Like any head football coach, Dwight Smith looks forward to the first day of practice, when he can get down to the real work of his trade. Time, at last, to get out of the office and the film room, to get his mind off the fumbles and injuries of last year and on the promise of a new season. Time for blocking and tackling, X's and O's, fundamentals and execution. The good stuff. And besides, fall is just a great time of year.
Especially in New England, where Smith is employed and where he probably looks forward to the first practice with even more curiosity than other coaches. Smith is head football coach at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, and he is always keen to discover just what sort of players will be coming out for football.
"We get all kinds," Smith says. Except, needless to say, the dumb kind.
While the coaches of national powerhouse teams, and teams that have such aspirations, will have spent more days and nights than they care to remember in the company of their incoming freshmen-laying on the charm and spinning visions of glory—Smith won't have met most of his new players. He doesn't have the money to recruit, and if he did, he wouldn't bother anyway, because nobody comes to MIT—whose faculty includes as many Nobel laureates (seven) as Notre Dame has Heismans—to play football.
"We get a few real players," says Smith, who is in his 13th year at MIT. "We just hope there are enough that we can build the rest of the team around them."
Smith is also interested in raw numbers. Fifteen to 18 freshmen showing up on the first day of practice would be "real good," he says, since that would put the squad size at around 45 and would enable him to conduct something like a full-scale practice most days.
This is an important consideration, Smith says, because once classes begin, his problem is not simply that his players' minds are elsewhere—"their bodies are elsewhere, too." There are practices, and plenty of them, at which he does not have enough players for a scrimmage.
Sitting in a small, cluttered office he shares with two coaches of other sports, Smith shrugs and smiles. "Coaching is about challenges, and we just have some special challenges here." He is a mild man who seems almost perpetually amused. At registration tables set up on a volleyball court outside his office, students are signing up for courses in, among other things, plasma kinetic theory and celestial mechanics. Smith's players take classes like those. In fact, his entire backfield last year majored in aeronautics and astronautics (aero/astro). "We called it the rocket backfield," he says.
This will be MIT's third season of Division III football. The school played club football for 10 years. Before that, there was no football. It had been banned by a narrow vote of the student body in 1901. In 1988, the year of MIT's return to the gridiron, the Beavers (nature's engineers, don't you see) went 3-2 against the varsity programs at small Massachusetts colleges such as Stonehill, Assumption and Bentley. "We never got blown out," Smith says. "We lost by six and three points, and we never got pushed around, even though we played only one kid who weighed more than 200 pounds."
MIT is certainly one of the few schools playing football at which the combined SAT scores of any player are higher than the total weight of the offensive line. "MIT students average 735 in math," Smith says. Their average SAT total is 1,350, and every player is a student first. There are no athletic scholarships. No academic scholarships either, since it is impossible to make the case that any one student deserves such recognition over any other. Financial aid at MIT is based solely on need. Annual tuition alone is $15,600, which is $600 more than the school's entire budget for football. Players buy their own shoes.
Which leads you to wonder, first, why anyone would bother to play football at MIT and, then, how good the football is. Could the despairing college football fan find some solace at the Division III level, where the term student-athlete is something other than a laughable oxymoron?
Smith does not try to answer those questions. He is a coach, content to work with the players he gets and to leave the big-think to the administration and others. "Why don't you come out to practice and talk to some of the players?" he said one day last year at the end of August.
Practice, on a cool, achingly clear afternoon, began at four. It was orientation and rush week, so the team was holding two practices a day (morning practice was at nine) until classes began. After that, practice would last from five to seven every afternoon. Those hours are supposed to be sacrosanct at MIT, time for students to do something other than study or attend class (although many professors schedule exams then in order not to waste class time on them). The school has long recognized that students need to relieve the pressures that come with the territory of a first-class education. The athletic department has done its part to make sure that outlets are available. Students can choose from among 37 varsity sports.
As the football players drifted out of the locker room on their way to the practice field, they passed baseball players, soccer players, cross-country runners and tennis players. Down on the Charles River, out of view, the sailing team and the crew were practicing. The stereotype of the MIT nerd who never leaves the library except to go to the bathroom is plainly a creature born of imagination and envy. These are healthy, alert-looking young people—even the football players. This comes as a surprise to some of the school's opponents. In MIT's first season, the players at Assumption wrote E = MC¬¨¬®‚Äö√¢¬ß on their wristbands, presumably as some kind of taunt. "Yeah," one of the small MIT linemen said, "and we not only understood the formula, we also beat them."
