Publish date:

Shave Off That Thing!

This, in effect, is what Oregon State Coach Dee Andros told Linebacker Fred Milton (left). Milton refused to shave his beard, Andros kicked him off the team and all hell broke loose. Andros survived the furor, but other coaches haven't been as lucky, notably Bob Ward of Maryland, who quit after his football players rebelled

Had college coaches been able to cast ballots for the man or pick the place to begin a stand against the forces that beset them, it is not likely that they would have chosen Dee Andros or Oregon State. To be sure, Andros had been a football star at Oklahoma under Bud Wilkinson and a Marine war hero (winning the Bronze Star at Iwo Jima), and he had, in four years, become as popular a figure as ever set foot in Corvallis. Moreover, his teams never lost more than they won and they earned a reputation for slaying giants (when the Beavers beat USC in 1967, the Trojans were ranked No. 1; when they beat Purdue, the Boilermakers were No. 2).

But Corvallis—face it—is no metropolis, and Dee Andros is a great jelly roll of a man whose style is not so much Homeric as Peanutsean. He is 250 pounds on a 170-pound frame. He does not seem to wear his clothes as much as he seems to be wrapped in them. Conversationally, he tends to make fun of himself. He says, for example, that being a war hero was secondary to his more pressing duties as company cook. His is an endearing image, not typical of a crusader.

The creation of Dee Andros as the comic book character West Coast football fans know and love as The Great Pumpkin is mostly his own doing. He pronounces it "Punkin," in the country-boy idiom, and he refers to his exploits as if the character were a separate—albeit lovable—person. "The Great Punkin had himself a time that day," Andros might say. His game wardrobe (from Sizes Unlimited) is all orange and black—pants, jackets, socks, shoes, ties—and he drives an orange and black Oldsmobile. "I bet there isn't another car in the country like it," he says.

Andros always runs onto the field ahead of his team, full speed, an orange ball of fire. When a rival coach suggested that the way to beautify the Oregon State team was to forget about beards on the players and make Andros shave off 60 pounds, The Great Pumpkin just laughed and laughed and said, "Hell, I can't do that. I'd spoil my image."

But Andros is not as uncomplicated as he appears, and he is by no means a patsy. When his "coaching prerogative," as he calls it, was threatened, he chose the battleground, and the clang that was heard was when his enemies pierced the suet and ran into the steel.

One afternoon last February, The Great Pumpkin was rolling across the campus when he came face to hairy face with Fred Milton, a linebacker of exceptional promise who had sat out the 1968 season because of an injury. Milton had added a mustache and a Vandyke to his particular image.

"It wasn't as if I ran around looking for Milton," says Andros. "But I saw him and I couldn't let it pass."

Andros has very few hard rules. His athletes don't have to live in a dormitory, and there is no curfew. Most discipline is hung on a catchall: "I will not tolerate a player who will embarrass me or the university." According to those who know the Corvallis scene, Andros is a flaming liberal compared to Tommy Prothro, who preceded him at Oregon State. Under Prothro, football players virtually marched two by two onto airplanes. "Tommy didn't believe a player should be allowed to smile on Friday," says Andros. "I have no objection to that. Just don't let me catch him smiling on Saturday."

But Andros did have a rule about hair: no hair over the ears or collar, sideburns no longer than mid-ear, no facial hair. He was consistent. It applied to everybody. He is now obsessed with it. Sitting behind his desk, behind the paperweight that identifies him as "Head Hard Rock" and underneath the orange football on the brass base that identifies him as "The Big Jock of OSU," Andros talking about sideburns and beards and sandals without socks ("dirty, smelly, unappetizing") is a stump preacher. "It ain't neat," he says. "It ain't athletic."

Hair is an obsession shared by a great many coaches, although their positions differ.

Fundamental (Paul Dietzel, South Carolina): "No girls' haircuts. If a player comes to the table looking like a girl, he doesn't eat."

