During the ruckus at Oregon State last February, which centered on whether Coach Dee Andros had the right to make a black linebacker shave off his beard and mustache, an extraordinary statement was made. The speaker was John Didion, Andros' All-America center, and what he said is crucial to the problems many coaches are facing today. In effect, Didion was addressing those coaches—and they are in the majority—who cling to the myth that college athletes are collegians in the accepted sense of the word, that they are "students first and athletes second."
Nothing, of course, is further from the truth. Nevertheless, it is accepted by pusillanimous administrators and forces the coaches who pretend to believe in it into corners. "It is," says John McKay of USC, "the first lie." And today the young resent being lied to.
What John Didion said was this:
"When a man signs a contract to play a sport at Oregon State he obligates himself to comply with the rules that govern that sport as set down by his coach. This is understood by anyone who has played athletics at any level. There are few jobs at which a man receives nine months' pay for four or five months' work. Is it too much to ask that he sacrifice certain individual privileges in order to have his college education paid for, plus being entrusted with the honor of representing his school and his state through athletics?"
If coaches would own up to what John Didion said, they would have a lot less trouble with their athletes and other tormentors, but it sticks in their throats almost every time. They go to great lengths to skirt it, telling lies as they recruit.
"We make a boy a hypocrite," says Ray Graves of Florida. "We say, 'You're a good athlete, so here's an academic scholarship.' We don't tell it like we ought to."
Coaches believe, but are afraid to say, that the scholarship athlete is an employee of the university. With a contract. Paid to produce, to represent the school as an entertainer and emissary, paid in the currency of the "free ride," an all-expenses education—tuition, books, board, laundry, walking around money, etc. The package comes to roughly $13,000, but if the athlete also gets his degree, its value is unlimited.
When John McKay recruits a boy for USC, he offers him 1) the chance to play on a winning football team and 2) a good education—in that order. He doesn't press the latter because, as he says, "a boy can get a good education at almost every accredited school today. But playing football for USC, that isn't something you can do anywhere." Bear Bryant takes about the same approach. A winning tradition is the big plus at Alabama. Bryant says he used to push the scholar first, athlete second routine, and he meant it, too, but he has come to realize that this might not be the most realistic approach today.
The basic terms of the contract (or scholarship or "grant-in-aid"), as well as various recruiting restrictions, have been arrived at painstakingly over the years by the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Ostensibly, schools submit to these restrictions in order to keep their athletes in a state of purity, holy and acceptable unto the NCAA. But the real motive is economic: colleges can't afford to have price wars for athletes. They can, as individual institutions competing on equal terms, offer scholarships and fringe benefits, but more than that risks financial disaster. Hence the "student-first" myth.
By a slip of the tongue, Jack Mitchell let the truth out. Kansas University students had staged a sit-in at the chancellor's office, protesting alleged discriminatory practices in housing and fraternity selection. Mitchell, the football coach at the time, rebuked those protesters who were on his football team. "You're not here to demonstrate," he said. "You're here to play football."
Mitchell got a lot of heat, but why?
The athlete is not a normal student. What the NCAA refuses to recognize is that there is nothing wrong with being special, being paid for services in the most meaningful way a university can pay a boy. It doesn't taint the athlete any more than it does the scholarship piccoloist in the marching band.
Once it is established what the college athlete on scholarship really is, then his relationship with the coach can be more clearly defined and better appreciated. The relationship is, essentially, that of employer-employee with a dash of father-son.
The faculty senate's position against Dee Andros was that no student should be interfered with in terms of beliefs, mode of dress, etc., "unless it demonstrably interferes with the university's basic function." But what is the university's "basic function" for Dee Andros? Fill the stadium, win games, bring glory, attract alumni donations.
If this were not his basic function, the Oregon State faculty should have been aroused on behalf of Coach Kip Taylor, just as they were for bearded linebacker Fred Milton. Taylor was fired 15 years ago for losing football games. There were no charges of "interference with the human rights" of Kip Taylor.
