When young Dave Maggard moved up from assistant to head track coach at the University of California at Berkeley last summer, he called in his troops and told them he would measure only their times and distances, not their hair or their politics. He was, he said, a track coach, not a barber. He intended to run a track program, not a sociology class. Give yourself 100% in life, baby, he said. Just give me the same on the Tartan. Goatees began to flourish; so did performances. Hair grew long, times grew short. Morale, a problem at Cal in recent years, soared. Outsiders laughed and said Maggard was nothing but a hippie coach. They didn't say it to his face. He's 6'3" and 250 pounds, a quiet giant with short hair who finished fifth in the shotput in the 1968 Olympics. "I'm hardly a hippie," he says. "I just don't agree with a lot of people who make a big thing out of mustaches and long hair. Within reason, every guy is an individual."
Last weekend Maggard and his individuals slipped into Des Moines, Iowa for the NCAA championships and were immediately seeded to finish somewhere between C. W. Post and Occidental, if that high. The year before they hadn't scored a point. They hadn't won an NCAA track and field championship in 48 years. They won, of course.
Cal won by scoring only 40 points, while 59 other teams were carving up each other and the remaining 673 points, and when night fell on Des Moines last Saturday the only favorite in town left standing was Sally Rand, Christian College, class of 1919, who was stripping at Sasto's Club on Sixth St.
The first to fall was everybody's favorite, UCLA. Its highly touted 440 relay team never got past the first handoff in Thursday's preliminaries. UCLA and Texas-El Paso had posted the fastest times this year, 39.4, and neither figured to do worse than pick up the eight points for second place. But Ronnie Welch, UCLA's leadoff man, pulled a muscle rounding the turn, and when Reggie Robinson stuck out his hand for the baton it wasn't there. "Well," said UCLA Coach Jim Bush to UTEP Coach Wayne Vandenburg, "I guess that wraps everything up for your team."
June 28, 1970
"Like hell it does," said Vandenburg. "We haven't scored a point yet."
Now a slight favorite, UTEP began adding up its point potential: the 440 relay team, Paul Gibson in the 220 and the 120 hurdles, three sprinters, a few here from the field, a few there from the six-mile. "I get 50 plus," said Vandenburg late Thursday night, "but when you start talking about sprints and relays anything can happen. UCLA figured it gave us a 10-point jump when it dropped the stick, but it can happen to us and we're both back to zero."
That's what it became Friday—zero. UTEP was disqualified in the 440 relay for running out of its zone before the handoff was completed. Then it was zero-minus. All three UTEP sprinters failed to qualify in the 100.
It got worse. UTEP's Kerry Pearce, one of the favorites, and John Bednarski didn't score in the six-mile, won by Ohio's Bob Bertelsen in the NCAA-record time of 27:57.5. Gibson, however, took the 120 hurdles as expected.
Then it was time for the 100 final: people like Mel Gray and Jim Green and Herb Washington—and a couple of kids from California, Eddie Hart and Isaac Curtis, who finished one-two. Cal went from nothing to 18 points and the lead in 9.4 seconds.
"It's nice to be ahead," said Maggard Friday night, "but I won't say I'm surprised. A lot of people could win this thing: Oregon, Brigham Young, Washington State. UCLA isn't out of it yet. They still have two pole vaulters who could do well. And all of Villa-nova's great runners go tomorrow."
Oregon, which had scored 13 points Friday, now looked like it had enough to win—if it stayed healthy. Roscoe Divine, its 3:56.3 miler, had come out of his heat with the twinges of recurring tendonitis, and, worse yet, the Sunday before, Steve Prefontaine, its world-class freshman distance runner, had cut the bottom of his right foot on a rope bolt while running around a motel pool. The wound had taken six stitches, and Prefontaine had spent four days in bed, his injured foot wrapped in a Baggie and stuck into a bucket of hot water. For the NCAA three-mile they would wrap the foot in tape and hope the cut wouldn't reopen. If it did, Prefontaine said he'd keep running until he finished or ran out of blood, whichever came first.
After two days of bright warmth, Saturday came in snarling, black, wet. At the Drake University dorms, where most of the athletes were housed, UCLA Coach Bush kept looking out of a window searching for blue sky. He spotted a patch far to the north. "That blue is our only hope," he said. "Our two pole vaulters have to be in the first three if we expect to win. Rain makes vaulting very iffy."
