He is called Jack Scott, a crisp, sharp, easy-to-remember name that tends to cut through the fog cast up by some of the other things he is called, like "the Guru of Jock Liberation" and worse. At a time of radical demands, of player strikes, boycotts, dropouts, congressional hearings and huge engulfing clouds of rhetoric, the Merriwellian cadence of the name seems as pure and simple as the crack of bat meeting ball.
The man behind the name is an author (Athletics for Athletes and The Athletic Revolution), activist (he cofounded with his wife Micki the Institute for the Study of Sport and Society) and spokesman for a growing number of Americans who are demanding a basic reexamination of sport. All this tends to make him a target.
For instance, Vice-President Agnew in a speech once denounced Scott as an enemy of sport. His heroes, Agnew suggested, must be Che Guevara and Fidel Castro. Two years ago the University of Washington hired Scott as an assistant professor of physical education, then canceled the appointment before he even showed up because it was feared he would prove disruptive.
"Who and what is Jack Scott?" Yale Track Coach Bog Giegengack demanded to know after a particularly opinionated and unflattering article on coaches by Scott had appeared in Track & Field News. The fact is, despite all the publicity attended on Scott, nobody—maybe not Scott himself—really knew what he was until recently when some hard clues began emerging in the vicinity of north-central Ohio. Up to a few months ago Scott's work had been almost entirely in the realm of theory. Then last spring little Oberlin College (enrollment: 2,600) had enough faith in Scott's approach to athletics to sign him to a four-year contract starting at $16,000 a year as chairman of the physical education department and athletic director. Administrators everywhere will be watching closely with various degrees of enthusiasm and horror as Scott puts his theories into practice. "Every person with a new approach and ideas ought to have the opportunity to pass them along," said Dr. Joe Kearney, the Washington athletic director, when he heard the news. "I wish him success."
October 22, 1972
"Somehow and some way college sports and Oberlin will survive," remarked James Decker, the athletic director at Scott's alma mater, Syracuse, when he heard the news.
While the prevailing view of Scott in the sports Establishment—from the National Football League to National Collegiate Athletic Association administrative circles—is that he is an irresponsible radical and an "enemy of sport," Scott considers himself an unrepentant jock. He lifts weights, runs five miles a day and in 1964 voted for Barry Goldwater for President.
Scott's manner and appearance have astonished people meeting him for the first time. New York television sports-caster Dick Schaap, apparently disappointed that Scott did not start beating on the table with a sandal during their interview, asked, "Are you always so rational or is this an unusual day?"
George Saner, former wide receiver for the New York Jets, was equally surprised. "He was quite different from what I would have expected if I had expected anything," said Sauer, obviously confused. "I realize that doesn't make much sense, but I can't put it any better than that."
What Sauer and the others see is a man of 30 who looks more like Mr. Peepers with muscles than the anarchist he is often accused of being. At 6'1" and 170 pounds, Scott usually wears gold-rimmed glasses and a scraggly light brown mustache. His hair has all but abandoned the front and top of his head. He speaks in a soft monotone that is less spellbinding than somnolent. Though his attire is informal—for example, flared corduroy trousers and a leather jacket—he has not yet broken out in beads and a flowered Indian kurta.
So what's the fuss? Well, there is Scott's Athletics for Athletes which he published at his own expense during the post-Olympic winter of 1968-69. In it Scott charges that collegiate sports and the coaching fraternity are guilty of assorted misdemeanors ranging from racism to authoritarianism. Another Scott enterprise, Dave Meggyesy's Out of Their League, tears into football's brutality and regimentation with rare verve. Scott helped Meggyesy with the writing while the former St. Louis Cardinal linebacker (also a Syracuse alumnus) was in residence at Scott's Institute for the Study of Sport in Oakland.
