Let those followers of big-time collegiate basketball who have been wondering whatever happened to Forddy Anderson wonder no longer. The former coach at Drake and Bradley and winner of a Big Ten championship at Michigan State may here be observed making his way through a field of corn. Forddy is not lost—that field of corn is destined to become part of the 275-acre campus of brand-new Hiram Scott College on the outskirts of Scottsbluff, Neb., a brisk and tidy town of 20,000 in the heart of the North Platte River Valley, hard by the old Oregon Trail, 23 miles from the Wyoming border and 40 minutes by air from Denver.
Somewhere in the cornfield that Forddy Anderson is exploring is Hiram Scott's first permanent unit, a dormitory built around a quadrangle and housing 386 of the college's 525 charter students who were on hand for the opening classes on Oct. 11. Eventually where the tall corn now grows there will be student centers, science and social science centers, an administration building, chapel, auditorium, dining halls and a library. Meanwhile, Hiram Scott (which was still in the talking stage up to a year ago) is holding classes and operating administration offices all along Broadway in downtown Scottsbluff—in office buildings, in once-vacant stores, up over still-vacant stores, in a movie theater and in the National Guard Armory. The basketball and wrestling teams work out in the new field house of the high school in the neighboring town of Gering. Back in Scottsbluff, in a spacious second-floor suite with a big window, a choice location right next to Sears, is the office of the athletic director, head basketball coach and director of student affairs—all of whom happen to be Forrest A. (Forddy) Anderson. The hip, sophisticated, dapper Forddy—lecturer, world traveler, bon vivant—seems completely at home in this environment.
How did Forddy Anderson ever find his way from the great campus of Michigan State, with its 35,000 students, to Hiram Scott, whose entire student body could be squeezed into Athletic Director Biggie Munn's big office back in East Lansing?
"Well, first of all," Forddy was saying over coffee in a Broadway drugstore booth, "One day last April I was called in by Biggie, seated in a chair facing his framed certificates naming him as an All-America, Coach of the Year, member of the Hall of Fame—among others—and informed that there would be some changes made in the basketball situation. In other words, I was canned. Now, frankly, I was surprised. There was good reason for canning me after several bad seasons, but I expected to get the bad news near the end of the season or immediately after our final game. When a month passed, I thought maybe I was to be given another chance, because our recruiting had been going very well.
"I certainly do not have any serious resentment against Biggie personally. I know that he was merely expressing a consensus of opinion among those on high. Michigan State doesn't like losers any more than any other big university. As a matter of fact, as far as Biggie was concerned, he had frequently given me encouragement. I recall that when we won the Big Ten a luncheon was held at the Elks Club in Lansing, and I was presented with a framed citation from the Michigan State Alumni Association. Biggie was sitting next to me, and as I brought the citation back to the table he looked at it and patted me on the back. 'That's a nice little certificate,' he said. 'Of course, the one they gave me would make yours look like a postage stamp. But keep up the good work.' "
Forddy took a sip of coffee and acknowledged greetings from a group of passing students. "As for getting the bad news from Biggie," he went on, "although there were others who agreed with him about my usefulness to Michigan State, I sometimes think that I drove the final nail in my own coffin at a meeting of the entire coaching staff that had been called by Biggie. He had a complaint about coaches who ran around making speeches and going to clinics and accepting honors of one kind or another. His main target was plainly Duffy Daugherty. Duffy finally said, "The speeches I make off season are done on my own time, Biggie. I'm supposed to be off on weekends after football, and I think I have a right to talk where I please.' Biggie didn't agree. Well, now here I was, my job hanging by a thread. But this was a chance I couldn't resist. 'Biggie,' I said, pointing to Duffy, 'this Irishman has done more for Michigan State than any 10 men in its history. I don't think you've got any right to humiliate him before his assistants and the rest of the coaches.'
"Biggie got red in the face, but he ignored my remarks. Later, after the meeting, assistant coaches crowded around, slapping me on the back, complimenting me on my 'guts' for sassing the famous Biggie Munn right out in front of everybody."
Forddy shook his head and smiled. "Later I was reminded of the old story about the cop who had a choice beat in the city and suddenly was banished to the sticks during the dead of winter. He was sent to a district where the streets weren't even paved and there wasn't a house in sight. One day some of his old friends on the force drove out to see him. They found him slapping his arms around his chest and blowing on his freezing fingers. His friends had come to cheer him up. 'Pat,' they said, 'we just wanted you to know that the boys at headquarters are still talking about the way you chewed out the sergeant.' "
For all of that, Forddy Anderson might have stayed on at Michigan State indefinitely because he had tenure as an associate professor. He put in his time, after turning in his whistle, by going on some recruiting trips for the new basketball coach, his friend and onetime assistant John Benington. He was not being presumptuous in expecting that a coaching offer would come along in time (although the 1965-66 jobs were already filled), because his overall record was excellent, he had developed seven All-Americas, written two standard basketball instructional books and conducted hundreds of coaching clinics all over the U.S. and in Japan and the Philippines.