There are, of course, hundreds of Kip Taylors, coaches who didn't win or, having won a while, stopped winning. Just as no English professor ever gave a boy an athletic scholarship, no faculty senate has yet saved a losing coach from being fired. Dee Andros could take the chance of turning out a winning team without using his own system of discipline. But there would be no protection for him if this didn't work.
"There is," one coach notes, "a way out for the administrators—give a coach tenure and tell him it doesn't matter if he wins or loses and not to worry about whether his players flunk out or not. Either-or. Change the system or let a coach run his shop the way he sees fit. But don't tear him down the middle."
It is obvious that the athlete has grasped the athlete-first, scholar-second priority quicker than those who make the rules. "You can't fool a kid today," says Cotton Fitzsimmons, the basketball coach at Kansas State. "He knows you've recruited him primarily because of what he can do on the basketball court and that your basic interest is not how he will fare in the classroom."
But in interpreting the rights of the scholar-athlete, the NCAA for years has held that he could not be run off or deprived of his scholarship for reasons of discipline within the department or for not performing on the field. It was, in concept, a wise rule designed to protect boys from unfair treatment by coaches. But it presumed, in turn, that the athlete would recognize his responsibilities, too. As the "I quit" era grew, athletes increasingly ignored their part of the scholarship bargain. They knew they could, and often did, come into a coach's office and say, "I'm quitting, but I'm keeping my scholarship and there's nothing you can do about it."
So this year there is a new rule in the NCAA constitution. It appears in Article 3, Section 1, under "Institutional Aid," and what it says, in effect, is that a boy can get himself and his scholarship in difficulty for "serious misconduct"—conduct of sufficient gravity to warrant disciplinary penalties, including manifest disobedience of institutional regulations or "established athletic department policies and rules...."
The new rule, says Ray Graves, "will demand an administration's support of a coach" in questions concerning his prerogative. "The rule," says Graves, "tells us we don't have to put up with troublemakers anymore."
That remains to be seen.
It especially remains to be seen in the area where the friction, frustration and confusion is greatest—in the relationship between the coach and his Negro athletes. A positive effect of the black-athlete furor of the last few years has been that coaches have become more concerned about their own motives ("Am I exercising authority or am I acting out of prejudice?"). Being more introspective, coaches have become more tolerant, more reasonable, more willing to understand. Alerted to the black's special problems, they have sought ways to bridge the gap. For one thing, they began hiring black assistants—and still are—at a furious pace.
But in their eagerness to accommodate, coaches have discovered the Irrational Act, the Superdemander, the Double Standard. Coaches don't knuckle under as easily as administrators, however, and more and more they have come to Question the notion that because they are white they are somehow incapable of meting out justice. "Blacks tell me they can spot a white racist the first time they meet him," says Kansas' Pepper Rodgers. "I think I'm just as smart. I can tell a racist of any color."
"I know I can't really understand what it's like to grow up in a ghetto," says Wisconsin Track Coach Bob Brennan, "but I want to understand more. The better I can communicate, the better for all of us. But then I start to think, maybe I'm taking our white athletes for granted, overlooking their wishes and feelings. I can't neglect them, either."
Athletic Director Jim Barratt of Oregon State, in defending Andros' stand against beards, said, "We in athletics are reluctant to compromise our program, which would result in double standards of rules and regulations, one for the black, one for the white."
But the double standard exists, and many of those who have been hit with black "cultural" demands—mustaches, beards, Afros—have either run into trouble (as at Purdue, Oregon State and Iowa) or have appeared ludicrous. Bob Timmons, the track coach at Kansas, permitted his blacks to wear "small" mustaches, although there was a no-mustache rule for whites. According to Timmons, one reason he allowed the blacks to grow mustaches was that some of them told him "prominent blacks whom they much admired wore mustaches and, in some cases, mustaches ran in their families." However, so he won't be accused of being prejudiced, next season Timmons plans to let his whites wear longer sideburns. At Bridgeport University, Football Coach Nick Nicolau told whites who wanted to grow mustaches like the blacks that, "if I recruited you with a mustache, you can keep it, but you're not growing one on my time."
