Tuesday, September 29, 2020

V 10 N. 69 Reflections on Another Track Program Biting the Dust

 Over the past few weeks, I've received several notices about the University of Minnesota dropping their track program.  There have been some impassioned pleas to find ways of keeping it as well as condemnations from former Golden Gopher athletes and track coaches from other universities.  Here is my way of looking at the problem.  Nothing new here but gives me a chance to vent on the age of cost cutting provoked in part by our little virus that is altering life around the world.  Who would have thought a year ago that something we cannot see under a light microscope would have brought us to our knees in this world?


Here are my thoughts as a former college track athlete (U. of Oklahoma 1965), coach  (Wittenberg U. and U. of Dayton), and current track blogger. (Once Upon a Time in the Vest).


We all know what the problem is, but we just don't want to admit it or see it through all the smoke and mirrors.  We are parties to the corporate, capitalist phenomenon of growth as the only measure of success. 

Today our institutions and university programs are bloated with administrators, admin assistants, advisors, compliance advisors, security, government compliance officers, consultants,  and that has been  passed on down to all university departments including intercollegiate athletics which is of course living under the curse of win at all costs, and costs be damned.  The university president is often judged by the success of the football team rather than the rest of the university 'mission'.   George L. Cross, president of Oklahoma University in the 1960's once tongue in cheek said,  "I want to build a university our football team can be proud of."  He was not far from the truth.

  Coaching staffs are bloated in all sports.  In track and field it is somewhat accurate that for success, one  has to specialize in a single area of coaching  jumping, polevaulting,  throwing, sprinting, hurdling, middle distance, or  distance, and God knows whatever 'directors of operations' do.  We chase qualifying times by sending athletes and their hand-maiden coaches to events all over the country on any given weekend.  There is a team effort only at the conference meets and the NCAA regionals and nationals.

  Recruiting and having the fanciest equipment, dressing rooms , weight rooms, training rooms, tutors, sports psychologists, dining halls,   and athletic villages have driven budgets into the stratosphere ( sorry, old terminolgy).    It's all about winning as a team and to have a team you have to have a bunch of extremely talented individuals, and the pool is narrow and shallow from which to recruit.   

No one likes to hear about the 'old days' but those programs were managed with a skeleton crew of a head coach, and a grad assistant, and maybe one retiree coach who hung on 'til he died.   Yes, many of us had to coach ourselves, because the sport was too broad and the coaches had limited knowledge, and almost  zero scientific knowledge.    In basketball, a team had a head coach, and an assistant who also coached the freshman team.  The head coach probably had one other person to do everything else including writing the checks and organizing the team trips.   I won't even attempt to classify all the jobs in the modern Sports Information departments which used to be a one person operation with perhaps an administrative assistant that we used to call a secretary.

Today, any one sports program is bigger in personnel than a whole athletic department was at one of the major universities in the 1960s.  

Going to university on your own cost about 20 per cent of a working class family's budget for a year.  It was almost doable for a family with one kid in college provided he or she had a job to help pay costs. 

Today, If your family is working class earning about 40K, a kid is doomed to community college and working half time to get to school.  No time for sports.    One thing that needs to be re-iterated is many of those families with kids in country club sports are fairly wealthy and they are paying full tuition to send their kid to a school to study and compete in golf, swimming, tennis, rowing, and maybe cross country/track, so there is some significant income going into the university pot from those families.  That is not the case with sports dominated by African American kids' families if they are coming from low income homes. 

So we may be at a turning point in college sport.  I believe Covid has sent us past the tipping point, and a major re-evaluation will need to be done in how we approach sport at the university level.  This was beginning to  happen even before Covid.    I think in five years we may not recognize college athletics, based on today's experience.   I do not believe that administrators in power will  voluntarily cut back on their own earnings, but they will cut back on others' by total elimination of positions or programs.  Budgets will decrease to within reason,  but those employees who are still around will still be overpaid.   We all know that there are only one or two states in the country where the highest paid public official is not a football or basketball coach.  I think North Dakota is one of a few.   I don't think that will change.  We are too ingrained with that culture.  If it ain't bigger, it cain't be better.


