Football_-_College_Football__Part_1

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					Title:
Football - College Football, Part 1

Word Count:
1926

Summary:
If you are interested in football, especially in college football, read
on to learn some interesting insight into the roots of the game.

In the 1890s college football had already created strong emotions of love
and hate. Big-time eastern football had demonstrated that it could draw
large crowds, create alumni support, and build an identity that would
attract new students. The fact that it had little to do with classical
education bothered only the traditionalists on campus...


Keywords:
football, college football


Article Body:
If you are interested in football, especially in college football, read
on to learn some interesting insight into the roots of the game.

In the 1890s college football had already created strong emotions of love
and hate. Big-time eastern football had demonstrated that it could draw
large crowds, create alumni support, and build an identity that would
attract new students. The fact that it had little to do with classical
education bothered only the traditionalists on campus and a handful of
crotchety purists elsewhere who wrote critically of football in
magazines, newspaper articles, and official college reports.

Outward appearances may have changed, but the gridiron problems in that
era appear remarkably similar to the present. In the 1890s big-time
recruiters and alumni contacts scoured the eastern prep schools for
talented juniors and seniors ready to entice them to Harvard, Yale, or
Princeton. Occasionally, unscrupulous alumni convinced students to quit
high school before they graduated in order to enroll at an institution
with a big-time team. Boosters funneled tuition money to poor but
athletically talented boys from the coal fields of Pennsylvania and the
industrial towns of the Northeast to preparatory schools in order to
prepare them for big-time college athletics. Some of these young men were
in their mid-twenties when they finally entered college. Other athletes
went from school to school selling their services, phantom players who
had no academic ties with the institution.

Big-time alumni football entrepreneurs—the counterpart of today's
athletic directors—arranged a schedule of games which began with weak
teams and worked up to big money games held in New York, Boston, and
Philadelphia. Gridiron profits supported stadium building, sumptuous
living quarters and training tables for players, as well as Pullman cars
for retinues of trainers, massagers, alumni coaches, and other hangers-on
who followed the team to the big games. What was left over went to
support an array of lesser sports that big-time football had eclipsed.

At the major football schools critics complained that football players
became the campus elite, admired by their fellow students and regarded
skeptically by many faculty. In the absence of professional football,
players basked in the attention of the media, and the names of the
gridiron stars appeared regularly in the sports pages of big city
newspapers. Even college faculty and presidents had to be properly
worshipful of football and its elite because they knew that football
advertised their schools and helped to retain the loyalty of alumni. As a
result, they often ignored or remained blissfully unaware of scams to
admit unqualified students, play athletes who never enrolled, or resort
to stratagems to keep weak players eligible.

Though booster organizations did not exist outside of alumni groups,
booster alumni and townspeople, student managers, and even faculty
engaged in unethical acts. A Princeton alumnus named Patterson
entertained football players and made every effort to entice them to his
alma mater. Authorities at Swarthmore lured the huge lineman, Bob
("Tiny") Maxwell, from the University of Chicago and arranged for the
president of the college to pass his bills to a prominent alumnus.
Professor Woodrow Wilson, a fanatic Princeton enthusiast, shamelessly
used football when he spoke to alumni organizations and vigorously
opposed football reform in the 1890s and early 1900s. In contrast,
Theodore Roosevelt, a Harvard graduate, who gloried in the strenuous life
and strongly supported Harvard football, turned against football
brutality in 1905 and initiated the first efforts in his capacity as
president to reform the spirit in which big-time football teams competed.

We know that the prototype for athletic organization began at eastern
institutions in the 1880s and 1890s. Yale's Walter Camp, "the father of
American football," became the model for the coach and athletic director.
While pursuing a business career, he also acted as Yale's de facto vice
president for athletic operations, who dominated the rules committees and
ceaselessly publicized the game. From the profits of big games in Boston
and New York, Camp created an ample reserve fund that supported lesser
sports, afforded lush treatment for athletes, and provided the money that
eventually went toward building Yale Bowl, the first of the modern
football stadiums. By making Yale into an athletic powerhouse, Camp built
the school's reputation, making it second only to Harvard. Because he
succeeded so well, Camp became the first big-name foe of sweeping
football reforms—and an especially hard-core opponent of the forward
pass.

By the turn of century the deaths of players in football led state
legislators to introduce laws banning the gridiron game. Players for big-
time teams, critics charged, were coached to injure their opponents or
"put them out of business." The nature of the game, with its mass
formations and momentum plays, made football less an athletic contest
than a collegiate version of warlike combat. Eventually the violence in
football led to attempts to reduce its brutality through reforms. New
rules put a strong emphasis on better officiating and on less dangerous
formations, but they did not necessarily improve the athletic
environment.

The deaths and brutality presented an excellent opportunity to root out
the worst excesses of the runaway football culture. In the 1890s and
early 1900s, responding to public opinion, professors and presidents
spent a great deal of time talking about the overemphasis of
intercollegiate athletics—and, in some cases, passing rules at the
conference and institutional level to regulate college sports. Why, then,
did college presidents and faculty, who had far more authority over their
students than their modern counterparts, fail to control the gridiron
beast? Put differently, why did school presidents and faculty often
themselves become part of the athletic problem?