Then there was the controversial course Scott conducted at the University of California at Berkeley in 1970, where guest lecturers like Meggyesy and Harry Edwards, the black militant, scorched the temples of American sport for a semester. Scott's most recent book, The Athletic Revolution (1971), went further still with descriptions of drug abuse, payoffs and coaches who care only about winning. The discomfort of his antagonists is probably understandable—though not entirely so to Scott.
"Nothing I believe in is all that radical," he says ingenuously. "There are critics of sports who are much farther out. I'm not even all that original. People like Robert Hutchins espoused many of these things years ago. They just came too early. Now I'm a spokesman for these times."
Whether for these times or not, he is a spokesman, an almost constant one at conventions, symposiums and student gatherings. Usually he is introduced as a former star high school athlete who captained his football team and, as a college sprinter, did 9.6 in the 100 and 20.9 in the 220. Then he removes his jacket and displays a red, white and blue shirt.
"You'll notice I've got on my patriotic shirt," he begins with a smile. "I always wear it when I'm talking about sport to establish my basic loyalty."
Scott then damns the U.S. sporting Establishment with its own words, quoting Vince Lombardi ("Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing"), Leo Durocher ("Nice guys finish last") and finally Bill Musselman, the controversial and competitive Minnesota basketball coach who had the slogan posted over the players' shower: "Defeat is worse than death because you have to live with defeat." The last invariably gets a big laugh.
The rest of the talk is a kind of good news-bad news balancing act. "U.S. sport turns out teams with a very high degree of excellence," says Scott. "Our coaches are obviously dedicated men. They put in probably a good deal more time at their jobs than professors. Athletics also present an opportunity for cooperation and offer a good means to social mobility. Sport's most enduring strength is the fact that an authentic, heroic struggle does exist."
Now, in Scott's eyes, the bad news. He ticks off the items as truths revealed, much as a trial lawyer sums up the case he has been arguing for some time:
•The excessive commercialization and pressure to win that lead to a rigid authoritarian system, the encouragement of drug taking, recruiting violations and violence. Instead of eliminating these evils the NCAA serves almost to abet them.
•Athletics serve as a male masculinity rite, with losing associated with a loss of manhood.
•The social mobility of sport is overrated. It is largely an illusion to the blacks, and for women it is non-existent.
•The system is elitist. Mass participation ends by early adulthood, and those who are excluded become spectators. We are a nation of "peeping jocks."
•The structure of most organized sport is conservative and self-perpetuating. It is drifting farther and farther from the mainstream of American life.
Scott's solution to the evils he claims to see is not as radical as his detractors imply. He still believes in winning. "No one is going to practice or train three or four hours every day and not want to win," he says. "But a greater cross section of young people ought to be encouraged to participate. More attention should be paid to women's sports. At California only a few dollars of the annual athletic budget of almost $2 million is spent on women. Finally, coaches have to stop being cops and start teaching. They should serve the athlete, not the other way around."
Scott's beginnings as an athletic shaker and mover came during his junior year at Syracuse in 1965. After unsatisfactory dips into academic life at Villanova and Stanford, he had finally settled down to serious study, working 25 hours a week as a research assistant and earning A's in the classroom. Despite an injured foot he also won a letter in track as a member of the sprint relay team. During the summer after his senior year he trained with three of the team's distance runners, acting as in loco mentoris coach. When school reopened in the fall the trio insisted on continuing to train with Scott. The regular coach, they said, was authoritarian and racist. The result was predictable. All three were forced off the team and lost their athletic scholarships. When they tried to continue private workouts, the school barred them from using its facilities. Despite the harassment, they improved their individual times under Scott's tutelage. But they were never invited back on the team, except under the original conditions.
Somewhat naively, Scott was shocked at the school's stand. "We seemed to be everything the perfect jocks should be," he says. "We proved we were not quitters, that we were highly motivated and that we could achieve excellence."
The episode had a profound effect on him. "Coaching suddenly began to seem exciting and important," he recalls. He and Micki, whom he had married just before he returned to Syracuse, now headed west. Scott accepted a computer job with the Navy Department in San Diego but never reported. "I felt a certain uneasiness," he says. "I was trying to figure out how to involve coaching in my life."