Practice began with the usual calisthenics, counted off by the four team captains. But a few elements of the picture seemed a little off. There weren't very many players. Fewer than 45. Even in pads, they didn't look very big. And two of them were not in pads at all but were wearing Jams and T-shirts. Smith explained that they were kids who had never played football before but thought they would like to give it a try. "So it's a little early to give them uniforms."
Does he get many first-time players?
"Yeah, we get a couple every season. But it works both ways. There are some kids here who started in good high school programs and then decided to put football behind them when they got here. Some of them may come out later, when they're sophomores or juniors. When we were a club, we had a few guys wait until they were in grad school before they came out. I guess by then they figured they could handle the academic load."
You have to wonder just what kind of person would say to himself upon entering one of the world's most prestigious academic institutions, What the hell, long as I'm here, I think I'll play a little football.
Another aspect of the MIT practice that did not seem quite right was the nearly desperate shortage of assistant coaches. Only four, as far as I could see.
"That's right," Smith said. And only one of them, offensive line coach Tim Walsh, was on the MIT payroll. The others were volunteers who worked for "token pay." One of the assistants, Larry Monroe, played club football for four years at MIT and was doing research in efficient nonpolluting energy sources while coaching the defensive line on the side. (He will not be coaching this season.) "Football was always a way to relax and have fun," said Monroe. "Do something a little physical, you know, after you've been at it in the lab all day."
One of Smith's other assistants, Dick Yule, is part owner of Who's On First, a celebrated bar near Fenway Park. Another, Mike Herman, is in the computer business. None of the assistants did very much yelling at practice. "That doesn't work with these kids," Smith said. "They motivate themselves."
That, however, does not make coaching any easier. Smith's players grasp concepts readily and don't have any trouble with the playbook. It is the simplest book they'll see all year. But their bodies cannot always do what their minds so clearly visualize. "We spend a lot of time on fundamentals," Smith said. "A lot of time."
As the practice ran on, this was evident. Hang around a major college practice field and you will see players doing hard things almost effortlessly. Here they labored, and there was no blinding speed. No "gifted" athletes. But you could not help thinking how much it would do for the reputation of college football if those gifted athletes at major schools tried as hard in the classroom as these gifted students tried at football practice.
In the contact drills the sound of impact was loud and oddly pleasant in the late summer air. The players might not be big, but they hit. One linebacker, Rick Bullesbach, an architecture student, caught a forearm under his face mask and suffered a broken nose. He came out until the bleeding stopped.
Another linebacker, Darcy Prather, one of the few blacks on the team, stood a running back up with a shoulder to his midsection. You could hear the pop for a hundred yards.
"Way to stick him, way to stick him," the other players shouted.
Prather, who was honorable mention Division III All-America the last two years, comes from Hazelwood, Mo., weighs about 185 and studies electrical engineering, which is the essential stat at an institution like MIT. He listens attentively when he is asked a question and then responds quietly and articulately. You can't help thinking, What a great kid. When Prather is asked if he has ever felt pressure at MIT to get out of football, he says, "Not from any of my professors, no."
"Well, actually, yes. But not from anyone here. When I go home and see people and they find out I'm still playing football, they say, 'Man you've got to be crazy, getting an education like that and wasting your time on football.' "
This is the implicit reservation about football at MIT, about gifted students playing football anywhere—that it is a waste of time. The planted axiom is obvious: Only dumb guys, or guys who are getting paid something, would bother.
Shane LaHousse came closer than anyone to being a genuine star during MIT's first two seasons of football. As a high school player in Southgate, Mich., he made a visit to the University of Michigan, where he was promised "preferred walk-on status." He went to the Air Force Academy instead, then transferred to MIT after he learned that his eyesight had deteriorated to the point where it would disqualify him from flight training. He was MIT's leading rusher in 1988 and again last season. "Football was not a waste of my time," he says.
On the contrary. "When you've been in labs or class all day and the pressure is really starting to get to you," LaHousse says, "it feels great to go out there and knock heads for a couple of hours. Get dirty and get it out of your system and then go back to work. This may seem strange, but I did my best academic work during football season. I was just sharper."
And the notion that football might interfere with his real work in Cambridge is absurd. "It's the other way around," he says. "In our first season, one game we lost was played on a Friday night. I think we could have won, except that that morning there had been a big aero/astro exam and the whole backfield had been up all Thursday night studying. We couldn't do anything right during the game. We were half a step off all night."
