Publish date:


The head of one of our leading universities explodes the myth of the "tramp athlete." He discovers that resounding—and astonishing—success is scored by varsity players as students and professional men, proving that sport and education go very well together

Soon after I became chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh in 1957, a rumor spread that I intended to de-emphasize varsity athletics. The suspicion arose from the fact that our admissions requirements, like those of some other universities, were becoming too exacting for many a halfback. As a number of superior athletes found themselves excluded, the public inferred that I was either indifferent or downright hostile to sports.

The city brooded. When, for example, I did not find time to attend basketball games I was described as a basketball hater. Such suspicions did not abate until approximately a year later, and then only after I had invited Pittsburgh sportswriters to lunch and emphatically assured them that I not only enjoyed athletics but, more to the point, I believed superior athletes were, as a breed, not incongenial to a scholarly atmosphere. I felt reasonably confident that most athletes regard college as more than a place to sojourn in lieu of going directly from high school to work.

But impressions are one thing and documentation another, so I found my curiosity aroused when officials in our athletic department recently embarked upon a survey the like of which no college, so far as we know, had ever undertaken. They simply asked themselves: what becomes of college athletes after they have had their education? Coaches, to be sure, have tiresomely assured us that athletic grants enable young men to make something of their lives. But have there not been a good many failures, too, among the muscular youth we have made room for in our classrooms? The coaches do not tell us, nor indeed do they know.

Nettled by the absence of hard data in this realm, Assistant Athletic Director J. Clyde Barton set out to discover what had become of Pitt's athletes. He spent more than a year tracing the whereabouts of 1,678 Pitt lettermen, whose performances in our colors date from the year 1900 to 1960. To each man Barton sent a rather detailed questionnaire, and from fully 1,391, or 83%—among them physicians, physicists and millionaires, policemen, factory workers and even a few unemployed—he received answers. Those answers are revealing and—for those who consign athletes to stereotypes—perhaps even astonishing. They are especially pertinent today, when antagonists of aid to athletes quite properly have brought their arguments up to date by asking:

First, in view of disclosures of scandalous collusion between college basketball players and professional gamblers, can anyone continue to insist that intercollegiate sports build character? And secondly, in times of population explosion that crowds our classrooms, of unrelieved international tension that demands strength of purpose, and of breathtaking search for knowledge, can colleges afford to be distracted by such fribble as Saturday afternoon's big game?

I say they can, for the values of sport, intensively played, are not incidental.

We at Pitt award our athletes grants in aid, and we go home from our stadium a good deal happier when we have beaten Penn State than when, as in the past two dark football seasons, we have not. We cannot insist with utter certainty that the course we have chosen is the right one, but we pursue it as honestly as we know how, aware that times have changed—that guile can be viewed no more insouciantly in the athletic department than in the academic halls. At this moment Pitt, Penn State and Syracuse universities—all long-standing rivals on the field—are taking steps to see that the responsibility for maintaining sanity and integrity in our sports programs will lie directly with the heads of each institution. I shall explain these steps presently.

Meanwhile, returning to our survey, it may be said that, judging from the 1,391 data cards on file in Clyde Barton's office, the start we have given our athletes does have every appearance of having been worthwhile. Our data, for one thing, explodes with surprising force the myth that athletes generally could not care less about their studies. Over the years Pitt has been particularly sensitive to this general misapprehension, for there exists a veritable repertory of trite jokes about college athletes recruited from our own western Pennsylvania coal and steel region, the popular insinuation being that such boys, for all their mesomorphic references, are rather dull. So attentively do the nation's football scouts comb the region that many like to say they carry United Mine Workers cards, and no college, I am sure, has drawn more heavily on these athletes than has Pitt.

Still, our survey shows that no less than 517 men—or 37% of the cases in our files—have gone beyond their baccalaureates to earn advanced degrees. And remember, the great bulk of our letter-men matriculated prior to the current emphasis on graduate work. Moreover, it is noteworthy that, although our campus has had a Phi Beta Kappa chapter only nine years, keys have been awarded to seven athletes, including our young freshman football coach, Bill Kaliden.