A friend persuaded him to come to Berkeley, where for the next two years the Scotts lived a life that by almost anyone's standards would be called unstructured. He audited courses at Cal, read heavily in sociology and humanist psychology and earned a small income doing odd jobs and writing articles for Ramparts. In 1968 he enrolled formally to study for his Ph.D. He was also named an editor of Ramparts, for which he covered the 1968 Mexico City Olympics and the Black Power boycott. And that spring he met Harry Edwards, the movement's leader.
"I was involved with the black athletes' boycott only as a writer," Scott says, "but the experience gave me deeper knowledge of sports. Suddenly I was able to tie together a great many of my experiences."
After returning from Mexico, Scott went to work on Athletics for Athletes, a potpourri of opinion by him and other writers, all with a common thread of criticism that is now standard weaponry in the Scott arsenal. Track & Field News had originally agreed to distribute the book, but the editors dropped it like a hot baton after reading it. The Scotts spent $1,300 in savings to have a soft-cover edition of 2,500 copies printed. They put an ad in Track & Field News and mailed copies out from their apartment over a garage in Oakland. The book excited considerable comment in track and held circles and received a favorable review in Newsweek. Scott had made his first impact as a guru.
"I would never write anything like that today," he now says. "It was too polemical, but I don't regret it. It was a stage of my development."
The next stage came when he taught a course at Cat during the winter term of 1970. It had the somewhat ponderous title of Intercollegiate Athletics and Higher Education: A Socio-Psychological Evaluation, and administrators looked for an enrollment of between 50 and 100. Close to 400 students, including about 100 varsity athletes, signed on. Scott appeared at the first lecture wearing a sweat shirt, blew a whistle and ordered everyone to line up for seat assignments. It was his way of demonstrating the sort of authoritarianism students tolerate from coaches but not their professors.
Scott invited a number of guest lecturers-, radical and Establishment. Most of the radicals—Edwards, Meggyesy and Olga Connolly—showed up. Most of the conservatives, like Max Rafferty, then California superintendent of education, and Payton Jordan, Stanford's track coach, did not. This may have been because one Establishmentarian who did speak, Dr. Paul Brechler, then Cal's athletic director, was hooted.
Opinions on the course were mixed. Some extremists felt it was a copout, some conservatives claimed it was prejudiced against the Establishment. Either way it was a great success, and today, according to Scott, more than 50 colleges have initiated similar courses.
One institution that wished to was the University of Washington. When it offered Scott a one-year contract at $10,500, the news set off shock waves throughout the athletic department, most notably in the office of Jim Owens, the head football coach. Scott's presence on the campus would interfere with the smooth functioning of the athletic department, he informed his superiors, and a number of wealthy alumni and a conservative regent started to apply pressure. A month later the offer was withdrawn. "Your proposed appointment...would seriously jeopardize our efforts for an orderly integration" of the men's and women's phys ed departments, wrote Dean Philip Cartwright. Scott sued and recently settled out of court for $10,500—his year's pay.
Scott decided what he needed was an independent organization to push for the reform he sought. In June 1970 he and Micki formed the nonprofit Institute for the Study of Sport and Society, a kind of free-form research center designed to aid persons involved in what Scott calls "the humanization of sport." The first important customer was Meggyesy, who wrote Out of Their League under its auspices. The book was published in the fall of 1970 by Ramparts Press and has since sold 25,000 hard-cover copies, plus 650,000 in paperback. Scott helped with the writing, and the Institute gets 50% of all royalties. Critics immediately assumed the book was less Meggyesy than Scott, a charge both Scott and Meggyesy deny heatedly.
"Establishment sportswriters continue to perpetrate the myth about dumb jocks," Meggyesy says. "They're always amazed when an athlete is quote, articulate, unquote."
