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Original Issue


When the president of Notre Dame fired Terry Brennan in December 1958, he said in your magazine that the reason was Notre Dame's desire for "excellence," on the football field and elsewhere. If so, how come he now rehires a coach who couldn't beat the girls of St. Trinian's?
New York City

•The above is one of many letters that questioned the retention of Joe Kuharich, who won two and lost eight games this past fall. We asked Father Hesburgh, Notre Dame's president, to comment. His letter follows.—ED.

We who were accused two years ago of abandoning academic excellence at Notre Dame ("The football clique is back in power"; "the Neanderthal age has returned") are now accused of being too serious about academic excellence to the extent that old Notre Dame will never again win over all, or any!

I suppose that any university president would be perfectly happy to stand accused of being serious about academic excellence in his institution. I certainly plead guilty. But the argument doesn't stop there.

The complete thesis is built up along these lines. One cannot seriously believe in academic excellence and athletic excellence. If one does, good athletes will not attend one's university, first, because they will not be able to make the grade (and be eligible), and secondly, they will be more attracted elsewhere by the lure of easy courses, special treatment and other inducements.

Lurking behind this thesis are assumptions that I simply repudiate as either malicious (when I'm in a bad mood), or at least false on the basis of our own experience at Notre Dame. I do not accept the assumptions that 1) all good football players are stupid or 2) that good football players do not want a good education or 3) that the best athletes will be most attracted to an institution of higher learning if they are assured that they will be fed better food but inferior classes, not be bound by the same rules and regulations that govern the student body at large and will have other inducements (not mentioned) that they will happily deny receiving under oath.

If these assumptions were true, then I would declare unequivocally that intercollegiate athletics have no place at any institution aspiring to higher learning and, presumably, higher integrity.

I can be wrong, of course, but until proven otherwise, I shall continue to believe that academic excellence is compatible with athletic excellence—and that the integrity of the academic program is completely applicable to the athletic program. Of course, I am assuming positively that there are good athletes who are also intelligent (a glance at SPORTS ILLUSTRATED's Silver Anniversary All-America athletes should help this assumption).

May I add that I think that there are hundreds of such good and intelligent athletes graduating from high schools across the nation each June. I might add that there would be hundreds more if more high schools and parents would insist on education first and athletic endeavor within the framework of good education and not the other way around. The personal equation comes first.

If all athletically talented youngsters were inspired to compete and still not allow themselves to be used without receiving what they need most for a fruitful life, a good education, then the solution would be simple. As long as youngsters are misguided—most often by adults who should know better—there will be institutions willing to use them and then to discard them. The athletic bum, abused and unlettered, is a sorry sight and a serious indictment against every human institution that helped create him. The reason that I contest so vehemently the assumptions mentioned above is that they seem to say just this—all good athletes are bums. The evidence, I submit, is mainly to the contrary. If it were not, athletics, in or out of schools, should cease to exist in our land.

Football weekends at Notre Dame are always slightly hectic, since they are the occasion of meetings of our trustees and of advisory councils to our various colleges, not to mention hundreds of special guests, class dances, alumni reunions and what not.

As the crescendo of defeats mounted this fall through October and November, I assumed we would survive it all. Other preseason greats were having similar trouble. Such is football. The games I saw were mainly interesting and, while we seemed to be undergoing an epidemic of knee injuries that denuded our backfield and truncated our offensive, new youngsters, some not even listed on the program, filled in the vacancies, while the few veterans in the line played with great spirit week in and week out, despite the disappointing results. I can best describe my own reaction by saying that I was reasonably relaxed—except for a few hours on Saturday afternoons—and very much occupied with altogether too many difficult, yet important, matters here and elsewhere during the frenetic fall weeks.

As the season drew to a close, however, some self-appointed advisers began to analyze the situation. A few alumni grumbled to me; some other few wrote. Subway alumni were, on occasion, more violent, but again no more numerous than during other losing situations before. Of course, a few professional advisers got into the act earlier. I think I have had my say on the thesis that these few professed. Added to these were the usual predictions that Coach Kuharich would be fired or would resign, which resignation would be accepted quickly by us with feigned reluctance. This came, of course, from unimpeachable sources close to either the university officials or the coach, even though neither of us had any such thoughts and, as a matter of fact, I personally thought Coach Kuharich was doing a great job of coaching under the circumstances. Well, now the season is over, and the coach has signed a new five-year contract and hopes, as all coaches hope (we, too), for a better season next year.

One final note. There was one special piece of intelligence towards the end of the season. One writer announced that the president of Notre Dame would likely be sacked in 1962. After the past three months, I'm not sure he will live that long, but may I add my own scoop to those already mentioned—and this one is from a source very close to the president of Notre Dame, namely, himself: As long as he is responsible for athletics, among other things at the university, he will cherish the belief that in the future, as in the past, intercollegiate athletics will have an important and cherished place in the total educational process at Notre Dame.
President, University of Notre Dame
South Bend, Ind.

It seems to me that your recent articles, Low Point for Tennis (Sept. 19) and Nobody for Tennis (Dec. 19) place improper emphasis on a great sport.

With sales of tennis equipment up from 6% to 8% in each of the last five years and about one and a half million more tennis players than golfers in the U.S. reported as recently as last year by The Athletic Institute, a more appropriate title would be "Everybody for Tennis."

The Public Parks Tennis Committee in Cincinnati reports that under its direction there were 41,323 participants, 6,878 classes and 990 players engaged in tournaments in 1960. Those of us charged with the administration of tennis in the U.S. are much more interested in the number of players and tournament activity than in the number of stars who stay in the amateur ranks.

Through tennis clinics for young people and classes for tennis teachers the USLTA and its affiliated clubs are embarked on a long-range program to create a nation of tennis players.
President, USLTA
New York City

•This magazine has never doubted the future of participant tennis—indeed, has often reported its continuing growth. We remain disturbed, however, by the declining quality of play at the top of the sport.—ED.