There's a glimmer of genuine pre-war Harvard around Cambridge these days, and it isn't House food. A glance at that high board fence circling the practices field out at Soldiers Field tells you that something of the good old days, the Irivial old days, is back. Just the fact of that fence is sort of reminiscent: before you even reach for your press pass you push football up out of its three-year hideout, onto the front page. Sure there was a Yale game last year (0-28), but that. . .well. . .
Once you got inside you aren't quite so sure. The faces are strange, the plays look more like the Chicago Bears than Harvard. One or two of the players bring back other days, but you're probably just about ready to tap someone on the shoulder and check your location when you catch sight of the indestructible element, the Harvard in Harvard football.
"Henry--Henry. Get those kids over here . . ."
What else but Harlow?
Spend one day on that field and you'll never forget Dick Harlow. Say what you will of other coaches, at Harvard and anywhere else--but when they got out on that practice field with Dick, Harlow is boss. And everyone knows it. One toot from his whistle and pandemonium suddenly turns into haste, haste of players and coaches alike to get to where Dick is. Harlow takes the C-team for five minutes, and for five minutes the scrubs are the hottest outfit on the field.
He's a man of quick decisions. When he makes them in his mind, he snaps them out--and that's all there is to it. "Funny," he says, "how you can always tell a back the minute you see him walk." And with that a left-end candidate becomes a third-string fullback; and what's more, he makes a lot better fullback than he did an end. That's why Harlow's a good coach instead of just a coach.
He's never had much material to work with here, at least not in the Notre Dame sense or the current Army sense. Whenever he did find a few good operatives, he almost always ran out of replacements before he started and had to watch out for injuries with fingers double crossed. Despite his handicaps of personnel and Big Three rules, Harlow has exerted as strong an influence on football since the day he arrived here in 1935 as any other U. S. coach.
Witness the Harlow-trained mentors spotted around New England, the sudden growth of interest in deception. In case you didn't know it, deception is the keynote of the "Harlow system," the device which beats the material Harvard never had. Dick always denied that there was such a system; he pointed out that his plays always changed from year to year. That was a fact, but the kernel of whatever it was, call it a system or not, was always there; series after series of carefully-executed plays, each one from a different basic setup, together with a shifting defense and a generous spicing of psychological tricks.
The double-shift was the most famous example of the last. Based on the revised ruling that a team was offside the minute one of its linemen moved ahead of the ball, regardless of whether there was any play, it drew five-yard penalties from more than one angry team. A powerhouse Pennsylvania team would itself up and then down one afternoon in 1942 trying to catch up with Harlow and the double-shift. Dick always refused to admit, of course, that the shift was designed to pull the opposition offside.
But it looks now as though pre-war deception is going to stay pre-war, for the elevens behind that board fence are running from a straight "T" this year. Gone is the "Harlow Wing", the "Semi-T", or whatever by any other name was a modified single-wing. Gone, too, are the days of the long-suffering Harvard blocking back, men like George Helden and Swede Anderson who went a season through without carrying the ball. Today's quarterback has got to have a touch of Vernon Struck in him, a touch of the fullback who made the Harlow system famous in 1937 with his spins and weaves and fakes.
Although it is more than custom for a coach to call each season the most impossible he's ever had to face, Harlow has a legitimate beef coming this year. A strong believer in the values of spring practice and other routine experience-builders, he has to deal with a squad in which many of the top men are new to the College this fall or back after several years' lay-off. His coaching staff has gone through a forced rebuilding from the ground up, with Varsity assistants Harold Kopp (line), Hank Margarita (backs), and Harry Jacunski (ends) all new to Harvard.
The really encouraging note is that Dick hasn't been heard complaining about his material. Facing the second nine-game schedule in his career here (the only other was in 1942), he hopes he gets a chance to develop his team, polish it into working shape before too stiff competition comes along. Connecticut, opponent number one, has Walt Trojanowski, who scored 22 touchdowns last year, on its side; and Tufts and Princeton, second and third on the card, are both rated strongly in the East.
Don't quote us as saying that Harlow has been crowing over his material, either. "No ball of fire, you understand, boys; not even a really good boy in there. But he'll do until we get something better." And with Harlow out there pitching, he'll probably do just fine.