Sports

How Kutztown (Almost) Had Two 50-Yard Lines at Homecoming

By: Theodore Bullock
Kutztown University Alumnus

It was the Tuesday before KU’s traditional homecoming game in the fall of 1967. I was in my Sociology class, which was held in one of the few classrooms in the Old Main basement, when a big older man I didn’t know – though his face was very familiar to me – came into the classroom. He walked over to talk to the professor. I later found out the visitor’s name was Mr. John White, assistant to the University President.        

The class professor, whose name I don’t remember, called my name and asked me to go with Mr. White. Now, inside, I was almost in panic. What would he want with me? I started thinking about what I might have done or not done. I was always up to something, whether it was pushing my roommate out the first floor dorm window because he turned off my alarm clock, getting free work out of the campus staff electricians for the radio station, WKSC (where I was chief engineer and one of its original founders), or bending rules doing other things.

Mr. White told me I needed to go with him to the President’s conference room, which, at the time, was in the east front part of Old Main. As we walked, I remember he was very chatty, but he didn’t say why he came and got me.

Next thing I knew, I was in the room with some of the top people of the college, including the President at the time, Dr. Cyrus Beekey.

I was really wondering what was going on. Before the meeting started, everyone was standing around a giant table talking, but I was still in panic. Also in the room were Drs. Dougherty and Evans, who I already knew. Dr. Daugherty was a mathematics professor who had taught a Field Math class I attended during the summer of 1967. I needed the credits to graduate. Dr. Evans was the Chair of the Mathematics department, which was my major. The other person I knew was Mr. Polischak, Dean of Men.

Next, Drs. Daugherty and Evans came over to me and told me that the college needed my help because they had a big problem with homecoming, which was four days away, but that was all they could say.

I was wondering what I could possibly do about their problem with homecoming on the Tuesday before homecoming weekend (Sept. 30, 1967).

The other attendees, as I vaguely remember it, were Mr. Musso of Student Affairs,  the Assistant Dean of Men Mr. Roth, Mr. Evans of the Athletics Department and some members of the college maintenance staff.

The meeting started with all of us sitting at the table. Dr. Beekey said a short speech at the beginning of the meeting and left.

It turned out the college had a full-blown crisis on its hands. The staff that lined out the football field had created two 50-yard lines in the middle of the field that were about four to six inches apart.

I remember it was all I could do to not laugh out loud! (Couldn’t text anyone “LOL” in that era.)

Homecoming was the first home football game of the season and the last time the field was lined was the prior fall.

It turned out I had been called to the meeting to help solve the crisis and figure out how to redraw the lines.  Someone told me later that the reason I was identified as someone who could help solve the problem was because I was the top student in the Field Math course and had shown a lot of initiative when I built the radio station as chief engineer. The Dean of Men also knew me well because I was a hall counselor at Rothermel Hall, where he also lived at the time. 

At the meeting, I had to promise not to discuss this situation with anyone. I further learned that to line out the field, four of the college maintenance staff had split into two teams of two, and each team began at opposite end zones using the end zone corners from the previous year as their starting point, intending to meet in the middle at the 50-yard line. Each maintenance team measured and chalked out a five-yard line at a time; first measuring, then using a dry lime chalk marker machine to lay down the yard line chalk stripes as they went. Each team had their own chalk lining machine.  However, one or both of the teams had made a mistake, and now the college’s football field had two 50-yard lines. 

Ultimately, when I got down to the football stadium and met the maintenance staff, I asked what happened. They told me that both teams were working and didn’t pay attention until they met up in the middle of the field. Not only had they not checked the distances between the opposite end zone starting points nor the squareness of the field, but they were using a thick gauge fabric measuring “tape” which had a variable length depending on how tight you pulled it. So, as each team proceeded up the field, each was off just a little at each yard line, and when they met in the middle each team had a 50-yard line – four inches apart on one side of the field and almost six inches on the other side. Think about it; there are nine lines between the goal line and the 50-yard line on each end of the field. If you are ½ inch off each measurement, you get to almost five inches quickly.

OK, I thought – all I needed to do was measure everything correctly and that would be it.

Well, as it turned out, I ended up being the de facto leader of the repair process because the maintenance team was at a loss for what to do. 

The first thing I did was get out measuring equipment (using a surveying transit of the era and “metal” measuring tapes) I used in the summer Field Math class and measured out the field in the proper way, including double checking the squareness of the field. We staked all the end zone corners and yard lines to determine how bad a problem we had.

While I was doing that with the help of one of the staff members, I suggested that the others find two commercial vacuum cleaners and start vacuuming up as much of the white chalk on the field as possible, starting at the 25-yard line on each end of the field and moving to the 50-yard line. I was familiar with commercial wet vacuum cleaners because I used one in a summer job I had before my sophomore year. After that, they used rags to wipe as much of the lime off the grass as they could if they weren’t vacuumed up.

There were a few bare spots that had not filled in with grass, so we just scratched the dirt to obliterate the leftover chalk. The fact that there were still bare spots on the field was proof that no one was taking care of the football field. If they were, the grass would have been seeded in the prior spring.

The one decision I made without telling anyone about it was to let the rest of the yard lines stay, end zone to the 20, because they were not too far off the correct measurement and I didn’t think anyone would notice, including the officials at the homecoming game. I really didn’t know whether game officials checked this before the beginning of games.

It was now the Thursday morning before homecoming and, needless to say, you could still see many parts of the old lines on the football field from up in the stands. I remembered that I had learned from a friend, who was a caddy at a golf course near where I lived, that the groundskeepers sometimes sprayed the grass green. I had no idea why they did this, but it seemed that this would be a good idea to solve this problem. One of the staff members jumped on this thought and found a golf course who would lend us the sprayer equipment. We sprayed all the areas that still showed the old lime markings.

I also thought it would be a good idea to mow the grass just a little shorter over the newly measured yard lines to help the eye follow the new lines from the grandstands. After the initial meeting, I had to skip most of my classes, but Mr. White personally contacted the professors and asked them to give me, as he explained it, “broad leeway” to make up any work I missed.

Friday, I checked the measurements again and we chalked all the new lines. We also went around the bare spots where you could see some of the green spray and we scratched the dirt around so you couldn’t see it.

I went up in the stands and, I must admit, it looked pretty good. If you didn’t know what had happened, you probably wouldn’t notice.

For some reason I didn’t go to Homecoming, probably because I went to visit my girlfriend (and future wife) at East Stroudsburg.

I don’t know why, but I remember this experience in detail like it was yesterday and have told it to others over the years. I don’t remember anyone at the college ever talking about it after that. Just another crisis averted, I guess. For me, though, it was fun!

 Anyway, that’s how Kutztown almost had two 50-yard lines at Homecoming 1967.

Theodore Bullock is a 1968 graduate of Kutztown. He earned a Master of Science degree from American University and attended business school at Stanford University School of Business and INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France.  His Kutztown degree is in Math Education and his first job was with the Defense Intelligence Agency as a mathematician.  He continued on to be a senior executive at several Fortune 500 companies. He can be contacted at tedbullock@comcast.net.