Baylor Football Recruitment and Scholarships in the 1950s

Student-athlete recruitment and compensation has been a constant debate in the world of collegiate sports since the beginning of intercollegiate athletics (Schott, 1996).  The 1950s in particular is a fascinating decade in which to study student-athlete recruitment and compensation both nationally and locally at Baylor.  The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) made multiple changes to the national regulations between 1948 and 1960.  These changes affected schools across the country, the Southwestern Conference, and Baylor University.  The following paper explains the national changes established by the NCAA and the changes within the Southwestern Conference, and shows the effect all of the changes had on Baylor football players and staff in the 1950s.  However, despite the changes, financial aid was not a sufficient motivator for student-athletes to attend Baylor University.

National Context

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) was established in the early 1900s to set standards across the country for all college sports, including football.  At first, the NCAA was not a strong enforcer.  However, over time it began to control the rules of the games, national championship events, commercialization, and eligibility, recruiting, and compensation of all current and prospective players (Smith, 2000).  Eckard (1998) states that the NCAA’s “most important and controversial activity involves enforced restrictions on player recruiting, eligibility, and compensation” (p. 347).  The 1920s saw the first rules of recruitment and financial aid, and changes were continuously made, but overall individual schools and conferences were left to enforce their own rules (Eckard, 1998). However, just through the decades of 1940 and 1950, regulations on recruiting and compensation changed drastically.  Intercollegiate sports were effected by many external factors that could not be controlled by the NCAA, college presidents, or athletic directors and coaches.  Smith (2000) explains this major shift in higher education and athletic programs in the 1940s:

After World War II, with a dramatic increase in access to higher education on the part of all segments of society … public interest expanded even more dramatically that it had in the past.  Increased interest, not surprisingly, led to even greater commercialization of intercollegiate athletics. …. More colleges and universities started athletic programs, while others expanded existing programs, in an effort to respond to increasing interest in intercollegiate athletics.  These factors, coupled with a series of gambling scandals and recruiting excesses, caused the NCAA to promulgate addition rules, resulting in an expansion of its governance authority (p. 14).

The NCAA knew that they needed to take the reins to control their member institutions and protect both the players and institutions.

In January of 1948, the “Sanity Code” was enacted by the NCAA (Associated Press [AP], 1948; Eckard, 1998; Smith, 2000).  According to Smith (2000), the code “was designed to ‘alleviate the proliferation of exploitive practices in the recruitment of student-athletes’” (p. 14).  This code consisted of two major pieces of legislation, the rules themselves and the creation of the Constitutional Compliance Committee.  The rules severely limited scholarships, especially athletic scholarships, and recruiting tools and mechanisms (AP, 1948).  The major focus was on the “Principle of Amateurism” which states that amateur athletes, in this case college athletes, cannot be paid for any athletic participation (Bibber, 1956).  The intentionality of treating students as amateurs raised the question of financial aid for student-athletes. The “Sanity Code” stated that scholarships can be given based on need (as long as it does not exceed tuition and fees) or academic scholarship.  However, the code did not permit schools to award athletic scholarships based solely on athletic talent.  Athletic staff were also prohibited from soliciting prospective students on the basis of financial aid (Bibber, 1956).  The Constitutional Compliance Committee was put in charge of enforcing all of the new rules.  However, the committee’s only consequence was expulsion, which was overly severe and “rendered the Committee impotent and the rules ineffectual” (Smith, 2000).

In 1950, a Memorandum was sent from the NCAA to university presidents, faculty representatives, and athletic directors of the member institutions.  This memorandum reviewed the effectiveness and efficiency of the “Sanity Code” that had been put into place a few years prior.  They claimed the code was:

to set and enforce standards for the conduct of intercollegiate athletics and particularly regulations which have for their objectives the control of recruiting and subsidizing students with athletic ability, practices which are admittedly unhealthy in the fostering of amicable athletic relationships as well as detrimental to the sound purposes of an intercollegiate athletic program” (Aigler, Stewart, Houston, & Lynah, 1950).

The letter emphasized three distinct opinionated groups that had formed over the previous two years, some of which were in full support and others who strongly opposed.  The three opinions are outlined below:

  1. Member institutions that favored the code and appreciated the Association for the strict code;
  2. Member institutions that believed they did not need a code of conduct to guide their behavior; and
  3. Member institutions that appreciated the code by felt it was too limiting, especially for those students who are needy (Aigler et al., 1950).

Most of the institutions fit into the first group.  Many small colleges identified with this group because larger schools were unable to poach talented players because of their extraordinary resources under the strict rules of the “Sanity Code”.  The second group was mostly larger schools who had large amounts of scholarship money available to give their student-athletes.  Overall, the Association realized the biggest current issue is the mistrust between member institutions (Aigler et al., 1950).  The “Sanity Code” had been protecting small schools who do not trust larger schools, and larger schools who do not necessarily trust or respect each other.

