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April 11, 1968 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 1968-04-11

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Thursday, April 11, 1968

THE MICHIGAN DAILY Th ursdoy, April 11, 1968



(Executive Sports Editor-1967-68)
aCopyright, 1968, Robert E. McFarland.
Al Rights Reserved)
There isn't exactly a plethora
of individuals who had a connec
tion with both the Leopold-Loeb
case and Lindbergh kidnapping,
were close friends of F. Scott Fitz-
gerald and avid historians of the
Civil War period.
The field becomes still narrower
if It's required that members of
this select group be graduates of
the University of Chicago, which
they attended on an academic
scholarship, and majored in pre-
medicine, narrowly missing Phi
Beta Kappa.
Then, by introducing an Hora-
tio Alger angle, with the place of
birth being confined to a small
farming comunity in Illinois, from
whence they rose to national pro-
minence, the set becomes even
more elitist.
stiffer by limiting members t
nine-time letter winners at Chi-
cago, who received All-American'
recognition, coached at four uni-
versities of national renown, be-
ing collegiate football's coach-of-
the-year, holding a lifetime posi-
tion on the National Collegiate
Athletic Association F o o t b a 11
Rules Committee, and sowning bet-
ter than a .724 won-lost percent-
age as a mentor. .
Add one more rule; that they
be terribly efficient athletic -di
rectors, adding significantly to
the physical plant of the depart-
ment during their tenure.
And a clincher-the discrimina-
tory clause to end them all; they
"m'ist have authored a "Most Un-
forgettable Character" article for
Reader's Digest.'
THE .LIVING ex-United States
Presidents' Club has a larger
membership with a grand total of
two. Yet, Herbert f Orin Criser,
long-time Mnichigan-Athletic Di-
rector, isn't worried about foneli-
.nessy.., though he wouldn't be
recognizedtby most of the stu-
dents on the University of Michi-
gan campus today. He wouldn't
evoke, nearly theE same response
that one of the popular "in" pro-
fessrs might. h.' the nae still
means something, especially to the
sports fan, but his feats, even in
the minds of the enthusiasts, are
trapped in an earlier age, useful
for trivia contests and little else.
IT'S NOT because he can't be
found that he -isn't recognized,
either. Fritz attends athletic
events regularly. The observant
Michigan fan can catch glimpses
of Crisler in the pressbox during
football games, down on the field
before a contest directing an ush-
er tomove folding chairs farther
away from the sidelines, smoking
a cigarette in solitude after the
start of the second half in the
concourse of the Wolverines' new
basketball arena, sitting alone on
a brisk April afternoon watching
the first home baseball game of
the season. This more than any-
thing else is the essential Crisler
of 1968 to the knowledgeable stu-
r le'
N ,uch

About a week later, as{
pedalled his bicycle acros
Midway, his tracks crossed
of the football coach aga
never sized you up for a qu
was all Stagg had to sayt
proud Crisler. The next da
short divorce was over, and
was wedded to the game of
ball for good.
Returning to the Chicago
pus for the winter term of
after serving in the armed
for a year, Crisler faced a r
from Pat Page, freshman f
and varsity basketball coa
try his hand at roindbal
though he had never playe
game before, Crisler won hi
Chicago letter in the spor
winter (his first contest1
such a resounding success,
fouling out in five minutes)
prowess won him honorsi
sport as he captained the N
cagers his senior year.
Crisler also applied his t
on the baseball field wit
same driving enthusiasm. P
nate modesty requires him
fer to his playing days wi'
comment, "I was equally t
everything," the same at
which leads him to declar
his life's story is uninte
copy, but Crisler matche
basketball performance or
diamond, winning three
Chicago letters.
The closest that he ever
to the professional ranks i
sport (he holds an intense
for professional football nov
claims that he .hasn't atter
game in 12 years) occurred
Ed Walsh of the Chicago
Sox talked Crisler into a pi
try-out in 1921. Walsh art
for the collegiate star to
batting practice for the
Sox, and carefully explair
the young aspirant ghat the
was to give the batters som
to hit.