The bare statistics, of course, do not begin to describe the brilliance with which so many of our lettermen have pursued their careers. Statistics do not explain that while Peanuts Lewis, a pugnacious guard on our 1930 Rose Bowl team, may have dislodged a few teeth from the mouths of opposing linemen, he has more than atoned by pioneering new techniques in lower denture prosthesis; that Harry Colmery, a former Pitt baseball player, is referred to as the chief architect of the G.I. Bill of Rights; that Len Monheim, a sprinter, is internationally renowned for his innovations in anesthesiology. One might add that Doctors E. T. Lewis and Leonard M. Monheim, though frequently lecturing abroad, also enjoy scouting and recruiting for our coaches. If they .do not answer to the description of the effusively infantile alumnus recruiter, perhaps it is the stereotype that is suspect.

Insofar as occupations serve as rough indicators of success, we judge that the incidence of success—both pecuniary and ennobling—among Pitt athletes has been remarkably high. I wish I could say I am not surprised. I should like to be able to dismiss such findings with the explanation that these men were, after all, recruited within the bounds of the university's highest scholarly aspirations and therefore could be expected to make the most of their education. To be perfectly factual, however, such was not always the case.

For almost 40 years, from the turn of the century until 1939, Pitt football teams were regarded almost perennially as national powerhouses, a distinction achieved partly by the gifted coaching of such men as Colonel Joe Thompson, Pop Warner and Jock Sutherland, and occasionally by the unsophisticated recruiting practices so prevalent in those decades. I am advised by Athletic Director Frank Carver, who has been with Pitt since 1927, that for a clinical study of recruiting practices that were supposed to have soiled the character of many American youths, veteran viewers-with-alarm may find it convenient to examine our history.

Far back in 1903, for example, out-university felt mortified to have been defeated two straight years by the football team of little Geneva College. Football in those days seldom made much money at the box office but many colleges recruited passionately, simply because they found defeat unbearable. In the wake of our losses to Geneva, corrective action was deemed imperative and there seemed only one surefire way of seeing to it that we beat Geneva the next year. We took it.

We lured to our campus most of the Geneva players and the following season, 1904, defeated Geneva 30-0. During the balance of the decade Pitt football teams lost only 13 of 71 games. Now what sort of boys were they, do you suppose, that could be proselyted so frivolously? Because many of them have passed on, we were able to trace only 17. Of that number, four were physicians, five dentists, two attorneys and one a Ph.D.

Today the player who transfers to another college is immediately labeled a tramp athlete, but the epithet actually derives from the first 15 years of the century, when husky young men made near-careers of attending colleges, traveling from one to another and sometimes playing as many as eight years of college football. Our 1901 squad—undefeated, untied and unscored-upon (282 points to none)—was looked upon as the last word in career football. Playing guard on that team was a burly young man called Dally Dallenbach, to whom alarmed educators of the day may well have pointed as a typically distressing example of the athletic system. Dally Dallenbach contributed his services to both Pitt and the University of Illinois as a football player, heavyweight wrestler and hammer thrower. He also attended Cornell, though he did not compete in athletics at that time. "I wanted to," he explains, "but Cornell felt they could not get away with it." As it happened,however, he had a graduate fellowship to carry him through Cornell.

Dally Dallenbach, you see, is Dr. Karl M. Dallenbach, a psychologist who in his spectacles and Vandyke beard looks every bit the part. He has won international acclaim for his research in such subjects as attention, spacial orientation of the blind and cutaneous sensation. At the University of Texas he planned and directed an experimental psychology program that has been acclaimed one of the world's finest. In 1961 he received—along with Scotty Reston of the New York Times and Harold Boeschenstein, president of the Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corporation—a University of Illinois Achievement Award. So much for Dally Dallenbach, tramp athlete, almost as coarse a product of Pitt's tramp footballers as William S. McEllroy, who went on to become dean of our medical school, and Bowman F. Ashe, who became president of the University of Miami.

Throughout the Roaring '20s and well into the Depression '30s Pitt people enjoyed having their teams trounce their opposition; the community felt a sense of pride in seeing Pitt go to the Rose Bowl, not once but four times. I do not know in specific terms how such success was managed, but I am given an inkling by the questionnaire returned to us by Robert H. Hoel, vice-president of a Chicago industrial concern. On a line marked Scholarship Aid, Bob Hoel, a 1932-34 tackle, wrote: "Going rate at the time."