Coaches are especially frustrated when they try to reach a common meeting ground only to run into the blacks' increasing insulation. Perry Moore, the athletic director at Colorado State, asked how department policies and procedures might be improved. He has 41 blacks on scholarship. He got one suggestion.
Many black athletes tend to read race into everything. (Coaches have helped by broadcasting their little homilies. Basketball coach on playing blacks: "Two at home, three on the road and four when you're behind." Football coach on the quota system: "When you've got more behind you than you do on the field, you're in trouble.") If blacks think they have found prejudice, there is no turning them around. When Basketball Coach Tay Baker of Cincinnati benched a black, Rick Roberson, because of his "attitude," there was talk of reprisals against Baker for a racial slur, although his two best players were also black. At Notre Dame basketball fans exercised a time-honored privilege and booed their basketball team last winter. The five blacks playing at the time demanded an apology. They got it.
Once it appears that the coach will do anything to keep the peace, the sky's the limit. At one time or another, blacks cried for the scalps of the athletic directors at San Francisco State, San Francisco, San Jose State and California, as well as those of the Stanford track coach, the Cal basketball coach, Cal football coach, Cal track coach and San Jose State football coach. Of that group, only four remain on the job today.
Washington Basketball Coach Tex Winter sees that the black athlete is under extreme pressure from the Black Students Union and he is thereby faced with a dilemma. "He can allow the white athletic Establishment to impose normal team discipline on him," says Winter, "in which case he is likely to be ostracized by his peer black group, or he can refuse to accept these disciplines and gratify the desires of the BSU, jeopardizing his athletic career." The BSU, he claims, "pretends to stand for human rights while not hesitating to deprive black athletes of their right to compete. White coaches are going to have to do some reevaluating. The pressure from his own people is just beginning on the black athlete."
If that is the case, many coaches say the more ground you give, the less chance you have of surviving. 'We've learned, I think, that the answer is in a stronger stand," says Football Coach Bill Meek of Utah. "Pressure groups would eventually tell us who to schedule, how to coach, who to play at what position, the whole works."
"Sure the Negroes have grievances," says a Big Eight coach, "and we're working on them, but I'm tired of this crap about protesting."
"We've always got to understand them," says another coach. "Well, maybe I can't. I can't know what it's like to be a Negro. Or live in a ghetto. But that doesn't mean I don't try, and I sure think trying works two ways: they've got an obligation to understand me. I'm the one giving them the scholarship."
Although the figures may not show any meaningful proportions for a year or two because recruiting is still going on, there is evidence that coaches are shying away from black athletes.
Recruitment of Negroes is actually up at some schools—Missouri, Purdue, Washington—but there are signs: Cincinnati will have only two blacks on its basketball team; it had six in 1966. Toledo Basketball Coach Bob Nichols has gone from six in 1967 to one next year. Notre Dame Basketball Coach Johnny Dee, who often started four blacks last season, didn't recruit any this year.
"What's the sense?" says one Eastern coach, reflecting the opinion of many. "Life's too short. I don't need that kind of grief." Two Western Athletic Conference coaches admit there may be a diminishing of Negro recruitment, skimming the cream and leaving the so-so black athlete alone. A white player in Ohio told a coach he would come to his school only if the coach would guarantee there would be no Negroes on the team. He said he wanted "assurances against disruption." "And would you know it," said the coach, "that boy went to a school where he got that assurance." There is an almost cynical hardening of position by a few coaches. "Who needs 'em?" says one, whose school borders the Southwest.
This attitude is not shared by George Ireland, the head basketball coach and athletic director at Loyola of Chicago, but he is hardly surprised by it. Ireland has a history of dealing effectively with black athletes. His 1963 NCAA championship team was composed of four blacks and a white, and all five graduated.