Not far away, in another dorm, Brigham Young and its foreign legion—two Finns, two Swedes, an Englishman and an American, Ralph Mann, the 440 hurdler—were figuring their chances and deciding they were excellent, even without Pertti Pousi, BYU's senior triple jumper and long jumper. In three previous NCAA championships Pousi had never scored fewer than 15 points. But this is the last year for the rule that says a track athlete who competes as a freshman can only compete for two more years, and Pousi had been left home in Provo, Utah.
"It would have been reasonable to expect 18 points from Pousi," said Coach Clarence Robinson, "but we can still win. UTEP is out and I don't think Cal can do it. They lead with 18 points on a one-two finish in the 100. What else have they got?"
The last day of the meet began with wind, rain and the answer to Robinson's question: California won the 440-yard relay. Villanova then finally got on the board as Marty Liquori took the mile in 3:59.9. Oregon was stunned when Divine dropped out after 2½ laps. Bounced around during a furious start, he had wrenched his ailing ankle and had run as far as he could. It was a point loss Oregon would never make up. "I guess it's too late for us," said Liquori. "But Oregon is out now, too." Brigham Young wasn't. Ralph Mann won the 440 hurdles in a world-record 48.8, a full half-second under Gert Potgieter's 10-year-old mark.
Prefontaine won the three-mile in a meet-record 13:22, without losing a drop of blood, Villanova's Dick Buerkle coming in third. Then Villanova's Larry James, a silver medalist at Mexico City, took the 440 with a 45.5. The Wildcats now had 26 points but their hopes were dashed when Andy O'Reilly finished last in the 880, which was won by Kansas' Ken Swenson in 1:46.3. California, however, picked up four more points, Isaac Curtis finishing fourth to Willie Turner of Oregon State in the 220.
Oregon finished fourth in the mile relay—the last running event—the only contender to get any points, and closed up shop with a leading 35. But Cal (32 points) and UTEP (20) still had contenders in the triple jump, and Washington State (31) and UTEP were alive in the pole vault.
"All we need in the triple jump is a third place," said Maggard, "and right now we're second." A shout went up. Rich Dunn's 50'5¾" had stood up for second and eight points. Maggard started to grin.
"Not yet, coach," someone said. "If Washington State takes the pole vault, it'll win by one point. The bar is at 16'6", three guys are over and Washington State's Jack Ernst has one more shot."
When the rain had begun, the pole vault was moved inside the Drake field house, a relic no longer used by the basketball team. Brigham Young's Altti Alarotu peered through the gloom at the rafters, the low ceiling and the short runway, and turned to Assistant Coach Willard Hirschi. "Sorry, coach," he said, "but I'm not about to vault in here."
"You can't be serious," said Hirschi. "Lord, if you win this we might still win the championship."
"No way," said Alarotu.
Hirschi begged, threatened, cajoled. At last, for the sake of God, motherhood, Finland, America and the honor of the Mormon Church, Alarotu agreed to test the runway. The vaulters were starting at the middle of one curve of the indoor track and then, running downhill, swooping toward the bar. Alarotu tried it, found he could go faster downhill than ever before and stayed in.
When Ernst went out at 16'6", Maggard said, looking not the least surprised, "I guess it's all over."
"Congratulations, coach," said a fan. "You're the only guy who ever won an NCAA outdoors championship indoors watching a pole vault in an abandoned barn."
If it was over for California, it wasn't for Jan Johnson, a Kansas sophomore who was to come within a hair of being the world's first 18-foot vaulter. On his third try Johnson was over at that height, but his chest barely touched the bar. For a moment it rocked, then fell. He won at 17'7", which would have been the best ever indoors except for the fact that the runway was downhill.
"If I had relaxed on the way down I would have had 18 feet," said Johnson. "But I'm happy. I didn't really expect to vault well today. I dreamed I was vaulting all last night and when I woke up I was exhausted. It's almost as tough as vaulting over bales of hay with a pitchfork."
Over what? With what?
He laughed. "That's how I learned. Me and my kid brother. Then we switched to a barbed-wire fence using a copper pipe. Look at this." He pulled up the left leg of his shorts. A long jagged scar ran down the inside of his thigh. "Seventeen stitches," he said. "I'll tell you, going over barbed wire, that's clutch vaulting."