Around the smaller U.S. colleges Saturday in the fall is as big a day as it is in Seattle or East Lansing or Atlanta. The difference is that almost everything is on a smaller scale. There is less publicity, the crowds are smaller, and the squads generally total from 20 to 30 players, not the 50 who pour single file into the stadium at South Bend.
Skimpy budgets often make it an uphill fight for small colleges to field teams. (Another item that is sometimes uphill is the small-college field, which is occasionally higher at one end than the other, thus permitting teams to show their best form only every other period, when the going is downhill.)
But for all this, football as it is played at William Jewell, Tennessee Tech and Fresno State is fun. The people who attend the games are no less enthusiastic than they are at the big schools, and the teams play just as hard. At times they play harder and better. There are teams with major-college status which would do well to avoid the smaller schools with their bigger lines and faster back-fields. Here is a glimpse at 13 of the better small-college teams, their coaches and their players.
East Texas State (Commerce, Texas): The coach's name is J. V. Sikes, but the boys are strictly varsity. A 7-0 loss to Texas A&I was the lone smudge on a 9-1 record last year and helped tie the two clubs for first place in the Lone Star Conference.
There is only one trouble spot—quarterback, where Sam McCord, a two-time Little All-America, will be replaced by untested Jim Williams and Transfer Carl Johnston. The rest of the backs are excellent runners. George Boynton, already drafted by the pros, and Jim Shaw are back at the halves, and Wallace Miller returns with his rumbling stride at fullback.
With Guards Jerry Davis and Jerry Peveto, End Bill Hopkins and 240-pound Tackle Evaristo Nino the defense will be strong.
Fresno State (Fresno, Calif.): Optimism is one of those intangibles that can be produced by little things like sunshine, a good meal or 17 lettermen and a batch of good junior college transfers. Cecil Coleman has the ingredients to make a coach optimistic.
For instance, he has an all-veteran first unit, including seven starters. He has 'Doug Brown and Dale Messer. Brown, a 245-pound guard, has been drafted by both the Los Angeles Rams and Dallas Texans even though he still has two years of college eligibility left.
If Messer, who weighs a scant 165 pounds, does not carry much weight, his football statistics do. Last year he led the Bulldogs in rushing (485 yards at 6.7 a try), pass receiving (17 for 297 yards), scoring (56 points), kickoff and punt returns.
On the line, which averages 218 pounds from tackle to tackle, Brown will get ample help from Center Don Brockett (215), Tackles Lou Popelar (225) and Sonny Bishop (225).
Fresno could win its third straight California Collegiate Athletic Association championship.
Geneva (Beaver Falls, Pa.): Coach By Morgan's quarterback has to call the plays from the line without benefit of a huddle. That requires a cool operator, and that is just what Joe (The Iceman) DeNone is. As a sophomore last season he connected on 80 of 130 passes for 15 touchdowns and led the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics with a 61.5% completion mark. Two other fine holdovers—Fullback Stan Nosking and Halfback Paul Pupi—will further strengthen the offense.
Standout linemen are Center Ray Ghion, Tackles Ralph Serrapero and Jim Agich, End Mike Raich and Tom Flowers, a superb guard.
Heidelberg (Tiffin, Ohio): They are called the Student Princes or the Tricolors, but to the townsfolk these students are just "real nice kids." There are some 800 real nice kids at Heidelberg this semester: 450 student princes, 350 student princesses. New Coach Bob Winterburn will face a real challenge living up to Paul Hoerneman, his predecessor, who in 14 years won 102, lost 18, tied 4. Only once did he lose as many as three games in a season.
Standing out on defense like a sequoia in a pine forest is Middle Guard Joe Mangano. End Fred Fabrizio is competent, and he will be aided by a trio of good guards—Bill Lynch, Ed Klein and Tom Newell.
Quarterbacking will be shared by Dick Gross, a clever ball handler and runner, and Gene Williamson, a long-distance punter and passer. Most heavy-duty running will be done by Fullback Steve Scott, with Halfback Bob Reid going out on most sweeps.