Unhappily, in 1937, the university received a black eye which ultimately led to a prolonged period of de-emphasis in athletics and from which Pitt did not recover for many years. Pitt's '37 football squad, invited to the Rose Bowl, demanded that the university provide each player with $100 entertainment money. The university refused, knowing full well its refusal would mean the loss of $100,000 in Rose Bowl receipts, and thus the team remained home on New Year's Day. One may well imagine the notoriety Pitt received in the nation's press. Even allowing that the commercial tone of intercollegiate football had contributed to our players' attitude, no one could condone their behavior. But having recognized that, one must look beyond and see what has become of the mercenaries on our $100 squad. Did the system demoralize them?

Well, Howard Jackman, for one, is executive secretary of a Cleveland YMCA. George Musulin, formerly in military intelligence, fought with Mihailovic in Yugoslavia during the war and there helped set up the underground that smuggled out our flyers. Bante Dalle Tezze, captain of a tank company, died heroically in the Normandy breakthrough. Emil Narick is assistant general counsel for the United Steelworkers of America and is a member of our board of trustees. John T. Dickinson is an outstanding ear, nose and throat surgeon. Mad Marshall Goldberg, the most famous player on the squad and indeed probably the finest football player in Pitt history, is general manager of the Emerman Machinery Corporation, Chicago. John Michelosen is Pitt's head football coach. All told, that '37 squad, which might well have been held up as an example of all that is bad in the world of recruited athletes, went on to achieve such a degree of success, both in variety of fields and in level ofattainment, that any university head would be content to see an entire graduation class do proportionately as well.

Certainly I am not making the point that commercialization of young athletes fosters successful living. I only suspect that such conditions, which may have been an unavoidable growing-up phase in intercollegiate athletics, did not warp the participants. The bygone era laid great stress on competition—on winning, if you will. Now we must get on to a sensible adjustment: rather than tar to the present the feathers blowing around from the past, we must preserve the old competitive values while conducting our sports programs in the light of contemporary academic standards.

To begin with, Irwin Shaw once wrote a vivid short story—The Eighty-Yard Run—about a frustrated, pathetic former college football star who, cast into the world and soon parted from his fame, could not adjust to life's long haul. The theme is suggested again in the person of Tennessee Williams' Brick, the bitter figure in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and I have no doubt such portraits exist in fact as well as in fiction. Yet if the former athletes among Pitt alumni are typical—and there is every reason to believe they are—one need not worry that the athlete, having lost his prominence as quickly as he had won it, finds life desolate. Surely no tragedy can be written from the life of All-America Tackle Ave Daniell (1936), major owner and executive vice-president of the General Ionics Corporation, nor from that of All-America Center Herb Stein (1920), who owns eight businesses. ("It took me seven years to get through college," says Stein. "Not smart, that's all. But Iwas German stubborn, and I learned in football that you can lick almost anybody or anything if you go hard enough.")

Nor need we commiserate with a tackle named Lou Mervis, who would have made All-America but for a mean trick of fate. Back in 1918 Walter Camp traveled to Pittsburgh to scout possible nominees to his All-America team. Mervis' performance favorably impressed Camp, but unfortunately Mervis that day was wearing a teammate's uniform number and as a result Camp selected the teammate to his All-America team. Lou Mervis, however, seems not to have suffered from bitterness. Immensely successful in real-estate investments and as an amalgamator of industries, he more or less commutes around the world these days. Or as Clyde Barton put it while plucking Mervis' card from his files: "Missing out on All-America did not seem to make any appreciable difference in his ability to cash in."

I am tempted, secondly, to toy with the conclusion that it may be true, as coaches unhesitatingly claim, that the competitive nature of sports—and particularly the fierce thirst for victory found in so-called big-time, high-pressure intercollegiate sports—helps equip the athlete to get along in later life. Indeed, as an educator, I am almost reluctant to admit that among our lettermen who did not bother to earn even a bachelor's degree are a number who have made their way smartly. Kenneth G. Coburn, to name only one, is supervising research metallurgist for the Armco Steel Corporation research center.