This sense of...well, call it perspective about football extends to everyone at MIT—players, coaches, students and faculty. There is no admission charge at football games. MIT has cheerleaders (all women) who lead the fans in the following chant:
E to the u, d-u-d-x, e to the x, d-x
Cosine, secant, tangent, sine
Integral, radical, u-d-v
Slipstick, slide rule, M-I-T!
There is a band, which practices briefly before games and then performs, among other things, a salute to entropy, in which the formation more or less collapses. When the team turns the ball over, or the other team scores, MIT fans are likely to break into a spontaneous cheer:
That's all right
You 'II go to work
For us someday.
Royce Flippin, MIT's athletic director, and a star running back at Princeton in the '50s, says, "There is no resentment or suspicion among the faculty about the importance of football in the scheme of things. They know that nothing. certainly not football, is a threat to their status."
There is no detachment in the players' practice or play. Brian Teeple, a defensive back from Massillon, Ohio, compares MIT's program to the big-time football he knew at Massillon-Washing-ton High. "We had two-a-days in August, weeks before school started. We had one coach whose contract was not renewed after a 6-4 season. We were put on probation for two years for illegally recruiting players. At MIT, we want to win just as bad, and it feels just as good when we do. But we have a broader perspective."
As the sun went down, the team finished with a series of 10 100-yard wind sprints. The two young men in Jams and T-shirts ran them all. They lingered after the other players had drifted back into the locker room and asked Smith about uniforms. He told them to come back for practice in the morning, and if they were still around at the end of the week, he would see about getting them suited up.
"Nine o'clock," Smith said.
"Well, I've got a problem with that," one of the men said. "That's when I'm supposed to meet my adviser."
"As soon as you can make it, then."
Walking back to his office through the tranquil purple twilight, Smith said mildly, "That's the way it works. You're always making adjustments, always trying to make something out of nothing."
The greatest obstacle to the development of a university in this country is the popular misconceptions of what a university is. The two most popular of these are that it is a kindergarten and that it is a country club. Football has done as much as any single thing to originate, disseminate and confirm these misconceptions. By getting rid of football, by presenting the spectacle of a university that can be great without football, the University of Chicago may perform a signal service to higher education throughout the land.
—ROBERT MAYNARD HUTCHINS
President, University of Chicago
Jan. 12, 1940
The first Heisman Trophy winner, Jay Berwanger (1935), came from the University of Chicago. Amos Alonzo Stagg coached there for 41 seasons, from 1892 to 1932, winning six Big Ten titles outright, tying for a seventh and going undefeated in four seasons. After the 1939 season, the school where Stagg had invented uniform numbers, wind sprints and the lettermen's club, dropped football. If he wanted to hire football players, Hutchins said, then he would speak to George Halas about employing his Bears. (The design of the C on the Bears' helmets, incidentally, was borrowed from the University of Chicago.)
Thirty years later, after the university tore down Stagg Field to build a library, Chicago stepped tentatively back into the football waters at the relatively calm Division III level. Plainly, there was no danger that the school would be tempted to take on Michigan. Those days were over. Chicago was without a doubt one of the great universities of the world, its faculty included eight past or future Nobel Prize winners, including Saul Bellow, who would get the prize for literature in 1976. Chicago had become a breeding ground not for football players but for journalists, artists, writers and actors as well as engineers, economists, physicians and physicists.
Adding to the school's insularity was the fact that it is privately funded and that it's situated in Hyde Park, on the South Side of Chicago, amid deteriorating neighborhoods where children grow up without learning to read anything, much less Aristotle and the great books. So the University of Chicago is a kind of oasis, set off from the ordinary world but very much aware of it. The campus police squad is the second-largest private security force in the state of Illinois. All of this tends to concentrate the mind exceedingly. The University of Chicago is a terribly serious place, and it's amazing that, having once gotten rid of football, this institution ever accepted it back.
"It was a fairness issue, as much as anything," says Mary Jean Mulvaney, who retired as athletic director of the university last year, after 14 years on the job. As women's athletic director before that, she supported the idea of bringing football back to Chicago, and she remains one of its strongest boosters. "The boys who wanted to play argued that it was discriminatory to have all these other varsity sports and still ban football. The faculty gave in, but there was resistance. Now, after 20 years, everybody accepts the fact that we have a football team. I think people realize that we want diversity at the university, and with a football team we get a certain kind of student, who is still qualified, who might not come here otherwise. And, of course, our players are very much members of the university community. One player on the 1989 team, for example, was also student body president, and a really neat kid. All of them are."
