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Original Issue

A naval disengagement

Navy brass's new tack to tighter regulations brought a brass-tacks showdown with Eddie Erdelatz, a young man going west

Any calls today, Dad?" Eddie Erdelatz Jr., a 185-pound fullback from St. Mary's High School in Annapolis, asked his father this question one afternoon last week. Eddie Erdelatz Sr., 200-pound-plus ex-coach at the Naval Academy, grinned.

"A couple, son," he said. "Why?"

"Well, Pokey told me to tell you there's an opening at the ice cream parlor where he works," said Eddie Jr., who was good enough to make the high school All-America team.

It's unlikely that Eddie Sr. will have to take the opening offered by his son's teammate.

"I've been getting three calls a day since I resigned at Navy," Erdelatz said. "I got a good offer yesterday and a better one today, but I'm going to take my time. I'm only 45. Maybe I'll wait until the game of musical chairs starts and hope I'm sitting down when the music stops."

Erdelatz' sudden resignation from his job as Navy coach may have started a belated game of musical chairs. When he trekked to Texas last year to investigate the Texas A&M coaching job, the Naval Academy had 70 applicants for his job, including, according to academy spokesmen, "30 applicants from major colleges." Perturbed over the fact that A&M contacted Erdelatz without getting a release from Navy, Naval Academy officials have said they will not interview any coach who does not have the approval of his college in seeking a new job. This may limit the applicants for the Navy post since no major college will be willing to let go a successful coach this late in the year. The same factor militates against Erdelatz getting a job soon, but Eddie isn't worried about it.

"We're going out to San Francisco as soon as Eddie Jr. graduates," Eddie Sr. said. "I was born and raised out there and my dad is out there and we're very close. I would like to get a college coaching job out there but I'm in no hurry. I had just as soon lie around and relax for a while."

Although Erdelatz refuses to give any specific reason for his sudden resignation, it is likely that a new, tougher Navy policy on athletics is behind it. The entire Naval Academy, under Rear Admiral Charles Melson and with the approval of Athletic Director Captain Slade Cutter, has undergone a tightening of regulations, and the old free-handed distribution of excess appointments for athletics may have suffered.

"I have absolutely no criticism of the academy," Erdelatz said. "I stayed here nine years, longer than any other coach, and I'm very grateful for the opportunity the academy offered me."

Erdelatz is a big man with a wide, strong face and a very strong personality. His announcement followed a meeting with Navy brass and it was a sudden decision. His resignation after the completion of spring practice is a clear avowal that he did resign for his own reasons and under no pressure from Navy. It is embarrassing to the Naval Academy, but not, obviously, to Erdelatz.

As usual, during spring practice he had installed a couple of new ideas, and the other day, after having resigned, he couldn't conceal his enthusiasm.

"Here's what I did," Eddie said, brightening. "We had a lot of kids who played for one reason or other last year, and when we checked their performance we found they were about equal. So we're going with two platoons which will play both offense and defense and create competition during the week to see which will start."

Eddie had seemingly forgotten that he wouldn't be at Annapolis next fall.