Of course the danger in surveys, particularly surveys that produce hoped-for results, is that one may sing oneself to sleep with a lyrical recital of glittering case histories. Yet no accumulation of data can alter the fact that the atmosphere in intercollegiate sports has its rancid pockets. For one thing, although varsity teams serve as a cohesive force that unites alumni and fosters institutional tradition, they seem to inspire too little loyalty among the athletes themselves. One checks the latest list of contributors to Pitt's annual Alumni Giving Fund and is dismayed to find less than 180 former athletes among the many thousands of donors. I am afraid the lesson indicated is that those who receive too frequently do not learn how to give.

Meanwhile, if cynicism and self-interest persist among many of today's athletes, the colleges themselves must be in large measure at fault. As the head of a university which has decided that a vigorous athletic program is on the whole desirable, I am particularly sensitive to the reminder, heard so frequently in the wake of the 1961 basketball scandals, that chancellors and presidents cannot piously divorce themselves from responsibility for the conditions that breed scandals.

As the University of Pittsburgh reaches for new academic peaks, we should dread to have our progress blackened by scandals of any nature. Accordingly, in a memorandum set forth on August 24, 1959 I wrote: "The administration is instructed by the Board [of Trustees] to adhere strictly to both the letter and the spirit of the regulations of the several intercollegiate athletic organizations of which we are a part and also to the objectives of the accrediting academic organizations without whose clear approval we cannot maintain our academic position. It is the Board's desire that the University not merely conform but that it assume constructive leadership in this regard."

At the same time we adopted a reorganization under which our athletic department was knitted tightly into our education structure (lest it operate as an isLand unto itself) and the director of athletics instructed to report his programs directly to me. He was further told: "Intercollegiate athletic contests are scheduled only with institutions whose philosophy of physical education corresponds to that of the University and whose educational standards are similar to ours."

Hearty resolutions contained in memorandums are, of course, as pointless as a speech delivered in a clothes closet, unless conscientiously followed through. Toward that end, Pitt, Penn State and Syracuse universities—all major "independents" that schedule one another—have undertaken a series of reforms which, we believe, will jar our sports programs into the realities of current university life.

The first step, formalized last April, is the abolition of red-shirting—that is the practice of withholding an athlete from competition during his sophomore year in order to prolong his eligibility to the peak of his physical maturity. At a time when many students are cutting their undergraduate period from four to three years by taking on heavy workloads or, as at Pitt, by pursuing trimester programs, red-shirted athletes are directed by their coaches to spread their studies over five years. Surely this constitutes a brazen intrusion on the academic process. West Virginia University, a common opponent from the Southern Conference, enthusiastically joined us in abolishing red-shirting. Other colleges, too, have shunned the practice, and the Ivy League and the Big Ten have specifically prohibited it.

Very shortly our three universities expect to formalize two additional steps. Again following the example of the Big Ten, we plan to quit scheduling games for our freshman teams. The current hard pace of studies gives the freshman quite enough to do just staying in college.

Our third measure, which we hope will establish a pattern for a national crackdown on the cheap deceits by which winning teams often are recruited and held together, goes right to the heart of the contention that college heads must bear responsibility. It is simply this: at regular intervals each institution will draw up complete academic records for each of its athletes—from the freshman class through the senior class—and submit those records directly to the heads of the rival universities. Thus in the office of Chancellor William P. Tolley of Syracuse and in that of President Eric A. Walker of Penn State, the records of Pitt athletes will be scrutinized. If we have been found to have admitted an unqualified freshman or to have played a varsity athlete who is not meeting in every respect the requirements applied to non-athletes, Chancellor Tolley and President Walker will act. They will not merely tell me to get that boy out of there. They will say: "ChancellorLitchfield, at the expiration of the series of games for which we have contracted, we shall play Pitt no more."

And that will be that.

It is no light matter to commit ourselves to such procedure, for one false step by, say, Pitt or Penn State will result in the termination of a popular Pennsylvania athletic rivalry that goes back to 1893. (One can almost hear now the furor in the state legislature, upon which both State and our own privately endowed institution rely for millions each year.) Why not, then, be satisfied with the conscientious and surprisingly effective police work of the National Collegiate Athletic Association? Principally because in the end such reliance is nothing more than abdication of responsibility.