Chicago has not set the world on fire in the two decades since it resumed football. The team's record over that span is 47-122-2. Its struggle during the first few years was more to survive than to win. These days the new Stagg Field is sometimes filled to its 1,500 capacity on game day. The fans come to urge their team to victory with the Scholarly Yell, one of the greatest cheers of all time:
The Peloponnesian Wars
X-squared, Y-squared, HSO
Who for, what for
Who in the hell are we cheering for?
Last year was coach Greg Quick's first at Chicago. He was a center on the 1978 Division III championship team at Baldwin-Wallace, in Berea, Ohio, and has coached both high school and college ball since graduating. Yet, there were some surprises at Chicago. "When I came here," he says, "I called a meeting of the upper-classmen. All 48 of them were on time. I tell them to keep the him room clean, and they do it. Every little piece of paper, every pop bottle gets picked up. The chairs are back in place, and the last man turns out the light. Discipline isn't a problem with these kids."
Quick was also struck by the way his players passed time on the team bus on the way to their first road game, at the University of Rochester in upstate New York. "I don't know what I expected, exactly. The usual, I guess. Sports pages and girlie magazines. But these guys were reading The Economist and The New Republic. One of them was paging through War and Peace, and another had a copy of Emerson's essays. I knew these kids tested smart, but I didn't think they would be so involved in intellectual things."
Their braininess has worked to Quick's advantage. Once, preparing a two-minute drill, he showed the offense a series of five plays that would be run automatically, with the quarterback calling the formation at the line of scrimmage according to the spotting of the ball. "We gave that to them one night, one time, and the next afternoon we called for it at practice. They went through it the first time without a single mistake and then did it again during the game."
The downside for a football coach of Quick's intensity is obvious: There is no way that his players can make an unequivocal commitment to football. "We try to get them to schedule their labs on Monday, when we don't do anything at all until eight o'clock, when we have a meeting and look at some film. Still, we get guys who have seminars that last until after practice starts on other days. We have labs and exams. We have to adjust."
Quick is plainly not as phlegmatic as MIT's Smith about the concessions a coach must make to academics. Also, Quick believes that it is possible to sound echoes of Chicago's football past, albeit at a fairly low volume. There is a fading black-and-white photograph on the wall of Quick's office that shows 15,000 people crowded into the old Stagg Field in 1907 to watch Chicago play Carlisle. "The school was only 15 years old then," he says with something like amazement. "In 1905, they beat Michigan when the Wolverines hadn't lost in four seasons. I'd like to bring a little of that tradition back."
Maybe he can. But what he has inherited is already pretty remarkable. Before practice, on a field a few hundred yards from the lab where, in 1942, Enrico Fermi accomplished the first sustained nuclear chain reaction, ushering in the atomic age, Quick's 59 players loosen up and talk among themselves about the things that are important to them. One conversation involves an application for a Rhodes scholarship. One man sits on his helmet, just like a Raider, reading a paperback anthology of Molière's plays. Quick and his assistants run a tight, physical practice with lots of yelling by Quick himself. He has a big voice, and it carries across the campus. Joggers look up suddenly when he roars, "B——, that's——! Now line up again and do it the way we told you."
After one practice last fall, Alan Schafer, the student body president, lingered on the field. A defensive lineman who weighed 205, he made grades good enough for the Dean's List, sang bass in the prestigious Motet Choir, was house manager for his fraternity, Phi Delta Theta, and worked 15 hours a week as a building supervisor at the Henry Crown Field House to qualify for some financial aid. When he graduated in June, he entered a business management training program at G.E. Capital in Minneapolis.
Asked why he came to the University of Chicago, he said, "Well, mainly because of its academic reputation. But also because I wanted to play Division III football. I knew I could play here, and I probably couldn't have played at the Ivies. But it was the academics first. There might be better engineering schools, but I don't think anyone beats Chicago in my field."
"Public policy. It's a blend of several disciplines. Sociology, political science, economics."
So would he duck out of a class taught by Chicago's Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman for football practice?
"In theory, yes. But he's at the Hoover Institute, out at Stanford, right now. You could still take a course from George Stigler, who also won a Nobel in economics, and leave early for practice." Schafer smiled.