Due to the overly restrictive rules and ineffective enforcing committee, the original “Sanity Code” was repealed in January 1951 (Eckard, 1998; Smith, 2000).  A new code was introduced in January of 1952 that mirrored the “Sanity Code” but was more realistic with eligibility, recruiting, and financial aid, along with a committee that was a more “workable enforcement mechanism” (Eckard, 1998).  The new committee was given sanctioning power besides solely expulsion, which allowed more authorizing power (Smith, 2000).  There were two articles in The Daily Lariat in January of 1952 discussing athletic scholarships.  One spoke about a meeting of a special sports committee that recommended all athletic scholarships should be abolished and should instead be given based only on educational ability and financial need (Associated Press, 1952, January 9).  The other article discussed a meeting of college presidents who called for an abolishment of athletic scholarships (Associated Press, 1952, January 10).  Both articles came out just as the original “Sanity Code” was being abolished and the new one was introduced.  The original had been abolished to give the institutions more freedom, especially regarding scholarships, but both articles mentioned committees that rejected that freedom.

Despite push from either aforementioned committees, semi-strict rules, and a working enforcement committee, the edited “Sanity Code” did not last.  In 1954, the “Sanity Code” was officially abandoned by the NCAA to approach another concept of regulation for institutions and student-athletes (Bibber, 1956).

The Southwest Athletic Conference Aligns with NCAA

In the same years that the NCAA was changing their rules, the Southwest Athletic Conference was working to align themselves with national policies.  In 1950, the members of the Southwest Athletic Conference were the University of Arkansas, The Rice Institute, Southern Methodist University, the University of Texas, Texas A&M University, Texas Christian University, and Baylor University.  Each university was required to send a representative from the school to weigh in on conference-wide matters.  In 1950, there was much discussion revolving around matching conference rules with those of the NCAA’s “Sanity Code.”  The following statements are from the record of the Southwest Athletic Conference Executive Secretary that reflect the conference’s policy changes:

  • “Prohibition includes outside aid and outside jobs, except jobs during summer and during school vacations;”
  • “Any outside rewards such as gifts of money, clothes, lavish entertainment, excessive loans, or acting as sureties for excessive loans, shall be considered as financial aid and prohibited;”
  • “The following financial aids to an athlete shall by permitted without loss of eligibility: …a scholarship based on high academic attainment… a grant-in-aid based on demonstrated need for financial assistance;”
  • “A scholarship based on qualifications of which athletic ability shall not be one;” and
  • “The term of any grant-in-aid awarded under the provisions of this paragraph shall be not more than one college year, and it shall not be renewed for a subsequent year unless the recipient has demonstrated continued need for assistance and has a cumulative grade average not below the minimum grade average required for graduation” (Southwest Athletic Conference [SAC] Executive Secretary, 1950, pp. 10, 21)

All of these statements were recommended by the SAC Executive Secretary to the faculty representatives to change in the by-laws at their meeting in 1950.  These recommendations, when compared to the “Sanity Code,” are very similar in terms of rules and strictness.

The conference even went as far to discuss compensation for their players, outside of the constructs of financial aid.  In the same document written up by the SAC Executive Secretary (1950), the Executive Secretary recommended a rule in regards to commercializing student-athletes.  The document reads,

The use of the name or picture of a student for display purposes in a business or commercial establishment or in its display windows shall not be prohibited as long as he is not employed by such firm and so long as he receives neither compensation nor gifts for such use. The appearance of a student on a sustained or sponsored radio or television program is not prohibited as long as he receives neither compensation nor gifts for such appearance (SAC Executive Secretary, 1950, p. 11).

Along the same lines, the minutes from the same Southwest Athletics Conference meeting show continued conversation on a similar topic.  Four times in the same meeting, the representatives from the schools discussed the “proposal of a Waco jeweler to give the members of the Baylor football squad watches” (South Athletics Conference [SAC], 1950).  J. D. Bragg from Baylor originally proposed the motion, and it passed.  However, another university representative later proposed that the motion be disapproved.  In a third line, a motion carried to reconsider the case of the jeweler.  Finally, one of the representatives moved to disapprove the watches and take a recorded vote.  The vote is as follows:

University of Arkansas                       – No

Texas A&M                                        – Yes

Baylor University                               – No

The Rice Institute                               – No

Southern Methodist University           – Yes

Texas Christian University                 – Yes

The University of Texas                     – Yes (SAC, 1950).

Thus, the motion was carried and it was finally disapproved for a Waco jeweler to give watches to the Baylor football team.  However, it was obviously a source of contention.  Despite all of the sanctions coming from the NCAA, the implementation of the “Sanity Code,” and the overall emphasis of the “Principle of Amateurism,” there were still questions about how exactly college athletes should be treated and compensated for their time and effort.