George
Agree with all your comments. Gary Wilson at U of Minnesota ran for me at Cortland, so I’m fully aware of that situation. I’d have leaned heavier on football and over administrative costs. Weren’t we luck we lived in a time when we played sports for fun and no cost. ?  Dave Costill

George

Hope you are fine.. Enjoyed reading your latest column on the blog about the state of college athletics.
Personally I'd prefer to see the entire system crash and copy the European clubs. Having athletics and academics together is a perfect recipe for disaster with cheating and corruption. Starts in little league and pop warner football, continues into high school and is compounded when it reaches the college level.
It's a total money losing proposition  and relies solely on asking alumni for constant support and contributions.
The club system isn't perfect but much better than our current college state of affairs. The court ruling years ago against the AAU and supporting the NCAA in retrospect just compounding today's situation.
I lived overseas for many years and joined a club. Some are political, religious,
companies, military police , city or regional etc.... You need to sign a card right off and once it's signed you're signed a contract that binds you to that respective organization. Not like the American system where high schoolers can play at a different high school every year and not be penalized, or college athletics transferring at a whim with to valid reason and leaving coaches wondering why everything has gone sideways.
In a club the only way to switch to another club your card must be agreed by both clubs and usually a fair way to both the respective club and the athletes.
The U.S. can easily change into a club system with the infrastructure already in place. I see american football as possibly the only major problem but all other sports  ( namely soccer track, basketball, tennis, ice hockey, baseball, swimming etc.) already having  clubs. Perhaps the next U.S. administration  appoint a new sports czar to direct such a change in our sports system. Something  that would look at sports for children all the way to our professional level.
If I would have done it all over again I would have joined a club right out of high school and paid my own for attending college. Perhaps even run for a club overseas?
Yes, looking at the current college situation during the covid 19 disaster has affecting all sports. Likely to cut all minor sports and the firing of all coaches and administrators. 
Mike

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

V 10 N. 68 Passing of Mel Hein Jr. and Gayle Sayers R.I.P.

 


Two men who influenced track and field a bit, one more than the other, passed away recently.

The first was Mel Hein Jr.  a former USC Trojan and world record holder in the polevault at 16' 5 3/4" .


Here is an obituary on Mel Hein Jr. from the Los Angeles Times  July 9, 2020 by Eric Sondheimer.

Mel Hein Jr., Obituary


George
Thanks so much for this. I knew Mel well when he and I were Striders.
One of the finest men I’ve known!
Best regards 
John Bork


        Gayle Sayers in his more familiar role

The other recent passing  was that of Gayle Sayers, and you may wonder why we mention an NFL legend.  Well, it's because Gayle Sayers ran track at the University of Kansas, and though he was not an All-American in that sport he was still an active participant who showed the way to many others when he competed.  He was so good in football that he didn't have to run track, but he did.  In high school in Omaha, Nebraska, he led the nation in the long jump going over 24 feet in 1961.   His brother, Roger Sayers, was a very good sprinter for the U. of Omaha, and represented the United States in several international meets.

                                   Gayle Sayers Jumping in High School

In 1964 while at the University of Kansas, Sayers led the Big 8 indoor standings in the long jump, 60 yards, and 60 hurdles.  Unfortunately at the Big 8 indoor championships he had a bad night and did not win any of those events.  But to me the highlight of that indoor season was when my Oklahoma Sooners went up to Lawrence, Kansas for our annual dual meet.  The Sooners had a very controversial All American football player in Joe Don Looney, who to avoid spring football, decided to run track, both indoors and outdoors that year.  He had led the nation in punting in the 1963 football season and was the star running back on the Sooner team.  He weighed 220 pounds and was our top sprinter that indoor season.  Big into weightlifting as well and some would say even   bigger in egocentricity.   So there was a lot of pre-race publicity about  Joe Don and Gayle the two All Americans going head to head in the 60 that night.  A much larger than usual crowd showed up that weekday evening to see the  two go at it.  As a miler, running a lot of dual meets I wasn't used to seeing a lot of people come into the arena to watch our team compete, so I was really getting fired up for my race which would follow immediately after the Looney-Sayers race, which was the first or second event of the night.  