Can those spheres be harmonized?
Schafer smiled again. Hutchins, the man who banished football, once said that whenever he felt compelled to exercise, he lay down until he got over it. Hutchins was also very fat.
But the question remains pertinent. What is the place of football, here or at any other place of learning?
"Actually, football fit in well for me," Schafer said. "It was a very important part of my life—both the physical outlet the game provided and the social element, the team. The academic side of life is pretty solitary, so the group part of football is a nice complement. Also, nobody there is playing for a rèsumè he can show to the NFL. We aren't playing for the crowds. In a way, this makes the game itself that much better. The game is the whole thing. You play to win, and winning feels great."
Proportion, measure—the truths the ancients knew. If the Romans have taken over Division I-A football, the Athenians are still alive in Division III.
Still, if the players are bright and interesting and the coaches are full faculty members who share the university's vision, what happens to the most fundamental thing in football—the game itself? There is no talk, when you visit one of the brainpower campuses, of being able to compete at all levels. The best athletes on any of these teams could not start at most Division I-A schools. But they do play football, and you wonder about the quality of Division III games.
So last fall, on a weekend when Hurricane Hugo had left a trail of storms along the East Coast, I arrived at Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pa., for the Gettysburg College game. For the past two years, Swarthmore has been rated by U.S. News & World Report as the best small liberal arts school in the country. The campus consists of 320 acres for a student body of only 1,300. The student-to-faculty ratio is 9½—1. Swarthmore is most emphatically not a football factory. Or any other kind of factory. It resembles, more than anything, an estate.
But there is a football tradition at Swarthmore. In the 1980s, the college twice shared the Centennial Conference championship. It had not beaten Gettysburg in five years, however, and the game was expected to be close and tough.
While the players taped up and dressed, coach Fran Meagher worried about the weather—rain would hurt his pass-oriented game—and talked about the common theme of programs like his: "These kids have a lot on their plates. We can't expect them to make every practice, so what we do ask is that they let us know when they're going to be missing. A phone call goes a long way. But because they're highly motivated, a lot of them will do the little bit of extra work. I've had kids ask me for the key to the weight room so they could come down and lift after they got through studying at 10 at night.
"We even have conflicts with the games. Last year, one of our best receivers, Bob McCann, had to take his law boards on a game Saturday. He scheduled them over at Villanova [like Swarthmore, a suburb of Philadelphia] and had his father drive him. When he finished, they jumped in the car, and he dressed on the way down and got here in time for the second half. Caught two balls. One was a 75-yarder for a touchdown. We might have won that game if we'd had him in the first half. But what are you going to do?" Swarthmore lost to Ursinus, 31-25. McCann got into law school.
At this level of football, it seems, there is never any question about priorities.
For Gettysburg, Meagher had his full squad, and except for one short shower, the rain held off. In spite of a low sky the color of an old bruise, 300 or 400 people were in the stands for the kickoff.
"O.K., men," one of the Swarthmore players shouted, "animal-instincts time."
Swarthmore took the ball the length of the field on its first possession, largely on the running of senior cocaptain Billy Martin, an experimental psychology major who had been worried when he enrolled at Swarthmore that he wouldn't cut it academically with his modest 1,090 SATs.
From the sidelines, the game had the feel of any other football game. You shared the frustration of the contain man against the option when the opposing quarterback waited until just the right moment and pitched to the trailing back. You concentrated with the cornerback, trying to stay step for step with a wideout, waiting until he looked back before you tried to find the ball. It was good, competitive football.
On another Swarthmore possession, wide receiver Chris Walsh saw that a pass on its way to him was sure to be picked off, so he timed his hit precisely, and when he collided with the intercepting defensive back, the sound seemed to go straight to your bones as the ball popped loose. This is a contact sport, and when the contact is good, the size of the stadium and the name of the conference and even the ability of the players seem unimportant. The hitting is the thing.
In the second quarter, with the sky getting lower and the wind picking up, Gettysburg began to move the ball. But Walsh, who was now playing safety, stepped in front of a Gettysburg receiver and took an interception 90 yards to put Swarthmore up 18-0.
Just before the half, during another Gettysburg drive, the wind blew one of the goalposts over. When Gettysburg scored, a maintenance worker had to stand under the uprights, propping up one of the posts with a two-by-four, during the extra-point attempt. It was good.
