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Murphy, Thomas H. (ed.) / Wisconsin alumnus
Vol. 71, Number 3 (Dec. 1969)

Buter, Tom
On Wisconsin,   p. 2

Page 2

  Sports writing is not all fun and
  I couldn't help but think of this
while walking away from the firing
of John Coatta at the Alumni House
Tuesday night. (December 2.)
  Here were two former Wisconsin
football stars, Coatta and Athletic
Director Elroy Hirsch, pitted in a
situation neither relished.
   Although the firing of Coatta and
obvious emotional involvement of
Hirsch dominated my thoughts, it's
funny how your mind wanders at
such a time.
   I was alone on Langdon St. and
nothing seemed important at the
moment but my own thoughts.
Gosh, how that area has changed.
It's a continuing thing, but incidents
like Tuesday's, for some unanswer-
able reason, emphasize the change.
   The Mall I guess they call it now.
 When I was a kid growing up here,
 that was the Lower Campus, a
 grassless area where bonfires blazed
 on Homecoming eve.
   We used to attend those pep ral-
 lies in the 1930s and listen to Harry
 Stuhldreher's spellbinding. We had
 never heard of Elroy Hirsch or John
 Coatta then.
   The University even put up
 boards for a hockey rink on the
 Lower Campus in those days. And,
 I spent a lot of time pounding that
 dirt in close-order drills for fresh-
 man ROTC. I'm sure Hirsch did,
 too. That's 27 or 28 years ago.
   When I returned from the Navy
 more than three years later, those
 unsightly Quonset huts dominated
 the Lower Campus. Coatta will re-
 member them.
   My last semester was Coatta's
 sophomore season, 1949. He had a
 bright future ahead of him.
   This Dec. 2 night on the campus
 of the University of Wisconsin,
though, autumn was fading fast and
ominous signs of winter battered
Lake Mendota's shoreline.
  Change is a continuing thing.
  Neither Hirsch nor Coatta heard
any roar of the crowd which had be-
come so familiar to them in those
carefree days of their youth.
   This was life's drama. This is
what those old coaches used to tell
them they were preparing for on the
"friendly field of strife" life's trials
and tribulations, ups and downs.
   Hirsch strode into the chilly night
air carrying an attache case and the
burdens of his office. I'm convinced
the telephone call to Coatta about
an hour before was his single most
difficult task so far as Wisconsin
athletic director.
   I'll miss John Coatta. I talked
 with him every day from the first of
 September to the last of November
 for three years, and many times in
 between. Our daughters are pom-
 pon girls and friends at West High.
 We don't mingle socially. That
 often can make both jobs more dif-
   But, I never met a more honest
 and forthright man. He doesn't
 drink or smoke. He's in remarkable
 physical condition for his age and
 should be an inspiration to all his
   The competitive zeal which
 burned so intensely as a young ath-
 lete remains. He still loves the chal-
 lenges on a golf course or tennis
 court, and I often saw him playing
 hockey with his sons and high
 school kids on winter Sundays at
   I didn't like to see John Coatta
 fired and I'm sure Hirsch dreaded
 the task. But, Elroy is convinced
 this will speed his rebuilding pro-
 gram and his wishes must be re-
               (continued on page 27)
Wisconsin Alumnus
We have a guest editorial this month by Tom Butler '50, assistant sports
of THE WISCONSIN STATE JOURNAL. Tom wrote this column a day or so after
Athletic Director Elroy Hirsch had the sad task of announcing that Head Coach
John Coatta's contract would not be renewed. Everyone who knows and ad-
mires John (and one goes with the other) shares with Elroy the pain of his
decision. Tom Butler put that feeling into words for all of us.-A.M.

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