The two grid stars were lined up side by side in the middle of the track.  The people in the stands all got quiet and seemed to be holding their collective breath as the starter's pistol was raised.  The gun went off, and Sayers left Looney sitting in the dust looking more like a steam locomotive trying to get going while Don Garlits in his Double A fuel dragster burned rubber all the way down the track..  It was no contest.  The Kansas crowd cheered and then went home.  They had only come to see Looney get whipped by Sayers.  I was in the next event, and suddenly I realized that no one had come to see the mile run or the rest of the meet for that matter.  They had to get back to their studies or to the pubs.  It was quite a let down, but still that night I ran my personal best mile indoors although I was edged out by one of a string of  Kansas milers who took turns  beating me over the years.  

George, I ran my personal best in the Indoor 880 that night too.  But the highlight of the night was not the 60 yard race itself.  It was the moment Sayers and Looney stepped out from under the stands after taking their sweats off, and the crowd saw Looney’s physique, and a loud awed moan erupted from the stands as they saw what he looked like in track togs. He did weights big-time before it was fashionable, and you must remember that build.  There were no others like him in those days.  But Sayers dusted him pretty good that night.   Walt Mizell  

It should be remembered that Mr. Mizell set a Fog Allen Field House 880 record that night which stood until a youngster named Ryun took it down with a world indoor record on that same track.  The vertical support beams came straight down along the inside lane of the track, so a guy running fast could not lean over even an inch or he would bang his head on them.  The track in that fieldhouse is gone but the beams are still there and can be seen when you go through the sports museum under the stands.  

On that same trip we stayed near a YMCA and Looney wanted to go over there and see their weight room.  We ended up playing pool next to the weight room and for some reason Looney banged his pool cue into the door going into the room and some behemoth came out in a show of strength to see what the noise was all about.  He made some threats and Looney stood up to him and said that "size isn't everything in a fight."   The big dude asked him who he was, and Looney told him his name.  The guy didn't say anything, did an about face, walked back in the weight room and politely shut the door.  George Brose

If you care to read a bit more about Gayle Sayers and the recruiting process to get him to Kansas, that can be seen on the link below.  One of the interesting little side lights was when Sayers went to visit the University of Iowa, he never met the head coach of the football team, because he was too busy hosting Henry Carr that weekend.  Carr ended up going to Arizona State, not playing football, and winning the 200 meters gold medal in Tokyo in 1964.

by Dick Chatelain,  The Omaha World




Joe Don Looney


A Looneyism

George, there are a number of good things when you note the passing of the men and women who led the way for us.  Among them are:

The great human interest stories.

The humor that existed midst all that competition.

The photos of dirt and cinder tracks that bring back so many memories.

The pride in knowing that we participated with and against some great athletes.

You do good work, George.

Take care,

Tom Coyne


Thanks, George,

 

Those are two fine stories.  I remember that Joe Don Looney played briefly for the Detroit Lions back in the mid-1969s.  The coach asked him to carry a play into the huddle for the quarterback to call and he refused, saying something to the effect that he wasn’t “an errand boy.”  The Lions got rid of him shortly afterward, although he had some good runs for them.

 

Sincerely,

 

Bruce Geelhoed




Following is a note from my college roommate, Mike Hewitt.


George, you may not (may not, most certainly not) recall, but in the OU/KU winter indoor meet at Lawrence, I beat Sayers! We were in lanes right next to each other. The gun goes off, and he is creating a gap between us rather rapidly. He hits the first or second hurdle and I "zoom" right by him. Zoom is a relative term.


My other claim to fame is holding the Oklahoma 300 meter intermediate hurdles record. An Olympic event was being altered from 200 meter low hurdles to 400 meter intermediate hurdles. As a transition, the intercollegiate event was 300 meter intermediate hurdles for a year. I was the best hurdler we had that year, so I held and still hold the record.

