At one end of the University of Michigan pool a deep-chested young man wearing the red trunks of Indiana University churned to the finish of the afternoon's last race. At the other end, a flock of deep-chested young men whooped and hurrahed and shoved Indiana Coach James E. Counsilman into the pool. Surfacing, Counsilman looked with vast satisfaction at the scoreboard, which read: Indiana 58, Michigan 47.
"This," he said a few minutes later, "makes us big time."
It did indeed. In the year's best dual meet—perhaps the finest in American collegiate history—upstart Indiana decisively whipped the team that more than any other has dominated collegiate swimming.
Before Counsilman barged into the picture at Bloomington two seasons ago, Hoosier swimmers were among the humblest of American athletes. But Counsilman, a champion breast-stroke competitor himself at Ohio State and one of those rare coaching birds, a Ph.D. (in physical education), enunciated a stern philosophy of training: "To build condition you have to hurt yourself—make your lungs burn and everything else."
February 29, 1960
Two miles of swimming a day in practice and a half-hour workout with weights became routine at Indiana. Counsilman rigged pulley-and-weight devices to perfect strokes and help develop stamina. He taught positive thinking: "If you believe you can do something, you can."
Led by Frank McKinney Jr., the best backstroker in the world and son of the former national chairman of the Democratic Party, Doc Counsilman's young believers were strong enough last spring to finish second behind Michigan in the Big Ten championships and third in the NCAA.
With the promotion of a handful of notable sophomores to the varsity this season, Indiana achieved some of the depth it so painfully lacked before. The jewel of the lot was 19-year old Mike Troy of Indianapolis (pictured left), a dark, handsome lad with shoulders as wide as a church door and three world butterfly records (at 110 yards, 220 yards, 200 meters) already to his credit.
Thus reinforced, Counsilman, with considerable optimism, headed toward Ann Arbor. "Only three teams in the country are good enough to give us a rough time," he said. "Michigan, Southern California and—our freshman team."
As time for the meet approached, Counsilman—a compulsive feeder when he becomes nervous—turned his thoughts to thick, juicy steaks. His Michigan rival, Gus Stager, stopped eating altogether.
The night before Stager's team had routed Wisconsin for its 33rd consecutive dual victory, but Stager, outwardly jaunty and capable of flashing an extraordinarily charming grin, was plainly concerned over the 34th. He had, among other assets, the best breaststroke man in the country in Ron Clark, a wonderful butterfly stylist in Dave Gillanders, superior sprinters in Frank Legacki and Carl Woolley and a wealth of divers, but Michigan would have to swim without its formidable captain, Tony Tashnick. Winner of two butterfly events and the individual medley in last year's conference meet, Tashnick was convalescing from mononucleosis.
"Give Indiana everything they're sure of and the benefit of all doubts," Stager said, "and I figure we still need six points to win the meet."
As it turned out Saturday, the day was lost for Michigan before the last relay was swum. With a capacity audience of 2,700 looking on at the Wolverines' magnificent pool, Indiana swiftly moved ahead by blitzing Michigan in the first two events. Indiana's own American record fell in the first race, the 400-yard medley relay, as McKinney, Gerry Miki, Troy and Pete Sintz whooshed to a clocking of 3:41.2, 7/10 of a second below the old mark. Next Tom Verth and Fred Rounds swept the 220-yard freestyle event, and Indiana led 16-5.
Michigan came right back with victories in the 50-yard sprint (Woolley), and the 200-yard individual medley (Fred Wolf), and with eight sure-fire diving points took a 26-22 lead.
Then came the race of the day. "It looks," said a public address announcer, "as if Mike Troy is trying to prove something."
He was. Troy had been beaten by the man in the next lane, Gillanders, in the Pan American Games, and he was out for revenge and a record. He huffed and puffed through the 200-yard butterfly in 1:59.1. The superb performance cut 1.7 seconds from Troy's old record for the distance.
That was all the push Indiana needed. The Hoosiers placed 1-2 in both the 200-yard backstroke (an event owned by McKinney) and the 440-yard freestyle. Miki's second place in the 200-yard breaststroke assured the victory.
Tight-lipped with anger over what he obviously considered less than Michigan's best effort, Stager nevertheless was relieved that the tremendous pressure of maintaining an undefeated record had been removed. He was eager to have another go at his Indiana conquerors in the conference meet March 3-5.
Counsilman was looking ahead too, a long way ahead. He was not cracking wise when he said his freshman team could give the varsity all it could handle. One of his fledglings is Alan Somers, winner of the Pan American 1,500 meters. Then there is a big, strong fellow named John Roethke, who has already been clocked in American record time for the 200-yard individual medley.
"In my opinion," said Counsilman, "he may become the greatest all-round swimmer in history."