7. The Ernie McCoy–Rip Engle Era and the Beginning of the Grand Experiment in College Football
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chapter 7 The Ernie McCoy–Rip Engle Era and the Beginning of the Grand Experiment in College Football “We will have no dealings under the table.” —President Milton Eisenhower (1950) “Put academic requirements above the ability to play football.” —President Eric Walker (1971) By the conclusion of World War II, the Great Experiment of the 1930s was a failure, and the Grand Experiment was soon to follow. The Great Experiment failed under President Ralph Dorn Hetzel because underground subsidization by alumnus Casey Jones and others was undermining the concept of amateur sport espoused by the long-time president. But a new era began shortly after Hetzel’s death after the war when veterans and veteran players inundated the campus to overflowing. Most veterans would not give a damn about pure amateurism after serving as professional soldiers, sailors, and marines and fighting and winning a war on the European and Asian fronts. The refusal to pay schooling costs for veterans and others to participate in athletics no longer seemed important to most students and alumni, nor would competent coaches likely come to Penn State unless there was aid to athletes so they could compete with other major schools. Soon a new athletic administration and an outside coach would arrive in the person of Dean and Athletic Director Ernie McCoy from a major Big Ten school and Coach Rip Engle from an Ivy League institution. Those two, along with an academic and retired basketball coach, John Lawther, would launch what Joe Paterno would eventually name the Grand Experiment. In order for the Grand Experiment to come into existence, a change in the administration of Penn State was needed, and athletic scholarships had to be reinstated after being dropped in 1927. With President Hetzel’s death, one obstacle to the renewal of aid to athletes was removed. The other obstacle was the dean of the School of Physical Education and Athletics, Carl Schott. He was in his position for a decade as a caretaker of those in physical education, but, despite his title, he was under restraints in the direction taken in athletics. Though athletics had Smith_text.indd 64 12/7/15 11:11 AM The Beginning of the Grand Experiment 65 been put under the control of an academic unit since the creation of the school in 1930, it was really the alumni who had major financial control, working though the graduate manager, Neil Fleming, since World War I. Fleming’s office was in the administration building, Old Main, not in Recreation Building and removed from the office of the dean. Dean Schott pointed out the problem of isolating athletics from his academic office in his latter years at Penn State. “When I first came to Penn State,” Schott informed new president Milton Eisenhower in 1952, “I became aware that The Pennsylvania State College had a program of recruitment . In many of its phases, I felt that it was not seriously out of line because athletes came in on the same basis as other students, and where aid was given, only enough was provided to supplement the athlete’s financial needs. This plan worked out very satisfactorily for a time.”1 Thus Schott was reasonably satisfied with the situation when alumni such as Casey Jones would provide some aid to athletes, though Schott wanted it quite limited. To this, Jones would later respond, “Carl Schott was a washout as a helping hand.” As an alumnus who wanted a return to athletic glory, Jones wrote disparagingly about Dean Schott, probably more than was justified, calling Schott’s position relative to athletics as “the Do Little Office.”2 Schott was looking at athletics as part of an education and pointed out as much to Eisenhower. “The competition for athletes,” Schott noted, “became more keen and, as a result, if Penn State was to get an athlete, more and more would have to be provided.” This, according to Schott “involved not only financial inducements , but, often compromising entrance requirements.”3 What Schott wanted to do was to bring recruiting and financial aid under the dean of the School of Physical Education and Athletics and rein in alumni control. The problem of control had existed throughout Hetzel’s presidency, when Schott unsuccessfully had attempted to place the Athletic Advisory Board and its graduate manager of athletics under the dean.4 Schott even spoke before the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) proposing that college football must do something “to justify its retention as an integral part of...



Subject Headings

  • Pennsylvania State University -- Sports.
  • Pennsylvania State University -- Football.
  • Paterno, Joe, 1926-2012.
  • Sandusky, Jerry.
  • Pennsylvania State University -- Sports -- Administration.
  • College sports -- Corrupt practices -- Pennsylvania -- University Park.
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