysis but all the returned questionnaires aswell—has been made available to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED by Father Joyce and FatherTheodore Hesburgh, president of the university. Nothing was held back, the onlyrestriction being that the comments many of the men wrote on theirquestionnaires should not be attributed to them without their permission.SPORTS ILLUSTRATED regards this study—the only one of its kind so far as isknown—as a major contribution to the sociology of sports.
To confront theCzycnxwrovich legend at once, and money being the handiest measure of thingstemporal, how much do the former Notre Dame football players make? Theirincomes vary by age groups, of course, and as in any group of college graduatespicked at random, there are tremendous variations: the high man reports anincome of more than $50,000 a year, and the low man only, $4,000. But themedian—the point where half fall on either side—is $9,179. The median for malecollege graduates all over the country is only about $5,000.
What do they do? Agreat many of them, one might suppose, would be football coaches, athletic orrecreation directors or the like. And the study shows that about two-thirds ofthem did go into coaching at graduation or after playing professionally for awhile (as 39% did). But evidently coaching was chosen mostly as a temporarymethod 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 incommerce, the others in law, science and engineering, in that order. Asurprisingly large number (nearly 30%) had gone on to do some kind of graduatestudy. These skills showed up later when, for the most part, they enteredfields that have nothing to do with athletics. Well over half of the wholegroup now are owners, executives, or officials of some sort, and another thirdare in the professions. They have produced no very famous men; on the otherhand the "failures" among them are almost nonexistent. According toTIME 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, semiskilledor unskilled work. No Notre Dame football player admitted being in any one ofthese categories. One man, John Rogers, '32, is a farmer, and his income isclose to the median of the group.
On the whole,then, this undoubtedly is a successful group. And although the football menwere only average in their college grades (82.3) compared with participants inthe other major sports, their income is the highest. Not by much—the median forall 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 earningcapacity. Here the point is, however, that the ability to make good in the verytoughest kind of football competition, far from being a sign of futuremediocrity, seems more likely to forecast future success.
Notre Dame'spurpose in life, contrary to fairly wide belief, is not only to beat SouthernCalifornia; it isn't even primarily to equip its young men to go out and make agood living. What the school wants, as Fathers Hesburgh and Joyce declare withfeeling, is to produce morally responsible human beings and useful citizens.Accordingly, part of the questionnaire was designed to probe various attitudesof the former athletes.
Since nearly allof them are Catholics, it is not surprising to find their divorce rate almostnil. Practically all of them attend church regularly. Considering theirCatholic convictions, their reproductive rate is not impressive: only aboutthree children per family. As citizens they shape up as well as the averagecollege graduate. About 17% have held public office and about the sameproportion have had some kind of civic or professional honor given to them. Amajority have served in the armed forces and a majority of these becamecommissioned officers.
Almost to a man,they look back on their years at Notre Dame with affection. Indeed, a morenostalgic and devoted bunch could never be found: 99% would want their sons togo to Notre Dame. About a quarter of them reported that they had been injuredseriously playing football, and among these more than a third said that theinjuries had bothered them to some extent in later life. Yet almost everyone,the presently halt and lame included, would go out for the team if they had itto do all over again.
Why is this? Thequestionnaire suggested various "areas in which varsity athleticsparticipation contributed to your development." Some men checked them all.Among those who made a selection, "moral virtue," "religiouslife," "civic life," "social life," and"recreation" fared worst in the voting. "Courage,""health," and "success in business or professional life" werechecked frequently, while the winning categories, in the order of choice, were"teamwork," "self-discipline," "ability to meetpeople," "ability to accept adversity," and"sportsmanship." The reader may have his own opinion about this scaleof values, but these, in any case, were the biggest permanent rewards that wentwith the monogram. For the most part (78%) the players would encourage or atleast allow their sons to play varsity football. Among the rest a few were notsure, while some 15% preferred that the boy learn his teamwork,self-discipline, etc. in Notre Dame's highly developed intramural sportsprogram.