Pragmatic (Charlie Tate, Miami): "How am I going to tell my guys to get their hair cut when I go into a Coral Gables bank and there's one of my smart banker friends with sideburns and lawyers with long hair and doctors at the country club? I can't ask my boys to look like the tips of artillery shells when they have long-haired heroes like Joe Namath and Ken Harrelson. So—no wads of hair sticking out the back of the helmet and no goatees running over the chinstraps. That's it."

Scientific (Lee Corso, Louisville): "Research has shown that long heavy hair prevents the helmet from fitting properly, absorbing shock, et cetera. If these guys want to get headaches, let 'em go ahead, have lots of hair, have lots of headaches."

Sociological (Ara Parseghian, Notre Dame): "The fad started with the hippies. I saw them in Haight-Ashbury. Wearing a beard or a mustache or long hair doesn't necessarily make anyone look like the scum I saw there but it gives an empathy for a movement that certainly is the direct opposite of what we strive for in college football. College football is goal-oriented. The hippie movement is geared to shiftlessness. You won't find a lazy person on the football field. If he's there, he won't last."

So Coach Dee Andros told Linebacker Fred Milton to shave his beard and mustache. Milton said it was the off season; he didn't have to obey the rules in the off season. "Yes, Milton, you do," said Andros. "That's part of the deal."

The two had a 40-minute chat in the coach's office, and when Milton left, Andros says, "He seemed to understand what I was driving at. And he knew me well enough to realize I wasn't going to give in if I thought it would hurt the team. I never figured Milton for a militant. He never gave me any trouble. I have to think he was coerced."

Milton, however, said later that it was a racial issue, a denial of his cultural rights. He said he would not shave. Andros, who in 20 years of coaching had never had an athlete, black or white, defy his authority, said in that case Milton was off the squad.

Encouraged by the Black Students Union, the 47 Negroes on campus (total enrollment: 14,500) rose in protest. They called for a boycott. Charges led to escalated charges. The chairman of the Portland chapter of the NAACP said there was an unwritten athletic policy forbidding blacks to date white coeds. The BSU claimed there was discrimination in public services and housing. Annette Green, the most eloquent BSU spokesman, said, "Corvallis is hostile to blacks." Finally, the 47 blacks staged a walkout. All 18 black athletes—six of them football players—on scholarship at the university took part.

In the days that followed, what began as fairly temperate dialogue degenerated into slander. "You heard the most outrageous lies about people," said Assistant Athletic Director Dennis Hedges. "You heard them so much you started wondering, 'Could they be true?' You know better, but you begin having doubts. Then you hear your name dropped with the others. It's terrible. You don't hate and you're no racist, so you try to understand. The black athletes are confused by the issues. It's tough enough for them already, thrust into an almost all-white environment the way they are. Corvallis is not Chicago. It only takes a little effort for somebody to get them to confuse discipline with discrimination."

The student senate first voted 11-9 in favor of the boycott, then reconsidered and voted against it 19-5. A petition backing the athletic department's policies was signed by 173 athletes. "The BSU," said Wingback Billy Main, a white, "is using football as a political springboard to publicize its demands." A rally for Andros drew 4,000; one against him drew 1,000. Andros got letters: "Students have to abide by rules or the country will go down.... [Signed] Class of '32." And, "Don't give in to the slobs...."

But if Andros had support, he also had some vigorous and scornful attackers. One Oregon State English professor countered the Andros no-beard stand with instructions to his students to wear Indian beads and feathers to his classes, and he took obvious pleasure in publicly calling Andros "a representative of the tyrannical majority."

The strongest formal opposition to Andros came from the 88-member faculty senate. A newly formed Committee on Minority Affairs said the university could not justify disparaging an "individual student's right to determine what constitutes proper social and cultural values," especially as they pertain to mode of dress and style of hair. Later the faculty "lost its nerve on this one," says Andros. "The way the resolution stood, they were giving the hippies license to walk naked at graduation."