"Make no mistake about it," he says, "the boy today is being coerced. He's under pressure. Make a mistake in your recruiting and you've got problems. I'll tell you what I tell a boy. I tell him, 'You're an individual. You're different because you're an athlete, and that means you're specially skilled. Unlike the others, you represent your school in public. I expect you to act like you're on a pedestal, be neat and clean, say 'yes, sir' and 'no, sir' and 'thank you.'
"But I have boys who give me trouble. Nobody's immune. It's a dangerous situation. I understand a lot of schools around this area have all but quit recruiting Negroes. I won't go along with it because that's quitting.
"And that's why the Negro should be told, just like the white, if he's listening to these troublemakers: 'Don't risk your life, don't listen to a guy raising hair. Ten years from now, when you've got a wife and a couple of kids, where's this guy going to be? Will he be there to pay for the groceries? What's it going to be like in the real world if the only notice you get is for making trouble?' "
Talking to black football coaches one night in a Chicago hotel room, a white scout for a professional team got the distinct impression that they (the coaches) were disdainful of white coaches who allow their programs to totter because of misdirected compassion. They suggested that such coaches often didn't realize they were being put on or put down by the demands of black athletes.
The most famous black coach in America is Jake Gaither, head football coach and athletic director at Florida A&M. His teams always win (his record, including the Orange Blossom Classic, is 195-35-4 since 1945) and 39 graduates have been on pro rosters for one or more years, 22 in the last six years. Players hang on his words, administrators seek him out, alumni worship at his feet. Other coaches, white and black, flock to hear him speak at clinics.
Here is what he has to say about today's problems:
"The coaching profession is right up there with ministers for the concern and influence they have on others. Coaches try to do what a lot of mamas and papas haven't done or won't do. You won't see anybody try harder than coaches. Coaches are changing all the time, and a lot of them have changed on the subject of race.
"But you've got to remember this, no matter who you are or where you're coaching. You're dealing with a new breed of young people today. I began to see it three or four years ago. Kids who didn't have anything better to do than rebel against discipline, rebel against the Establishment, rebel against the status quo. Kids with their hands out, kids who want everything on a silver platter.
"I don't know the 'why' of it. Maybe it's because they're the products of parents who didn't know the dignity of hard work, didn't know what it meant to grow up collecting bottles and bones to buy candy. My daddy could talk to me about hard work. I used to collect bottles to buy raisins. I loved raisins.
"Anyway, about three years ago I suddenly realized we had a problem. We've always had a tradition at A&M, a spirit that passed on from team to team, from squad member to squad member—an attitude about training, a pride about winning. We lost this one game, and anytime we lose it's an unusual thing. I looked around the locker room and realized it: they didn't care. They lacked pride. They'd lost, and they didn't care.
"Well, you can't be democratic and run a football team. If you do, you might build character but you won't win. I say you might build character, because you may not, either. The way I always felt, winning builds more character, because to win you have to learn what it takes, what it means to sacrifice, to be disciplined. To have a goal.
"So I started weeding 'em out. We got rid of the troublemakers, and I told my coaches, 'start looking 'em over more carefully, be very careful with your screening, do more counseling, be alert for this thing.' "
Gaither was asked about the styles of the day, the mustaches, the beards, the Afros. He laughed, and exhaled a low, amused "hmmmmmmm."
"I will tell you this," he said finally. "Our boys will be clean-cut. In fact, our whole conference has a regulation now against long hair and whiskers. When I recruit 'em, I tell them I want them to be clean-cut college men, to look like college men, to act like college men, that I want to be proud of them. I tell them, 'Boys, you come to me when you're in trouble, when someone in your family is sick, when you need help in your classroom. You come to me. Now I have a favor to ask. I don't want to see long, wild-looking hair and I don't want to see any whiskers.'
"When you get discipline, you get rapport, and you get them both when you're honest, when you're concerned, when you care. You have to be sincere. Kids today want to get into the action, to see how far they can go. When I tell them not to, they know it's not only the football team I'm concerned about, it's their future. They know that long after they've graduated I'll be writing letters for them, helping them get jobs, trying to improve their situations. They know I care."
