Buffalo Bob, BMOC at Croaker College in Sacramento, rolls onto his well-muscled back and grabs a barbell. He reels off a set of bench presses, then hurls his bulk at the overhead bar and does a few chin-ups. Finished, he hops into the sauna, takes a vibrating massage, then heads to his dorm for a snooze.
Croaker College spares nothing in its quest for athletic excellence. Since Bill Steed, its 60-year-old founder and dean, opened the door seven years ago, he has lavishly awarded athletic scholarships. He has never granted an academic scholarship nor, for that matter, has he ever enrolled a single human being. Steed bills his academy as "The Only Institution of Higher Learning for Frogs."
For $50 you can enroll your frog in one of Croaker's six-week semesters. The object is to train winners for the numerous frog jumps throughout the country, including the Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee in California which, because of Mark Twain's short story, is the most celebrated frog jump in the world. While on "campus" your frog will learn to "high-dive" from a 30-inch platform into a plastic wading pool and do frog-style chin-ups on a 14-inch-high bar. To perform this feat, the startled frog is propped at neck level against the bar. Apparently deciding that up is better than down, the frog then hoists himself up to a squatting position. Steed claims this develops the forelegs. For the bench press, Steed puts the frog on its back, and carefully places a miniature balsa-wood barbell in its tiny "hands." While Steed steadies the bar with a well-placed index finger, the frog spasmodically pushes the weight up and down.
The pièce de rèsistance of Croaker College is psychological conditioning to instill a winning attitude. While his charges sleep in their dormitory (a wooden box with "Steed's Croaker College" painted on the side), Steed plays positive-thinking tapes. "You know that deep within yourself you have hidden and dormant talents that are only awaiting discovery," a drowsy voice intones. When asked if frogs understand English, Steed, whose academic apparel is a black stovepipe hat and a lavender coat, answers, "Dogs understand English, why not frogs?"
Steed's occupation is selling sleep-learning programs—to humans. In 1968, after stumbling on the Calaveras Fair, he decided, "I can motivate people, why not frogs?" Steed thereupon wrote to the late Winthrop Rockefeller, then governor of Arkansas, inviting him to enter a frog in the next Calaveras competition. Rockefeller sent the Grim Leaper, who, under Steed's tutelage, fared poorly in the special Governors' Jump. But the next year, when Rockefeller's Arkie leapfrogged to victory, Steed was on his way.
Today, Croaker College alumni are among the bluebloods of the frog world. They include Arkie II, who belongs to Senator David Pryor of Arkansas, and Lil' Nutmeg, sponsored by Governor Ella Grasso of Connecticut. Croaker teams have performed on The Tonight Show and the Dinah Shore Show. Nonetheless, there is gloom around Croaker College these days. Claiming irregularities in Steed's training methods, the Calaveras County Fair directors last year ejected the Croaker College dean from the competition. Although Steed hopes to be back this year, a diploma from old CC may not be all it's croaked up to be.