Swarthmore then drove and missed a fourth-down conversion from the Gettysburg 12. Halftime, 18-7 Swarthmore, but it felt closer than that. The weather turned worse, but no one left.
In the third quarter, it was all Gettysburg. As the visitors made two long drives, one for a touchdown, runners from a women's cross-country meet arrived at the finish line on the track that runs around the perimeter of the football field. The fans in the stands alternately applauded the runners and exhorted the Swarthmore defense. "Come on, hold them!"
Swarthmore's offense was stalled. On one third down, Martin could not get around end and Swarthmore had to punt. When he came off the field, Martin slammed his helmet on the ground. Like the hitting, the rage to win is here at Swarthmore just as at Soldier Field, the Orange Bowl or any other arena where they play the game.
Early in the fourth quarter, Gettysburg took the lead, 22-18. On its next possession, Swarthmore put together a few runs by Martin and a couple of crucial pass plays into the tough middle of the field, and the home team scored again: 24-22. But with only minutes to go, Gettysburg seemed able to move the ball when it needed to. "Come on, Deee!" the Swarthmore players shouted, pleading now.
Gettysburg drove toward the lame goalpost. A field goal would win it. The passion was now in everyone present. Everything important was, for some absurd and magical reason, tied up in a sprawling, disorderly game.
The Gettysburg quarterback rolled out and threw. Walsh made another steal. When he came out, his teammates mobbed him, shouting, "ChrisWalsh! ChrisWalsh! My man Chris Walsh!"
A 54-yard Martin run to the Gettysburg 15 iced it. He had gained 140 yards in the game. Afterward, players, friends and families stood around the field, talking and laughing and enjoying the feeling. "This is what it is all about," Walsh said. In Division III, even the clichès are the same.
It was a good day for smart-guy football at MIT, too, which enjoyed a 45-13 romp over Stonehill. When the victory was pretty much in hand, Smith was able to give game time to a lot of his players, among them Mehrdad Sarlak, one of the football novices who had come out at first in Jams and a T-shirt. He had kept his appointment with his adviser the following day but had come back for the next practice, and he kept coming back until Smith gave him a uniform. He played defensive back and helped MIT to a 4-3-1 season.
This season Smith, as usual, does not know what to expect when his squad comes out for the first day of practice. He has lost two members of his aero/astro backfield—the quarterback and the tailback—but fullback Garret Moose is still there, and incoming quarterback John Hur is an aero/astro major. Prather will be back, and there are at least two freshmen who should be able to help on both sides of the line. Also, Smith will have a new part-time assistant coach, Vaughn Williams, who played defensive back at Stanford and a little with the 49ers and the Colts. "He should be a real help," Smith says.
Quick is also expecting better days at Chicago. He wants badly to improve on last year's 2-7 season and believes he can, "now that we've had a year to adjust and learn a new system." Football coaches everywhere are preternaturally optimistic, and they speak essentially the same language.
At Swarthmore, Meagher will not be trying to improve on a 5-5 year that could easily have been 7-3. He took the head coaching job at Centennial Conference rival Muhlenberg College, in Allentown, Pa. "It was just a great opportunity," he says. "There isn't the same academic reputation, and I'll have more players. With the small numbers I had to work with at Swarthmore, it was always like walking along the edge of a cliff."
But Swarthmore will be competing for the conference championship, according to tricaptain Rob Ruffin, a junior linebacker majoring in engineering, who was a Pizza Hut honorable mention All-America last season. "I'm looking forward to this year," he says. "We got our playbooks in the mail, and it looks like we'll be doing more basic things. I like that. We'll be trying to make what we do work. I did a lot of off-season conditioning, and I'm about six-four, 215. As a captain, I'll be trying to lead by intensity."
Karl Miran, Swarthmore's new coach, was an assistant at Amherst College in Massachusetts, so he knows what to expect. "Small squads and schedule conflicts are things you just have to cope with at this level," he says. "You have a small squad, and the talent is thin. You have to play some of your best players both ways, and sometimes you lose close games because people get tired."
Not distracted, just tired. "On game day, they want to win as bad as anyone at any level," Miran says. "But they know that football is just a part of their lives, and certainly not the most important part. It's something that they do at the end of the day, and if you really want to communicate with them, you have to remember that and realize that sometimes the best way to make a point is with humor. You've got to laugh with them."
Which might be the last word in the guide to thinking man's football.