Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Chapter I

Chapter I: USC Volleyball - Overview
On September 25, 2001, while reviewing my past, I decided the time had come to revisit my long love affair with volleyball. It had always been my favorite sport and true love - second only to my wife, of course. She might tell you there were quite a number of times she felt it was the other way around, particularly back in 1949 and 1950 at the University of Southern California.

I was prompted by the fact that I wasn't getting any younger and was about to reach a milestone, the big '80.' So, I began surfing the internet to determine what, if anything, had been memorialized about the University of Southern California (USC) Trojans' brief, but highly successful brush with collegiate volleyball fame and glory throughout 1949 and 1950. During that brief span of time a young, strong and enthusiastic USC men's volleyball team managed to win back-to-back national collegiate titles first in Los Angeles and then in Knoxville, Tennessee; See Appendix G-19 nine USC players were selected on the first and second United States Volleyball Association (USVBA) Collegiate All-American teams - five in 1949 See Appendix C-4 and four in 1950 See Appendix G-7. I was the coach.

Using the 'Google' search engine, I was led to the USVBA site
www.volleyball.org/history, through which I brought up onto the screen the '100 Year History of Volleyball.' An accurate, but all-too-brief reference to the 1949 and 1950 period reads as follows:

"1949 USVBA added a collegiate division for competitive college teams. For the first ten years collegiate competition was sparse. Teams formed only through the efforts of interested students and instructors. Many teams dissolved when the interested individuals left the college. Competitive teams were scattered, with no collegiate governing bodies providing leadership in the sport."

That paragraph could easily have been written with me in mind, characterizing my own experiences at USC. I was both an interested graduate student and a German instructor at USC in 1949. In 1950, while continuing my post-graduate work at USC, I was a Scientific German instructor at the California Institute of Technology (Cal Tech) in Pasadena See Appendices D-4 & D-5. I encouraged and coached volleyball teams at both institutions; at the same time I fostered the College of Medical Evangelists (CME) team by obtaining authorization from USC officials to allow these future physicians and surgeons to use the gym for practice with my team See Appendix G-21 Pages. 1 & 2. CME was located in Los Angeles at that time, although always a part of the Seventh Day Adventist Loma Linda University.

In 1950 Emil Breitkreutz (USC '06,) See Appendices C-9, C-13, F-1, F-2, F-3, F-5, F-6, G-16 & G-18 Dr. Leonard Stallcup (USC '28,) See Appendices C-9, C-12, C-13, F-4 & G-16 and I, Hans Vogel (USC '47,) See Appendices A-1, A-5, C-1, C-3, C-9, E-2, E-7, F-1, G-5, G-8 Pg. 1, G-9 Pg. 2, G-10 Pages. 1-3, G-13 Part 1, G-16, G-19, H-4, H-6, H-7, H-9 & I-1 through 5. founded the Southern California Collegiate Volleyball Association (SCCVA.) Emil was a former 1904 Olympics Bronze Medalist and track star at USC; he designed, built and furnished the necessary equipment; he also permitted SCCVA to take full advantage of the prestige and influence of his USVBA board position and Amateur Athletic Association (AAU) official affiliation. SCCVA also utilized Emil's extremely close relationships with Paul Helms and Bill Schroeder of the Helms Athletic Foundation. The latter was founded by Paul Helms of Helms Bakeries to support and record for posterity athletic achievement of all types. Bill Schroeder was the executive director of the foundation and Paul Helms' right-hand man.

Dr. Stallcup, a dentist, had been a former welterweight boxer at USC; he was on the USVBA public relations committee, and took on the duty of public relations director for SCCVA. I was charged with contacting other colleges and universities, primarily those in Southern California, in an endeavor to encourage their athletic departments to cooperate in SCCVA's venture of developing and establishing volleyball as a recognized sport on the collegiate level. Athletic directors See Appendix F-12 were asked to help create and sponsor volleyball teams at their institutions, and to permit them to participate in SCCVA activities and tournaments.

