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Might Makes Right--Or Does It?

Petering out


Nebraska 77. Army 7. Oklaboma 68. Oregon 3. Tennessee 45. Wake Forest 6 Southern Cal 55. Illinois 20.

Those were some scores of last weekend's college football action. But it could have just as easily been any other weekend, because lopsided victories are becoming the order of the day in the college ranks. And the biggest prepetrators of gridiron routs are the nation's top football powers, who seemingly relish amassing phenomenal totals on the scoreboard when they play weaker foes.

Their feats are impressive to the fan examining the Sunday paper to find who did what to whom and how badly And the nation's sportswriters take note, too. Each team does everything it can to impress them while hoping for a high rank in the week's football evaluation.

The "rating game" is here in full force. Throughout the country, athletic programs, coaching staffs and public relations departments are geared for the hard-sell publicity type to propel their football teams to national ranking. Competition for votes, trophies and poet season bowl invitations has reached unprecedented levels.

The trend indicates more than pure desire for acclaim, publicity and money.

Emphasis on college football has shifted from the playing field to the press box, from participation to propaganda. And the concern for the athlete himself has been lost in the shuffle.

Newspaper post-mortems of the Saturday routs usually concern themselves solely with the victor, while the loser of the "no-contest" contest is rapidly forgotten. The omission is significant, for it seems to indicate an unwillingness to probe why it is necessary to run up such absurd scores.

Coaches of the major powers bristle at insinuations that the decimation of lesser foes is less than sporting. Southern Cal's John McKay told the press after his 55-20 win over Illinois that people were "just trying to get far enough ahead so they don't get beat." When, then, is "far enough ahead" far enough? McKay's Trojans led 35-20 before tacking on 20 fourth-quarter points. And in Nebraska's thumping of an undersized and outclassed Army squad, the Cornhuskers led 56-0 before sending in the subs.

In defense of the scores coaches point to their liberal substitutions to lessen the impact. But they don't say that many substitutions only give first stringers temporary breathers and that most subs don't get in until after the overwhelming point spreads have been built up. After the game the coaches apologize and rationalize--but by then, of course, the damage has been done.

The rationale offered for this brand of football is just one more form of propaganda in a propagandized college football world. Coaches secretly wish that probing inquiries into the role of the individual in today's college football scene would silently go away. But they do not go away, and in the wake of 77.7 scores they loom larger than ever.

There is virtually no way to legislate against outrageous scores that mock the competitive nature of college sports, nor is legislation really the answer. The solution will come when college football recaptures the game from the public relations men and gives it back to the players. Under the rule of P.R. men, college athletics are dying and are becoming just another facet of minor league professionalism.

It would be refreshing, in the day of the "super hype," to see college football returned to where it was simply competition of athlete against athlete, rather than the public relations jumble it is today. Perhaps then the distasteful 68-3 scores on the sports pages across the country could be eliminated. Those outrageous mismatches used to be called "laughers." But fewer and fewer people are laughing anymore.

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