As it happened, the first call came from an old friend of Forddy's Bradley University days, Dr. Anthony Marinaccio, a distinguished educator whose four degrees include an M.A. from Ohio State and a Ph.D. from Yale. Dr. Marinaccio, an eloquent and persuasive speaker before large audiences, across his desk or on the telephone, was brimming over with enthusiasm. He told Forddy all about Hiram Scott, of which he had been named the first president. He said this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be in on the birth and development of a four-year liberal arts college of the kind that was needed in just such areas as western Nebraska. He said that, all around the country, 100,000 qualified students would not be able to get into college this academic year. He promised that Hiram Scott would have 1,000 students next year, 5,000 in five years and a complete campus long before that. He said that Forddy Anderson was just the kind of athletic director and coach he was looking for, and would Forddy just agree to come on out and see what was being accomplished? "Tony," said Anderson, "I'll come out and look around on one condition."
"Name it!" cried Dr. Marinaccio.
"Just answer me this," said Forddy. "Where is Scottsbluff?"
He was told to fly to Denver and switch to Frontier Airlines, whose jet-props make the 40-minute flight. Arriving on the scene, Anderson breathed deeply of the clean, high-altitude air, met the local business leaders and the farmers and ranchers who had subscribed to the first building fund and the members of an impressive faculty (who are sometimes harder to find than basketball and football players), took a bow at Rotary and other civic groups and in the evenings sampled the steaks for which the area is famous. (Scottsbluff's prosperity has been built on beef, beans and sugar beets.)
Forddy absorbed great quantities of historical lore as he was whisked around through Wildcat Hills and up to the top of Scotts Bluff (now a national monument), which commands a breathtaking view of the tablelands below. He inspected what local people like to think are the ruts made by wagon trains on the old Oregon Trail. He learned that Hiram Scott himself was an obscure fur trader who fell ill and was left to die by fellow traders in the shadow of the bluff that bears his name.
Forddy Anderson caught the fever. He signed on and moved his family—his wife Pat, son, Forrest Jr., 14, who is called Frosty, his daughters, Constance, 20, and Tracey, 6. His daughter Barbara, 17, is attending Grand Valley State College in Grand Rapids, Mich. The move west caused Forddy Anderson absolutely no financial pain. He found an ideal, brand-new house facing one of the town's three golf courses and converted the house from a split-level to a three-level. Dick Kramer, the Pontiac-Cadillac dealer, immediately signed him up for a weekly television program and presented him with a cream-colored Catalina convertible.
Forddy seems to know everybody along Broadway, he is in great demand as a speaker and his audiences delight in his account of adventures at Michigan State—none of which (as he tells of them) reflect any particular credit on himself. For instance, speaking before the Junior Chamber of Commerce recently, he said:
"Sometimes a coach can't do anything right. I remember once my team was losing 78-77 with seven seconds left to play, and one of my boys was fouled. I called time out and talked to the boy. 'Now look,' I said, 'you make this shot a dozen times a day in practice. Take your time. You'll sink the shot, we'll win and I'll give you the game ball.'
"The boy didn't even hit the backboard. A few days later I received an anonymous letter from Detroit. It said: 'You contemptible cur. You should be barred from basketball for life. Why did you call a time out and get that boy all tensed up? You should have let him shoot while he was hot. You bum.'
"Some of you may remember that same situation came up in the NCAA semifinals of 1957. Michigan State was leading North Carolina 64-62 with 11 seconds to go in the first overtime period. One of our boys was fouled. You could hear a pin drop as he shot the free throw. If he made it we'd surely be in the finals."
At this point, Forddy usually takes a sip of water. Then he goes on. "It bounced off the rim. Carolina scored, and we finally lost in three overtimes. The following week I got another anonymous letter from Detroit. It said: 'You miserable jerk. You ought to be run out of coaching. Why didn't you call a time out when that boy was fouled and give him a chance to calm down? Idiot!' "
Naturally, Forddy Anderson's principal interest these days is the basketball team, which has a 15-game schedule with small colleges in Iowa, Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska, six played at home in the Gering High field house. He is bringing to Hiram Scott the same brand of intensive coaching that won him his reputation at Drake, Bradley and Michigan State. At 46, he can still dribble down the court and challenge his players to get the ball away from him. He tape-records detailed reports on every practice session, has his assistant, Tom Rollefson from Lake Forest, Ill., keep charts on every game, even intra-squad competitions. Rollefson did most of the actual recruiting for this year's team (except for three boys that Forddy brought along from East Lansing), and the result is a 20-man squad of young giants, some of whom look and perform like veterans of the basketball wars. Many have impressive high school and AAU backgrounds, and the guess is that they had difficulty maintaining scholastic standings or were unable to qualify for admission to eastern colleges.