Andros also said the faculty had missed the point. "I'm not just fighting hair on the face," he said. "I'm fighting for a principle of education—the right to run my department. If I thought it would end with a beard or a mustache, I wouldn't be so bullheaded. But if they beat you on one issue, they'll keep right on." He said he also had a duty to the coaching profession, that he couldn't "abandon the concepts of training, discipline, team unity and morale." He spoke of the lessons to be learned in the "willingness" of an individual to subordinate himself to a cause greater than himself. He said this might not sound very democratic but he wasn't trying to run a democracy, he was trying to run an athletic program.

Privately, he said the faculty senate could write resolutions until its fingers fell off, he wasn't going to have any one-sided committee overseeing his program. "They don't have the power to fire me and they sure as hell can't say anything to make me resign," he said. He had the support of his players ("my boys," he calls them) and the backing of the athletic board and something more....

Just as it was clear by now that the BSU had picked on Andros for headlines (BSU President Mike Smith admitted Milton's beard was "incidental"), it was also clear that Andros knew such a thing might happen. He could have ignored the beard or softened his discipline, as many fellow coaches said he should have, but he chose to fight because he was ready to fight. Only days before, he had carefully covered his flanks and laid the lines for his defense.

Andros had returned from a trip East, where he had been offered the head coaching job at the University of Pittsburgh. When he got home he was greeted by a chanting mob of Oregon State students ("Please don't leave! Please don't leave!"). Pittsburgh had offered more money and more fringe benefits, but Andros told Oregon State President James H. Jensen he wouldn't leave. Andros got a new five-year contract and also asked Jensen to give him a written reaffirmation of an understanding they had had when he first signed. A memorandum was drawn up stating that Andros alone would set the policies for his football team. As Bear Bryant has said, "You've got to have a contract to protect yourself in case the president loses his guts."

In the following weeks, of all the charges leveled against Andros and the school, none was documented save the directive for Milton to cut his whiskers. No athlete came forward to say that Andros interfered in social life. Andros admits he has had parents complain about his black players dating their white daughters, but he has refused to interfere. "It takes two to tango," he has said.

Eleven of the 18 black athletes are back in school at Oregon State. Two were out for spring football practice (in an average year Andros might have five). Wingback Bryce Huddleston showed up the first day with a mustache and was dismissed, but after a 90-minute conference with Athletic Director Jim Barratt, who backed Andros, Huddleston agreed to shave it off and he returned to practice. "I won't hold it against him," said Andros, "except that he will have to work up from the last team."

A few days later Andros said, "I think you'll find I've never closed my ears to my athletes. Coaches who do aren't usually around long. I think you'll find I never lie to them, I don't double-talk, I don't pussyfoot. I don't know what it is to say 'no comment.'

"When I recruit a kid I never promise him where he'll play or if he'll play. All I say is I want him to be happy to be a Beaver, and I expect him to play gladly where we think he should. I always have more fullbacks and halfbacks playing guard and tackle than anybody. I don't want prima donnas. Off that field I'm like a father image, I put my arm around 'em. We talk. But on that field I'm a dictator. I don't want kids who worry about cars and dates before they worry about winning.

"But I cut practices from two hours to an hour and a half one time because the players said the last hour was pure drudgery. We immediately had better practices and better spirit. I had a rule about wearing medallions and I took that one off. Change is always necessary. Policy is created by change. There could easily come a day when I will allow neat mustaches if it is the consensus of the team and does not distract from our purpose, but I will not do it to appease some pressure group. That is exactly the reason I haven't hired a black assistant coach. I'll hire one, but only when I believe in his ability, his worth as a coach and a man. To do otherwise is unfair to him and to everybody. That's not progress, that's extortion.

"Some people will hold all this against me," Andros continued, "and I'm sure it has hurt our recruiting of black players. We went after two good ones and never had a chance. But I've coached 20 years and was never reproached by blacks before. No one ever charged me with racism. If you're a bigot it will catch up to you and you won't win. Several black athletes have come to me and told me they sympathize with my position in this thing, but they are afraid to speak out. That's why I know this will straighten out. With all the fuss, we've never had better morale. Never. I don't expect a repeat of this episode. I have too much faith in my kids."

