Skip to main content
Original Issue


As the football season burst open on a bright autumn day, the memory of a huge, hugely successful coach still covered the Chapel Hill campus

All Over the country last weekend Americans rejoiced in splendid weather. Clear, crisp, invigorating autumn weather, just right for a new football season—and Navy, among others, enjoyed it (opposite page).

So it was a splendid start. Down at Chapel Hill, N.C., the weather was perfect, too, and the game was the most exciting and provocative of this opening week. Every man, woman and child in the state knew that this was to be glory year at the University of North Carolina. It was the place to be. Here was the team that would make up for the decade of drought following the graduation of the brilliant Charlie Justice. Here was the team big Jim Tatum had come home to Carolina to mold—only to die of a virus attack with shocking suddenness before having a chance to reap the fruits of his labors. Here was the debut of Tatum's successor, Jim Hickey. And here, on the first Saturday of the season, was a game of extraordinary importance, bringing together the Tar Heels and the defending Atlantic Coast Conference champions, the Clemson Tigers.

A near-capacity crowd of 43,000 walked beneath Chapel Hill's magnificent pine and oak and hickory trees to seats in Kenan Memorial Stadium. Those who had picked up copies of the student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, may have remarked these lines in Editor Davis Young's column:

"...If Hickey is doomed to take the rap for a bad season, then common justice dictates that he get the credit for what is far more likely to happen, namely a good season.

"Tatum is gone. He is the townsman of a stiller town. Hickey is here. He is running the show, and brilliantly. It is Hickey's team which will clobber Frank Howard [the Clemson coach] today, and we are going to be there when it happens."

Unfortunately for what must have been a sizable part of that expectant crowd—those who could virtually taste victory beforehand—the happenings of Saturday afternoon came as a very bad jolt.

Frank Howard's opportunistic Sugar Bowl veterans seized a Carolina fumble on the opening kickoff and proceeded 44 yards to a touchdown. They used "that old ugly-looking kind of football" which Howard admires and teaches—an unspectacular ground attack. They pinned Carolina in its own end through the rest of the first quarter and struck again early in the second quarter for a touchdown on a 43-yard drive. Having missed an extra-point kick after the first score Clemson now went for two points, the celebrated Tiger Quarterback Harvey White passing sharply to Halfback Bill Mathis. As it developed this was Clemson's margin of victory, for Carolina eventually matched the enemy touchdown for touchdown but failed to add a single extra point.

Clemson gambled away what seemed to be a certain touchdown in the second quarter after blocking a punt and running it all the way to the Carolina eight-yard line. White inexplicably began passing—trying that "damned exciting football" as Howard ruefully said later. He got nowhere, and then Carolina took advantage of a Clemson fumble to score before half time.

Sticking to old ugly-looking football, Clemson moved 67 yards to yet another touchdown as the second half began. Behind 6 to 20, the Tar Heels not only were not daunted, as they might well have been; they scored twice in the last quarter and could have tied Clemson with any kind of luck. The passing of Quarterback Jack Cummings was largely responsible for both touchdowns. The last was scored with just a minute and twenty seconds remaining. Now it was Carolina 18, Clemson 20, and the crowd prayed for two extra points and a tie. Cummings completed a flat pass, but the receiver was stopped cold, the two points were irretrievably lost and time ran out.

On the day before the game a large, moon-faced man tongued a cud of chewing tobacco into an ample cheek, spat carefully, then barged into the dressing quarters near the stadium.

"What are you looking for?" asked a Carolina man.

"I'm looking for Jim Tatum's ghost," said the large, moon-faced man. "I don't mind playing a football team, but I sure would hate to have to play a ghost."

So spoke Frank Howard, getting straightaway to a subject that had been debated endlessly since Tatum's death in late July. If a weekend visitor to Chapel Hill heard once he heard a dozen times, despite the editorial stand of the Tar Heel, that "people are saying" this team of destiny would be Jim Tatum's if it won, but the personal responsibility of the new coach, Jim Hickey, if it had a losing season. Howard rightly supposed that Tatum's death had a profound psychological effect on the Carolina team. That feeling was put on paper by the co-captains, Jack Cummings and Wade Smith, in a preseason letter to their teammates.

"We know that no person in Chapel Hill will be so missed as Coach Tatum," the letter said, "but deep down there is a mystic feeling that we're sure you all feel—that though in body our coach is gone, his spirit and soul will ride with every one of us throughout this coming season. ...Notre Dame has its Knute Rockne—Carolina has its 'Sunny Jim' Tatum. Don't lose hope."


On the day Frank Howard breezed into Chapel Hill, James Benton Hickey strode into a corner office in the Carolina field house and plopped down into the chair recently occupied by Jim Tatum. Around him were mementos of Tatum's remarkable career, which in the years at Maryland and Oklahoma had included three undefeated teams, six bowl games and a national championship.

