The Rise of the Modern Athletic Department at the
University of Washington
A study of the athletic scholarship from 1955 to 1975
When I originally started my research for this paper I was attempting to trace the history
of the full-ride scholarship athlete at the University of Washington. I was seeking to
determine who or what team was the first to receive a full-ride athletic scholarship in
comparison to what is common practice within today‟s intercollegiate athletics programs.
While doing this research I had some personal assumptions that would be changed as I
went through the process of historical reconstruction. I believe that in writing this paper
it is important that I list those assumptions here as a starting point:
st1 – I believed that the athletic department, which is a recognized department in the
University of Washington, used some amount of state money in its daily operations for
such things as tuition, room & board, and tutors for student athletes.
nd2- I believed that the President of the University is the man or woman in charge of the
Athletic Director who is in charge of the hiring or firing of coaches.
As the research process started I found that in order to trace scholarships within athletics
along with Athletic Department monies I would need to focus on football. As the three
thare or have been tied together since the beginning of the 20 century (30). With a little
more investigation into the modern Husky Athletic Department Website I found that the
department is in fact financially independent from the state of Washington and the
University. At this point I was already starting to determine new questions needing to be answered within my research.
The last stand for my original topic came within the class period when Carver Gayton spoke on the racial unrest within the UW football team during 1969. Within class Mr. Gayton spoke of his private conversation with Joe Kearny, the Athletic Director in 1969, in which Kearny said that if it was up to him he would have fired Jim Owens during 1969, but he could not due to the forces within the state and local community. During that presentation I asked myself, who were these individuals that would not allow the head of a department to not be able to fire an individual within his department after a gross episode of misconduct.
With my mounting questions, along with an article in The Seattle Times (16) by Bob
th which detailed the Husky Athletic Departments multimillion Condotta on February 8
dollar profits over the past 20 years, I reformed my project thesis and determined that the question I wished to attempt to answer would be as follows:
If a department at the University of Washington has averaged roughly 2 to 3 million dollars per year in net profits over the past 20 years, making it the only department to turn a profit at the University of Washington, is it not a private business? And how did this come to pass?
In order to answer this question I continued to gather background information on football processes at the University of Washington along with the other regional schools with which it competed athletically. I would end up having to compare histories from the Pacific Coast Conference (PCC) and the Pac-8 versus what was occurring at similar times within the Athletic Department at the UW. The changes that were occurring in the Athletic Department at the UW similarly were happening on a national level due to rules changes by the NCAA. Hence, through triangulation of local papers (Seattle Times,
Seattle P-I, Angus, UW Daily) along with the histories of the NCAA and the Athletic
Conferences I was able to establish a framework for locating when the changes occurred within the UW Athletic Department.
Likewise by culling through articles within the newspapers along with interviews of the Athletic Director, Jim Owens, I was able to determine Athletic Department Revenue totals for certain years before 1975 in order to provide a reference tool looking at the incredible rise in the amount of revenue generated. I could then correlate the increased revenue streams to the rise of the full-ride athletic scholarship. Therefore I will initially present some background information so that the context of the period of time can be more readily understood within the framework of history.
th century, I have found that there During the rise of the modern university during the 20
can be found an equally rapid rise of a modern athletic department step for step within many of these same universities. This phenomenon, which is unique to the United States higher education system, has seen the rise of what could be argued by Philip Bailey (Argus, 1967) to be a semi-professional league formed under the watch of both public
and private university presidents. The meteoric increase of costs and therefore revenue within the University of Washington Athletic Department during the period of time from 1957 through the enactment of Title XI in 1974 seems to be directly related to the arrival of the full athletic scholarship, otherwise known as the “full-ride”. This paper is a
reconstruction of this 20 year period at the University of Washington during the rise of the modern athletic department. The paper will begin its focus at the beginning of the Jim Owens era, before the use of full-ride scholarships, through to the rise of the women‟s intercollegiate athletics at the UW during the era of full scholarships.
As we have found in our study of the history of higher education, money and power have been at the heart of the all of the movements in the realm of higher education. The same can found to be true in the birth of an independent department that is both financially and power independent from the university except in name. Unfortunately I found, that the investigation of athletics and scholarships at a university such as Washington, much to my chagrin as mentioned earlier, is really a history of intercollegiate division I football.
My original intent was to investigate the first full athletic scholarship athletes at the
University of Washington, but to do this requires the investigation of the rise of football
at the UW, which in turns leads to the rise of the modern athletic department.
Thus within this paper I will attempt to chart out the forces that caused the transformation
from student funded club( Joe Kearny, Daily, 23) into a fully functional multi-million
dollar “private” for profit business. I am willing to use the term private, as the athletic
department will inform you, it does not consume nor use a single state dollar in its
production of intercollegiate athletes. Thus it is not a publicly funded department; rather
it is privately funded through a combination of generated revenue and donations.