In May, after eight weeks of study, a student-faculty commission at Oregon State issued a report to the president of its findings on the Milton-Andros case. The committee was made up of six faculty members and four students, including one former football player, George Carr, who is the new president of the BSU at Oregon State. By the conciliatory tone of the report, it was evident that Andros had won his point.

The conclusion of the commission was that "neat mustaches" should be allowed but beards were "doubtful," and that Andros had violated Milton's rights. "but not deliberately." Andros said he would take the recommendations under advisement, but he would decide which to accept and which to discard. Athletic Director Barratt said he would leave the rules up to his coaches. As hot as the issues had been, Andros couldn't resist poking a little fun at himself. He said The Great Punkin went back East last March for a coaching clinic and made a stop in New York City to leave his wife and child with one of his brothers, who is a New York advertising executive. The brother met them at the airport. Since the last time Andros had seen him, he had grown a lovely Vandyke.

The football jersey bearing No. 28 is the only one ever to be retired by the University of Maryland. It was worn by Robert Richard Ward, an All-America guard under the late Jim Tatum during the vintage years (1948-51) of Maryland football. Ward played at 185 pounds. A friend remembers him as a man of almost fanatical determination. "You thought twice before you tried to burn Bobby Ward," he says. Ward himself says: "I have always been an aggressive person. At 185 pounds, playing guard, I had to be aggressive."

Ward had served a 15-year apprenticeship as an assistant coach at Maryland, Iowa State, Oklahoma and Army when he came back to Maryland as head coach in January 1967. His last stop had been at West Point. He loved coaching at West Point. The regimentation of the corps inspired him; the disciplined cadets on the Army team responded to his aggressiveness. At West Point coaching was fun for Bob Ward. He said when he took the Maryland job he would try to give his players "the same zest for the game I had when I played."

In his first year as head coach Maryland lost nine straight games. "It was a nightmare," Ward says. "The first Maryland team ever that did not win a game. I worked so hard I got numb. I was in the office by 6:30 every morning and some nights I wouldn't get home until after 10 and still we lost. I'm sure the boys had their confidence shattered. It didn't help mine, getting the hell kicked out of us. By the end of the season we were all numb."

The second season came and went with only slight improvement. Maryland won two, lost eight. Ward had done the things he thought necessary. He had been demanding, he had been aggressive, he had driven his players and he had driven himself—the same formula that made Jim Tatum, his mentor, a roaring success. But Ward had not been a success. As his troubles mounted, it was his critics who roared.

Last March, at a meeting called by Athletic Director Jim Kehoe, 120 players—some no longer on the team—and a three-man committee representing the university met with Ward and his assistants. Thirty-one of the players looked Bob Ward in the eye and told him they did not want to play for him anymore. They accused him of physical abuse and belittling them, of fear tactics, of threatening the loss of scholarships, of "a lack of communication." They questioned his technical ability.

To a man, they came to the hanging neatly dressed in coats and ties—"we're nice, clean-cut guys, we're not regular college protesters," said one—and they presented their case in an orderly fashion. "They were poised and showed dignity and deep conviction," said Kehoe.

After the meeting one player said, "I never hated anyone in my whole life the way I hate that man. I only wish they'd given us more than five minutes to speak. I have that much to say." Another said that Ward "just doesn't know football. He just screams at us. He gets so emotional on the sidelines he can't think straight."

Ward didn't defend himself. He listened to the charges and declined to answer them. He says now that he cannot recall having a worse experience. He was stunned by some of the comments, angered by others, disillusioned by the whole thing. "Don't they know what it takes to win?" he asked a friend. Two days later Ward resigned. Until now, he has kept his silence.

"There were so many things, so involved, too deep to go into, you'd need days to hear it all," he says. "I won't go into all the specifics, but it wasn't the good players who started it. It was the guys who couldn't fight their way out of a paper bag, guys who sat on the bench and couldn't take it and a couple of pip-squeak cub newspaper guys who don't know what football's all about.