Although"sportsmanship" came two notches below "ability to meetpeople," there were few players who felt that they had not been set a goodexample. To the question, "Did you get the impression that the coaches werewilling to sacrifice sportsmanship for victory?" only 9% answered"yes," and 90% denied that "undue emphasis is placed on winning atNotre Dame." A number of players quoted Knute Rockne's dictum, "Be agood loser—but don't lose." All-America Stanley Cofall of the 1916 teamsaid, "Naturally we always played to win—but not at any cost." DavidHayes, '17, now a U.S. Rubber executive, commented, "Why should anyone haveto put emphasis on winning? Everyone wants to win. What is wrong withwinning?" Most of the head coaches the school has had—among them Rockne,Hunk Anderson, Elmer Layden, Frank Leahy and Terry Brennan—came in for tributesin this respect. However, the few outright malcontents were bunched mainly inthe Leahy era, and a suspicion that all was not perfect then shows in thereplies of players from other times, with such dour comments on "undueemphasis" as, "Now that Leahy has retired, I believe boys are enjoyingthe game."
A striking effectof these questions was to show how the memory of Rockne lives on among theplayers he coached. Regarding sportsmanship, especially, many of them weremoved to recall examples of how he had insisted on fair play. A great majority(87%) of the players from all times thought the coaches had had their besteducational interests at heart, but again it was men of the Rockne era whowanted to tell stories to prove it: "Rockne bought my books in freshmanyear," and "Rockne used to say, 'If you're not smart enough to passyour college work, you're not smart enough to play football for me.' "
Perhaps thegreatest of Rockne's long string of great teams was the one of 1924, the yearof the Four Horsemen. These men are in their 50s now and thus afford a goodsample of what happens to fine players in full maturity. Of the 31 monogramwinners, six have died, 12 returned their questionnaires, and SPORTSILLUSTRATED was able to locate and interview six others. Judging from thislarge sample, the team has done well. The lowest income reported was $7,000,and the highest $30,000, with the average at about $15,000. Nearly all the menwent into coaching but only two are still in: Clem Crowe of Vancouver in theCanadian Professional Football League and the great Adam Walsh who is coach atBowdoin. The others have spread out into many fields. Tackle John McManmon is alandscape architect and nurseryman, End Charles Collins is president-elect ofthe National Car-loading Corp. Sales work accounts for a good many of theothers, with several sales executives among them. There are also a publicrelations man, a personnel manager, a warehouse manager and some who own theirown businesses. The famous backfield all went into coaching and rose toprominence—Jim Crowley at Fordham, Harry Stuhldreher at Wisconsin, Elmer Laydenat Notre Dame and Don Miller as backfield coach at Georgia Tech and OhioState—but all are now in other work. Crowley, manager of a TV station inScranton, is chairman of the Pennsylvania boxing commission. Miller, also alawyer, practices in Cleveland and is a former federal district attorney there.Stuhldreher is assistant to the vice-president in charge of industrialrelations at U.S. Steel. Layden is a sales executive with General AmericanTransportation Corp. in Chicago.
If any moreevidence were needed that the ability to play great football is compatible withlater success, the record of Notre Dame's All-Americas supplies it. There were35 of them in the survey group—men such as Frank Carideo and MarchySchwartz—whose names belong among the alltime stars of the game. They departfrom the norm in some ways. More of them went into coaching, for instance, andmore have stayed in. Slightly fewer were in the armed forces, although four outof five who did go in became commissioned officers. Fewer have received civicor professional honors. And on the average they have one less child—only twoper family. These mixed distinctions are weighted favorably by their incomes,however. The median is $10,450, more than 10% higher than for the group as awhole and 47% higher than for college graduates in general.