For the briefest period of time I think it was acknowledged in a flashy promotion piece put out for a new coach. It has now been expunged from any recognition consideration!

Sunday, September 20, 2020

V 10 N. 67 "With the Wind: Finding Victory Within" by Sam Chelanga , Reviewed by Paul O'Shea

 The Story of Sam Chelanga, Kenyan and American

 

By Paul O’Shea

 

Book Review

 

With the Wind:

Finding Victory Within

By Sam Chelanga

Morgan James Publishing

114 pp., $13.75

 



I’m always interested in books about runners and coaches. Recently, two entries came on the scene, Born to Coach by the self-important Bill Squires, and the well worth your credit card number Running the Dream by marathoner Matt Fitzgerald.

 

A third entry came into view a short time ago: With the Wind: Finding Victory Within, the autobiography of Sam Chelanga, one of the accomplished Kenyan runners who have had an impact on American distance running in the past two decades.

 

Sam Chelanga won back-to-back NCAA cross country titles in Terre Haute, setting the still standing LaVern Gibson course record of 28:41.2 in 2009. On the track he won the collegiate 10,000, also in record time. After gaining U.S. citizenship, he represented this nation in the 2017 World Cross Country Championships, finishing a creditable 11th, the first American.

 

Chelanga, whose brother Joshua finished third in the 2001 Boston Marathon, was a Paul Tergat discovery in 1990s Kenya. When Fairleigh Dickinson University offered the young runner an athletic scholarship, Tergat played a key role in getting the Kenyan out of Nairobi and into the United States.

 

A visa snafu almost kept Sam Chelanga at home. After his fourth attempt to contact the U.S. Embassy failed, he asked the two-time Olympic bronze medalist for help. Tergat called the U.S. Embassy and successfully lobbied for his protégé. Chelanga boarded a plane out of the country and a few days later, representing Fairleigh, won an invitational at Van Cortlandt Park.

 

That first cross country season in America was an athletic success, as he placed 16th in NCAA Division One at LaVern Gibson, a venue he would continue to find profitable.  But Chelanga was unfulfilled at Fairleigh. Despite his achievements, “I found what I thought I wanted, but there was still a vacancy for happiness. Happiness did not lie where I thought it had.” At the indoor nationals he met Liberty University’s Josh McDougal and it was a university-changing event.

 

McDougal had won the NCAA individual cross country crown a few months earlier. The Kenyan transferred to Liberty, and in the 2008 cross nationals, Chelanga finished second, five seconds behind Galen Rupp. The next two years Chelanga won the national championship he’d been targeting since he was a freshman. All three victories by McDougal and Chelanga were under the direction of Liberty’s Brant Tolsma. Before leaving Lynchburg, Virginia and turning pro, the author won four national cross country and track titles.

 

Chelanga devotes a chapter to his national collegiate 10,000 record, and the workout that almost prevented him from the mark. Stanford’s Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational is an early-season focus for distance runners. Looking to beat the American record Nike Oregon Project coach Alberto Salazar asks Chelanga to pace Rupp. Despite suffering from an injured foot, Chelanga’s a supporting player to Oregon’s leading man. Instead, at the finish Chelanga is two seconds ahead of Rupp, runs 27:08.49, a collegiate record, but it is Chris Solinsky who captures the American record with 26:59.6.

 

Since becoming a citizen in 2011, Chelanga had wanted to earn a U.S. vest and compete at the world majors. His opportunity came in 2016 when he toed the line in the Olympic Trials 10,000.  Unfortunately, 90-degree Eugene heat drained him and he trailed badly in the early miles. Laps later, the temperature took its toll on his competitors. Chelanga re-groups and picks off runners. Working his way through the field he finishes sixth.  Because two runners ahead of him elect to run in other Olympic races, Chelanga is fourth, the alternate on the team.

