The Michigan Daily - Sports Monday - December 4, 1989 - Page 3
Q&A: J'ormer Presidient of thiese Uited States Cjerafd Tordi
The former President speaks of his
time at Michigan playing football
Gerald Ford served as the
President of the United States from
1974-76. Born in Grand Rapids,
Mr. Ford attended Michigan in the
early 1930's and played on the
football team. He captained the
1934 team which is the only
Michigan football team to have a
winless season. ,Recently, Ford
took time out to speak with Daily
Sports Writer Jamie Burgess.
Daily: First of all, you may
know that today's Michigan fan is
likely to 'tailgate' before a big
game, or until recently, engage in
marshmallow wars' in the stands.
Looking back at your playing days
in the '30's, I'm wondering what
rituals of a football Saturday come
Mr. Ford: Frankly, I was so
preoccupied on the playing field
that I didn't notice nor have I any
recollection of any such activities.
When you're preparing for and
} participating in a game, your
concentration's on the game and
what happens in the stands is
something you really don't notice.
D: Well, people nowadays hear
about things like bonfires and pep
rallies; was anything like that part
of your football experience back
F: We used to have pep rallies
and we used to have bonfire
activities, usually the night before
the ballgame. That was more or
less a total campus activity and it
didn't relate to anything out at the
D: Also, players of the two
eras, your's and today's, differ a
O'In order to generate
cash, about every two or
three months I donated
blood at the University
Hospital. I think for each
such donation we got
$25, and $25 in the
1930's was pretty good.'
great deal. As well versed as some
people are about your political life,
many people don't know that you
sold your own blood to make ends
meet while in school. Today's
players, though, are given full rides
to play ball quite often. Can they
be getting as much from the sport
as you did?
F: I believe they do. 'lie
circumstances today are far different
from 1931 to 1935 when I was at
the University. We had no athletic
scholarships whatsoever. My head
coach, Harry Kipke, got me a job
over at the University Hospital
where I waited on tables at the
interns' dining room and cleaned up
at lunch after the nurses had their
luncheon in the cafeteria. I got paid,
as I recall, $ .40 an hour and
worked three or four hours a day,
which was enough to pay for my
own board. There was no
scholarship as such, as they have
today, and no training table.
I had two opportunities,
or two offers, to play
in the NFL...
They offered me $200
a game for, I think it was
So I ate on the community, ana
my freshman year I lived in a
rooming house where I had a
roommate and each of us paid $4 a
veek for our accommodations.
Then I moved into my fraternity
(Delta Kappa Epsilon) my
sophomore year. But, yes, in order
to generate cash, about every two or
three months I donated blood at the
University Hospital. I think for
each such donation we got $25, and
$25 in the 1930's was pretty good.
D: And you were able to balance
playing ball and school and the
work all together?
F: Well, I had to! I mean it you
wanted to stay in school you had to
work, and when I was in the
fraternity I washed dishes the first
two years and my senior year I was
the house manager at the Deke
house. All of that, plus the money
I earned in the summer, carried me
through my four years with some
limited help from my parents, who
were having a very tough time
during the Depression.
D: That's right. I have to
remember that your economic
situation was quite different for you
then it is now for today's players.
since there was no scholarship like
they have today.
D: Times have certainly
changed. I pay about $100 a credit
point out that tuition for each
semester was $50. So the costs
were less, but when you balance it
out, the money to go to the
university was tough to come by,
many hours spent in the weight
room...What was an average week's
preparation for you for a particular
F: We usually started practice
3:15/3:30 in the afternoon and went
to 5:00/5:30. We would have squad
meetings maybe two nights a week.
The team as a whole, the squad,
would go out to the Washtenaw
Country Club the night before the
game where we had dinner and
stayed overnight and were isolated
from all of the alumni. About
thirty of the players that would
expect to play were housed out
there and fed out there the night
before the game.
D: Then after your college
career, you had your own
opportunity to make a living at
football, and in fact I believe the
Lions were one of your pursuers.
Why did you opt for law over the
glamour of a professional football
F: I had two opportunities, or
F: No kidding?
center named Chuck Bernard. My
senior year, I had a good year and
actually played in the Shrine East-
West football game in San
Francisco on January 1, 1935, and
in that game played fifty eight
minutes. And then I later in August
of 1935 played in the Chicago
Tribune All Star Game against the
Chicago Bears. My freshman year I
got the, I think it was the Morton
Trophy, as the most promising
freshman in that class.
D: That's right... that along
with the honor from Sports
Illustrated made for a pretty
illustrious college career for you,
F: Well, in addition at the end
of the season in 1934 I was selected
by my teammates as the most
valuable player that year.