1rse.... ....**......:........... ..... .........".....Dicsigta ponmn,
ss the Crisler says, "In addition to the
those "In addition to the tradition about the alum- tradition about the alumni-coach,
in. "I nus - Coach, the Big Three had a phobia the Big Three had a phobia about
titter," anyone who came from west of
to the about anyone who came from west of the the Alleghenies, so I was ver-y
Gy, theli 1 hnrdt rcieth o.A
I Fritz A lleghenies, so I was very honored to receive honoredst, I o m receive a lothe job. At
'foot- the Princeton job. At first, I met quite a lot sition from the alumni, though,"
u , Fritz adds.
cam- of opposition rom alumni, though.
Crisler decided to rebuild alum-
forces.;,;"::{...::..,{.:{:..::,t{.......^::::;;.":::.:".:.:....support for Princeton athletics,
foicen onth ltni the in te 'ht f rted fn

-Daily-Thomas R. Copi
RETIRING MICHIGAN ATHLETIC Director Fritz Crisler surveys an empty football stadium, that
was twice expanded during his tenure to its present size of 101,001. Appointed Michigan head coach
'in the spring of 1938, Crisler coached the Wolverines for 10 seasons, his teams recording the exem-
plary record of 71 wins, 16 losses, and three ties.

ch, to
l. Al-
ed the
s first
t that
in the
h . the
An in-
to re-
th the
bad in
e that
d his
n the
n any
w, and
oded a
aed to

The man which the unsuspect-
ing student crosses in such un-
seemly places looks important, dy-
namic, distinguished. There is no
fanfare, no entourage, nd public
appearances, however, that go
along with rank. But there are
just too many important, dyna-
mic, distinguished men walking
around the modern multiversity,
for Crisler to stand out without
the trimming.
The special embarrassment re-
served for the uninitiated always
appears when he learns that -the
object of his stare is the Michigan
Director of Athletics.
Fritz has faded from the pages
of the nation's press in almost the
same way that his features have
-blurred in the minds of the pre-
sent-living public. They have lit-
tle interest in the closed-door bat-
tles of the National Collegiate
Athletic Association, being im-
mersed in the more tangible won-
lost records and personages of the
"now" sporting world. Crisler be-
longs to their revered past.
HIS ACTIVITIES over the 20
years since his retirement from
active coaching belie the inatten-
tion which he has received. He
has worked diligently to influence
both the game of football, and
the larger world of intercollegiate
athletics to which it belongs, ap-
plying:those principles proven cor-
rect by his decades of experiepce
in the field.
This is not to imply that Fritz
dislikes his present situation. He
is the "loner," and the preceding
list of his public ,images is typical
of his character. Not the type
that shuts himself off, and ab-
hors contact with people, but ra-
ther, Crisler is that rare man who
abounds ,in self-confidence, and
success, ,and who has taken the
rare luxury of picking and choos-
ing his friends and associates on
a principle other than the impor-
tance of their position.
He shuns pomp and circum-
stance, avoids public shows where
he might be personally honored
(emnbarrassed), and d i s 11k e s
speaking engagements where he
is put in the positionr of imputing
wisdom for wisdom's sake. Fritz
sometimes makes the stipulation
that he will appear before a group
only,to answer questions and not
to deliver an 'oration. This re-
quirement presents a vivid con-
trast to an earlier Crisler who of-
ten embarked on exhaustive
speaking tours.
PERHAPS THE ONE role which
he enjoys most is serving as
Chairman of the Board in Control
of Intercollegiate Athletics at Mi-
chigan, a faculty-student-alumni
body that makes Wolverine ath-
letic policy. Well-prepared for the
meeting and well-versed on the
issues, he will often give a factual
review or interpretation of 'a sit-
uation for over 30 minutes with-
out referring to notes.
His dignity and eloquence, in
addition to his intelligence, have
not been without their effects on
Board members. One faculty
member recently complained how
certain of his colleagues seemed
to be mesmerized by Crisler. Ano-