 

Heat again was an enemy a year later at the World cross country in Uganda.  With three of his sisters seeing him race for the first time, he was the first American to finish at Kampala, in eleventh place.  But a Twitter message goes ass over teakettle. He posts: “I wouldn’t recommend racing in Africa.  Super thankful for eleventh place overall.” 

 

“Somehow,” he writes in his book, “my sarcasm was lost in translation. Instead of what I thought was just a simple social media post to say thank you and to show appreciation for a great day in Uganda, I was bombarded by negativity and hate.”

 

Four notable mentors and runners, Jerry Schumacher, Ben True, James Li and Scot Simmons, coached him in the professional years. Turning pro, he signed with Nike, but the pressure to perform at the elite level was daunting.  “I had a difficult time separating the life as an elite and the love of running I knew that was in me. The contract, expectations, schedules, money and all that I was supposed to live up to was overshadowing all I thought the life of an elite would be.”

 

He had just won the national 25 kilometer title, and finished as top American at the world half marathon. Surprisingly, he then left world class running at age 35 and turned to the military where he enlisted and became an officer at Fort Jackson in South Carolina.

 

With the Wind gets off to a slow start. Before his story is recounted in 114 autobiographical pages there are six pages of Advance Praise, encomiums from fellow athletes Emma Coburn, Carrie Tollefson, Molly Huddle, and LetsRun’s Jonathan Gault. Then, approval from Liberty University President Jerry Falwell (Junior).  Next are two pages each of Content, Preface, Acknowledgements, and Introduction. Finally, a single-page epigraph. That’s an 18-page tempo run just to get to the starting line. Unfortunately, I don’t believe your endurance is fully rewarded. 

 

While Chelanga’s book is capably written, especially when compared with the dross that emerges in much of the running canon, this reader wanted more. More rewarding would have been a deeper dive into his other races. With national records, major college wins and international meets on his resume, there are certainly stories to be told. In these pages, we find too few.

 

There is so much more Chelanga could tell us. What was it like to run for the elite coaches? What were the differences in training philosophies, workout schedules? The performance enhancing scourges that infected Kenyan and other world-class athletes calls out for examination and comment by the author. How does he feel about major medals won by doping athletes, the loss of income by runners who watched the tainted win accolades and bonuses? 

 

Yes, Sam found victory by going within, but he’s left something in the call room.

 

 

Paul O’Shea follows athletics (track and field and cross country) from Fairfax, Virginia.   

Sunday, September 6, 2020

V 10 N. 66 Duplantis beats Kendricks in a Street Fight and Farah and Hassan Break WR's in One Hour Run and Women's Half Marathon Goes As Well

Sunday September 6, 2020 

This  weekend saw two events on the continent result in an American record in the polevault, or did it?

As well  the one hour run World Records for women and men were surpassed.

Also not to be overlooked.  The women's half marathon record for races with women only was 

beaten on Sunday in Prague by Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya in 1 hour 5 min. and 35 seconds.

This surpasses the previous record set by Ethiopean Netsanet Gudeta in 1 hour 6 min. 11 seconds.


Our first report comes from Bill Schnier and Bruce Kritzler who witnessed the polevault from Lausanne on their computer or tv screens.


  I watched the Lausanne meet which was a street vault next to a viaduct in downtown Lausanne.  It was very cool with Angele Bengston from Sweden winning the women's and Mondo Duplantis edging out Sam Kendricks at 6.07 (19' 11") to 6.02 (19' 9"), the latter being a US record.  Duplantis is a US citizen from Louisiana but his mother is Swedish so he has opted to compete for Sweden.  With that in mind I guess he does not qualify as the US record holder.
   It was nice to see the entire PV competition rather than the usual final miss by Kendricks and the winning vault by Duplantis, sandwiched between lap 12 and 13 of the 10K. 
 Bill Schnier


Yeah, 2 hrs. of pole vaulting. Till the sun went down.
I was expecting a whole track meet, but most meets are focusing on a few 
events.
Brussels (Van Damme) had the m/w 1hr. record attempts. Think they 
showed 30:00 of each, which was surprising. But Seb Coe says no one 
wants to watch a 5k/10/3ksteeple?  
Bruce Kritzler

Lausanne Polevault 2020    Here is the link to an hour and 8 minutes of that 
polevaulting competition, produced by Deportesplus.