Jake Gaither's attitude probably represents all that coaches feel when they are reflecting warmly upon their good works. Gaither cuts through the racial aspects of the dilemma by holding fast to the principles coaches cherish most. He wants to stand firm against changing youth—white or black—and thinks he can. But is such a posture possible in the face of so much change? And is there a way to successfully stand firm when so many others in today's society don't? That is a question on which the coaches themselves are much divided.
So far the coaches haven't broken ranks the way, say, college presidents have, but they are beginning to. Coaches are quitting or being fired left and right. And they aren't remaining at one school as long as they once did.
The trend, says Bill Murray, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association, is for candidates to duck away from coaching, away from the insecurity of the job, the relatively meager financial return and the many threats to peace of mind. "A man wakes up," says Murray, "and begins to realize that in his middle life, at 45 or so, he can be a lost citizen with a family and without a job, and for what?"
Recruiting has something to do with the flagging of coaching morale. Though he had been the most successful basketball coach in Boston College history, Bob Cousy quit last year because he reached a point where "romancing" the new breed was distasteful to him. He resented seeing them joyride around the country at the expense of one school after another.
Coaches find recruiting not only more odious but, because of campus troubles, much more difficult. Darrell Royal of Texas had the mother of one prospect enumerate for an hour and a half the year's disturbances on the Austin campus: the demonstrations, the hippies, the narcotics, the nude plays, the murders. "I never had a chance," said Royal. Gene Felker of Wisconsin couldn't get "good families" to come across the state to visit. "They were afraid to send their kids to Madison," he said.
With tougher recruiting comes the harder line. Coaches are at last telling prospects exactly what they can expect on the field and on the campus before they sign. That includes social opportunities for black athletes and even a rundown of the teams on the schedule, just in case the athlete may take a notion to sit out a game against a school whose philosophy he doesn't admire.
"Some coaches feel we can't legislate recruiting," says Johnny Pont of Indiana. "Not only can we do it, we must do it. We should have a code to follow; the number of visits should be limited, an honest picture of the campus should be presented to the recruit. What the prospect will receive and what is expected of him should be spelled out. All too often we breed our own infection, our own cynicism with half-truths and intentional misconceptions. We distort the kid's sense of values and then we reap a bitter harvest and wonder why."
Pont, a success at Yale and now a winner again at Indiana, works hard to cope with the new breed, but has his moments of doubt. "They needle and then they question," he says. "They want reasons for everything, even when it's obvious. 'Why do we have to do ten 40s [40-yard dashes], coach?' They want to find out how sharp you are, if you can handle the situation without falling back on that old bag, authority. They even notice your clothes.
"In a way, they're putting you down. It's a game, and maybe when you're over 30 and the target you don't enjoy the routine. They take you right to the edge of rebellion, fighting you all the way. Before spring practice, I said, 'Gentlemen, for 20 days you'll be football players. I want you to be groomed like athletes. Let's not have any hair over the collars. Thank you for your cooperation.' John Isenbarger, our halfback last year, asked me, 'Coach, will that make me run any faster?'
"I said, 'No, John, it won't make you any faster, but it'll make us a better team because it'll be a sign to me that you accept discipline.'
"Last year they tried to outfox me. I told them they could wear their sideburns to the earlobe. Jade Butcher, my starting flanker, cut his so the sideburns slashed at an angle that brought them far down his face but not below the lobe. Same motive: he was testing me."
Do coaches resist change? Probably. They are conservatives, and reform comes hard to them. But their games are changing all the time, and since it is the coaches themselves who force this with their invention, their ability to create and adapt cannot be questioned. What has happened in the last few years is that their philosophies are in disarray. Their agony lies in their attempt to accommodate change without sacrificing control.