Already we detect results from our efforts. In recent years the football staffs of Pitt and Penn State have groused loudly, one insinuating that the other has recruited unqualified students. This year we have not heard a peep.

Still, opponents of highly competitive sport may well ask of us, "Really, is it worth all the trouble it's putting you to? And is it worth the risk of scandals?"

We at Pitt think so, even knowing from personal experience the proximity of those who cause scandals. (Two of our own basketball players reported having been offered bribes, and their exemplary response resulted in the prompt conviction of the would-be briber.) To the question of whether our sports program is worth the trouble and risk, our answer—again borrowing from the memorandum of 1959—is this: "Intercollegiate competition provides a dramatic illustration of sports competence and thus helps to develop an interest in sports activities of a personal and intra-institutional character. This, plus the competitive drive which is encouraged and the institutional loyalty which is engendered, provides the rationale for intercollegiate contests."

Unfortunately, in the minds of some athletes and their parents, the rationale for intercollegiate sports seems to be only that they enable a young man to acquire a "name" and therefore a springboard to success in business or in the professions. I suspect the advantages of publicity are exaggerated, but, in any case, as I return to the facts of our survey I am heartened to learn that our athletes have by no means overlooked humanitarian and spiritual vocations. Despite the absence of divinity studies in Pitt's curriculum, 13 of our lettermen have gone on to the ministry. Others include an executive of the Red Cross, a manager of a society for the improvement of the poor and an executive director of a philanthropic foundation. Almost directly from the glamour of a packed-to-capacity stadium, a lanky halfback named Chuck Reinhold has gone to the Ethiopian jungles as a missionary; Sam Haddad, a lineman whose Syrian extraction earned him the nickname Camel Driver,turns up in the Middle East and in Latin America directing labor education under our foreign aid program. In the research sciences we find Pitt athletes at work as microbiologists, meteorologists, geologists, and metallurgists—as physicists, chemists and psychologists.

Nonetheless, to parents who regard athletics as a stepping-stone to monetary success, I would risk one word of advice: forget the advantage of publicity and raise your son, sir, to be a student manager. Make of him a busy creature who tends equipment, packs trunks, counts heads on the road, compiles statistics for the coach and answers to every organizational emergency. Unlike our athletes, none of our managers is to be found among the clergy or in government and few have entered education. Our managers, largely, are men who make money. They range all the way from Frank Scott, business agent for professional baseball and football stars, to the director of marketing for the Union Carbide Plastics Company (a division of Union Carbide Chemical), to a retired president of Talon, Inc. (buttons, Zippers, etc.).

If it seems only logical that student managers should become members of the managerial society, then what destiny would logic reserve for pugilists? For a brief period in the less genteel '30s Pitt had a varsity boxing team. Well after we dropped the sport, colleges by the dozens began abandoning it, generally on the grounds that it expressed a brutality that had no place in college life. As a matter of curiosity, then, one looks to see what has become of the brutes who passed through Pitt's fleeting experience in boxing. We are able to trace 24. Fourteen hold advanced degrees. Among that number is Herbert J. Cummings, director of the foreign service division of the U.S. Department of Commerce. And for those who enjoy picking on eggheads, we offer from our boxing ranks, of all places, a chap who defected from the faculty of a West Coast university to live behind the Iron Curtain.

There emerges from our study a titillating relationship between the violent spirit and the probing, often creative mind. We leave it entirely to experts on human behavior to interpret the fact that time and again our survey informs us that men notorious for their uncouth conduct in contact sports have addressed themselves to scientific and cultural challenges. As the head of a university that is sweepingly expanding its campus, I am in constant discussion with Patrick J. Cusick Jr., executive director of the Pittsburgh Regional Planning Association. A key implementer of the city's prodigious renaissance, Cusick is regarded as one of the most imaginative and dynamic city planners in the nation, yet as I watch him chart the future of a metropolis I am amused to recall that a) Pitt dropped the sport of hockey after a brief trial marked by constant violence and that b) Defenseman Pat Cusick, always the first to join a brawl, seemed to possess a talent not for rebuilding a city,but rather for destroying the inhabitants thereof.