Now on those 1 hour records.  

Mo Farah and Sifan Hassan both displayed their talent for track running and pacing.  
To go after a World Record for a given time, you have to be very aware of
your pace.  Sean Ingle of The Guardian reported on the timing lights that moved 
around the track with the runners to clue them in on what they needed to be doing.  
Farah had some pacers with him including one  from Belgium, Bashir Abdi, his training partner
     who was also racing and stayed with
him for the duration.   Haile Gebrselassie's old record was 21.285 Kilometers.  So to 
break that record Farah would need to be knocking off 67 second laps as steadily as he
could for 60 minutes.  He was up to the task covering 21.330 Kilometers, thus running
45 meters more than Gebrselassie did in his race.  

If you like doing the math, Farah ran 21,330 meters in 3600 seconds averaging 5.925 
meters per second.  That is 67.51 seconds per 400 meters.    Another way of saying it is 
53 laps and some change back to back, no recovery interval averaging 67.51 seconds.

Remember too that Farah is now 37 years old, a time when the legs start calling into 
question the rantings of the mind.

Unfortunately for Farah, he will always be carrying the stigma of his close association to Alberto
Salazar who operated as close to the edge of legality as is humanly possible.  Despite all those 
years, this is his first world record.  With four olympic golds and six world golds he has more 
than proven himself as a racer and now he is on the list as one of the best pacers of all time, 
joining Nurmi, Zatopek, Clarke and Gebrselassie in that very, very elite club.

Abdhi Gets 20km record in this race
Abdhi was in the lead at 20KM and picked up the WR in that distance at 56:20.02.
The Belgian took his national one hour record away from Gaston Roelants at 20,784 meters
and the European record from Jos Hermans who held it at 20,944 meters.

Sifan Hassan, the Hollandaise, who also has a link to the Oregon Project  showed her 
versatility as she holds the world 1500 and 10,000 meter gold medals, the indoor and 
outdoor mile records and now has the one hour record as well.  

Correction on women's mile from Richard Mach:  

Richard Mach

8:08 AM (2 hours ago)
to me
Genzebe DiBaba holds the world indoor mile record taken down in Stockholm in Feb of 2017 
when she ran 4:13.31 or .32    Because in one of her fast mile races she ran the last half in 2:02,
I suspect we're looking at PEDs.


Hassan's distance of 18.93 Kilometers gives her an average of 5.25 meters/sec. and 76.19
seconds per lap, approximately a 5:05 mile pace.   This also equates to 47 laps and some
change.  She broke Dire Tune's record  by almost 500 meters.  The old record was 18.517
kilometers.   Brigit Kosgei stayed with Hassan until the last 30 seconds of the one hour.

Farah's Race on Youtube    This youtube  is produced by  Total Running Productions 
and gives anexcellent account of the run and explanation of the technology that went into
 the performance.  It must also be remembered that Gebrselassie's recored run was more
of a solo performance.

Hassan's Race on Youtube      This youtube is produced by Start Run Stop.  Noted is the 
absence of pacing lights for the women's race.

George Brose


I had read about the great pole vault events and found the one hour race story at the same time.  That brought back some memories of one hour races at the White City track in the 1950s.  I know I saw a couple of them and if memory serves correctly Gordon Pirie may well have been one of the runners.  I am unable to find any record of it-so maybe the old memory aint what it used to be.  This led to another One Hour run that I remember clearly and have looked up and verified the details.  It was in 1953  probably August or early September and I was preparing to enlist in the RAF to fulfil my National Service obligations which started in mid September of that year.  My family decided it would be a good idea to go on a holiday in Scotland as we had never been there before.  The main part was a visit to the Cowal Games at Dunoon .  By that time I was very interested in track and had been to watch a few meets at the White City. As a result I was delighted to find that the renowned Scottish distance runner Ian Binnie was attempting a National One Hour record run.  He duly completed it in just under 12 miles  and I recall he did not have much opposition.  There are some good articles on him online  and you may wish to have a look and do an article on him sometime.
 
