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Jackson Blasts U-M Grid System

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Jackson Blasts U-M Grid System

Big-time college football, Michigan style, comes in for quite a raking-over-the-coals today in an interesting denouncement penned for the October issue of the slick-paper magazine, The Atlantic, by Allen Jackson, one of the better players recently produced by the Wolverine grid system he so convincingly tears apart.

Perhaps it should be explained right here that Jackson, a five-foot, 11-inch, 180-pound package of rugged aggressiveness who came here from Detroit, earned varsity letters on Michigan’s 1948, 1949, and 1950 Big Ten title teams, played a stellar role in last year's Rose Bowl triumph, and, in his senior year, was generally acknowledged one of the Big Ten's best gridiron guards.

Thus the young man seems highly qualified to write, as he does, of the evils of the football system at Michigan and elsewhere around the big-money circuit.

We suspect publication of the alert Mr. Jackson’s findings, feelings, and frettings won’t do much to change a picture which, undoubtedly, needs brightening.

But it should provide interesting listening down Ferry Field way and around the Michigan athletic office where, we fear, Mr. Jackson will undergo in absentia verbal lacings the like of which he seldom had to take on the football field. There will be hints anent his sanity, or lack thereof, and there will be open wonderment as to how this brash young man, after four years of exposure, could have escaped innoculation with that nebulous something described loosely as “Michigan spirit.’’

As to the article itself:

In introduction. Mr. Jackson says, "...the supposed benefits of big-time football are either grossly exaggerated or completely imaginary, and it seems to me that most of the enormous amount of time (about 1,350 hours or more than 56 full 24-hour days) I spent on the gridiron was wasted.”


In his article. Mr. Jackson states flatly that “the student who plays football is expected to sacrifice his studies for the sake of the game.” This he backs with recountal of personal experiences of his own and of some of his teammates.

He indicts the coaches (explaining he is not talking about individuals but about the position) for pompous maintenance of a series of frauds aimed at keeping the varsity “Blues” sharp and ready and the lower-caste “Red Shirts” (much needed for cannon fodder) dumb and happy.

“Instead of telling these men (the Red Shirts) that their chances of making the varsity are extremely small, the coaches, because they need men on whom their varsity can sharpen its claws, encourage the red shirts to return each year to try again.”

Here are some other pertinent Jackson observations:

1— "The importance of winning in big-time football makes it absolutely necessary to field the best team possible on important Saturdays, regardless of injuries."

2— “The so-called honor and glory of playing in the Rose Bowl is transient and meaningless, as is any glory and honor which is nothing more than the product of a publicity man's imagination.”

3—"Michigan coaches find it necessary to emphasize winning to a much greater degree than is natural or reasonable, and in a game like football this sort of emphasis is hound to lead to unsportsmanlike conduct...Michigan’s Maize and Blue players are not encouraged to ’gang tackle* (a sort of football mayhem calling for everyone available to fall on or over the hall carrier), of course; they are simply ordered to cover the opposing ball-carrier with ‘a blanket of blue*.”

4— “Concerning the finding of jobs, it would he my guess that largely because of VERY widespread recruiting practices, the term football player has become synonymous with ape, and because of this it is often better for the job applicant to save mention of his gridiron record until after he has become acquainted with a prospective employer.”

5— “After four years of seeing everything there is to see in big-time college football—victories, defeats, publicity, hospitals, championships, and bowls—of being known as a 'football player' rather than a human being, of seeing myself and my teammates misrepresented and misquoted by sports writers who seldom attempted to know the players personally, of playing in a 97,000-seat stadium in which my non-paying student friends were forced to sit in the end zone, of having my natural desire for physical exercise corrupted and commercialized, of giving up pleasant afternoons in favor of kicking and rolling in the dust and muck of the practice field—I have decided that big-time football is a poor bargain for the boys who play the game.”

Mr. Jackson's revelations of what's wrong with big-time football perhaps leave him open to one innocent question. “Why.,” his detractors will say, “did he put up with it for four years?”