That takes care ofCzycnxwrovich—at Notre Dame. Yet such horrible examples do exist, as everyoneknows, and the question becomes, how does Notre Dame so consistently avoidthem? The answer seems to lie in safeguards which refuse any academic favors toathletes. They must meet the same entrance requirements as nonathletes, carrythe same course of studies and maintain a minimum average of 77%, which isseven points higher than the rule for nonathletes. One of the items on thequestionnaire asks, "Do you feel you were given 'snap' courses because youwere an athlete?" The answers sputter with indignation: "Those arefighting words! No!"; "The only snap would be the sound of ourbackbones"; "We had to work like hell to stay in class." No oneanswered "yes."
How then, thequestion develops, can Notre Dame find so many boys capable of playing greatfootball and of carrying a solid course of study? Is it, perhaps, that theschool attracts them with juicy bribes? After all, wasn't Dr. Buell G.Gallagher, president of CCNY, pretty close to the truth when he recentlydenounced intercollegiate athletics as "strictly professional" and wenton to say: "The players are hired by the highest bidders and play for thepay they get—in scholarships, jobs, or cash.... Whenever you have a big-timeteam you have a professional team. The two go together. If anyone can challengethat, I'll eat my hat."
Notre Dame'smethod, if it does not instantly cause Dr. Gallagher to eat his hat, is atleast very different from the bid-em-up kind of professionalism he has in mindand that no doubt exists at some places. The school does give athleticscholarships and has done so for a long time. Nowadays 20 to 25 each year go tofootball prospects for the full four-year term. Since the varsity squadaverages about 60 men, this is enough to supply everybody on it with ascholarship, with many to spare for attrition. Some of these scholarships coveronly tuition, others tuition and room, but most include tuition, board, roomand laundry and thus are worth about $1,500 a year, or $6,000 for the fourundergraduate years. In a literal sense, then, the Notre Dame team is made upalmost entirely of "professionals," the very few exceptions being boysfrom well-to-do families and those whose football skills do not mature untilafter several years in school.
How can aninstitution of learning justify rewarding a merely physical skill? FatherHesburgh's favorite reply is one he borrows from Father John J. Cavanaugh, hispredecessor: "In the matter of obtaining an education, what is so sacredabout money? Here are two boys. Both have the ability and the desire to obtaina good education. The father of one boy has money.... The father of the otherboy is poor, but the boy himself has developed his natural abilities indifficult and typically American competition.... He is also willing to study,to keep the rules and to work. Why should the first boy be given the access toan education because of something his father has, and the second boy refused ifhe offers the school something useful to it that he himself hasdeveloped—whether it be athletic ability, debating ability, musical or dramaticability?"
There is somesophistry here, for the fact is that the scholarships are awarded chiefly onability to play rather than lack of ability to pay. Nevertheless, somehow itworks out nearly always to be the same thing. The survey asked, "Would youhave been financially able to come to ND without a scholarship?" Only 12%answered "yes." It was notable that among the. entire group of footballplayers the parents of only 2% had gone to college (compared with 53% for thetennis players, 39% for the golf players). The comments that many men addedbrim with gratitude: Joe Kurth, for instance, one of the greatest All-Americas(1931 and 1932), now a representative for a cost accounting firm, tells that hesupported his widowed mother while he was in school and that college would havebeen out of the question for him without a scholarship. All-America JohnnyLujack (1946 and 1947), now the prosperous part owner, with his father-in-law,of an automobile business, comments, "Athletics are not for the wealthypeople alone, and without a scholarship I'd hate to think what some of us wouldhave done or would be doing now."
The scholarshipsare not free. Every boy has work to do—delivering mail, helping the residentproctor in his dormitory, waiting on table, helping in the kitchen, stackingequipment in the gym; none of it terribly demanding, to be sure, but all of itof a useful nature, unlike the feather duster jobs available at certainschools. Another distinction of the Notre Dame scholarships is that they areawarded unreservedly for the full four years, whether the boy makes the team ornot. There is none of the sorry business of bringing in boys for freshmantryouts, then turning the rejects loose.
