A certain school, not noted for its academic excellence, met the basketball champions of the Ivy League in the NCAA regionals more than a decade ago. The school's coach gathered his squad around him just before the tip-off and gestured toward the Ivies. "Look at those unmentionables over there," he said. "I want you to go out and beat the living stuffing out of them because in five years you'll be working for them!"
The economic relationship has not changed much (a recent study shows that the average Ivy League graduate earns $100,000 more in his lifetime than the average non-Ivy graduate), but the frustrating thing for all the Brand X schools these days is that the Ivy intellectuals are beginning to make a habit of drubbing their future employees. The worst offenders so far this year are at Penn, where graduates of the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce can look forward to an average starting salary of $270 a week. The Quaker basketball team is 11-1 against all outsiders and still unbeaten after eight Ivy League games.
Penn is a well-balanced team that plays good stingy defense despite having no senior in the starting five. Its only loss was to Purdue—by three points—in New York's Holiday Festival in a Christmas vacation period that saw Dartmouth beat the host team and finish second in the Vanderbilt Classic, Yale win the Rainbow Classic, Cornell beat BYU and Villanova in the Quaker City Tournament and Columbia smash Wake Forest and Villanova en route to second place in the same tournament.
The Ivy League does other things that are strictly against the code. Heyward Dotson, a high-scoring Columbia guard, actually skipped one of the Lions' games to be interviewed for a Rhodes scholarship. His coach, Jack Rohan, and his teammates gave him their blessings, then won without him as Forward Jim McMillian scored 44 points. Dotson, following in the sneakerprints of Princeton's Bill Bradley, won the scholarship. Rohan, an associate professor who feels his teaching assignments hamper his recruiting, was pleased but not surprised. Three seniors from last year's 20-4 team, including one who was first in his class in the engineering school, were accepted by Columbia's choosy School of Law.
February 16, 1970
But by and large, ol' Penn is the liveliest place in the league right now and—particularly on the nights when the Main Line alumni, future bankers and brokers from the Wharton School and lots of plain, unaccredited people crowd into the Palestra to watch the basketball team—the jumpingest spot in Philadelphia. It is extra fun at Penn because the Quakers are in two leagues, the Ivy and Philadelphia's Big Five city league, which includes those four perennial seekers after national fortune, Temple, St. Joseph's, Villanova and La Salle, all of which Penn has already beaten.
Coach Dick Harter, in his fourth year as headman, has put together a cohesive yet diverse team. Sophomore Bob Morse, 6'8", is a Quaker who is a Quaker and he is not only the best shot on the team but the best student. Center Jim Wolf, 6'8", who picked Penn from among 134 schools that wanted him, is a defensive ace who cares not at all about points. Guard Dave Wohl was an all-state quarterback at East Brunswick, N.J. but has given up football. Sophomore Corky Calhoun from Waukegan, Ill. grew two inches over the summer to 6'7", and Harter swears he will play backcourt in the pros. He guards the toughest opposing forward.
Last of the starters is Guard Steve Bilsky. He is small—5'10"—and he does not get a penny out of the school. His father is a New York attorney and able to pay the more than $4,000 a year it costs to put a student through Penn, and in the Ivy League if you can pay you do, even if you are Lew Alcindor. Bilsky seems tiny on the court, but Harter starts him anyway because of his shooting and his knack of drawing fouls.
Behind these five there are several seniors with lots of experience and the two top substitutes, sophomore swing-man Al Cotler and junior Forward John Koller. It is a team with spirit and plenty of what it takes to be ranked among the country's strongest college teams—but the whole thing was almost blown by something that could happen only in the Ivy League.
After Yale became embroiled with the NCAA over the participation of Jack Langer in the Maccabiah Games in Israel last summer Bilsky and Cotler, who had turned down invitations, said that with the Ivy title at stake and the risk of jeopardizing other Penn athletes with chances at NCAA titles, they had "no decision at all."
Yes, there was, said John Koller, who decided to quit the team before he was persuaded at a special team meeting that it would not be a blot on his conscience forever if he failed to react. Still, Koller was some time simmering down. "It was such a blatant denial of the personal rights of Steve and Al," he said, "that I thought it presented an opportunity for the university and the league to stand up for the principles they had established for themselves."
"Whoo!" said other Penn men, who remembered the last time they took the Ivy title in 1966. They were ruled out of the national championship because the league and the NCAA were battling over the 1.6 academic rule.
With that controversy and the Big Five out of the way, and Heyward Dotson safely stamped as a Rhodes scholar, Penn and Columbia were free to play a little basketball last week in the Lions' cramped gym, which has more pillars than the Parthenon, all inside. Both teams were undefeated in Ivy play, Penn having beaten Princeton twice despite the Tigers' two fine pro prospects, John Hummer and Jeff Petrie.
It was a case of two superior seniors, Dotson and McMillian, against the deep Penn squad, and depth turned out to be the winner. Calhoun and Wohl took turns watching Dotson, but each quickly drew three fouls trying to stop him from streaking to the basket or executing the tricky in-close moves he learned as a New York City schoolboy. However, Dotson, perhaps hampered by an injured thumb, made only four of 12 free throws in the first half and that, combined with Wolf's excellent defensive job on All-America McMillian, kept cold-shooting Penn within a point of Columbia at halftime. Calhoun played in the second half, but Wohl sat out most of it. His loss was hardly noticeable as Cotler filled in superbly on defense and scored 10 points besides.
Wolf continued to harass McMillian, once making a beautiful shot block and leaping out of bounds to save the ball. Little Bilsky scored 18 points and, at a crucial point close to the end of the game, stole the ball from McMillian to kill a Columbia rally. Penn won 57-52, but it is still not out of the woods. On the last weekend of the race Columbia could catch the Quakers by beating Princeton and Penn on their home courts.
It was Koller's turn to be Penn's substitute hero Friday night. He came in against Harvard in the second half, hit six straight shots and helped the Quakers to a difficult 86-77 win. Their 96-68 victory over Dartmouth Saturday night was their eighth in the league.
Those eight wins have not been easy, and winning will be even tougher in the next few years because the Ivy schools have, according to one coach, Lou Carnesecca of St. John's, recruited 25% of the best high school players in the country for their current freshman classes.
Harvard, for instance, with only four winning seasons in the last 22, has such a loaded freshman team that two good 6'10" centers have had to sit on the bench most of the season because they cannot break into the frontcourt combination of 6'6" James Brown, 6'7" Floyd Lewis and 6'5" Marshall Sanders. Dartmouth has its own James Brown. He shot 21 of 26 from the floor and scored 52 points in all to hand the Harvard freshmen one of their two losses. Penn is waiting for 6'8" Phil Hankinson and several others to move up to its varsity, and Princeton will try to replace Hummer and Petrie with two fine guards, Brian Taylor, one of the leading high school scorers in the country a year ago, and Ted Manakas.
If such crops keep showing up at Cambridge, Hanover, Ithaca and the other campuses, there soon will be almost as many Ivy Leaguers listed in the National Basketball Association Guide as there are in Standard & Poor's.