ther case was that of a student
representative who began his
two-year term openly hostile to
Fritz, and finished with an atti-
tude bordering on adoration.
HEROES OF THE past are not
always revered, though, especially
in this day of iconoclasts who may
single out motherhood as their
next target. Crisler has received
his share of their attacks, on mat-
ters ranging from cheerleading to
recruiting. His tight money policy
has grown into a legend. A rumor
of the absurd current among the
football team this last fall had it
that Fritz had purchased new
uniforms for the Wolverine 11 in
1953, and was still keeping them in
storage somewhere in the athle-
tic administration building. He
has been a special focus of attack
for some sports editors of the
Daily, who interpreted Crisler's
actions as being consciously dedi-
cated to the student body's worst
' The manner in which he has
reacted \to denunciation is again
indicative of the man's personal-
ity. He summed it up once a cou-
ple of years ago when he respond-
ed to a Daily reporter, "The Ath-
letic Department does not make
a practice of answering charges
as ridiculous as those." He is
above pettiness, and public dirt-
slinging is pettiness.
It is difficult to pin down the
complex Crisler personality, be-
cause it is so multifaceted. It is
easy to uncover his achievements.
They are embodied in the athletic
policies at Michigan, the Big Ten,
and the NCAA. Due to retire on
June 30, 1968, after half a cen-
tury of service to intercollegiate
athletics, his successes underscore
a gigantic contribution to the field
that no one can question.
FOR CRISLER IS one of those
who seem to have been stamped
for greatness by that enigmatic
quality known as destiny, that
particular angel which passes over
the multitude and bestows its
benefits on the few. It was not
necessarily success in athletics. It
could have been any field where
the gifted survive the threshing
process. But an accident was to
channel Crisler's talent in the di-
rection of sports, and give him as
a teacher, the "grand old man"
of college football.
Crisler was raised in the small
Illinois farming community of
Earlville, about 70 miles west of
Chicago. His family resided there
through his freshman year of high
school. Describing the town, Cris-
ler recalls, "Earlville had a popu-
lation of 1000 when I left, and
Earlville has a population of 1000
FOOTBALL WAS not a signifi-
cant part of his life during that
lone year at Earlville High, and to
even say that is an overstatement:
The school had a principal and
two teachers, along with a student
body of 41 spread out over four
grades. Of the 17 boys in the high
school, only two didn't play on the
football team that year. As Crisler
smilingly reveals, "Those two were
a cripple and myself."

He was contemplating a differ-
ent future at the time of his high
school education. A "devout Meth-
odist" upbringing had led him to
consider the ministry. An uncle
chaiged that. "He was an old
country doctor, who had attended
Rush Medical College in Chica-
go," Crisler says. "I remember
hitching up the horses and driv-
ing him out in the country on
calls." The future Michigan grid
coach recalls, watching operations
in a small rural hospital.
piece of advice one day that had
a profound, though for the mo-
ment covert, effect on the career
of his nephew. "A minister can do

"Well, from now on, I'm going to call you
Fritz, after the master German violinist,
Fritz Kriesler," Stagg retorted. Not, out of
any similarities, mind you, but out of the
marked contrast between the excellence of
his play and the poorness of yours."
....S...........?':" ::'r:1 .. I..A :::W.V..'y '. : :. . ..iMCi 1 i"

a lot of things, but he can't bseep,
people out of hell. If you really
want to help suffering people, you
should be a doctor,' the uncle
counselled. i
Crisler listened, and after grad-
uating from high school with a
93.4 average, he headed for the
University of Chicago withi a full
tuition academic scholarsnip, pre-
paredto study a pre-medicine
Major in pre-med he did, and
Crisler finished out his four years
at Chicago with a highly respect-
able average, missing Phi Beta
Kappa by one honor point, after
being penalized three for eutting
chapel during his senior year.
Traditionally on the Maroon cam-
pus, seniors would delegate un-
fortunate freshmen as stand-ins
at chapel roll call, but Crisler's'
substitute was negligent in his
duties, as the chagrined senior la-
ter discovered.
was never conferred upon him,'
Crisler actually completed two
years of medical school, and had
clauses written into his head
coaching contracts at Minnesota
and Princeton which would have
allowed him to finish his school-
But it was at Chicago that Cris-
ler fell in love with athletics, with
Cupid taking the form of a fluke
collision during his freshman
year. The newly arrived student
from Mendota was strolling along
the sidelines of the practice field,r
curiously watching the Chicago
gridders practice one afternoon,
when a play headed his way.
Amos Alonzo Stagg, the long-time
Chicago mentor and one of the
greatest football coaches in the
game's history, was back-peddling
along with the action, intent on
the play's progress, when he col-
lided with the unwary, 147-pound
freshman, and they both collapsed
in a heap.
AS STAGG self-consciously
picked himself up, he noticed the
green beanie of the young man
who had taken him out of the
play, and demanded to know why
he wasn't out for football. The
next day, Crisler was.
A hard first practice convinced
the future star that football was
a game for sterner men than him-
self, andthe turned in his uniform
after one practice session. Stagg
wasn't about to accept Crisler's
initial judgment on his fitness for
the game, and proceeded to con-
vince the yearling otherwise.