Have Notre Dameboys sold themselves to the "highest bidder"? Perhaps some did, but itis plain that most did not. To the survey question, "Did you receivescholarship offers from other schools?" a big majority answered"yes" (94% during the last 25 years) and their comments show how nearlyuniversal this form of proselyting has become. Hardly a major school was leftoff the list, which included the service academies and a number of the IvyLeague schools, indicating that there is more hanky-panky afoot (unofficially)than meets the eye. Some boys had literally dozens of offers, nor were theselimited by any means to board, room and tuition. One man noted that "99% ofother offers included money, position for my father, etc." Another said,"I visited 40 schools. All had better offers than ND."
Yet they choseNotre Dame. And to the question, "Aside from a basic scholarship, do youfeel that athletes should be offered special inducements (cars, monthly checks,etc.) to enroll in college?" almost all of them answered "no" andmany went on to add such admonitions as, "Absolutely not. If Notre Damereaches that point, varsity athletics should be dropped."
What then, is theanswer? Undoubtedly there is a strong religious factor involved. As the surveyshows, again and again it was a priest, or even sometimes a nun, who primarilyinfluenced the decision for Notre Dame—or it was "mother," or the wishfor "a good Catholic education." Fordham, Loyola, et al. have theirpoints and inspire their loyalties, but among Catholics Notre Dame has a veryspecial status. As a coach at another Catholic college remarked to a SPORTSILLUSTRATED reporter, "Every time a good player comes out of CentralCatholic, I know I'm licked before I start. He ends up at Notre Dame." Andas another coach has remarked wistfully, "Let me choose a football teamfrom 90% of the Irish boys or the Jewish boys or the Negro boys or the Slavs,and I'll come up with a great team, and every man on it will have good gradestoo."
Religion not onlyhelps bring them to Notre Dame, it makes the successful end sweep, the blockedpunt, almost a matter of divine duty. The school is consecrated to the Virgin.After the 1954 game with Michigan State, which Notre Dame won 20-19 whenMichigan State missed the extra point, one player said, "I felt that OurLady was up there and gave it a little tap to the right." It is difficultto translate this devotion statistically.
Strong as thereligious factor is, however, there is another. Success breeds success,prestige feeds on itself, and Notre Dame is the constant beneficiary of its owngreat reputation. As the survey shows, many of the boys came there with aromanticized enthusiasm reaching back to childhood ("Never even consideredanother school," "My life's ambition," etc.). Arriving in such acondition, they are perfectly malleable to the influence of the Notre Dametradition—a tradition of discipline, fellowship and sportsmanship which theuniversity has nourished for many years, and in the formation of which KnuteRockne had a tremendous role. Each of his successors has inevitably been judgedin comparison with his qualities as a man and an educator. Twenty-five yearsafter his death, Notre Dame is still playing for Rockne and trying to play ashe would have liked.
Now all this isfine—and the reader, if he is normally cynical, may well be thinking that itsounds too fine to be true. As a matter of fact, the same thought occurred toSPORTS ILLUSTRATED. There is no arguing with the survey: the questionnaireshave been interpreted correctly. And for normal survey purposes, the samplecertainly was big enough—51%. But this was not a normal survey. It could beexpected that the successful men would be glad to answer. It could be suspectedthat the unsuccessful ones would not. Under the reproving stare of alma mater,how to account for that hitch in Alcatraz, or even for one's failure to win hismonogram in life? In this skeptical mood, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED went looking forthe other 49 %—and located and interviewed a large part of them. As across-check, two old Notre Dame teams were compared with teams of the samevintages from Yale, Georgia Tech, Ohio State and Southern California. Theresults of this investigation will be reported next week.