It was a time of other oddities in track- I remember many of the standard ones would incorporate short distance ( 2 or 5 mile) walking races largely because Uk had some of the worlds best at those distances ( Roland Hardy particularly).  Also from time to time they held ( spelling?) Parlauf runs wherein teams of two runners would alternate on the track changing ( I think) at will.  Another area for research.
 
Best wishes.  Hope you are keeping well.
 
Geoff

Those two man relays or par laufs worked best with each guy running a 330 and handing off, then 
jogging back 110 yards to take the baton back from his teammate.  Made for a good workout 
too.  George

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

V 10 No. 66 Ira Berkow's Reporting on Some Track Subjects Jim Thorpe

A few years ago I picked up a book in some forgotten stall here on Vancouver Island.  It is titled  Beyond the Dream, Occasional Heroes of Sports by Ira Berkow.  Only in the last few months have I begun reading it and find myself enthralled by the series of brief interviews with a wide variety of well known and  not so well known, and totally unknown figures in sport.  Ira Berkow is a celebrated Pulitzer Prize winner, a native Chicagoan, a grad of Miami (of Ohio) University, writer for the Minneapolis Tribune, then the New York Times and sports editor for Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA).  Based in New York, a lot of his work covers the New York teams, boxing and other sports, but occasionally he drifts into track and field, and I will put some of his pieces in this blog.   The first piece I'm putting in here is about Jim Thorpe.

                                                       Jim Thorpe and the "Scoop"
                                                          written February, 1973
                                                               by Ira Berkow

     It is not widely known that Roy Ruggles Johnson wrote what is considered the greatest sports "scoop" of the first half of the 20th Century.  But the impact was world-wide and tragic and is still in the news.
 
      Obituaries across the country carried the fact that Johns, who died at age 89, wrote the story disclosing Jim Thorpe's professionalism.

     Johnson was the county editor of the Worcester (Mass.) Telegram, when he wrote teh copyrighted story that broke on January 22, 1913.  He was tipped off that a man visiting relatives nearby was bragging that he managed Jim Thorpe on the Rocky Mount, North Carolina, baseball team in the Piedmont League.  Johnson found the manager, who told him that Thorpe, an outfielder, had been paid $15 a week.  Johnson returned to his office, flipped through his Reach Baseball Guide and saw Thorpe posing with a smile in the Rocky Mount team picture.

     The story resulted in the Amateur Athletic Union stripping Thorpe of medals and trophies he had won in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics  (where he had won, incredibly both the decathlon and the pentathlon).

     Thorpe tried to explain:  "I did not play for the money.  I was not very wise to the ways of the world and did not realize this was wrong.  I hope I will be partly excused by the fact I was simply an Indian schoolboy and did not know I was doing wrong, because I was doing what many other college men had done, except they did not use their own names."

     His medals were never returned and his name has not been restored in the Olympic record book despite various efforts through the years.  Today, a group headed by former Yankee pitcher Allie Reynolds, also an Oklahoma Indian, plans to petition the President to plead the case to the International Olympic Committee.  Don Johnson, son of Roy Ruggles Johnson, says that his father supported the idea that Thorpe's name and medals be restored.

     "My father felt that the AAU was too strict," said Don Johnson, now an executive with the Worcester Telegram.   "There were other athletes playing for money under assumed names in those days, and Thorpe was simply guileless to that."

     Did Roy Ruggles Johnson ever regret writing that story?
     "I'm sure he didn't, " said Johnson.  "The old gent--that's what my brother and I called my father --was a man of rectitude and high moral principle.  He felt it was his job as a newspaperman to write the story.
      "He never boasted about the scoop.  He rarely talked about it.  In fact, I didn't know he had written it until I was in college.
      "And he never explained it.  He never wrote magazine stories about it.  A year after the story broke he did get a job with the Boston Globe, but he didn't even get a writing job.  He got a desk job, and I'm sure it had nothing to do with the Thorpe story."

