The story of one football season--in cold terms of games won and lost--is of more or less passing, significance, for time tends to case the disappointment following a poor season, just as it does the excitement following a good one. And it may come to pass that the men who played for Harvard during the 1950 season will some day be regarded as the men who sustained Harvard football.
In a way, that would be somewhat paradoxical. Many members of the 1950 varsity squad are not skilled players: they do not possess football instinct or speed in a football age which puts a premium on speed and technical proficiency.
Some of them are not really varsity players at all. Witness the fact that last Friday, when the jayvees were playing the Brown jayvees, six or seven third string varsity men--mostly linesmen--were sent over to strengthen the Crimson lineup and to gain game experience. The Brown jayvees won, 31 to 6.
The third stringers are the ones who would have had to go into the varsity game had there been two injuries at any one position; but in practice, when the varsity tests its offense against the third team, it is often hard pressed to gain through the reserves.
Yet, in another sense it would not be so remarkable for future chroniclers to consider this 1950 squad in a more favorable light than that in which it has been considered up to now. It is a squad which has not given up in a single game, when giving up might have been the path of least resistance. Against Princeton, Harvard came back and scored four times; against Holy Cross, the Crimson, trailing by 26 points at half-time, held the Crusaders in the second half while pushing over one touchdown itself.
There must be some reasons for this determination on the part of a squad which has faced superior and faster personnel on every Saturday afternoon save one--and on at least two occasions has realized beforehand that victory was all but impossible, or as much out of the question as victory over can be in college football.
Many Sophomores on Squad
Some people will observe--and justly so--that it is a relatively simple thing to keep us the spirits of a sophomore football player, and and there are 19 sophomores on the 45-man squad. But sophomores have been a handicap as well as a help to Lloyd Jordan, the head coach. While he has perhaps found it fairly easy to maintain the morale of the sophomores, it is also true that they lack the experience of the seniors. When a new coach comes in football is usually at a low ebb and frequently there is an abundance of seniors on hand who, as juniors the year before, went through a losing season and are anxious to prove they aren't so bad as they have appeared to be. That was not the came this year. There are 12 seniors on the squad, nine of them first string on either offense or defense.
Lloyd Jordan knew it would be like this, and you wonder why he ever abandoned the security of his job at Amherst to come to Cambridge. Jordan is not a young man, and his is a profession which demands an ample supply of energy; at 49, he undertook what is probably the most challenging job in his field.
But Jordan gets great satisfaction in accepting challenging situations and working them out. Successes in the past have come slowly to him, but they have come and he prefers this sort of success to that of other coaches who have become famous within a shorter period of time. To him, it seems more lasting.
Disciple of Warner
Jordan derives, many of his coaching techniques from Pop Warner, the renowned teacher of single-wing football, but it was not his association with Warner which decided Jordan on a coaching career. "I always wanted to be a coach he explains, "so when it came time I looked around for the best possible teacher."
An outstanding basketball player, Jordan received an athletic scholarship to Pittsburgh and, even though he had never played the sport before, went out for football at Pitt. Pitt football was rough business in those days and, unless a man had been brought in for the purpose of playing under Pop Warner, he was not permitted to go out for the team. Jordan had worked his way into the athletic picture with his ability as a basketball player, and since the authorities wanted to keep him around for that reason they allowed him to try out for football.
That was in 1920. Jordan's collar bone was broken that year but by the time be was graduated he had captained Warner's last Pitt team, been named an All-American end on one selector's list and given honorable mention on several others, captained the basketball team, and played three years of varsity, baseball as an outfielder.
Four years later, Colgate was looking for a new coach, one faction of the alumni seeking a Colgate man, another hoping to bring in an outsider, possibly a Warner protege. The administration compromised by hiring Earl Abel, an alumnus, as head coach and Jordan as line coach. Jordan was thus placed in the somewhat precarious position of the assistant installing the Warner style of the play. The following year, Andy Kerr succeeded Abel and in the next three years Colgate lost only three games.
Jordan moved to Amherst in 1932 amid a change of presidents with the resulting confusion. His 17-year stay there was interrupted by a three-year stretch in the Navy, during which time he cleared up difficulties that had arisen at various V-12 stations.
It was during his tenure at Amherst that Jordan realized the value of hiring enthusiastic assistants. His present staff includes three extremely able men, plus a first-class trainer, and his backfield coach is considered one of the smartest assistants in the country.
Football, according to Jordan, is based on youth, spirit, enthusiasm, and condition. He is a great believer in team unity (one reason for the closed practices of the past two weeks) and team spirit, which he has tried to develop by building self-confidence in the players. This has been a tremendous task, but Jordan believes the team finally "found itself" between halves of the Holy Cross game. "They realized then they could play better football than they'd been playing," he remarks.
Jordan is an organizer, and when his "Okay, let's get organized" cuts through the air during practice you feel it is indicative of his approach to the entire football situation here. After the Yale game, one of his assistants will handle academic and personal problems of squad members, another will take charge of secondary school contacts, a third will start going over this fall's movies. Next spring, Jordan will be better acquainted with his personnel and they will have a better idea of what Jordan considers the attributes of a good football player.
Jordan finds his job "the most thrilling and the toughest" anywhere. Withal, he has retained his sense of humor. The other day, he opened a letter on his desk and said: "The season isn't long enough. We won't have a chance to use all the plays the alumni have sent in." He filed the sheet of diagrams in a drawer.
Jordan could not have hoped to accomplish any miracles this year. It will be rough again in 1951, but he is gradually laying the foundations of winning football. In the meantime, he has aimed for the respect of his opponents; that is about all he could hope for, and he has gained that.
But Lloyd Jordan has an intense desire to win games. He hates to lose, and he takes no stock in moral victories. Whether or not he is still coaching here in three or four or five years, the groundwork will be there