The Rest Are Rained Out
Bob Blackman liked to talk about the Big Ten even when he was still at Dartmouth. "I'm confident we could hold our own against Big Ten competition," he muttered in the midst of the Big Green's undefeated season this fall. He was even more resolute that his Ivy League champions should be included in a post-season NCAA playoff for the national championship-should one ever materialize.
Well, somebody in the pro ranks must not agree with Bob's assessment of Ivy League talent. In fact, after Thursday's annual pro draft, it looks as if Blackman will be able to take his pick of this year's unbeaten seniors if he needs to fill any coaching positions at Illinois. One thing is sure-the pros aren't interested in them.
Somehow, Ivy League players never rate very well when the Upper Eschelon of American football gathers in New York to compare computer outputs and flowery scouting reports that inevitably rate respective number one choices as "loaded with potential," or as having "great size," "fantastic speed," and "adept moves." Always, the top picks are "the best prospects in the last 200 years." The fans love it. The owners love it. The number one choices usually bomb out.
Ironically, the only number one choice from the Ivy League in the history of the draft didn't collapse under the pressure of the pro ranks. To be sure, Calvin Hill was Rookie of the Year in 1969. But usually, there is a conspicuous paucity of Ivy League players chosen in the draft. This year was no different: Blackman's covey of Dartmouth seniors was passed by with one exception-cornerback Willie Bogan, who was selected by Baltimore in the eighth round. This is the same group which dominated the All-Ivy team with seven first team selections.
Harvard did even worse in the draft. Surprise. Richie Szaro was probably the only Crimson senior with a real shot at being drafted, but he was overlooked. Other possibilities, however slim, such as Pete Varney, Rick Frisbie, and Gary Farneti, obviously didn't dazzle the pro scouts.
By some quirk of fate-or perhaps because of Hill's success as a rookie in Dallas-Yale managed to have not one, not two, but three players picked off by the pros. Eli linebacker Jim Gallagher went to Minnesota in the 12th round, while Tom Neville was snatched by Baltimore in the 14th round and fullback Don Martin, who was impressive in post-season All-Star games, went to Oakland in, yes, the seventh round. But that was it for the Ivies.
Szaro had thought he might go in the late rounds. His inconsistency as an extra point kicker may have hurt his chances, but as he said a year ago, he kicks best under pressure. Witness his 31-yard field goal that beat Cornell, 27-24, in the last 12 seconds this year. The pros apparently weren't convinced; or maybe they just don't read the CRIMSON sports page to find out the peculiarities of Harvard place-kickers. In any event, now Szaro will be able to approach the teams of his choice-Dallas and Green Bay-as a free agent. But there are a lot of unemployed collegiate kickers right now-the pros took only four in Thursday's draft.
The men who make the final selections didn't show much interest in the other Crimson seniors either, although scouts from the Jets and Chargers showed up at practice in October to look over Varney and Frisbie. Varney was probably too slow for their liking and Frisbie, for all his spunk, is not large. Both had poor seasons to boot, missing the All-Ivy team for the first time in three years. And Farneti, who did have an outstanding year, does not exactly have the size of a pro linebacker at six feet and 215 pounds.
None of the three will try his hand as a free agent. As Frisbie put it last fall, "If they draft me, fine. But I'm not going to pursue it if they don't. I'm not sure it matters that much to me." Not exactly the right attitude for a free agent to have in a pro football training camp. Maybe the pros are wary of the Ivy League psyche. Not enough frothing at the mouth. No desire to get out there and just annihilate the guy across the line of scrimmage. For what it's worth, the pros can have it.
So another big year in the draft whizzes by for the Ivies-four players out of 408 choices. Not bad. Not bad at all.