     It was the lone scoop in Johnson's life.  He went on to write some 3,000 columns for the Globe on Yankee folklore.  Meanwhile, he followed Thorpe's career, which went from pro football and major league baseball to drunkenness, destitution, three marriages, and finally, death in an obscure trailer at age 64.

     Johnson himself a teetotaler, continued to believe in the sanctity of the free press, according to his son.

     "I was always glad about one thing for my father.  That was what happened when he met Thorpe in 1952, forty years after the Stockholm Olympics.  The Boston Globe sponsored a Sportsmen's Show.  Thorpe came, since he was a great fly caster.  Someone got the idea to bring him up to the office to meet my father.  They had never been face-to-face before.

     "My father said, 'Jim, I'm proud to shake your hand. I always thought you were the greatest athlete that ever lived.'  Thorpe bore no rancor to my father. 'You were only doing your job,' said Thorpe."

      Thorpe died one year later.
 
      In Washington, Grace Thorpe, a daughter of Jim's, said, "No, I don't think th e loss of the medals or the fact that his name was taken off the record books made much difference to Dad.  He felt that his achievements were proof enough of his abilities.

     "But I would like to get the medals back to put in the Indian Hall of Fame in Kansas.  And I'd like Dad's name restored in the official books.  It would be for Indian kids, something for them to try to emulate."

Editor's NoteDoing a little fact checking I found that the medals were restored to Thorpe's family on October 14, 1982 and are on display at the Native American Museum of the Smithsonian in Washington DC.

Then: I found the following in the July 2012 issue of The Smithsonian.  "Why are Jim Thorpe's Olympic Records Still Not Recognized?" written by Sally Jenkins.
It’s commonly believed that Thorpe at last received Olympic justice in October of 1982 when the IOC bowed to years of public pressure and delivered two replica medals to his family, announcing, “The name of James Thorpe will be added to the list of athletes who were crowned Olympic champions at the 1912 Games.” What’s less commonly known is that the IOC appended this small, mean sentence: “However, the official report for these Games will not be modified.”
In other words, the IOC refused even to acknowledge Thorpe’s results in the 15 events he competed in. To this day the Olympic record does not mention them. The IOC also refused to demote Hugo  Wieslander of Sweden and the other runners-up from their elevated medal status. Wieslander’s results stand as the official winning tally. Thorpe was merely a co-champion, with no numerical evidence of his overwhelming superiority. This is no small thing. It made Thorpe an asterisk, not a champion. It was lip service, not restitution.
A further search on the IOC website has turned up the following:

Today on the Olympic website  Jim Thorpe is listed as a co-champion in the Decathlon with Hugo Wieslander of Sweden.   However their respective scores are also listed with Thorpe's distinct superiority evident:       Jim Thorpe           Gold       8412.955 points
                                                         Hugo Wieslander Gold      7724.495 points.

The pentathlon result is not listed on the IOC site, but on wikipedia Thorpe is credited again as a co-winner even though he was considerably ahead of the co-champ  Ferdinand Ble of Norway.    The event was scored by the place you finished against the other competitors in each event, much like a cross country meet.   At the end of the five events, Thorpe had 7 points and Ble had 21. 

Interestingly  Avery Brundage, no fan of professionalism, competed in that pentathlon and with 4 events completed he was tied for 3rd place, but he DNF'd in the 1500 meters.  However for some unexplained reason,  he was credited with a 7th place finish and dropped from 3rd to 6th place.   Is it possible Brundage may have in later years resented Thorpe's superiority and put the kabosh on restoration of Thorpe's medals?  We'll probably never know.

Comments:
Bright Path Strong is an organization that is trying to get a 50,000 signature petition to restore Jim Thorpe to the original results of his Olympic victories rather than the shared results that are currently posted.

V 10 N. 72 Remembering Charlie Moore Olympic Gold 1952 400IH R.I.P.

Walt Murphy brought this news to our attention on his blog This Day in Track and Field. The notes below are from Olympedia....