We had a bad year, but I still
was proud of the selection by my
D: Judging from appearances
that you've made at Michigan
practices, there seems to be a
rapport between you and the
Michigan coach Bo Schembechler.
What is your relationship like with
F: We're very close personal
friends. I admire him tremendously;
as a football coach, his record
speaks for itself, but aside from the
excellent won and loss
achievement, Bo is a real
outstanding leader of the youth, on
the field and outside. I think he's an
outstanding person, not only a
coach but as a fine citizen.
D: Well, I think it's safe to say
that the students here are fully in
They (athletes) should
be treated like any other
student, but the fact that
they spend an abnorm-
al amount of time
preparing for a football
career, a basketball
career, justifies in my
judgement a proper
agreement with you. He's a very
popular figure on our campus and
we're lucky to have him.
F: He ought to be; he's a first-
D: Speaking of off the field,
how would you say your years at
University of Michigan changed
you as far as outside of football?
F : First, I was given the
opportunity to get an outstanding
college education. University of
Michigan then, as it is now, is one
of our country's finest universities.
That background made it possible
for me to get into the Yale Law
School, and the combination of my
B.A. from Michigan and L.L.B.
from Yale has been very important
in my subsequent career. You can
always speak up with pride on
having a degree from the University
D: It's funny that you say that,
because often when people ask me
where I go, I say University of
Michigan, and there is something
about telling people where you're
F: Darn right!
D: Well, my final question then
will be this: having visited as many
college campuses as you have, what
can you say is unique about the
F: Well, I have been on about
200 college or university campuses
during my career; I've been to about
177 of them since I left the White
House. The University of Michigan
is a great combination of
outstanding faculty, excellent
student body, first class facilities,
and good administrative leadership.
And the combination, I think, is
what makes the University of
Michigan one of the top schools in
our country. I just repeat; I'm
always proud to say, 'I got a degree
from the University of Michigan.'
Who cares 'Ware'
So, Saturday, Houston quarterback Andre Ware won the Heisman
Trophy, which is supposedly college football's most prestigious award.
If the Heisman looms so large in the college football world, then how
come the only question that came to my mind was "Who cares?"
Really. Who the hell cares?
Maybe Andre Ware's mother, who CBS unabashedly trotted out in its
incredibly boring "Heisman Trophy Award Show", otherwise known as a
last minute attempt to add more hype to the presentation of the award.
CBS host/nepotism beneficiary Greg Gumbel interviewed Mrs. Ware
for five ennui-filled minutes in which she told the entire nation about
Andre's most mischievious childhood moments.
Meanwhile, the rest of America took this opportunity to visit the
bathroom one more time before the presentation of the award.
After this scintillating "exclusive interview," Gumbel talked with the
other Heisman candidates that got a free trip to New York City: Air
Force's Dee Dowis, Penn State's Blair Thomas, and West Virginia's
All of these people sounded like the Renaissance individuals that we
expected them to be. For instance, when asked about how he felt to be
one of the Heisman finalists, Dowis replied in a lobotomized,
monotonous voice: "This is exciting and I'm really glad to be here."
Wow! Not bad. Pretty vague, cliched and boring. He'll make a great
pro. What Dowis probably wanted to say was "Thanks for the free trip,
suckers. I'll enjoy New York City even though I finished a distant sixth
in the voting."
Blair Thomas, who also received a free trip, finished up in an exciting
race for tenth place in the Heisman voting. That fantastic finish ended up
with a tie between Thomas and Wolverine killer Raghib Ismail.
And guess what? Brigham Young's Ty Detmer finished ninth in the
voting, making the Detmer family and a bunch of Osmonds really proud.
Who the hell cares?
How many people out there think that the Heisman Trophy really
amounts to anything? It might look great on a resume, but how many of
those guys will be applying for internships this summer?
The only reason why Andre Ware won the award is because a bunch of
sportwriters took a few minutes away from their cigar smoking and
hypertensive arguing to write his name on a ballot.
And that's why the Heimsan Trophy disgusts me. No coaches have a
say in this award. There's no board of a few select individuals casting
votes that decides the winner. Instead, the Heisman is a free for all in
which the sports media gets to do what it loves best - report on itself.
Which is why the Heisman gets the tremendous hype. Ever since the
middle of the season, sportwriters across the country have been writing
about "The Heisman Watch" or "How the Heisman hopefuls are doing."
But who decides who the Heisman hopefuls are in the first place?
The sportswriters. Some of these writers act under the delusion that the
coaches have some say in who wins this award. A few weeks ago, an AP
sportswriter asked Michigan coach Bo Schembechler why he doesn't
showcase Tony Boles more than he does. Does this have anything to do
with why he has never fielded a Heisman Trophy winner?