"It happens. Some little sawed-off guy, 5 feet 5, 135 pounds, he can't help it, God made him that way, but he can't play, so he gets on the campus newspaper and all of a sudden he's got power he never thought of having. That's what it's all about on campuses today, power, whether it's in qualified hands or not, and when boys see other boys getting it they want it, too. They just copy what the rest of the kids are doing. They're like sheep."

The student paper, the Maryland Diamondback, had been on Ward almost from the start because he moved all the football players into the top two floors of a dormitory named Ellicott Hall. "That meant we had to move a few of the other students out to other dormitories and the paper made a big fuss about it," Ward says. "But Maryland had a history of athletes flunking out. My thought was—and I was advised to do this by Mr. Kehoe, which is ironic, because he had a lot to do with my leaving—that putting them together might be a good thing. [Kehoe denies he had anything to do with the move.] I wanted closeness with my players, a year-round communication, which is ironic, too, in view of what was said later. And, of course, when they did rebel they were all together, right where I put them, and every night it was like a convention for the gripers.

"I cracked down on many things. I wanted them to keep their rooms presentable, to go to class. If they had an early class and weren't out of their rooms by 7:15, I went around and got 'em out. I ordered a study period from 7:30 to 9:30 every night, Sunday through Thursday. I had a coach in there. I kept a close check on their grades. The first year we had only two boys flunk out.

"After awhile I got reports of some boys being out to 2 and 3 o'clock, getting into trouble. Not big trouble, but enough where I got calls from the campus police. The study period was being abused, too. Parents told me their boys couldn't study because of the noise. So we ordered a 12 o'clock curfew, and the boys that were in academic trouble we moved to the seventh floor. For awhile the seventh floor was restricted—nobody out after 7. We discontinued that because my assistant told me the boys got too restless. They wanted to get out a little. Go get a pizza. The boys who were doing all right were kept on the eighth floor and they could go and come as they pleased.

"I know the ones who were in trouble griped about all the restrictions, but the point is, if anybody was interested in their academic welfare it was me. I worked so hard on that I probably neglected other things.

"When we went on the field, I got pretty mean with them. Not mean, but aggressive—grab 'em, slap 'em on the helmet, that kind of thing, things if you don't know what football is all about, you can't understand. I said when I walked through that gate I was going to be the toughest man on the field. What I've heard about Bear Bryant makes me think I did things a lot like him, things I believe it takes to win. At Army, they responded. We won eight games and Tom Cahill was named the Coach of the Year. But at Maryland they didn't want to fight for it.

"A lot of guys quit or were put off the team my first year—bad apples with bad attitudes, guys who always griped. It's always the same ones who cause the problems. The same guys. I understand the guys who got into trouble are still getting into trouble, causing problems. One boy said I kicked him and I might have with the side of my foot, the way you do when you're in the heat of coaching and you're trying to get things done.

"The guy who was quoted more than anybody else, who I think started it all, was a second-string tackle named Bruce Olecki who didn't win a letter. Ten days before that grievance meeting we had our football banquet. Olecki didn't get a letter and I heard he was fuming about that. We'd given him one the year before, but it was a token thing. He never played much. I doubt if he'll win one this year, either. Another guy who was a spokesman for the group wasn't even on scholarship. Charles Hoffman. He only played in a few games. Some of the guys who were in that group that night hadn't been on the team for a year and a half. They'd quit or they'd been run off.

"Mr. Kehoe didn't stand up for the coaches at all. In all honesty, I don't think Mr. Kehoe knew any better, but he didn't stand up, period. When you listen to these gripes, and give the impression you maybe half-agree with them, you're encouraging it to go on and that's what happened. The whole thing was handled very poorly, very poorly by Mr. Kehoe. If there was a lack of communication anywhere it was between Mr. Kehoe and me. If I had to name two people who were responsible for what happened, they would have to be Bruce Olecki and Mr. Kehoe."