QUESTIONNAIRE FOR MONOGRAM MEN
University of Notre Dame (November 1954)
1. List varsity sports in which you participated at ND,monograms won and year:—————
2. Year of graduation—— College (check) Arts andLetters—— Science——Engineering—— Commerce—— Law—— Major Subject—— If you failedto graduate, give reasons:—— Did you take graduate or professional work afterleaving ND? Yes— No— Degree—
3. What was your home city and state when enteringND?—— Present marital status (check) Single— Married—— Separated—— Divorced——Widower—— Number of children— Do you have any sons who attended ND? Yes— No—Whether or not you have sons, would you want them to attend ND? Yes—— No— Wouldyou want them to participate in varsity athletics? Yes— No— Intramuralathletics? Yes——No— Comment:——————
4. Title of your first job after graduation from ND——Did your athletic career help in securing this job?—— Title of your presentjob—— Present annual income—— Beginning annual income—— Do you now work for(check) Private industry— Government— Profession— Own business—Other———
5. Did you play professionally after graduation? Yes—No— Number of years— Would you encourage others to play professionally? Yes—No— Why?——— Did you coach after graduation? Yes— No— Ever serve in the FBI?Yes— No—
6. Have you served in the armed forces? Yes— No—Branch—— Rank—— List memberships in fraternal, business, professional or civicorganizations:——— List public offices you have held and professional or civichonors received:———————-
7. Religion (check) Catholic—Protestant— Jewish——Other— Do you attend church regularly? Yes— No— If Catholic, do you attend Massevery Sunday? Yes— No— Do you receive the sacraments? (check) Daily—— Weekly——Monthly—— Once a year—— Is your wife a Catholic? Yes— No—
8. Did you have a scholarship to ND? Yes— No— Did thescholarship cover (a) tuition, board and room—; (b) tuition only— Were thereother factors aside from the athletic that prompted you to enter ND?— Would youhave been financially able to come to ND without a scholarship? Yes— No—Comment:—————
9. What person, if any, was largely responsible foryour decision to come to ND?—— Did you receive scholarship offers from otherschools? Yes— No— Please elaborate— Aside from a basic scholarship, do you feelthat athletes should be offered special inducements (cars, monthly checks,etc.) to enroll in college? Yes— No— Comment:——— Did you seek to prove yourathletic ability in high school with the primary purpose of meriting ascholarship to college? Yes—No— Comment:——— Did either of your parents attendcollege? (check) Father— Mother— Neither—
10. What athletic honors (Ail-American rating,trophies, etc.) did you receive at ND?—— Did you sustain any serious injury inathletics at ND? Yes— No— Has it affected you in later life? Yes— No— Do youbelong to the National Monogram Club?—— Do you favor such a club?—— Do you feelyou were given "snap" courses because you were an athlete?—— What wasyour general average in college? (check) 70-75—— 76-80—— 81-85—— 86-89——90-95—— 96-100—— Do you think that the considerable public interest inintercollegiate athletics has any effect on the individual athlete? Yes— No—Comment:—————————
11. Do you feel that undue emphasis is placed onwinning at Notre Dame? Yes— No— Comment:————— Do you feel that the coaches hadyour best educational interests at heart? Yes— No— Comment:———— Did you get theimpression that the coaches were willing to sacrifice sportsmanship forvictory? Yes—— No—— Comment:————————————
12. If you had it to do all over again, would youparticipate in intercollegiate athletics? Yes— No— If not, why?—— Check thoseareas in which varsity athletics participation contributed to your development:Character— Self-Discipline—— Moral Virtue—— Teamwork.—— Sportsmanship——Courage—— Health—— Recreation—— Religious Life—— Social Life—— Civic Life——Ability to meet people— Ability to accept adversity—— Success in business orprofessional life——
NEXT WEEK: PART II
How do the Notre Dame findings check with the over-allfootball picture? The answer is supplied by former players who did not answerthe original questionnaire, and by a SPORTS ILLUSTRATED survey of some otherrepresentative football colleges