On the wall behind Hickey was something new—a handsomely printed reproduction of a saying that had come to be famous as Tatum's bedrock philosophy: "Winning is not the most important thing; it is the only thing."

Hickey's own career so far had been as anonymous as Tatum's had been flamboyantly public. It would have taken only a few lines in a coaching Who's Who: Reared in Springdale, Pa., a town near Pittsburgh; p ayed wingback and tailback at William and Mary; coached football at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia five years; in 1956 joined the Carolina football staff of Jim Tatum, whom he had never met before, upon the urging of a mutual friend; was given a three-year contract as head coach of Carolina exactly four days after Tatum's death.

It was somehow surprising that Jim Hickey seemed completely at ease behind the big, glass-topped desk in Tatum's old office. Small and wiry at 39, he showed neither indecision nor nonsense in his clear blue eyes.

"I'm not trying to be gracious or modest about it," he said, "but nothing could make me happier than having one hell of a season and having Coach Tatum get the credit. As for losing—well, let's just say that we're going to do our best to win and let it go at that.

"No, I wasn't scared when they gave me the job. Maybe I was just too dumb to be. Somebody had to take over, and I'd always wanted to be a head coach at a big school, but I certainly never wanted it to happen this way. Jim Tatum's death was the worst thing that ever happened to me.

"You couldn't help being completely devoted to him. Regardless of how you felt about him—and he could make you madder than hell—you always knew that he was on your side. It's hard to put him into words. Of course, he was a big guy and he had a way of attracting attention wherever he went. He was always working so hard that sometimes folks misunderstood him. And of course he did drive hard, but I don't think any of his teams had anything but the utmost respect for him. He was awfully good to a football team."

Hickey sat back, lit a cigarette and turned his thoughts to the team he had helped Tatum groom for the season Tatum would now never see. He talked about Carolina's switch to an Army-style lonely-end offense and about a blessed absence of injuries in preseason workouts, but mostly he talked about a player who could make or break the team: Jack Cummings.

Hickey was a bit worried because Cummings had just gotten out of bed on Wednesday after an attack of tonsilitis but was pleased that he appeared robust enough in eleventh-hour drills.

"Jack is probably as fine a young man as anybody could hope to have on a football team," Hickey said. "I have never seen him do anything that wasn't perfectly right. He is the best passer I have ever been associated with."

Through a long day Hickey looked nothing like a man laboring under extreme pressure, although it would be difficult to exaggerate the intensity of the pressure he must have felt. He even survived in high good spirits the attentions of that salty master of one-upmanship, Frank Howard.

In midafternoon Howard lured Hickey into the visitors' dressing room to meet his squad. "How about it," he inquired gleefully, "shall we whip this little so-and-so now or wait till tomorrow?"

But after Saturday's game Howard was gracious in victory. "I feel damn grateful, happy and good," he said. "I feel malice toward no one. The only thing I hate was that I had to beat a damn fine young coach like Jim Hickey."




A SCORE IN THE BAYOUS: In Baton Rouge when they want to have a good time they give the ball to a 210-pound sprinter and shotputter who wears No. 20 on his uniform. He is Billy Cannon, and he brought joy to the home folk with this 17-yard scoring run that helped LSU's defending national champions gain a 26-3 win over Rice.


HALF A PASS IN COLUMBIA: Missouri's Ed Mehrer (35) advanced six yards against Penn State, figured a lateral to running mate Don Smith (45) would augment the gain, then watched the ball fall short. Smith recovered bobble, but the Tigers were not able to stop the Nittany Lions' offense and bowed in opener at Columbia, Mo., 19-8.


FRUSTRATION IN THE COLISEUM: Unable to get through the Purdue forward wall, UCLA Fullback Al Thompson tried to fly over the Boilermakers in a vain attempt to block fourth-period Purdue kick. Victory eluded both teams in a scoreless contest in Los Angeles Coliseum, but it was an impressive debut for unheralded Bruins.


MEETING IN MILWAUKEE: Dave Walker, Pitt end, intercepted airborne Marquette Fullback Frank Mestnik after three-yard gain in nip-and-tuck struggle. Another end, Mike Ditka, blocked a punt to set up Pitt's winning score in 21-15 game at Milwaukee—spoiling return of Coach Lisle Blackbourn to Marquette from Green Bay.




It was a day that made you glad to be alive. In Chestnut Hill, Mass. 23,000 sat in the Boston College stadium and saw alert Navy treat its new Coach Wayne Hardin to his first victory—24-8. Here star of the day Dick Pariseau (47) is stopped by John Amabile (22), BC quarterback, after a good gain. Coming to help is Center Terry Glynn (51); Navy's Joe Matalavage (38) has thrown block.