WILMINGTON, N.C. – Times have changed in the competitive world of collegiate athletics.
Can you imagine what teams at the 2010 Women’s NCAA Championship would look like if freshmen had to sit out a year?
That’s something Country Club of Landfall member Bill Stauffer often wonders.
Stauffer earned a college scholarship to play basketball at Missouri in 1948. During that time, freshmen were forced to redshirt their freshman year to get adjusted to college life. “When we were in school there was an adjustment period,” Stauffer said. “Now, they just want the athletes to go right to work and overlook the college life.”
In 1954, the school retired his No. 43. When he graduated from Mizzou in 1952, he held four records: most points scored in a game (31), most points in a season (368), most points in a career (807) and average rebounds per game (13.6). His rebounding average is still a record at Missouri.
For four years Stauffer enjoyed his collegiate experience, but believes today’s student-athletes are just a business.
“I think we as a country put too much emphasis on school athletics – the way they eat, live, what class they go to, and who they go to class with,” Stauffer said. “I lived in my fraternity house, I was a member of SGA, I was a student, but now it’s disappointing to see how controlled these kids are.”
Throughout Stauffer’s life it is safe to say he always had control. After he graduated from Missouri, Stauffer joined the Air Force and was stationed at Andrews Air Force base in Washington, D.C. From September 1952 to September 1954, Stauffer played for another team – Team USA.
Before Stauffer went to enlist in the Air Force, he was drafted in 1952 by the Boston Celtics. Legendary Hall of Fame basketball coach Red Auerbach wanted Stauffer to be a Boston Celtic, but Stauffer wasn’t interested in a pro basketball career. “I looked him right in the eye and said, ‘Coach, I’m really not interested in playing pro basketball,’ ” Stauffer said. “I told him before college I wanted to be in the newspaper business, and that’s why I went to Mizzou, because of their great journalism school.”
The now-79-year-old Missouri grad laughs when he recalls Coach Auerbach then asking him, “Do you want to work with the Boston Celtics? I can get you a job selling advertisements for us.”
Stauffer again turned it down and went on to work for the Louisiana-Missouri selling advertisements for the twice-a-week paper.
After 10 years in the newspaper business, Stauffer then went to work for AT&T and North Western Bell until he retired.
While working in the professional work force Stauffer started to get more involved in the game of golf. He recalls two of his best friends from his time at Missouri that were then on the Tigers’ golf team.
“Jim Clark and Jim Patton were great golfers back then,” Stauffer said. “What’s funny about them back then is they belonged to a 9-hole golf course when they were junior golfers. You never see that today as far as kids getting recognized for scholarships.”
This week at the NCAAs, Stauffer looks at his tee sheet and circles the names he was told to go watch. He’s looking forward to seeing those special student-athletes with God-given talent and anxious to see them play. “It just amazes me to watch these girls,” Stauffer said. “After they hit they don’t think about their opponent, they think of where their ball is now, where it could have gone. You have to be mentally tough.”
As someone who is about to turn 80 in two weeks, you can tell the times have changed not only in Stauffer’s life, but in the NCAA, as well. Freshmen are no longer forced to sit out, players no longer are a guarantee to stay for four years, and every college sport seemingly has a dollar figure tied to it.
Stauffer only has a few wishes these days – to keep the Tigers in the Big 12, let student-athletes be students, and always be able to make your own decisions.
In 1954 Stauffer told Auerbach his decision not to play professional basketball, and today he hopes student-athletes tell themselves to take their life one day at a time – or, in golf terms, one shot at a time.