Johnny Pont says he has changed his coaching methods four ways: 1) he accepts more ideas from his assistants, 2) he concentrates more on nonfootball topics ("today we are topical if nothing else"), 3) he tries to tune in to his players' thinking and 4) he tries to treat every player as an individual. John Wooden of UCLA says he is "definitely more permissive." Vince Gibson of Kansas State says he is now alert for the special considerations of black athletes. Tommy Prothro goes further: he calls his black athletes into the office and asks if they have complaints or have experienced discrimination.
Trying hard to cope, coaches go to almost absurd lengths. Pepper Rodgers of Kansas slipped out of a football team meeting and reappeared barefoot, wearing dark glasses, shorts and his wife's wig. He asked to see Coach Rodgers, explaining he wanted to come out for football and then—while Assistant Coach Doug Weaver played the guitar—sang a ballad, the gist of which was that he wanted to play but that Coach Rodgers insisted he had to get his hair cut to do so. When it dawned on the players who the hippie balladeer was, they roared. He was a gap-closing hit.
Not many coaches would go that far, of course, and deep down most would prefer the ethos of the autocrats, the Bear Bryants, the Adolph Rupps. Coaches tell the story—with more than a little admiration—of the day the basketball player back from vacation popped in on George Ireland at his office. Ireland observed that the boy had not got very close to the razor that morning. He rummaged in his desk, produced one and said, "Here, go shave." "But coach," the beard replied (as the story goes), "this is part of black culture." Said Ireland, "So are Cadillacs and missed free throws. Now, go shave."
An Adolph Rupp can say, as he has, that there is no difference in coaching today, that he just tells his boys that they are not to have long hair and sideburns "and that settles that." His is the much-envied hard line, but a young coach like Bob Boyd of USC admits he would never dare follow Rupp's example. Boyd allows Afros, pencil-thin mustaches, long sideburns. "You've got to be pliable," he says.
For the Bob Boyds, there are continuing worries of how a boy acts, the inflections in his voice, the way he responds. Boyd was told by one of his better players that he was a bit fearful of embarking on a running program because he had been drinking too much beer that summer. Boyd bit his tongue, reminded himself that the "boy" was past the legal drinking age, and told him tactfully that summer was over and to please taper off.
Those successful coaches who are in solid with their administrators, who are beloved by alumni and athletes and who have not been hit by The Problem can risk forceful statements on the subject. John McKay of USC is one of these, and he is undoubtedly correct when he says the pitfall in any study of the coaches' dilemma is to ignore the fact that coaches are individuals, too.
"Don't categorize," says McKay. "My daddy used to tell me, 'Don't categorize.' All blacks aren't lazy. All WACs aren't whores. All coaches aren't the same. We grow older. We forget.
"All right, what did happen at Berkeley? Some kids joined the BSU? That's not against the law. Some kids became hippies? That's not against the law. If you don't allow for individual differences, you won't be a good leader. I never try to treat everybody equally, I try to treat everybody fairly. Who recruited those 120 players at Maryland? Did the president? Did the alumni? I don't know Bob Ward, but if I had 120 players stand up against me, I'd get out tomorrow.
"You can't stand still. Professors on this campus have long hair. My boss has long sideburns. I always wore a crew cut but I don't anymore. The big reason is that I'm getting a little bald. But times change. My daughter Suzie was getting ready for a big function at school. She had on a very short miniskirt. I said, 'You're not going out in that.' She said, 'But Daddy, it's no shorter than what everybody else wears.' When we got there I saw how right she was, and the shortest skirts in the place were on the mothers."
The reasonable coach joins John McKay in the conviction that a successful accommodation between him and his players is possible—and will benefit the campus as a whole. "We can't be hypocrites," says Johnny Pont. "We can't bill ourselves as character builders any longer and not pay attention to that aspect of our athletes." Jim Owens believes if the coaches cannot solve the black-white problem on campus, in what amounts to a controlled environment, then no one can. "I've become a very reasonable man," says Darrell Royal of Texas, "and the transformation wasn't painful at all."
