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Sport: Buckeye Beauty

4 minute read

The college football season goes into its second half this week. Attendance is 25% below last year’s, upsets are commonplace and, as expected, a Midwest coach is tearing toward the goal line with the Coach of the Year under his arm. But he is not Minnesota’s George Hauser, Michigan’s Fritz Crisler, nor Notre Dame’s Frank Leahy. He is a pint-sized upstart: Ohio State’s Paul Brown.

Eighteen years ago Paul Brown was too small to make the Ohio State football team. This year, his second as coach, he has made it all right—made it the dream team of the season. When he took over last fall, Brown was on the spot. Yanked out of a high-school coaching job by popular request and shoved on to the bench of the fifth largest university in the U.S., he was expected to do for dear old O.S.U. what he had done for the tiny steel town of Massillon, Ohio. That was a large order.

88 and 8 in 8. Massillon (pop. 26,000) is Paul Brown’s home town, as well as the cradle of pro football. Football mad, the Massillon high-school committeemen gave little Brownie free rein with the job of football coach eleven years ago. He knew what to do with it. He gathered together a staff, got them jobs as physical-education instructors in Massillon’s grade schools. By the time Massillon’s kids got to high school, they had learned fundamentals the way Brown wanted them taught.

Paul Brown’s unique farm system bore fruit. For eight years in a row the Massillon Tigers won the Ohio scholastic football championship. They lost only eight games out of 88, turned out so many players who later became big-time college stars that Massillon became a hangout for college scouts. Before Brown’s regime, 3,000 was a big crowd for a Massillon High School game. The year he left, the school owned a $300,000 stadium (with enough seats for nearly every man, woman & child in the town), supported a snazzy 64-piece band (with drum major and four majorettes), attracted larger football crowds than any college team in Ohio except Ohio State.

Hailed as a miracle man, Brown was drafted by Ohio State fans to heal their University’s sickly football prestige. In unheard-of generosity, Ohio high-school coaches formally petitioned Ohio State’s athletic board to try their 32-year-old colleague, promised to steer the cream of their football crops to the University if it did. But to jump from scholastic football into the Big Ten requires the courage of a Commando. Pedantic Paul Brown had it.

T, 2 and I. Last year the Buckeyes lost only one game (to Northwestern). So far this season, Ohio State has won five straight (over Fort Knox, Indiana, South ern California, Purdue and Northwestern), is one of the two undefeated teams in the Big Ten, one of the twelve in the nation. Even Columbus’ notorious downtown quarterbacks are satisfied with Brown’s generalship. They unanimously believe Paul Brown will some day be to Ohio State what Knute Rockne was to Notre Dame.

Brown turns scarlet when sportswriters call him Precision Paul. Nevertheless, it is his passion for punctilio that makes this year’s Ohio State team tick like a Swiss watch. In a game, he forbids players to lie down during time out, forbids his water carrier even to come on the field.

1,585 in 5. On the offense, the Buckeyes are beautiful to behold. Led by Fullback Gene (“Big Bertha”) Fekete, one of the 24 sophomores on the squad, the Buck ball-carriers in five games have gained 1,585 yards from scrimmage—a record no other Big Ten team can match. Big Bertha alone has scored 60 of the team’s 165 points. Defensively, Paul Brown’s greenhorns are no slouches either. Last fortnight, in limiting Purdue to only one first down and only 14 yards by rushing, the Buckeyes turned in a historic performance.

This week Ohio State will tackle Wisconsin, the Big Ten’s other undefeated team. The Buckeyes are pointing for the Badgers, who boast three hard-hitting H-boys—Elroy Hirsch, Pat Harder and Mark Hoskins. Reason: Badger Coach Harry Stuhldreher, an old Massillon quarterback before he became one of Notre Dame’s immortal Four Horsemen, was Brown’s boyhood idol.

If Ohio State can get by Wisconsin—then Pittsburgh, Illinois, Michigan (its traditional rival) and the Iowa Pre-Flight Cadets—Paul Brown’s Buckeyes may well deserve the mythical U.S. championship as well as that of the Big Ten.

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