Heidelberg is affiliated with United Church of Christ, but Winterburn says, "About 40% or 50% of our players are Catholics. We accept members of any denomination."
Hofstra (Hempstead, N.Y.): College is supposed to prepare today's youth for tomorrow's woes. Hofstra, which is located on Long Island, does this and more, for this is a "commuter" college. There are no dormitories, but there is great pride in the fact that the football talent is almost entirely home-grown.
Coach Howdy Myers and his Flying Dutchmen failed to get a bowl bid after winning nine straight in 1959. This time there are 14 front-line performers to try again.
Conductor of the No. 1 backfield in Myers' two-unit system will be Lou Bauer, who completed 46 of 92 passes last fall. He can throw long or short and can run as well as bring down enemy runners.
Bill Kolb has shifted from fullback to half to give him more room for his speed and power. He will get lots of support from Halfback Dick Cooney and Fullback Bill Heiser, who moved from halfback. Heiser, only 5 foot 9, 170 pounds, can wiggle through a pack of tacklers like a homesick commuter at rush time.
Bob DeNeef has made an art of shrugging off defenders and hanging on to passes. He set a club record by doing this 41 times last season, in spite of playing just part time.
Best of the returnees from a defense that gave up just 44 points are Guards Lou DiBlasi and Tim Gannon and Tackle Ted Poliskin.
Louisiana Tech (Ruston, La.): Lamar Tech beat the Bulldogs 13-6 in the 1959 opener. From then on Louisiana Tech was mean, allowing just 35 points, scoring 185 and whipping nine opponents. In the final game the Bulldogs handed Mississippi Southern its first shutout in 47 games, 16-0.
Holding together a sturdy line will be Guard Joe Hinton, third of the Hinton brothers to star for Coach Joe Aillet. In 19 seasons Aillet, who last November was named to the NAIA Hall of Fame, has won 114, lost 59, tied 8.
The backfield will be strong. Paul Hynes (544 yards rushing and a 5.4 average in 1959) and Dave Williamson (271 and 4.9) are at half. Max Rudd (258 and 4.4) will be at fullback. And there are three good pass-catching ends—Tom Causey, Jerry Hudson and Jerry Griffin.
North Carolina A&T (Greensboro, N.C.): Coach Bert Piggott surveyed his lineup, saw just one experienced guard (Joe Henderson) and said, "We'll make some guards." If it were that easy he would also mold a quarterback and assure himself of a third consecutive Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association title. Piggott has just two quarterbacks on his list—Jim Mitchell and Bobby Williams.
Joe Taylor, back after missing a year, will team with Gene Cambridge at halfback. Both are exciting runners and will collaborate with Fullbacks Cal Lang, Lloyd Oakley and Bernard Anderson.
Tackles Lorenzo and Pollard Stanford (6-foot-2, 245-pound brothers), George McDowell and 290-pound Mel Richardson anchor the line.
San Francisco State (San Francisco): This could hardly be called a small college in terms of enrollment (10,000). It is, however, a perfect example of a school that has made a concerted effort not to go overboard about football. Coach Joe Verducci's Gators won 10 in a row last autumn, finished first in the Far Western Conference and will be tough again.
This is a state-supported college, and Verducci only wishes the legislature would supply some backs. He is in need of help at quarterback, where he will use Sophomore Dennis O'Keefe, and fullback, where he will have Willie Simpson.
Halfbacks Edgar Rollins and Charlie Fuller will do most of the ball carrying. Both can break a game open at any time and often do. Rollins caught just eight passes in 1959, but he gained a phenomenal 245 yards on them. He added 518 yards rushing (at a 6.9 rate). Fuller, a Little All-America, gained 463 yards rushing (7.8 yards a try) and 225 yards on 12 passes. Seven times last year the only thing that stopped him from gaining more yardage was the fact that he already was in the end zone. He excels on kickoff and punt returns (41.4-and 22.2-yard averages) and three times cracked open crucial games with amazing runbacks.
Tackle Jim Palmer, too, was a Little All-America. He and Tackle Neil Laughlin will hold the line intact.