"I TOOK IT easy at first."
Crisler relates, "and they were
really whistling the bill around
my ears. I decided to put a little
more on it, and started throwing
some curves and spitters. That
ball was still whistling past me
though. Tb'en,".he laughs, "Walsh
came out of the dugout with a
catcher's mask, shin guards, and
a belly protector. That was the
end of my pro career."~
But it was the football coach,
Stagg, who had given him the
crashing initiation into collegiate
athletics, and it was the same
man who was to instill in Crisler
the philosophy and to provide for
him a personal ideal that Fritz,
the coach, and Fritz, the athletic
director, never ceased to admire.
Stagg even gave Crisler that
nickname which became part of
his legend. Muddling his way
through practice on a fall after-
noon, Crisler committed the same
error several times in succession.
Stagg finally blew his whistle.
"WHAT'S YOUR name, son,"
the coach demanded innocently.
"Crisler, sir," the puzzled play-
er answered.-
"Well, from now on, I'm going
to call you Fritz,-after the master
German violinist, Fritz Kriesler,".
Stagg retorted. "Not out of any
similarities, mind you, but out of
the marked contrast between the
excellence of his play and the
poorness of yours."
The nickname "Fritz" stuck, al-
though the reason behind it
Many of the values that Crisler
was to adopt for his own as a
coach were a result of his football
experience at Chicago. One of
those incidents provided a basis
for the disciplinary methods
which Crisler was to employ later
on his own players.
P L A Y IN G E ND, Fritz, had
dropped a pass in the end zone
against Minnesota that had cost
Chicago the game. Ashamed to
face his coach, Crisler even avoid-
ed going to the diner to eat with
the squad on the train ride home.
The next week at practice, Fritz
toiled with the last string.
The following Saturday, Chica-
go was to play Illinois. As always,
Stagg gathered his squad togeth-
er in the locker room to announce
the starting line-up, and proceed-
ed to call off every position ex-,
cept Crisler's, right end.
"Then, he went over and looked
behind the door, and opened a
couple of lockers and searched

