Arch Ward on College Football, 1951

Jun 04, 2013

This is an intriguing article, way ahead of its time...

Arch Ward was the legendary sportswriter for the Chicago Tribune.  He was an ND man.  He worked for Rockne, while a student. He invented the Golden Gloves, the Baseball All Star Game, the College Football All Star Game, and the All American Football Conference (the NFL rival, which ended up being merged into the NFL).

Which Way College Football?

BY BILL RILEY  Sept. 21, 1951

Throughout the country, for the last six months, developments in and around the field of college athletics have raised the hue and cry for their abolition. As usual, the most vehement of the critics offered the least in the way of remedy. They saw the evil in college football but failed to see the good. Similarly, many of those who defended college football took the foolish stand that all about it as it exists today could be defended. Rather than acknowledge the evils and attempt to correct them, they chose to defend the indefensible. In the first place, most of the blasts that have been fired against college athletics have been fired with about the same regard for accuracy and solidity of charge as a farmer uses when he is shooting rock-salt at a bum on the south forty. In other words, they have been meant well, but aimed badly.

As a result, the integrity of intercollegiate football has been riddled with the shot of wild charges; there has existed a need for someone to come out and honestly admit that there are many things wrong with college athletics, but that the athletics per se are not evil. Chief complaints against college athletics have been proselyting, and subsidizing. They spring from over-emphasis. Yesterday, Arch Ward, sports editor of the Chicago Tribune, and one of the greatest lovers of sports in America, came out with some proposals. Proposals that he hopes will save college football from what will be an inevitable collapse if the big-business practices which are now spiraling continue to tighten their strangle-hold on collegiate football. Final reactions to that column are not all in. To refresh your memory, we may point but the following salient features to Ward's plan. 1) Rotation of coaches, this rotation to take place each year, and to be announced in mid-August. 2) There will be no spring practice. Why? Obviously because no coach is going to try to prepare an opponent's team to such a pitch of perfection as to vitiate his chances to win against that team in the succeeding year. These are the main features of the plan. Ward feels that this plan will practically wipe out  subsidization, because, he says, subsidization can only operate successfully in combination with organized recruiting by coaches and assistant coaches. It will mean that a coach will no longer send out an assistant to look over the crop of graduating high school players, nor bring them to his university for an early look-see so that he can apportion his "rides" to the most likely-looking candidates. Ward's plan has further advantages which he does not mention. It would cause athletes to go to those universities where they would be sure that they could become candidates for a degree. It would remove the temptation to attend an institution chiefly if not only because that institution was strong in football. It would loosen alumni control of football. An alumnus is not ordinarily a good judge of football talent. He must have the active help of the coach in order to pick out a really good prospect. Any college coach will tell you that hundreds of high school flashes turn into college duds, while many who have not performed to the head-lines in high school make All-Americans. If Ward's plan were put into action, the following alternatives would be presented to the educators and administrators. They could go along in good faith, leaving the choice of college to the student. Refusing to cooperate with alumni in active recruiting. Offering to the athlete nothing besides the educational advantages of their institution. Or they could break faith. Recruiting, although it would become much more difficult, could still be accomplished to some degree if college administrators acted in bad faith with the plan. We are inclined to believe that the great majority of college administrators are today worried about the problem of intercollegiate football. We believe that they would act in good faith to preserve the game. The quality of intercollegiate football would go down. No argument to the contrary can convince those close to football that it would not. Nevertheless, the interest in collegiate football would remain high. Why? Because those who watch a college football game watch it because it is a game. Not primarily because it represents a group of highly trained young men engaged in proving which is superior at an arduously learned skill. Who are the most loyal rooters? For Midville high school or for the Chicago Cardinals? Don't try and tell us it's for the Cards because we've seen you shout yourself hoarse for the Midville boys. Again why? Because it's a game. Right now college football is in great danger of moving entirely out of the game class. It is becoming, indeed, in some institutions, has become, a business, played by men who are not called professionals only because they never take a check. Arch Ward has set up some sort of solution. Arch Ward loves college sport.

It is our belief that very few are those who have not thrilled to a great game, played well. Is it not worth a great deal of thought on the part of educators and administrators to preserve that game. To insure that the sport of college football shall not go down in a morass of hypocrisy, lies and sub rosa "deals." Arch Ward has taken the first step. Maybe it needs a lot of modification. Maybe it is not in the right direction at all. At least it is an honest attempt. It presents more than words. It presents a plan of action. Can those who have the final say on college football let the good will of this man be filed with yesterday's newspaper? We don't think they can, and we don't think they will. We think that it is the time for men of good will to come together. To save the sport. And we believe that there are enough men of good will who will think and act. And save the game.


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