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Looking back at a 53-year-old CU student editorial on NCAA violations

Ryan Koenigsberg Avatar
May 13, 2015


“Professional results are not possible with the use of amateur methods.”
-University of Colorado yearbook staff, 1962.

In yesterday’s throwback I said “my how things have changed,” about how CU football lost the division in 1946 because they played one less league game. Today I am saying “my how little has changed,” when looking at an editorial written by a CU student, in the 1962 yearbook, about the firing of successful CU coach, Everett “Sonny” Grandelius, due to NCAA violations.

While you won’t agree with all points made by the anonymous student, you may be surprised with how relevant many of their points still are today.

For a quick bit of context, Grandelius held a 20-11 record in his three seasons at Colorado, including a appearance in the 1962 Orange Bowl. He was fired after that season, when rumors suggested that the coach used a slush fund to pay between 15 and 30 recruits and their families. After an investigation from the school and the NCAA, that many found to be inconclusive, he was dismissed.  Grandelius was, at the time considered to be the first coach ever fired for recruiting violations.

You might notice they spelled the coaches name wrong throughout the piece, which just adds to it, in my opinion.

Here’s what the yearbook staff had to say (all grammar left as it was in the original):

Editor’s note: Although is is not the usual policy to editorialize in the Coloradan, we feel that the situation that brought about the NCAA charges and ultimately Sonny Gradelious’s firing has become one of the major paradoxes of our nation’s universities. It is our hope that by presenting this material we may shed some light on this issue. We are not against varsity athletics, as the following pages will show, but we do feel they may be over-emphasized and the true purpose of the University is education and development of the mind.

Whatever else it may offer, the profession of coaching collegiate football does not boast tenure or security. Unless your name happens to be Bud Wilkinson, there is little insurance against sudden dismissal, explained or otherwise.

Sonny Grandelious knew this when he chose as a calling the hazardous task of coaching football. He realized the excesses of patriotism inspired in the hearts of old grads by the gridiron exploits at the alma mater. He understood the turbulent vacillations of policy inspired by these emotions. He was aware of the consequences.

In coaching it is the winner who survives, and conversely it is the loser who falls prey to the pack. Grandelious was, as he himself said. “a realist.” He knew that it was win-or-else and he wanted to win. This goal was, in fact, if not a fetish, a necessity. Herbert Spenser defined admirably Grandelious’s position in his phrase, the survival of the fittest.

Herein lies the apparent contradiction of Grandelious’s dismissal last March 17. The Colorado University coach was fired for doing what, in effect, he had to do. Whether this be “beating Oklahoma” or simply molding a winning team is irrelevant. Grandelious did both and more.

It was for his methods, not his results that he was dismissed from his post. The question of responsibility follows: Is the coach responsible for pursuing methods not in accord with those dictated by the NCAA? This is to ask only if Grandelious can be held accountable for coaching and recruiting in a manner which insured that Colorado University fans got what they wanted – in fact demanded – a winning football team.

There is a paradox here. For if a team of professional caliber is demanded, is it not inconsistent to sanction only amateur methods? Isn’t there some measure of hypocrisy involved, not only on the part of the administration, but on the part of us all? Was Sonny condemned for offering pecuniary incentives to the football prospects, or was he condemned for getting caught at it?

By this we do not mean to suggest that the firing of Grandelious was an incorrect decision. We only hope that in the future there shall be no cause for the reoccurrence of such incident. We hope that Colorado University can realize that professional results are not possible with the use of amateur methods. We hope, finally, that the administration will make is clear to Grandelious’s successor that he can avoid professional methods and sill retain his post. It is possible for us to live without the crutch of a winning football team, Moreover it is possible to have a great university without a great football team .

We congratulate the Board of Regents and the Administration for its professed goal of “honor at the University.” They are to be commended also for conducting  an extensive investigation of the matter and for submitting to the NCAA a detailed report.

Football need not be abolished at Colorado. Neither should athletic scholarships be taken away. But when the emphasis becomes “win-or-else,” and the coach is revered as a high god or despised as only a coach can be, depending on his measure of success, then it has attained proportion of unseemly magnitude. Football should be a sport, not a business, and we believe firmly that there can exist an honorable and successful academic institution if such is the case.

In short, we can all pursue “honor at the University” by being less demanding in our expectation of winning football scores.

My how little has changed.

The reality of college athletics was then, and is now, if you want to win, you have to bend and manipulate the regulations put in place by the governing body. The objective is not to keep from breaking the rules, it is to keep from getting caught. Do that, and you’ll be just fine.

As media and social media grow, incidents like what happened at CU 50 years ago get blown to the moon, because everybody has a medium to share their thoughts. People want change, but if nothing has changed in the last 50 years, why should we expect that anything will change in the next 50?

Sure you can think that the new legislation from the NCAA allowing for universities to provide “full cost-of-attendance,” to student athletes is change, and for the athletes on a personal level that is great. But soon that will become the bare minimum, and the schools who are willing and able to provide a little bit more here and there will continue to rise to the top.

“Professional results are not possible with the use of amateur methods.” Sad, but true.


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