Kehoe—another irony—had been Ward's track coach when he was the star athlete at Maryland in the '50s. He had given Ward a "statement of confidence" when the rumblings started two weeks before the final confrontation. Asked about that afterward, Kehoe said, "I have an open mind."

Kehoe says now that he doesn't think coaches with a "rigid perspective" (like Ward) can operate in today's college environment because the kids are "so much smarter" and "more aware than they were 20 years ago."

Ward says he was made the scapegoat for a bad situation, pure and simple, and he declines to go further in his criticism. "I went to Maryland," he says. "I don't want Maryland's name to be spread around as a lousy place because it isn't. It's my school." For a long while Ward was so disturbed he said he doubted he would ever coach again, but in April he was named an assistant coach of the Ottawa Roughriders of the Canadian League.

"I'm in professional football now," he says. "I don't have to worry anymore about scholarships and keeping kids eligible and all the rest. I think I'm going to like professional football."

One obvious conclusion to be drawn from the Ward case is that the Maryland players did not relate to Ward, that they could not—or would not—accept his old-fashioned, Spartan way. At West Point it is the only way. There are other schools where football coaches have the latitude to operate in that manner—athletic dorms, tough on-field regimens, curfews, closely supervised study habits, etc. Many of them are in the South (Alabama is the prime example), and the majority of these schools swear by the system because it produces winners. It is reasonable to assume, therefore, that if Ward's record had been better, the grumbles would never have been heard below the seventh floor of Ellicott Hall.

Those close to the Maryland scene say that Ward, fanatically devoted to the job, did go overboard, that the players had legitimate gripes. But Joe Paterno of Penn State, whose coaching methods are markedly different from Ward's, was so alarmed by Ward's dismissal that he sent a letter to the president of the American Football Coaches Association demanding an investigation.

"I don't know who's right or wrong," said Paterno, "but I think it's the proper function of the association to ask Maryland why it let Ward go. I don't think it's a good thing for a squad to fire a coach. As an association, we ought to know what happened. If a university fired an English professor because his class didn't like the way he was doing things, I know darn well that the American Association of University Professors would want to know what happened."

Events that followed indicated Paterno's concern was justified. Almost immediately there was speculation that the Maryland basketball coach was next. "If this isn't the end for Coach Frank Fellows, everybody will be surprised," wrote Bill Brill in the Roanoke Times. One Maryland player talked openly of the need to hire a "big-time coach." (Lefty Driesell is now the Maryland basketball coach. On July 1, Fellows became administrative assistant to the dean of the College of Physical Education.)

And within days the Atlantic Coast Conference had a second house fight on its hands—the University of Virginia basketball team tried to unload Coach Bill Gibson. "They licked their chops over the Maryland thing and decided it was their turn," said Gene Corrigan, then a member of the Virginia athletic department. "But they were sloppy about it. They tipped their hand."

Gibson wasn't fired; 106 Virginia athletes (none basketball players) petitioned on his behalf and condemned the school paper's sports editors for basing opinions "on hearsay and grumbling heard in the closets of fraternity houses." A rival coach, a witness for the defense, said, "Is Gibson a bad coach? He had the sixth best talent in the league. He finished sixth. His crime may be that he has not been wise in his choice of recruits. He may have given scholarships to boys who can't play in the ACC."

So, for the moment, peace returned to the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Why did Oregon State's Great Pumpkin succeed and Maryland's famed No. 28 fail? It is easy to say that the answer rests in the personalities of the men, that one was more able to cope with a difficult situation than the other. Or that one was liked and the other was not. Or that the revolt at Maryland was different from the turmoil at OSU. But none of these things gets to the heart of the matter and none of them is quite true. The cold fact, which Bob Ward knows and Dee Andros knows and every college coach in the country knows, is that Ward was faced with trouble plus two wins and 17 losses, while Andros was faced with trouble plus 26 wins, one tie, 13 losses and the two most exciting upsets of 1967. Andros stayed because his team was a winner. Ward left because his team was a loser.

