Speaking from Honolulu a couple of weeks ago, Dan Ferris, the honorary secretary and, in fact, the ruler of the AAU said: "This uproar has been stirred up by about 5% of the track coaches in the U.S." Ferris was referring to the revolt of the coaches—in track and other sports—against the AAU's authority (SI, Sept. 25).
A few days later the executive committee of the National Collegiate Track Coaches Association disclosed a percentage of its own. While only 248 of 850 members had thus far answered its poll, 93.9% were in favor of the formation of a U.S. track and field federation. A number of leading college coaches have been organizing such a federation for some months now.
After the coaches' group revealed its figures, another AAU official tried a different tack. "This is a power play by the NCAA to take over amateur athletics in this country" said Pincus Sober, chairman of the AAU's Track and Field Committee.
In response the 18-man policy-directing council of the NCAA, after a meeting in New York, declared: "This...is not an effort by the NCAA to 'take over' or to 'control' amateur sports in this country. It is a determined effort to gain equitable representation for organizations deserving representation."
November 13, 1961
The NCAA has, indeed, endorsed the formation of autonomous federations to control individual sports in this country. At the moment the militant groups are basketball (through its own federation) and track and field. A dissident element in both sports has been the NAIA, an association of small colleges that is wary of NCAA control.
Says Al Duer, the executive secretary of the NAIA: "Certainly we agree that autonomous control by the individual sports is preferable to one governing body in control of all amateur sports in this country. But, if this kind of autonomous federation comes into existence, the NAIA wants and should have fair representation."
Salute to the small
This has been, in fact, taken into consideration by the rebelling track coaches. Chick Werner, coach at Penn State University and the president of the coaches association, says: "The executive committee of the NCTCA has agreed unanimously that the NAIA would have proportionate representation."
Larry Snyder, the U.S. Olympic track coach in 1960 and considered an advocate of AAU control, has now taken an independent position, aligning himself neither with the rebels nor the AAU.
"I am in favor of a track federation, organized and operated by knowledgeable sports people," he said last week. "International track and field is on the upswing and it behooves the U.S. to have a stronger track organization than is available under the present system.
"I understand that the NCAA is willing to underwrite such a federation with a permanent staff to administer track and field for all ages. Such a setup will be better for the sport because it will administer track and field only. There is no reason why the AAU should not be a voting member helping to establish the policy of the new federation."
Werner also believes the AAU has a definite place, as a member, in any new organization. "The main trouble," he says, "has been internationally, where the AAU has had all the voice. I don't think any one constituent should be the ruling group. We should all have proportionate representation." According to Werner, a new track and field federation would take over international responsibility, but the member groups (including the NCAA, the high school coaches, the Armed Forces) would continue control over their respective areas. The AAU would control postgraduate, noncollege and industrial athletes.
The solution seems clear. The new federation could easily set up a fair method for selecting athletes to compete on the national championship level. For example, the NCAA meet would qualify three, the AAU three, the NAIA two and the Armed Forces two. A high performance standard would be set. Anyone exceeding it would qualify for the national meet. If all the procedures in the new federation were to follow as democratic a plan as this, it would be hard to imagine Ferris, Sober or anyone else stopping the revolt.