But other coaches feel that accommodation to alien beliefs will only result in more grief and the need for more appeasement. For these, a return to the old ways is the answer. Vic Rowen of San Francisco State is one who is turning back. Rowen is the football coach; he has a doctorate in education, a firm chin, a rugged build and an appreciation for simple solutions from his days with the 101st Airborne. At San Francisco State Rowen has experienced attacks on his program and his person; a commandeering of athletic funds by a radical student government; a hostile faculty; a frightened (pre-Hayakawa) administration; campus riots, injuries, arrests. Last year he couldn't give letter jackets to his players because no money was available.
But Vic Rowen claims he found out something during the long months of travail and he has reached a few conclusions that comfort him. "We're through being exploited," he says. "When kids came to us and told us we didn't understand them because we were white or weren't in their age group or whatever, we were befuddled. We tried to reevaluate. What was wrong? Where did we fail? We went through the whole thing with the psychologists, and do you know what we found? We found the psychologists have the real problems.
"Our approach now is not to be exploited again. We're going to have a return to discipline. An athlete knows discipline. He reacts better under stress than a nonathlete. On this campus we may have saved the whole school from collapse. I think it meant something to our kids to stand up for Dr. Hayakawa and to put that American flag back up when it was torn down.
"What coaches have been doing all these years is not archaic. We're the last chance for the preservation of dignity on campus, and I say that without trying to be heroic or corny. Coaches understand young people, they always have. They understand them better than deans, counselors, psychologists and professors, because we're the only ones charged with making something more of what we have—the kids. The others are too far removed to realize it."
What coaches seem to need most—and this probably applies both to those who go along with McKay and Pont and those who agree with Rowen—is to be reassured of what their role should be, not because they have lost sight of it but because others no longer think it is valid. Dr. Arnold Beisser, a UCLA psychiatrist, contends in his book The Madness in Sports that coach and father are parallel anachronisms in our society, that the father has already lost and the coach is "the remaining stronghold of the archaic family structure." Dr. Beisser sees the coach as reduced to a position of equality with his players and therefore no longer able to relate to them in the classic way. Coaches, naturally, resist any such analysis. Destroy the coach-player relationship, a Vic Rowen would say, and you make coaching meaningless.
"Coaches are special," says Frank Lauterbur, athletic director and head football coach at Toledo. "Coaches aren't guys with cigars in their mouths, lying and pandering and hating, the way they're pictured in some circles. Robert Ruark was closer to it. He said coaches are kids who never grew up. He might not have meant that as a compliment, but it's true—a coach never gets older than 25.
"Coaches are guys who still get a tingle when The Star-Spangled Banner is played and butterflies before a kickoff. Coaches never have to be pushed out of bed to go to work in the morning. How do you rate a professor? Tough to do. A coach is rated every Saturday afternoon. Win, lose, tie. He can work as hard as he knows how preparing for a game, and then a kid has a headache or the sun gets in his eyes and it's a loss. Why does he do it? I don't know, except that there is always the excitement—working out game plans, waiting for the films—and the weariness and satisfaction of knowing how hard he and his team have tried to reach a common goal. If the result is defeat, then there's dejection and the coach must take the proper tack, one to ease the pain. But if there is a heaven on earth, it is the locker room after a victory.
"A coach has an enthusiasm for kids, a communion with them. He worries about them, feeds them, sees to their housing, their health. If a kid has a problem, he doesn't go to his professor, or even to his old man, he goes to his coach, because he knows the coach will look after him. When a coach calls an athlete 'son,' he means it.
"When we had the boycott of the black athletes here at Toledo, one of the boycotters ran into trouble. He didn't go to the Black Students Union or to the dean, he came to me. A reflex action. And of course I helped him. Later I asked him, 'What color is a friend?' 'Oh, coach, you don't understand,' he said.
"He was wrong. The thing about coaches is they do understand."
Many coaches truly believe that they understand better than anyone what is best—best for the athlete, best for sport, best for the school. But now, like those who administer so many of our social institutions, they must face the fact that what seems best and what is happening are often two different things. The issue is authority and the response to authority. How they handle it will be something to see, and there are a lot of concerned people who are watching.