As far as the coach is concerned, it almost always comes back to winning and losing. Faculties, administrations, students, athletes, they all can criticize, say the coaches, but as long as schools insist winning is necessary, we can't coach to please the pressure groups, we must coach to build the best team we can.

But that is not enough, either, in these extraordinary times and to believe so is to be fooled again and again. It is no longer so simple an equation. Winning might have saved Dee Andros' job, but it didn't save him the torment. Winning didn't help Jim Owens, either, when the lights went out at Washington. It might have saved Owens his job, but only a man of his strength would have wanted it in the end. He emerged a shaken man.

Jim Owens had been the wonder boy of West Coast football. He not only had played under Bud Wilkinson but had six years' exposure to Bear Bryant as Bryant's assistant at Kentucky and Texas A&M, and in short order his Washington teams were beating everybody. Washington went to the RoseBowl in 1959, 1960 and 1964.

Owens began to notice a change in his athletes in 1964 or 1965, but it was not until two years ago that his program went under siege. The BSU, which is strong in Seattle, accused him of running a racist department. His trainer was charged with racist remarks. Owens was told he did not communicate. He was told he had unreasonable regulations.

Owens is a tall, handsome, intelligent man of considerable charm and presence. At 42 he may be a little less taut around the middle and his hair is grayer, but friends say the big difference in the last two years is in his demeanor. He has lost the crisp self-assurance that characterized him. But he is a man of massive will. He could have quit, gone on to greater financial reward in another field. He chose to stay at Washington. "I am," he said, "a man committed to college athletics." He said he hated what had happened, "hated it more than anything, but it led to a hard look at our problems and that was good."

Owens set about putting his house in order. He allowed his trainer to "retire." He hired one of his former players, Carver Gayton, a Negro, to serve as coach and intermediary, and relinquished much of his direct authority over black football players to Gayton. Gayton soon had more to say than any four assistant coaches Bud Wilkinson or Bear Bryant ever had. Gayton spoke of a "relaxing atmosphere," of a softening of Owens' "irrational" old standbys like crew cuts and uniform street dress and the "reaming out" of guys who come late to practice. In the days when he played, said Gayton, "Coach Owens was up on a pedestal. Nowadays there is more effort to relate."

Owens says events have made him a more compassionate man. He is "more sensitive to black athletes and their problems." He is careful, even in the heat of practice, not to use terms that—no matter how innocent—might be considered inflammatory, like "thata boy," and to avoid suggesting that blacks might be malingering. He now has more black players than ever—14 on the varsity last spring. He takes pains to explain to non-starters why they are not starting. A council of athletes considers the problems of team deportment and spirit.

But Owens lives in a glass house. His every move is catalogued. The university's Student Athletic Committee grills him on student seating and other procedural matters and on the athletic department's requests for funds. Owens is questioned about black athletes, about discrimination, about jobs.

Close friends in coaching begin any discussion of Owens with a sigh and say you don't know the trouble he has seen. As the figure of the compromised coach, however, he has made some people very happy. One Washington player rejoices that "much of the rah-rahness is gone." Grim-faced solemnity has disappeared in the locker room; players now joke, dance. "We have good morale," says Assistant Coach Gayton.

What they no longer have, it would appear, is good football. Since 1963 Washington has struggled to break even. Last year Owens, down off his pedestal, had his worst record in 10 years (3-5-2) and he resigned his post as athletic director to concentrate on upgrading Washington football. It is well within the realm of possibility, therefore, that Jim Owens will soon hear from other critics—the alumni, for example—who might just applaud his compassion even as they hunt for his successor. That, sadly, is a part of the game that never changes.






Next week

Wearing his wife's wig and sunglasses, Pepper Rodgers of Kansas sang a ballad to his football team in an attempt to bridge the generation gap. Few coaches go that far, but all of them are trying to solve a common dilemma: Can you relinquish authority and still win?