In the process of attempting to explain the powers that forced the birth of the modern
athletic department we will first need to examine the national forces which were shaping
intercollegiate athletics at the time. In our study of history we constantly resonated on
the theme of the self-made man which is typified as Rudolph puts it in his statement that,
“football-early football, in any case-glorified the individual; it put on display not the wonders of machines but robustness, ingenuity, and imagination of man.” This
stereotype of the ideal athlete as the perfect individual has been used as justification for
the continuance of the modern athletic department at any point in which monetary
matters have been brought forth(Daily, 22, 25, 26; Seattle P-I, 7).
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) oversees and regulates athletics at
all institutions of higher education. They have become the purse holders of the money
that streams into the system from television contracts and major athletic events such as
bowl games and championship games. Of course this was not always the case, regulation
does not occur without there being public interest, and interest does not occur without
their being money.
“The NCAA‟s father was football and its mother was higher education”, this union of
two opposite forces was created due to Presidential intervention into collegiate athletics
(http://www.ncaa.com, 32). The 1905 college football season produced 18 deaths and
149 serious injuries, which in turn lead to institutions involved to question the game‟s
place on their campuses. The lament of James Roscoe Day, chancellor of Syracuse
University, that “one human life is too big a price for all the games of the season”
typified the feelings of the populace during the era of the progressive movement. With a
strong movement afoot to do away with playing of football on college campuses the
President Theodore Roosevelt, a Harvard man, football fan and former student-athlete,
stepped in to mediate. On October 9, 1905, Roosevelt called representatives of Harvard,
Yale, and Princeton to the White House to discuss the game‟s future. Roosevelt was
clear: Reform the game or it will be outlawed, perhaps even by Executive Order of the
Henry M. MacCracken, the chancellor of New York University, called a meeting of
football-playing institutions of higher education in order to reform the game. Thirteen
institutions attended the first meeting on December 9, 1905 in New York City. At this
first meeting the schools present decide to reform the game and meet later that month.
On December 28, at the second meeting with some 62 institutions present saw the
suggestion for the creation of a formal association, the Intercollegiate Athletic
Association of the United States (IAAUS). This second meeting also saw the fledgling
IAAUS created a new football rules committee which oversaw an overhaul of the old
rules of play, thereby creating a safer more modern version of football. By March of
1906 the IAAUS had drawn up a formal constitution and bylaws.
The second article of the constitution put forth the purpose of the Association: “Its object
shall be the regulation and supervision of college athletics throughout the United States,
in order that the athletic activities… may be maintained on an ethical plane in keeping
with the dignity and high purpose of education.” Within the bylaws was a set of
regulations known as the home rule, “whereby each institution was responsible for
policing itself.” This idea of self policing would be the rule of law for the next 50 years
or more. The residue of this self policing, during the era from 1901-1952, will still be
evident within the areas of recruiting and athlete compensation throughout the 1960‟s and
1970‟s. This practice sets a dangerous precedent for a burgeoning arena of popular sport.
The article responsible for the self policing clause states, “The Colleges and Universities enrolled in this Association severally agree to take control of student athletic sports, as far as may be necessary, to maintain in them a high standard of personal honor, eligibility and fair play, and to remedy whatever abuses may exist.” Due to the home rule the University of Washington felt it could approach intercollegiate athletics through a hands-off tactic. What this meant for the UW was that the Associated Student Body of the University of Washington (ASUW) would create a club that used student fees and alumni donations directly to students to fund intercollegiate athletics.
During the years leading up to WWI the IAAUS kept growing as larger members of the higher education world joined its ranks. By 1910 boasting a national list of institutions it renamed itself the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). By 1919, there were 170 institutions in the NCAA, with the association overseeing some 11 sports.
This period of time from 1910 through 1948 saw a period of unparalleled cheating going on within collegiate football. Since the schools were to police themselves as they saw fit, many saw fit to do nothing in the management of collegiate athletics during this period. It was during this time that the University of Washington‟s Associated Students in Intercollegiate Athletics club came to the fore front in the management of intercollegiate athletics at the UW. This club was run by a series of individual faculty, student associations and committees during its lifetime (Henry Jackson School, Histories of UW
depts.). By 1955 the club was operating with revenue of $650,000 (Argus, 2). What was
called an Athletic Manager, the advisor, ran the club until having the position re-titled to Director of Athletics in the later years (GENCAT 73-031).
During this period of time the specter of money to be gained by success through athletics appeared in the form of highly lucrative post season bowl games. The Pacific Coast Conference often times found its champions being invited to play in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California with the invited school taking home a hefty purse. The emergence
of a number of these post season bowl games in turn resulted in an “arms race” of sorts
for athletic departments in an attempt to get a slice of the monetary pie being handed out.
