Senior Editor Walter Bingham was at home on Long Island enjoying his weekend, satisfied that our annual college football preview package (starting on page 46) was as up-to-date as he and a small army of correspondents, reporters, writers, photographers and editors could make it. But in the unlikely event that Stanford Quarterback Jim Plunkett sprained his throwing wrist the first day of practice or Notre Dame suddenly found another year of eligibility for Terry Hanratty we could make some late changes. Our own early-warning radar system was in operation, just in case.
Bingham was about to walk out his door to go to the tennis matches at Forest Hills when the telephone rang. One of our Midwest correspondents had called in to report that Purdue Linebacker Dick Marvel—who, by the way, is not the captain—had quit the team. Marvel was not a major part of the Purdue scouting report, but he was mentioned once and Walt decided to come into Manhattan and delete the name. Two days later, when it would have been nearly impossible to change anything even if Ohio State itself suddenly dropped football, the correspondent phoned in again. Mr. Marvel had rejoined the Boilermakers.
If linebackers are sometimes hard to figure, they are no different from the teams they play for, and that makes our annual task of picking the Top 20 teams—in order—about as simple as tackling Red Grange or O. J. Simpson in the open field.
Staff members went out in the spring to see the teams we thought would be among the elite, and we sent out hundreds of queries to colleges and correspondents. As usual, some ultracautious coaches couldn't understand why we would even bother to take a look at their poor cripples. "Most of them are so darn pessimistic," said Reporter Sandy Treadwell. "Listen to Notre Dame people and you're sure they're not going to win a game!"
September 14, 1969
After blowing away the smoke screens, hearing all the intrastaff debate and getting the counsel of Senior Editor Dan Jenkins (an old hand at giving opinions on college football), Bingham sat down and made the selections.
"Some people have told us that picking Ohio State No. 1 shows very little imagination," says Bingham, "but there is an element of daring in it. How many teams are No. 1 two years in a row? Someone warned me that successful sophomore teams like the Buckeyes rarely do well as juniors, but I flew out to Columbus last May to check that point with Woody Hayes, and he assured me his team would not get cocky. In matters of that sort I always believe Woody.
"Inevitably, though, there are some teams we pass over that do well and some teams we favor that flop. There were some late changes: I got talked into adding Kansas and Stanford and removing LSU and UCLA. Somebody—maybe one of the latter two—probably will go undefeated."
The scouting reports were written by Pat Putnam (who will be on the college-football beat with Jenkins this fall), Joe Jares, Libby Krautter, Skip Myslenski, Harold Peterson, William Reed, Gary Ronberg, Sandy Treadwell and Herman Weiskopf.
While they were all looking forward, Jenkins was busy digging around in the past, researching his splendidly opinionated piece on the 11 greatest players of all time. At least Bingham didn't have to worry about last-minute injuries to them.