inside of them. He finally looked'
under a locker," Crisler relates.
"He turned around 'and said,
'Well, I can't find a right end
anywhere, so I'm going to have
to use Crisler, but Illinois isn't.
going to be fooled." Crisler went
out onto the field, and played the
best game of his career.
FRITZ GAINED an apprecia-
tion of motivating forces like the
.locker room search for a right
end in his association with Stagg.
He still maintains that "instead
of exhorting men and giving a
rabble-rousing pep talk, you're
better off appealing to their high-
er sensibilities."
He was to gain national recog-
nition in the sport as well as such
noble ideals while still a player,
and his efforts eventually earned
him a spot at end on Walter
Camp's second- and Walt Ecker-
sal's first-team All I- A m e r i c a
The player-coach relationship
between Stagg and Crisler soon
expanded in scope when the Chi-
cago mentor offered Fritz an as-
sistant's job "at a salary much
more than I was worth," Crisler
insists. He was taking a year off
from his medical studies at the
time, because of a shortage of
funds, and had also obtained a
position with Morris Rosenwald, a
prominent Chicago businessman,
as a tutor for his son.
LIKE THE STAGG collision, the
Rosenwald job resulted In anoth-
er climactic experience, one that
would 'connect him with the in-
famous Leopold-Loeb case, that
brutal kidnapping-murder perpe-
trated by two brilliant but twisted
University of Chicago students
who wanted to commit the perfect
When planning their fated act,
Leopold and Loeb had singled out
the Rosenwald boy, Criser's tu-
tee, as their victim. "The reason
they missed him," Fritz remem-
bers "wasthat on the day of the
kidnapping, the headmaster at
Rosenwald's school called me and
told me that the boy had a tooth-
ache. I called his chauffeur, and
took the youngster to the dentist
that afternoon. When school was
dismissed, Leopold and Loeb drove
by expecting him to come out, but
he wasn't there.
"They saw Robert Franks and
abducted him instead," Crisler
continues. The pair of kidnappers
had to change the ransom note as
a result, and didn't have time to
destroy the typewriter, which they
disposed of in- the Jackson Park
lagoon. The machine was recov-
ered, and turned out to be one of
the major pieces of evidence
against the young killers.
space of time at such bizarre oc-
currences, it's difficult to discern
whether the action followed Cris-
ler, or vice versa, but excitement
was an inseparable companion of
the man during his long career.
He first served as Stagg's assist-
ant in 1922, a post he was to hold
;or the ensuing eight seasons.
Crisler had established a reputa-
tion in the sporting world, early,
however, and by 1924, the Minne-
sota Gophers were swinging a
baited iure in front of his eyes.
The inducement took the form of
a head coaching position, an im-
pressive offer to 'Fritz who hatl
joined the ranks only two years
Crisler had learned to respect
the judgment of his teacher by
this time, and went to Stagg with
the news, and a prediliction for
accepting the offer. Stagg looked
solemnly at his protege, and then
declared, "Fritz, you're not ready
to fly."
"THAT'S THE soundest advice
I ever received," Crisler declares

Not to be discouraged by their
prior failure, Minnesota came
back to Crisler in 1930 with an
identical offer. Fritz went back
to Stagg again, with a different
reaction this time. He informed
the head coach that he would be
happy to remain at Chicago. Six
years had passed since the first
Minnesota tender, and Stagg had
also changed his mind. He told
Fritz that now he was "ready to
"He thought I had served my,
apprenticeship," Crisder remin-
isces, "and it was the time for me
to move up in the profession if I
was ever going to." The move
surprised many, for Fritz had

Stagg's treasured wisdoms to
memory. He kept a complete daily
diary of his years with Stagg at
Chicago, and collected newspaper
clippings concerning him from
1917 on. With this legacy and
training, Fritz flew from the Stagg
nest into the turbulent atmos-
phere of Minnesota.
In Crisler's words, "the football
situation at Minnesota when I
took over was down, well down."
Various factions of the University
family had been feuding over as-
pects of the athletic program, in-
cluding the appointment of Crisler
as head coach and athletic direc-
tor. "It was a great institution
educationally, the only one then
in the old Northwest," Fritz re-
\HIS STRATEGY was to sell the
people of the state on the 'great-
ness of their University and its
football team. Unity, in Crisler's
mind, would give Minnesota the
necessary prerequisites for an out-
standing athletic program. In his
first five months at Minnesota, be
barnstormed the state, giving 103
speeches to alumni and recruiting
The Crisler of these days, ac-
cording to magazine reports of
the early 1930's, was not the re-
strained, business-like coach of
the Michigan years. Rather, the
articles present the picture of a
headstrong young man, in his
first head coaching job, who would
deliver such impassioned locker
room talks that his emotionally-
charged teams had difficulty
Yet, even this early in his ca-
reer, as his Wilsonian speaking
tour shows, Crisler was the poli-
tician that won friends and influ-
enced people. One of his first
moves was to open up football
practices at Minnesota, which pre-

