A COLLECTION OF STORIES ABOUT PEOPLE AND LIFE EXPERIENCES
A COLLECTION OF STORIES ABOUT PEOPLE AND LIFE EXPERIENCES
Football games were a really big deal at my college, so the start of every new season triggers fond memories and faded images of good times for me. .
But whenever I think about my student days at Miami University, I also recall the foolish and regrettable mistake that I made on that campus in Oxford, Ohio.
The home games were far and away my favorites.
What a phenomenon they!
Always on a Saturday, and guaranteed sellouts.
The scenes were straight out of Hollywood.
School colors -- red and white -- filled most of the seats in the modest, old fashioned stadium called Miami Field..
Students in "dress up" attire mixing with many faculty members, administration officials and other employees.
All yelling support and singing the "fight song."
Acrobatic cheerleaders chanting ”Goooo Team" to rally the crowd plus a band blaring nonstop off the field -- and marching on it at halftime.
The experience was far better than I'd expected when I left home in New York City in 1960 and enrolled at Miami, a public university with about 7,000 students then.
The school was tucked away in the southwest corner of the "Buckeye State" near the borders with Indiana and Kentucky. Most of the buildings shared classic Georgian architecture and were fairly close together on a bucolic campus, which was bisected by a diagonal "Slant Walk" and a lofty bell tower there rang every 15 minutes.
Oxford also was special as a college town. It had fewer permanent residents than Miami had students, and it's roots dated all the way back to the establishment of the school in 1809 under a charter document that was signed by George Washington, believe it or not.
I arrived totally unaware that Miami's strong academic reputation was paralleled by a rich history in football and other sports. I soon discovered that it was known as the "cradle of coaches" in football because a pantheon of legends played, coached or did both there before great careers at top tier collegiate and professional operations. The list included Paul Brown, "Weeb" Ewbank, Woody Hayes, Ara Parseghian, Sid Gillman and John Pont,
Miami teams — known as “Redskins”— competed in a “Mid-American Conference“ or ”MAC” with rivals in Ohio as well as Michigan and West Virginia. It wasn't equal to so-called powerhouse conferences, such as the Big Ten and Southeastern, but the MAC was highly respected and Miami athletes often were champions.
Yet many Miami alumni and students wanted teams capable of battling the top ranked schools. They loved it when an underdog Miami football team went to Indiana to play Purdue University, then rated #3, and won to the dismay of some 100.000 hometown fans. That was cause for lots of celebration in Oxford.
A couple of years later, when I was on the staff of the "Miami Student" newspaper, I was assigned to cover a home game. At halftime, I was struck by the performance of the marching band, about 100 young men and women wearing red uniforms and caps with plumes on top.
The music sounded fine. But execution of marching formations? One miscue after another.
A drummer turning left crashed into a trombone player turning right. Down went the guy with the horn.
A moment later, a coed flute player ran into a nearby twirler waiting to catch a baton 20 feet up in the air. The falling baton distracted the band's leader, who stopped and left band members unsure what to do.
Nobody expected Miami marchers to do the kind of complex stunts and maneuvers performed by some of the best bands in the country such as those at Ohio State University, the University of Michigan or the University of Alabama.
But this was pretty bad. All of us in the press box and many of the spectators guffawed and hooted at the on-field fiasco.
After going to the newspaper office, I wrote my report about the game and then also decided to do an opinion column that harshly criticized the band, labeling it "The Stumbling 100." When the paper came out a couple of days later, my fraternity brothers and numerous other students congratulated me.
I felt great, and the next morning I got a phone call from somebody working for Miami's president, Dr. John Millett, who told me the top man was "inviting" me to come in for a chat after class that day.
I was beyond excited. I'd never met Millett, had barely even seen him. As I was ushered into his office, I noticed immediately that a copy of the student newspaper was on his desk and open to the page where my column was.
Could that be what was on his mind? Yup.
Why did you write it, he asked. "Because that's what I thought of the band's performance," I replied, trying to sound confident.
Then, more questions. Had I considered the feelings of the band members? Had I thought about how much they practice daily and try their best? Had I thought about the parents proud of sons and daughters in the band? Had I realized, in retrospect, that my column was actually cruel and insensitive?
To close, he said he was a staunch defender of First Amendment rights to write and speak freely, but not for expressions of opinion that fail to serve a worthy purpose.
I got the message.
Then, as I was about to leave, he suggested that I write an apology in the newspaper aimed at band members and their families, all over the country.
Naturally, I complied, in time to make the next edition of the paper. To my great surprise, the apology was as prominent as possible -- on the front page in bold print with a black border or "box" around it.
I found out much later that Dr. Millett had asked the paper's editor-in-chief to publish my column that way.
As you might guess, the congratulations I'd received three days earlier on campus faded to whispers. I had been humbled, properly.
About four months passed. I was nearing the end of my studies at Miami, and looking ahead. I had decided to seek a graduate degree in business, instead of law, as I originally planned. But I knew I had a real problem: I was a political science major, without any business course credits -- not even basic economics or accounting.
While casting around for a solution, I concluded my top choice was back in New York -- the fine business school at Columbia University. I also had serious doubts that I could make the cut despite pretty good grades at Miami, solid scores on entrance exams and some relatives who had attended Columbia, which I thought might help.
Then, voila, I knew of an odd coincidence. My "friend," Millett, was a Columbia grad and Dr. Grayson Kirk, then president of Columbia, was a Miami grad. So with great trepidation, I asked for an appointment with Millett to get some advice, and he agreed to see me.
This time, I entered his office feeling about as nervous as I'd ever been. After I had explained my situation, Millett looked at me, said he thought I "learned my lesson" after the marching band episode and that he considered my academic record good enough for him to send a letter of recommendation to Columbia.
I could barely wait to get out of Millett's office. I was fighting back tears of appreciation.
Luckily, I did get to attend Columbia's business school, to graduate and then have a wonderful career without ever again being deliberately cruel to anybody.
Sing it Elvis: "Don't be Cruel."
Roger Shelley, a resident of the New York area, was a Revlon executive and founded The Shelley Group.
Legends on the gridiron such as Paul Brown, Woody Hayes, Ara Parseghian, Sid Gillman and John Pont brought the school fame in the collegiate football world and it became known as "the cradle of coaches."