The big football news for the 1960 season is that the game is still a game. This fact is not admitted everywhere. To hear some experts, one might think football has become a super-Cape Canaveral, requiring preseason preparations a little bit more complicated than those needed to put a satellite in orbit. And to hear some coaches describe him, the modern football player might well be considered an automaton, like the helmeted fellow above, with a gearbox for a brain and a mind fed by ticker tape.
Fortunately, things aren't that bad. The game is a bit more technical, perhaps, than it was five years ago. The players are more specialized, they seem to be less individualistic, and they are, particularly if they play quarterback, packed full of data, formulas and mystic nomenclature.
But in essence football is what it always has been—11 men pushing against 11 other men to get across the goal line with the ball. The one big difference in 1960 is that this will be a year in which the pushers will have it all over the pushers-back. The offenses will open up more in college football, scores will run higher, and the wide-open style of play may bring back some of those spectators who had deserted to the professional game.
There are several good reasons for the changes, all of them interrelated and each of about equal importance. Worried that the professionals might cut into their gate, the coaches last winter adopted a liberal substitution rule that will permit players to enter and leave games almost at will. For most coaches this means either or both of two things: they can use one of their players as a messenger to take in signals before each play, and/or they can rapidly alternate passing quarterbacks with defensive or running quarterbacks.
It is not just an accident that the coaches are thinking in terms of quarterbacks. For the first time ever, good quarterbacks are coming out of high schools in quantity. Where passers were once rare, almost every team today has at least one, and some have two and three. In most cases the players have been at quarterback through four years of high school, where the coaching often has been patterned after the pros, and at least one or two of college. They know what to do with the ball, and they know how to direct a team. To get the most out of their quarterbacks and to open up the game, a surprising number of coaches are turning to the wing T. To defend against the wing T they are turning to something called the three-deep defense. Eight men, rather than nine, will be placed fairly close to the line. Three players will be stationed deep in order to pick up the three receivers who can go down for the long passes from the wing T.
What coaches like most about the wing T is its versatility. It permits a team to use a power offense from a tight wing T, and it also allows the team to split a back or end wide. Either variation can be employed without having to change basic blocking patterns and assignments. Some coaches are going in for the slot-wing T, which splits one end wide and puts a halfback in the slot between that end and tackle. Others are adopting a multiple offense. Each coach who uses that system has a different idea of what it involves. Basically, the multiple offense combines fragments of the T, wing T, split-T, or whatever a coach feels will move the ball and simultaneously prevent him from being moved out of his job. Regardless of what you call the offenses, 1960 will see a lot of splits, flankers, lonely ends and spreads.
College quarterbacks will differ from the pros in one important respect. They will run, something the pass-crazed pros don't do too often.
"It is the quarterback who can throw and run who has been leading his team to victory," Earle Edwards of North Carolina State says. "Look at Bob Schloredt [Washington), or Charley Britt and Francis Tarkenton [Georgia], Warren Rabb [LSU] and Richie Lucas [Penn State]—they could all pass and run, and their teams were all winners last year. Don Meredith [SMU] and Dick Norman [Stanford] were magnificent passers but poor runners, and their teams weren't consistent winners. Why, Norman passed for 401 yards in one game and Stanford still lost."
The pass-option play will make for exciting fall afternoons. The nice thing about the play is that no one need know anything about a multiple offense or an 8-2-1 defense to enjoy the drama of a man faking the opposition, then scooting past it.
No sensible spectator need pay any attention either to the gadgets and paraphernalia that have become so much a part of the coaches' lives. In a sense, the coaches have become thinking men who filter details on strategy, players, opponents, etc., through channels that seem to number in the thousands. Nothing is overlooked. Coaches hire assistants, and when they can no longer afford aides, they invest in mechanical aids. Telephones, cameras—motion pictures and self-developing still cameras-tape recorders and closed-circuit television have become standard.
Phones and films
The telephones, some of which come equipped with night lights (for night games), connect spotters in the stands with the bench. The tape recorders are popular for making quick notes while scouting. South Carolina's Warren Giese used them to make certain his quarterbacks would not forget their lessons. He had recorded messages played to the players while they slept at night. Films of the first half of Saturday's game are shown before the second half gets under way. Other films take 24 hours to process. They are traded around freely among the teams, a practice which has now cut down on the expense of sending scouts to observe opponents' games.
In recent years, however, gadgetry's role has been grossly overstated. If a gadget is a legitimate timesaver it may well gain extended use among the coaches, but the oddball gimmicks are limited to a handful.
"Most coaches," Oklahoma's Bud Wilkinson says, "don't go for all this gadgetry; it just gets in the way. Once a game starts we're just cheerleaders."
The players this year will be bigger than ever. Read the Scouting Reports (beginning on page 55) and you may be surprised by the large number of small colleges that have tackles weighing 230 pounds or more. Members of the first All-America squad in 1886 averaged 162 pounds and just under 5 feet 10. Using the consensus All-America as a guide, the table below indicates the almost uninterrupted growth of the players:
Few of today's players, incidentally, will put in more than 200 hours of play and practice this year, and that includes spring drills. There will be more men trying out for positions than ever before. This is because the number of high school players has steadily increased while the number of college teams has remained relatively stable. The added competition and the fact that many of the boys want to go into pro ball after college has them all working harder. As a result they are better players, as a group, than they used to be.
There will be other things to look for in 1960. You will find teams resorting more and more to unbalanced lines and the man in motion. The goal posts, widened in 1959, will invite more field goals. Punting is being emphasized and should be improved. The two-point try after touchdown has been so well received by spectators that it gives every appearance of becoming an established tradition.
College football, with a cast of thousands, will be a vastly entertaining game during 1960. From Hawaii to Rhode Island and from September running through early January the brightly uniformed teams and wildly partisan cheering sections will lure more than 20 million customers.
They will not be disappointed. The play will be fast and open. For all the gimmicks and erudite talk, it will be easy to watch and everybody will be following the trend. As Darrell Royal of Texas said, "We're following the trend—whatever it is."
5 feet 11¼ inches
5 feet 11½ inches
6 feet ¼ inch
6 feet 1¼ inches
6 feet 1¼ inches