"That's bull. That's bull," Schembechler rightfully screamed. "You're
the guys that choose (the winner) so why are you asking me? I'm not as
enamored with the award as much as you are. It's not that you know the
most, but you talk and write the most.
"You people control everything; you're listened to more than anybody
else," he said as he finished verbally undressing the writer. I wanted to get
up and hug him because he's absolutely right.
How many of you out there know that Domino's Pizza sponsors a
"Coaches' Choice" Player of the Year award? Nobody. I guess that's
because the "Domino's Pizza Newsletter" has a minute circulation. B
get your ballot in by 30 minutes or less.
All year long, the sportswriters report on who's dropped out of the
Heisman race because of a poor performance. Anthony Thompson rushed
for only 190 yards yesterday in a sub-par effort that might have knocked
him out of the Heisman running.
In essence, the Heisman has turned into some game that the media
plays to confirm their importance in sports today. For months and
months, the media tries to build this award into earth-shattering
proportions, in effect hyping their own choice for the best college football
player in the country.
. For months, the media places young men the same age as us under
intense scrutiny for their own benefit. How sickening.
The worst type of writers are those who hype up the award and then.
complain about the Heisman hype. Take, for instance, Detroit Free Press
college football writer Jack Saylor.
On Saturday, he wrote "Notes, quotes and anecdotes as college
football's regular season screeches to a halt, the world makes ready for the
bowl season, and, thank heaven, the Heisman Hoopla becomes history."
Besides writing a poorly worded lead paragraph, Saylor, thank heaven,-
proved his own hypocrisy. Just a few days before he condemned that
damned Hoopla, Saylor wrote a huge story on why Ware should win the
Heisman. Nice job, ace.
I wonder who he voted for in the Heisman race.
I'm not condemning all sports awards like the baseball and football
most valuable player awards, the winners of which are also decided by
sportswriters. These awards sit well with me because none of them receive,
nearly as much hype as the Heisman. Plus, adults win these awards, not
Colleges themselves, however, must shoulder some of the blame for
the Heisman hype as well. Each summer, the Daily offices become
inundated with non-profit posters of college football players. Inside one of
the Daily closets lie two incredibly huge posters of Minnesota's Darrell
Thompson and Indiana's Anthony Thompson. Come on down if you want
one because we have no need for such trash.
Michigan, which has the right attitude about the Heisman Trophy,
offers no posters of specific players, just two straight Rose Bowl
appearances and a boatload of wins.
In Ann Arbor, it's the team, the team, the team. Unfortunately,
everywhere else, it's the hype, the hype, the hype.
For the week of December 3-10:
Five Years Ago
December 7, 1984 - With victories hard to come by of late, the
Wolverine hockey team was happy to learn that the outcome of their
November 2 road loss to the University of New Hampshire had been
reversed because the Wildcats used an inelligible player.
New Hampshire was forced to forfeit the win along with two other
ganes in which the inelligible player appeared. The forfeit upped
Michiga2n's overall rrcrd1 to 7-9-Q1
Ex-President Gerald R. Ford, captain of the 1934 Michigan football team.
D: Yeah, it's amazing what
happens in just the course of fifty
years - that's a big change.
Relating that, then, to today's
situation with football, what do
you feel about claims that sports
scholarships for these athletes are
wrongly putting academics in
F: I wholly support athletic
scholarships, providing the student
athlete meets the proper academic
qualifications. They should be
treated like any other student, but
the fact that they spend an abnormal
amount of time preparing for a
football career, a basketball career,
justifies in my judgement a proper
athletic scholarship program.
D: Well let me move then back
a few years to when you played.
The intensity before a game seems
to have been a little bit lower due
to preparation. Preparation now is
very involved. Like you said,
there's the training table, there's
F: Of course, you also have to
two offers, to play in the NFL. I
got an offer from Potsy Clark who
was the head coach of the Detroit
Lions, and an equal offer from
Curly Lambeau who was the coach
of the Green Bay Packers. They
offered me $200 a game for, I think
it was fourteen games...
D: Quite a lot of money for
back then, I imagine.
F: You're darn right; for
somebody who was broke when
they graduated. But I also had an
opportunity through the help of
Harry Kipke, my coach, to be
assistant coach at Yale University,
which I took at a lesser figure,
$2400. But it gave me, eventually,
the opportunity to go the Yale Law
School. I was assistant line coach
and then later made head junior
varsity coach, and by the time I
finished the five years there I was
making $3600 a year and going to
law school full time, so it worked
out very well.
One other thing you might want
to mention about my activities at
Ann Arbor as a member of the
team, I was not a regular my
sophomore and junior years,
because we had an All-American
Richard Johnson caught eight
consecutive games. The Saints (6-7)
struggle, completed 16 of 26 for just