It would not be until 1952 that the NCAA would finally create the backbone of the
modern intercollegiate athletics in what is called the 12-point code. The code covered the
following within its bylaws: Section 1 – Principle of Amateurism; Section 2 – Principle
of Institutional Control; Section 3 – Principle of Sound Academic Standards; Section 4-
Principles governing financial Aid; Section 5 – Principles governing recruiting.
Section 4 – Financial aids in the form of scholarships, fellowships or otherwise, even
though originating from sources other than persons on whom the recipient may be
naturally or legally dependent for support, shall be permitted without loss of
Thus, the NCAA finally had gained the right to investigate and levy punishment for
violations of the 12-point code. In my study of scholarship athletics I focused on what
section 4 meant to intercollegiate athletics. Up until this point college football teams had
often times used professionals within their ranks, Rudolph went so far as to talk about an
agreement in which each team accepted a limit of two professionals per team. The
professionals often turned out to be hired railroad or dockside workers of the sturdiest of
builds. Thus after 1952 those who played college athletics would all be amateur student
athletes. Up until this point the athletes would often find themselves of great interest to
the boosters who would often support them financially for playing on their favored team.
At the University of Washington there were stories of Hugh McElhenny, a UW football
player during this period of transition, who was “an authentic star, [who] took a pay cut when he left the Huskies for the professional San Francisco 49ers” (Argus, 2).
Not soon after the introduction of the 12-point code the UW was caught in what is
referred to as the “slush fund” scandal of 1955 (Seattle Times, 13). This scandal saw a players‟ revolt during which a downtown “slush fund” was made public. During 1955
the football coach, John Cherberg, and the athletic director, Harvey Cassill, both left the University of Washington after the scandal. This paved the way for George Briggs to become athletic director, which then allowed Briggs to hire Jim Owens to be head football coach.
It must be noted that in 1955 the athletic department was still a part of the ASUW in the form of a club, thus when Briggs is referred to as an athletic director he is really an advisor to the athletic club. Throughout the next 7 years, both Briggs and Owens will make decisions without the approval of the ASUW club and thus forcing the club to retro-actively pass resolutions of business that is completed without prior student approval. The arrival of Owens signals an end to the period of time of upfront under the table payments and double academic standards for student athletes on the UW football team.
During the last years of the Pacific Coast Conference from 1956 to its end in 1958 the league found itself split between the athletically financially rich schools: University of Washington (UW), University of Southern California (USC), University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), University of California at Berkley (Cal), and Stanford. Versus the financially weaker schools: Washington State College (WSC), University of Oregon (UO), Oregon State University (OSU), and the University of Idaho (UI). During this time period within the league the concept of the full-ride scholarship was often brought up by the University of Washington, but was opposed by the weaker schools. Thus, what was termed the “labor programs” of scholarship would be continued at the UW until well into the middle 1960‟s.
In 1958 the Big Five in an attempt to gain more national prominence as “football” powerhouses comparable to “teams such as Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Alabama” felt the need to disband the conference to form what was known as the Athletic Association of Western Universities (Argue, 5, 6; Seattle Times, 19). The next spring, in
February of 1959, “the Universities of Oregon and Idaho, Oregon State College, and Washington State College said they plan to give outright financial aid – a “full ride” – to
athletics.” George Briggs, Washington Athletic Director in 1959, on commenting on this occurrence states that the former Northern Division schools of the PCC “now are adopting through practicality what they opposed us on through philosophy.” This
outcome is a direct example of how these finically weaker schools athletic departments are forced into a scholarship race in order to attract and recruit better athletes for their football programs in order to keep up with the big boys. This would almost appear to be a free-market approach to college athletics.
This is the first generation of a new approach to athletic scholarships to occur on the west coast. At this point the full-ride scholarship is now ready to become a mainstay within the intercollegiate athletic world, but the University of Washington and the rest of the Big Five will hold out until the mid 1960‟s before jettisoning the work scholarship programs of the past and adopting the full ride athletic scholarship. During this time at the Owens lead UW we can see the creation of two different forms of athletic scholarships that have been created as a result of the 12-point code in 1952. Through a process somewhat similar to Darwinism one of these forms of athletic scholarships will ultimately prove to be more successful at recruiting athletes, while the other will dwindle off over the next 10 years.
On January 16, 1960 it is reported that George Briggs will resign as UW Athletic Director with Jim Owens, UW head football coach, replacing him. This is occurring after Jim Owens has led the UW to an underdog victory over University of Wisconsin in the 1960 Rose Bowl. During Mr. Gayton‟s presentation within class he talked about the reverence with which Jim Owens was held after accomplishing this feat. It is not surprising then that at this time there is a relative lack of information about the hiring of Owens. The Seattle Times(13) article I located avoids going into anything that could be
called detail, but I believed an investigation into the processes of revenue generation would help to enlighten the lack of information over why Jim Owens was chosen to head what was still not a department at this time within the University of Washington.