The Early Effects on Baylor University

The changes happening throughout the nation and regionally within the Southwestern Conference were bound to effect Baylor University.  In the summer of 1950, Sam B. Boyd was hired as both the Freshman Grid Coach and the Procurement Supervisor for Baylor’s football team (The Baylor Line, 1950).  A Baylor publication from the period mentions how organized and competitive the process of recruiting is across the country.  The addition of Boyd, a Baylor alum who was also a business man, boded well for Baylor’s football team.  However, when Boyd was hired the schools were still under such strict rulings from the NCAA and Southwest Conference.  Because of the limiting rules for what schools could offer their recruits and potential players, Baylor was attempting to build up their staff to work on “the task of setting up and supervising recruitment programs, working among former students, high school coaches, etc.” (Baylor Alumni Association, 1950, n.p.).

It is obvious that Baylor was aware of the rules for recruitment and financial aid.  However, two sources from 1953 go against this notion.  There are two correspondence letters regarding scholarships for Baylor student-athletes.  Despite the rules, these letters show that Baylor Athletics were still giving scholarships based on athletic talent.  One letter to President W. R. White reads,

This is to again thank you for your consideration already given [Albert L. White, Jr.] and also to ask you, if it is not to early, for further consideration toward a full scholarship for next year. We shall be more than grateful to you if you should see fit to place him on a full scholarship after you have studied his record of the past season (White, 1953).

A letter from George Sauer, Athletic Director, reads “We will have a scholarship for him, which will cover board, room, tuition, books and fees” (Sauer, 1953).

Both letters were written in the spring of 1953 when the “Sanity Code” was still intact.  The original code had been repealed, but there were still very strict rules governing scholarships, two of which may have been broken by the promises made in these letters.  In 1953, Baylor should not have been permitted to give a scholarship based on athletic ability.  Albert L. White, Jr. had been offered a partial scholarship, possibly based on need.  However, the consideration of a full scholarship just because of the talent of the student was not allowed at that time.  Secondly, Sauer would not have been permitted to give an athlete a scholarship that exceeded tuition and fees, even based on financial need.  However, the scholarship being offered to John Preston, another prospective Baylor athlete, was said to cover tuition, fees, room and board, and books.  It is clear that recruiting was a difficult business, and Baylor could have been bending the rules to keep up with the competition.  The following section describes the struggles Baylor experienced in recruiting during the 1950s.

Baylor’s Struggles

In 1954, after the “Sanity Code” was repealed, recruiting, scholarships, and financial aid were almost a free for all.  Rules regarding the “Principle of Amateurism” were still intact, but restrictions were nowhere near as stringent as they had been from 1948 until 1954.  Williams (1954) describes letters of intent and recruitment processes as a “dog eat dog” world (p. 3).  The school recruiters, in Baylor’s case Sam Boyd, had to convince and influence potential players and do their job as a salesman, not a coach.  However, there were still some rules to follow.  For example, financial aid could only be given by the institution and the player’s parents and no aid can be given to a player’s family.  With the decrease in rules came an increase in competition across the country.  The fears of the smaller schools in 1950 were becoming realities.  Despite Baylor’s resources, they could not help but encounter struggles in recruiting.

Picture of Procurement Supervisor and future Head Football Coach, Sam Boyd. Found in 1950 The Baylor Line. Printing Procurement Office Football Pre 1920s-1970s (Box #1, Football 1950s). The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

Picture of Procurement Supervisor and future Head Football Coach, Sam Boyd. Found in 1950 The Baylor Line. Printing Procurement Office Football Pre 1920s-1970s (Box #1, Football 1950s). The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

Two years after the “Sanity Code” was repealed, the recruiting struggles had reached Baylor.  In 1956, Baylor had some problems in recruiting new football players for the upcoming season (“Star-Studded Recruits,” 1957; Ward, 1958).  At the beginning of the year, Athletic Director George Sauer attended the NCAA’s American Football Coaches Convention.  One of the topics of deliberation was the method of recruiting players.  However, a final decision could not be reached because multiple schools were not on the same page and failed to come to agreement (Cervelli, 1956).  The lack of clarification of new standards led to a very rocky recruitment year for Baylor University, which eventually led to a few abysmal seasons which had even farther reaching effects.