. One problem might be that faculty members played major roles in
introducing early football. In addition to Woodrow Wilson, who served as
a part-time coach at Wesleyan, an English instructor at Oklahoma who had
recently come from Harvard, Vernon Parrington, taught the fundamentals of
football on the windswept practice field in Oklahoma. At Miami University
of Ohio the president called upon all able-bodied members of the faculty
to go out for football. In a game between North Carolina and Virginia a
member of the North Carolina faculty scored the winning touchdown. Often
the faculty proved helpful to the budding football programs in other ways
such as giving athletes passing grades or writing articles arguing that
football built intellect. Only a handful, like Wisconsin's Frederick
Jackson Turner, made a determined effort to root out the abuses in the
culture of college football such as the intense media attention given to
the sport and its tendency to cushion star athletes from academic
requirements. That was more than a century ago. When we turn to the 1980s
and 1990s what do we encounter? Outward appearances of football may have
changed, but the problems appear hauntingly similar. Big-time football
teams induce players to attend their institution with offers of cars and
money as well as running booster operations to funnel cash to blue-chip
players. Players who obtain special admission or enter the institution
fraudulently do so only to play football and often leave without
graduating. Schools manage to keep their players eligible by
manufacturing credits or by easing them into simple courses in which they
are assured of receiving passing grades. Some coaches engage in violence
toward players in practice and even try to drive them out of school so
that they can use their scholarship slot.

Athletic departments and institutional officials have become obsessed
with the potential for profits from televised big games or bowl games.
Big-time teams in the NCAA try to manipulate the organization so that
they will be able to have more coaches, scholarships, and only minimal
academic requirements. Players commit acts of violence and brutality,
then manage to avoid the consequences. College presidents whose salaries
and prominence fall far short of the head football coaches dutifully show
up at football games and related alumni events, treading cautiously
around the mire of big-time college athletics.

All of this has added up to major athletic scandals, most of them
involving big-time football. Scandals such as the pay-for-play violations
at Southern Methodist and Auburn from the late 1970s to the early 1990s
man-aged to create internal disruptions and negative publicity at numbers
of big-name institutions. Yet, in spite of the obvious flaws in college
football, it continues to enlarge its grip on the major universities. The
athletic foundations persist in enlarging their massive gridiron
complexes, selling the rights to buy tickets for upscale luxury boxes and
suites, and then collecting additional revenues for the sale of high-
priced tickets. The major teams have created indoor facilities out of
donations that might have gone to deserving but impoverished non-athletes
for scholarships. While quasi-professional student-athletes play the
game, ordinary students have little to do with the sport. In an
atmosphere of highly specialized career coaches, publicists, trainers,
and tutors, college football reflects more than ever the professionalism
that reformers long ago set out to de-emphasize.

No one would deny that football constitutes one of the most entertaining
and enjoyable spectator sports. In the early days some faculty believed
that the student enthusiasm for football would enable the institutions to
alleviate the pervasive antisocial behavior of undergraduates. Being
aware of its appeal, most athletic critics and reformers attempted to
change football rather than to abolish it. The few colleges that dropped
football did so it because the school had no choice or, occasionally,
because a college president happened to wield unusual power at a critical
moment in football's history. Far and away the largest group of
thoughtful gridiron critics have attempted to reform football and to
reshape it in such a way that it fit more reasonably and appropriately
into the spirit and life of the university. Why have they not succeeded?

Beginning in the 1890s and continuing into the 1990s, reformers have
spent tens of thousands of hours attending meetings and conferences,
devising new rules to solve the latest problems that have cropped up, and
generally trying to work out better systems for their own institutions;
in the early 1900s moderate reformers founded the NCAA to deal with
deaths and brutality and to put football securely under the thumb of the
faculty and college presidents. Again in the early 1950s, in a
groundswell of outrage against cheating, gambling, and subsidies for
athletes, college presidents and faculty members tried to create stricter
standards to reduce the greed and professionalism in football rather than
to drop it altogether. In the 1980s and early 1990s an outbreak of
scandal in big-time football resulted the same response of temporary
uneasiness and halting reforms which had become by then a pattern in the
history of college football.

The outbreak in the 1980s once again clearly emphasized the failure of
reform to bring about real change. In three major periods of gridiron
upheaval the colleges have been unable or unwilling to eliminate the
causes of chronic cheating. While political reforms by Congress and the
states have achieved some enduring success, football and big-time
athletics generally have had to face the same issues again and again—much
like Sisyphus repeatedly pushing the stone uphill. Why does big-time
football manage to be almost constantly in a state of crisis? Is there
some quality about football, or college sports generally, or a flaw in
higher education which causes this turmoil? If the Greek ideal of
education stands for the training of body, spirit, and mind, why have the
colleges failed so abysmally at their mission?
Good question, isn't it? But the answer is beyond the subject of this
article – and, unfortunately, beyond the expertise of the college
football experts.

				
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