Hiram Scott offers such students every possible aid in winning a diploma. It is operating under the trimester system, with the school year divided into three sections, each the length of a conventional semester. Students will be further aided by the "team" teaching system, each team including a professor to lecture and prepare the material for the course, an instructor to lead analysis and discussion with the class, and a tutor to work with slower students. Under the trimester system a hard-working student can complete the four-year course in two and two-thirds years.
Because of the speed with which Hiram Scott cleared enough of its cornfield to put up a dormitory and at the same time buy a hotel and lease downtown offices, it has been called an "instant college." The student body is, meanwhile, establishing "instant traditions." Time and again, at convocations in the movie theater, students will be heard to assert, "We've got to remember that what we decide here today will affect not just us but maybe 10,000 students who will be on campus 10 years from now."
Forddy Anderson presides over many of these convocations, one of which was called to select a nickname for the athletic teams and a mascot for the school. A preliminary committee had reduced a score of student suggestions to just three, and the question before the movie house was: "Shall Hiram Scott teams be called 'The Hunters' or 'The Scotties' or 'The Scotts'?" A standing vote overwhelmingly favored "Scotts." This naturally led to the suggestion of a Scottish terrier as mascot. There were immediate objections.
"A Scottish terrier is a little dog," one student said. "It would be all right now while Hiram Scott is a small school, but what about the time when we've got 20,000 students? Wouldn't they want some kind of mascot a little more ferocious than a Scottish terrier?"
This was batted around until Forddy Anderson reached into his bag of pep-rally rousers and declared: "Remember, students, it's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog!" Objectors slumped in their seats, and the Scottish terrier was promptly adopted as mascot. In the ensuing enthusiasm for the new Scottsbluff Scotts, the boys and girls sang the alma mater, which was written by Professor Marvin Genuchi before the first students had arrived. The song reflects the prevailing optimism at Hiram Scott (note reference to "stately portals" in the verse), and it has a melody that is in the great tradition of alma mater songs. It goes like this:
Amid tall prairie grasslands,
Beside the sandy Platte,
And in the shadow of Scotts Bluff,
Our Alma Mater stands.
Her stately portals rise on high,
Her standards reach the sky;
Though we be gone far, far away,
Her spirit's ever nigh.
Hiram Scott, Hiram Scott,
We pledge our love to thee,
We pledge our hearts, we pledge our minds,
To dear old H.S.C.
Hiram Scott, Hiram Scott,
The blue, the white, the gold,
There is no other one like thee,
Our dear old H.S.C.
Also in the instant tradition, a college newspaper, The Trailblazer, has been established under the direction of Mrs. Helen Scott (no kin to old Hiram). It is a highly professional-looking product, and in the first issue the editors were so carried away with school spirit that they felt compelled, in their lead editorial, to paraphrase the Gettysburg Address.
"Two years and some months ago," the editorial began, "a group of men brought forth in this cornfield a new college, conceived in academic enthusiasm and dedicated to the proposition that 'the greatest possible excellence in education can be achieved by an institution created and programmed to be self-sufficient.' "
Nobody around the campus, downtown and cornfield branches included, has any more school spirit than Forddy Anderson. In addition to his duties as basketball coach, his days are filled with all sorts of conferences dedicated to Hiram Scott. Wrestling Coach William Abbas drops in for a daily meeting, along with Assistant Basketball Coach Rollefson, who doubles as athletic publicity director pro tem. Booking agents call from Denver nominating combos for student dances. Mrs. Mary Lynne Shields of the music department comes by regularly to report on her progress in training cheerleaders. Meanwhile, Anderson is planning for a baseball team next spring, football two years from now, a golf team, a riding and rodeo club as soon as they can get started. He has already commandeered the stable on President Marinaccio's property for the riders.
From all outward appearances, Forddy Anderson never had it so good. He is thoroughly enjoying the parties, the speechmaking, the television show, the coaching—his true love—and he is secure in the knowledge that if he should get a little too big for his britches there will be no Biggie Munn to call him on the carpet.
Out in western Nebraska, you might say, Athletic Director Forddy Anderson is Biggie Munn.