The Institute began building up files on such things as drug taking by athletes, women in sport, politics and violence, antitrust developments, sports in trouble, sports not in trouble, etc. It also began to scout around for coaching openings in less high-pressured institutions and to make the information available to coaches.
Frequently the Institute is called on for odd jobs. A typical example is provided by a wealthy Oklahoman who called Scott to complain that his son, a diver at a high school with no pool, had been barred by an NCAA ruling from using the facilities at a nearby college. Scott advised the indignant parent, to threaten the NCAA with a suit and see if they would not give in. He did and they did. The father was so grateful he promised Scott a large contribution for the Institute. When he heard of Scott's activities with Harry Edwards and black athletes, he promptly withdrew his offer.
Scott also receives letters from coaches disillusioned with organized sport for one reason or another. "My answer is that they should absolutely not quit," says Scott. "Unless people who object to the system stay in it and work for change, it never will. Quitting is no solution at all."
Now that he has taken over at Oberlin, Scott himself gets his first real, chance to see if he can work within the system. The school has a young and progressive new president, 35-year-old Robert Fuller, who decided a year and a half ago that the physical education department was ripe for an overhaul. Jeff Strassenberg had been put off the baseball team by Coach Bill Grice because he refused to shave off his beard. Appalled, Fuller had Strassenberg reinstated (a good move even for Coach Grice. This spring Strassenberg led the team in hitting with an average of .500). He and the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Donald Reich, also conducted an investigation of the phys ed department.
"At Oberlin we've felt that the physical education program should offer a diversified and valuable experience," explains Dean Reich. "We questioned a great many people about this, and concluded that the program was not reaching the students."
Their solution was Jack Scott. Immediately after his appointment last spring he put his new employer's faith to the acid test. As his assistant athletic director and track, coach, he announced that he wanted to hire Tommie Smith, less known for the 200-meter gold medal he won at the Mexico City Olympics in 1968 than for the black-gloved salute he gave on the victory stand. Smith would be an assistant professor of phys ed along with his other duties. Far from being frightened at the idea, Fuller was delighted, personally urging Smith to take the job.
"What we offer is a chance to do something valuable and imaginative with the program here," Fuller told Smith at their first meeting. "Change is bound to happen. It's going to start popping up here and there. We'd like it to pop up here first."
If President Fuller was delighted by the arrival of Scott and Smith, the physical education faculty was not. A poll of the 14-member department, taken before Scott's appointment, showed only one member totally favorable. As one coach told Everett Glenn, a black basketball player, "This guy is against sport. Did you read his book with Meggyesy? All lies."
Over the summer the nonbelievers began their exodus, partly out of administrative urging, partly, no doubt, out of sheer panic. The former athletic director and basketball coach, Julian Smith, went off to St. Andrews College in North Carolina. Don Hunsinger, an assistant football coach and the sport's most vigorous recruiter at Oberlin, moved on to Capital (Ohio) University. Robert Grueninger, an assistant professor in the P.E. department and coach of fencing, is now at the University of Wisconsin (Parkside). Two other members of the P.E. faculty, including Grice, who had been at Oberlin 19 years, received letters from the college faculty council reportedly suggesting that in the interests of their own careers they seek employment elsewhere. Grice will go to Campbell (N.C.) College at the end of this semester.
Given this sudden bonus of open positions to fill, Scott has begun to surround himself with a mélange of aides who would make such bulwarks of the university sporting Establishment as Bear Bryant or Woody Hayes positively shudder. In addition to Smith on the P.E. staff are Jane Mann, a University of Wisconsin graduate who will serve as director of intramural athletics, and Leslie Rudolph, whose background includes national ranking as an age-group swimmer as well as employment in the sugarcane fields of Cuba. Leslie has taken a $70-a-week job in the equipment room of the Oberlin gym so that she can serve as coach of the women's swimming team. "Having these two around helps break down the heavy machismo atmosphere," says Scott.