tion on the 'all-time won-lost per- tue nlte'0srse inr
centage list among f o o t b a 11 strong alumni recruiting base. In
coaches. the months immediately follow-
FRITZ TALKS of his first ing his appointment, he embarked
teacher with a tone of admira- on a campaign similar to his
teachr with aery tedof. "adgr- Minnesota tour, visiting 88 Prince- *
had that isverynevident. "Stagg ton alumni clubs with the fervent
had a great inventive mind, em- message that "Nassau will rise
phasizing the mental aspects of:i ag h "s?,
the game and sound training. He again.
would be in bed himself by 10:00 A
every night. Stagg was never one A HOSTILE ALUMNI force was
to let his players sluff off in this not about to intimidate Fritz, even
in the first year. Another revered
respect either. I remember he was. Princeton tradition permitted
dedicated tremendously to thealitotadeonrpriceedhe
conviction that fair play was of alumn to take over practice the
primary importance.,, week preceding the Yale game.
riar impotae" rs"It may have been tradition, but
Crisler was not about to trust I it was also mayhem" Crisler de-
Stag's teasred isdos"t

dares. "The old tackles would
take the tackles and coach them,
the old centers would take the
centers, and so on. In 1931, the
year before I came to, Princeton,
there were 51 alumni on the field,
some in uniform, the week before
the game. Yale won, 51-14."
Crisler insisted that a clause be
included in his contract prohib-
iting this practice in the future.
He held closed practice sessions
the week preceeding the Yale
game in 1932, although he issued
special invitations to the alumni,
setting up bleachers where ,they
could sit and watch. "The alums
didn't like it," Fritz smiles, "but
they forgot it after we tied Yale
7-7 in my first year, and defeated
them the next."
He may have been a politician,
but he was also a leader, and a
determined individualist.
Despite t h i s individualistic
strain, Crisler was ready to seek
advice whenever ''he faced a
tough situation or decision. Fritz
never had encountered the pres-
sures 'of .a large metropolitan
press, such as existed in New
York, and soon after his Prince-
ton appointment, he visited
Grantland Rice, the legendary
sportswriter whom Crisler calls
"the dean of them all." Fritz
asked Granny, "What should I
do to keep the'press happy-throw
banquets, come up to ;.New York
frequently to visit them, just
"RICE TOLD me to be cordial,
honest, and sincere," Crisler re-
"But Fritz, don't go out of your
way to go calling on sportswrit-
ers," Rice added. "If you win,
they will write about you, and if
you lose, then nothing is going
to help."




-Daily-Thomas R. Copi
STANDING IN THE crumbling Ferry Field bleachers, Crisler
reminisces at the site where he once played for the Chicago
Maroons. As an end for the Chicago eleven, he won three letters,
in addition to All-America recognition his senior year.


viously had been conducted with
the secrecy of a Central Intelli-
gence Agency coup. He also ini-
tiated Monday morning sessions
with armchair quarterbacks, an-
other tradition-breaking prece-
dent that was greeted warmly by
Minnesota fans.
Crisler was at Minnesota for
two years, not long enough to re-
ceive the dividends from' his
"unity" program. Still, his teams
compiled a respectable 10-7-1
mark, and many scribes attribut-
ed the Bennie Bierman-coached
Gopher powerhouses of the late
1930's to Crisler's earlier ground-
Fritz's departure for Princeton
was accompanied by the destruc-
tion of a most-honored Ivy League
icon. For 62 years, the Big Three,
Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, had

Crisler followed Rice's sugges-
tions faithfully. In six seasons at
Princeton, his teams won 35
games, lost nine, and tied five.
Two of the six Tiger squads were
undefeated over this period.
The string ''of coincidences
which involved Fritz in adyen-
tures continued at Princeton. On
the night that he signed his in-
itial contract, Crisler came in
contact with another spectacular
kidnapping, the murdering of
Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr., 20
months old, in 1932 by Bruno
Richard Hauptmann.
"IT WAS THE night of March
2, 1932," Crisler recalls. "I had
just concluded my arrangements
to -come to Princeton, and was go-
ing to catch a train for Minne-
sota out of Princeton Junction.


So fine a gift,

Thursday, April
Saturday, April

1:55 P.M. (DH)
13- FROSH vs. E.M.U. FROSH
n,.Cc S P mn

as ar w~r riamma smin mmmms mms mm mmv.
r I



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