"Enigmas aside, one of the most striking results of the Pitt study is the variety of occupations pursued by our lettermen. An expected prevalence of coaches among them has not materialized. Only 8% are coaches or athletic administrators, and of that number three-fourths double as teacher-coaches. While delighted that our athletes have not gravitated into a homogeneous lump, we do not look down on the coaching profession; in it we find not only men who have achieved national prominence but, more importantly, lesser-known men who have demonstrated a singular dedication to athletics that cannot help but freshen the atmosphere in sport. Of the nonathlete who finds it difficult to comprehend the attraction that sport has for grown men, we might ask: why did Johnny Chickerneo, the shaggy, bow-legged quarterback of Pitt's celebrated 1938 Dream Backfield, abandon a burgeoning career as a high-salaried petroleum engineer to become a high school football coach? When he mighthave otherwise held an executive's chair in the oil industry, Chickerneo today provides excellent guidance to the youth of Highland Park, Ill.

What motivates the strange behavior of Edward J. Hirshberg, a large, rumpled man who owns two radio stations, much real estate, a large retail establishment, eight racehorses and a gentleman's farm? Each day in the fall, at about 3 o'clock, Eddie Hirshberg drives to the campus of Carnegie Tech. There he changes into sweatshirt and football knickers and marches onto the practice field, where he is known as head coach of Tech's simon-pure, sometimes scrawny but always spirited football squad.

Are such men merely pursuing lost youth? Taking into account their obvious intelligence, perhaps a better explanation is one Hirshberg offers. "In a sense," he says, "I'm trying to overcome intellectualism. I'm trying to make my players realize they need something more in life than their intellects. Youth today has so much classroom ability, so much mental capacity, and yet often no confidence. I believe football gives these boys the courage and confidence that enable them to direct themselves."

As we review the good ends to which Pitt lettermen have come, we have, of course, no way of knowing how many of these men would have lacked the means to enter college had it not been for the practice of granting aid to athletes. Yet we suspect the percentage of needy athletes was great—indeed, probably a majority. Old hands in our athletic department remember them coming from the mining towns and the mill towns and the city slums. From the nearby steel city of Youngstown, Ohio came Joe Donchess. His father dead, he had quit school in the sixth grade, had worked four years and become an electrician. But one day a prep school offered him an athletic grant. And still later another athletic grant put him in Pitt. At 165 pounds Joe Donchess became an All-America end (1929) and today is chief surgeon of U.S. Steel's Gary works and subsidiary plants. "If it had not been for Pitt's athletic aid," says Dr. Joe Donchess, "I would not have gotten near a university."

Everett (Speed) Utterback, son of a Kentucky Negro bricklayer, wandered north in the late 1920s seeking opportunity. In New York City he worked as a redcap in the Pennsylvania Station and sometimes as a dining car waiter. After making the New York-to-Altoona run one day, his dining car was lopped off the return trip because of mechanical difficulties. Finding himself only 100 miles from Pittsburgh, Utter-back decided to look up Pitt Track Coach Frank Shea and plead for a college education. He won the IC4A broad jump championship two straight years and today is general counsel and deputy administrator of the Pittsburgh Housing Authority. Similarly, a Negro halfback named Jimmy Joe Robinson, son of a chauffeur, tells us he would not have been exposed to higher education had it not been for an athletic grant. He later became pastor of the Brotherhood United Presbyterian Church, Wichita, Kans.—a church which, with a congregation that is 75% white, is said to be the onlyappreciably integrated church in Kansas.

One could go on citing distinguished beneficiaries of the sports system, yet how would that prove that assistance to athletes serves a legitimate function on a college campus? Obviously there is no proof. But this much we know from our survey to be fact: the overwhelming majority of our lettermen have made something of themselves. They are, in the end, our best argument for vigorous intercollegiate athletics and our best reminder that we now must give nothing less than a 100% effort to see that our sports programs are not discredited and perhaps even destroyed by those misguided few among us who have no respect for the rules.



The vast majority of Pitt athletes have succeeded in the eight professions charted above, a remarkable record in itself. Golfers, perhaps not surprisingly, become salesmen, and there is a clear affinity between football and dentistry. Only 8% of former lettermen have gone into coaching, of whom three-quarters are also teachers.


Under Dr. Litchfield's direction, Pitt has grown enormously in the past few years.







GOLF 11%



Industry & Commerce





GOLF 33%


GOLF 11%