St. Benedict's (Atchison, Kans.): Coach Ivan Schottel played briefly with the Detroit Lions and still looks rugged enough to turn in a good performance. He won't have to, however, for he has oodles of talented players, in spite of the fact that this 102-year-old Benedictine school has an all-male student body of only 675. Scholarships are few and are sometimes split between several players.
In order to make certain he does get good players, Schottel screens more than 800 high school students annually. His 1959 squad has lost just two Central Intercollegiate Conference games in four years, and he will be hard to beat again.
One reason is Larry Muff, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound end. Muff has already been drafted by Minneapolis, which will enter the NFL next season.
Key men in the slot T attack will be Quarterbacks Bernie Feigel and Corky Jacobs, Halfbacks Allen Lewis and Henry Tenorio and 210-pound Fullback John McGlinn.
Tennessee Tech (Cookeville, Tenn.): Tackles Ray Thomas (220 pounds) and Dave Baxter (210) belong to the stop-'em-and-stomp-'em school of defense, and they are the main pillars in one of Tech's best lines ever.
Behind the line Coach Wilburn Tucker has Quarterback Gordon Mason, who hit on 53 of 117 passes for 903 yards last year, rushed for 195 yards and was the No. 1 defensive back. He will throw long and often to Little All-America End Tommy Hackler, who gained 522 yards on 30 catches in 1959. Ralph Broyles (280 yards rushing and a 4.1 average) is the best halfback, and Ken Fults will be at fullback.
Texas A&I (Kingsville, Texas): Texas may be the Lone Star State, but this is no lone-star team. Big Jarrell Hayes, the most redoubtable of all the Javelinas, will have to share the credit and what headlines small colleges get with Butch Pressley, Charles Massey, Barry Copenhaver and Harold Hees, all highly efficient runners.
As a sophomore last year, Hayes, a 6-foot-l, 185-pound quarterback, passed for 606 yards. He led the squad to an 11-1 record, including a 20-0 win over Hillsdale in the NAIA playoff and a 20-7 triumph against Lenoir Rhyne in the NAIA Holiday Bowl for the small-college championship.
Coach Gil Steinke has enough leftovers (10 lettermen on the line, eight in the backfield) to form an imposing outfit. The Javelinas will seek full possession of their Lone Star Conference title, which they had split last year with East Texas State.
Wagner (Staten Island, N.Y.): Coach J. Walter Sullivan is president of the Oceanic Service Corp., a New York firm that specializes in supplying security guards for the city's vast pier system. He would be happier, perhaps, if he could supply his squad with guards as easily as he does his customers. As it is, he has only one outstanding lineman, Little All-America End Al Ferrie. Last season Ferrie, a 6-foot-3, 210-pounder, caught 16 passes for 435 yards and had a fine 40.2-yard punting average.
Quarterback Don Cavalli is back, and even though a sprained ankle sidelined him early last year he set a new standard for the Seahawks by completing 53 passes for 1,137 yards. Against Susquehanna he hit on 17 tosses for 382 yards.
Halfback Frank Melos led in receiving (23 for 481 yards) and rushing (327 yards, 5.5 average).
William Jewell (Liberty, Mo.): Norris Patterson, who has a Ph.D. from Columbia, is the football coach at William Jewell. He is also athletic director and baseball coach, which is a normal condition at small colleges.
Patterson's first term with the Cardinals was in 1951, and he led the team to its first Missouri College Athletic Union pennant in a dozen autumns. Back to help him defend another title that he won last fall will be 20 tested performers.
The two most heralded players—Halfback Jim Stephens and Tackle Ron Haggard—did not see duty last year. Stephens, who gained 880 yards rushing in 1958 and was scholastically ineligible in 1959, is the main offensive hope. Haggard, who played in 1956, is back from the Marines.
Its small-college flavor and lack of gadgetry and specialization is perhaps best attested to by a remark made by Assistant Coach Jim Nelson: "Why, half the time we play on a field where a spotter sitting at the top of the stands with a phone would hardly be any higher up than I am sitting on the bench."