On December 5, 1958, Athletic Director George Sauer announced that he was resigning from his position when his contract expired the next month.  Five days later on December 10, 1958, the Head Football Coach, former Freshman Coach and Procurement Supervisor, announced his resignation (Baylor Alumni Association, 1958).  Sam Boyd’s resignation was a topic of debate throughout the Baylor community.  Ward (1958) quotes Lou Maysel, an Austin American Statesman in saying “Boyd’s big failure was letting Baylor’s larder run so thin of athletes… Where the Boyd regime fell down most was in the recruiting.”  In the same newspaper article, Bill Van Fleet from Fort Worth Star Telegram is quoted saying, “…One thing that hurt the Boyd regime was the almost complete miss on recruiting in the spring of 1956” (Ward, 1958).  All the changes in nationwide and regional rules played into Boyd’s demise.  After 1954, the competition for athletes was insurmountable, and even the best salesman could not recruit all the players needed to make a team successful.  Many people wanted Boyd gone just because of his losing streak, but Maysel and Van Fleet commented on the bigger picture of the reason behind the few miserable seasons under Boyd’s regime.

After Boyd’s resignation in 1958, John Bridges was hired as the new Head Football Coach and Athletic Director.  The majority of the Baylor football sports articles written in 1959 revolve around two subjects: John Bridges and the great players that were being recruited.  Part of the ability to recruit these talented new players could have come from the start of a new scholarship program.  The scholarship program invited “Baylor alumni, friends, groups and corporations to subscribe an annual maximum of $1,000 per athlete” (“Scholarship Program Gets Good Start,” 1959).  The scholarships given are “based on scholarship, character, need and athletic participation” (“Scholarship Program Gets Good Start,” 1959).  There was full support of higher administration because it was very necessary to help finance Baylor athletics.  This program was similar to those at other schools in the conference.  A program like this got Baylor back into the game to be a real player in recruiting.

Do Scholarships Matter?

Due to the national, regional, and local focus on scholarships and financial aid, a case could be made that scholarships and financial aid were what drew players to certain schools.  Baylor had a difficult time winning football games because they could not recruit the best players.  The lack of recruiting success could have revolved around scholarship money.  However, student accounts did not necessarily align with this perception.  A football player named Farrell Fisher played Baylor football in the mid-50s.  Fisher began playing for Baylor without a scholarship.  Someone contacted George Sauer on behalf of Fisher, and Sauer recruited him and placed him on the team.  In 1955, Fisher worked in the dining hall.  However, he was granted a full athletic scholarship in the fall of 1955 and exceeded everyone’s expectations on the football field (Golding, 1956).  Fisher did not come to Baylor for the money.  He came to Baylor because he wanted to play football and major in religion.  A quote from the Waco News Tribune article says, “And has he ever regretted his decision to come to Baylor? ‘Never,’ Farrell answers that one, ‘I don’t think I could be happy any place else’” (Golding, 1956).

Other Baylor football players shared Farrell Fisher’s mindset in a Baylor Lariat article from 1957.  Webb (1957), the Baylor Lariat reporter, believed that football players went to a school and played the game to get a free education.  Webb (1957) asked “’Just how many boys would play football in college without a scholarship?’”  The answers he received from current football players completely changed his mind.  Webb no longer saw college football as a business after hearing a football team member say that he was playing hard for his team, despite not having a scholarship.  That same young man was quoted saying, “’Well, I just like to out there playing and there’s always a chance that I may make the team in a year or so and really get to play’” (Webb, 1957).  For these 1950s Baylor football players, money was not the driving factor of playing football or for being at Baylor.

Nevertheless, some players chose to leave even with a scholarship being offered to them.  Mike McClellan was released from Baylor’s football team after a rumor circulated that he was being recruited to play for Oklahoma.  Both McClellan and Oklahoma denied that there had been any recruiting going on during that time.  However, even after McClellan was released, Abner McCall, the Baylor chairman of the athletic council, told him that they would leave his four-year scholarship open (Associated Press, 1958).  McClellan did transfer, even with a scholarship offer still on the table.  Once again, money was not a sufficient motivator.  In McClellan’s case, it could not convince him to stay at Baylor.  Where athletes chose to attend school, and play football was motivated by more than just scholarships and financial aid.


The 1950s was a dramatic time for athletic programs across the country in terms of recruiting and financial aid and scholarships for their student-athletes.  From the implementation of the “Sanity Code” in 1948, to the adjustments made in 1951, to the final appeal in 1954, and all of the struggles and competition that came afterwards.  Baylor University was not immune to the struggles happening nationwide.  Baylor was required to adopt the rules given to them by the NCAA and Southwest Athletic Conference.  However, they were still attempting to do what was best for their program and their students.  George Sauer and Sam Boyd both got caught up in the mix of recruiting struggles and had to leave their positions.

In the three aforementioned cases, money was not the sole motivator for the student-athletes.  Whether the athlete was getting the money, or not getting the money, decisions seemed to be based on additional factors.  Overall, the institutions, staff, and national associations seem to be more concerned about money, and what the limits are for student-athletes.  However, at Baylor in the 1950s, at least some of those who were committed were just there to play.


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