Two staffers who have received one-year appointments to fill in for those who have left on sabbatical are Del Martin, a former Stanford sprinter, Phi Beta Kappa and Rhodes scholar, who teaches a course entitled Sport and Literature, and Paul Hoch, a graduate of City College in New York and the London School of Economics, author of a forthcoming book called Rip-off the Big Game. Hoch conducts classes in tennis and teaches one course called Sport and the Mass Media, another entitled Sport and Sociology. As head trainer at a salary of zero, Scott has appointed 19-year-old Alan Alper, a sports medicine buff who has just finished his freshman year at the University of Maryland and who called Scott to volunteer his services after reading The Athletic Revolution.
Probably the only full professional among Scott's recent appointees is Dan Millman, who was a three-time All-America gymnast at the University of California. To join Scott at Oberlin, Mill-man, 26, left a solid position on the faculty at Stanford, where in four years he coached the gymnastics team up from the depths of the PAC-8 conference to respect as a national power. Millman will teach courses called Mind-Body Unity Through Gymnastics and Mind-Body Unity Through Trampoline and, if there is demand, create a gymnastics team.
"It was certainly a difficult choice," Millman says of his decision to switch jobs, "but I was obviously not fleeing Stanford. Instead, I was seeking what is going to happen at Oberlin."
Even Scott can appear slightly embarrassed at the amateurish look of his staff and the far-out cultural aspect of some of the P.E. courses that must be inspiring tears and laughter among athletic administrators around the country. "I'll admit many of my critics might laugh at the way things are beginning to look around here," he says. "Except for one thing: they know how dedicated we are, how hard we'll work to make the program really succeed."
Scott's yardstick of success? "How the students react, how many participate, how fully I can implement the women's athletic program," he says. "And, yes, the won-lost records of our teams. Excellence can be achieved without dehumanizing the athlete."
With the backing of President Fuller, Scott has already done away with admission charges to athletic events. Admittedly this is of more psychological than financial importance, annual gate receipts at Oberlin seldom amounting to more than $2,000 or $3,030. "By eliminating gate receipts you help eliminate the distinction between major and minor sports," says Scott. "So far as I'm concerned we simply have 14 varsity sports at Oberlin."
In addition Scott intends to inaugurate a policy of permitting varsity athletes to make decisions formerly reserved for the administration or the coaches. Already the tennis and fencing teams have been asked to name their own replacements for departed coaches. "I'm also examining realistic ways in which team members could vote on starting lineups," says Scott.
There is not yet much to measure so far as Scott's yardstick of success is concerned. The football team, 0-8 last year, looked at least enthusiastic in losing its opener to Centre College of Kentucky 7-6 and, through four games, had lost to Hiram 46 14 and Hamilton 21 12 and beaten Carnegie-Mellon 21-14. Meanwhile, the physical education classes are fair to bursting with new enrollees. Despite the fact that required physical exercise has now been dropped at Oberlin, many P.E. classes have doubled in size.
"That's pretty astonishing," says President Fuller. "Usually when you drop the P.E. requirement, enrollment goes from 500 to eight."
Scott's progress at Oberlin will have the gripping what-happens-next suspense of a good mystery with many fascinated readers. Walter Byers, the conservative executive director of the NCAA, has managed to avoid being drawn into a discussion of Scott's program. But NCAA President Dr. Earl Ramer was willing to speak. Scott, he admitted, had made a few valid points, but "his zealous commitment to his own ideas in athletics may tempt him to play the authoritarian role he deplores," concludes Dr. Ramer. "I hope he can resist that temptation.... If he carries into effect the athletic ideals he so strongly advocates...he will serve Oberlin and athletics well."
George Sauer sees the Oberlin appointment as the start of an age of discovery. "People are going to find out that Jack's ideas make a great deal of sense and are very logical. They are based on values with which people are going to find it hard to disagree." Many, of course, will succeed in disagreeing, but not a whole lot of them, Scott hopes, will come from Oberlin.