In the year prior to SCCVA's founding, USC officials had already sponsored and held an intercollegiate doubles tournament See Appendices B-1 through B-4 the purpose of which was to alert and draw out volleyball talent on the various college and university campuses in Southern California. It seemed only logical that since many local college students played volleyball on Southern California beaches during the summer months, they might become interested in participating in volleyball activities sponsored by their respective colleges and universities. The Helms Athletic Foundation graciously and generously supplied the medals and a trophy for this inaugural event See Appendix F-6. At the same time my USC team had begun to participate in local AAU- and USVBA-sponsored volleyball tournaments. Relegated initially to playing in the 'A' league, our young, but talented players developed rapidly and didn't waste any time to establish themselves as serious Double A title contenders.

By the time USC had successfully repeated its 1949 Los Angeles National Collegiate Championship performance in Knoxville in May 1950, a number of volleyball's movers and shakers began having second thoughts about the wisdom of their involvement in sponsoring intercollegiate volleyball. Obviously, things were moving a bit too rapidly for these volleyball old-timers who had controlled the sport since it was first played. They could not have anticipated that collegiate volleyball teams could become so strong a force in so short a time. The rapid rise of USC volleyball prestige on the national scene caught USC authorities by surprise as well. It put them in the uncomfortable position of feeling obligated to give serious consideration to official university sponsorship and financial support which presently lagged far behind what was warranted by the volleyball team's actual achievement.

Not too long after our Knoxville victory, I left teaching and coaching to enter a more remunerative business world. My fervent desire and goal had been singular - to encourage others to build on the foundation I had helped to lay for establishing volleyball on the collegiate level. Unfortunately, that did not happen. USC officials were not prepared to fund yet another negative-income minor sport. With the strongest collegiate volleyball team in the nation unable to obtain the support of its university, the new Beverly Hills YMCA, very much in need of a volleyball program, offered to provide USC players a home base and me the position of coach. I could not accept, in all good conscience, what I considered to be nothing short of a retreat to the former status quo; such a move would effectively nullify whatever gains had been made in bringing volleyball to the colleges as a recognized and sponsored sport.

For me it was gut-wrenching to witness that which remained of USC's team in such a disorganized, disintegrating and leaderless condition. It was not unlike watching one's own child die. In 1951 USC did not even enter the national collegiate tournament in order to defend its national title See Appendix G-20. For me personally a very important consequence of leaving the field of education was facing the fact that I had given up any hope of witnessing the acceptance of collegiate volleyball nationwide at any time in the near future. It would be more than a decade before that would become a reality; but, sadly, it had to happen without my involvement.

After contacting USVBA in September 2001 over 50 years later, I was delighted to receive a very friendly and encouraging response from John Kessel, one of that organization's top officials. I tried to piece together from memory some of the specifics about that early period. Unfortunately, as any lawyer can tell you, there develops over time an inevitable erosion of the ability to recall just what took place where and when with any acceptable degree of accuracy, especially more than 50 years after the event.

I made the mistake of stating that the highly-regarded UCLA volleyball coach, Al Scates, had been one of the participants in the doubles tournament USC had sponsored in 1949. That was an incorrect assertion. It was brought to my immediate attention that in 1949 Al would have had to be attending UCLA at about the same time he entered puberty. I also stated that my granddaughter, Heather Steele, had received a volleyball scholarship to the University of California (UC) at San Bernadino. Of course, there is no UC in San Bernadino and I should have said that it was to UC at Riverside where she did play on the women's volleyball team coached by one the finest in the sport.If I persisted in making errors, even minor ones, I would very quickly lose credibility. What I needed were facts - hard demonstrable facts.
Relying on my memory was definitely not the answer to my problem.
Misstatements, no matter how unintentional, could jeopardize the likely success of achieving my goal of shedding light on collegiate volleyball during the 1949 and 1950 period.

Somewhere in my attic filled with over a 50-year accumulation of trivia and junk lay a box full of volleyball news clippings, documents, photographs and other memorabilia from my volleyball experiences at USC during 1949 and 1950. Those were a priceless two years of working with a truly talented and wonderful group of volleyball players at USC, Cal Tech and the College of Medical Evangelists. I had also been privileged to work with two fine former USC legends and gentlemen who encouraged and helped me to try to achieve that gargantuan task of establishing volleyball as an intercollegiate sport. Fortunately, nobody tried to dissuade me in advance by telling me just how difficult and challenging a task that might prove to be or, worse yet, that its time would have to wait a considerable while longer. I truly regret that I didn't succeed at that time, but I have never been sorry that I made the attempt. It was and continues to be an important part of my life.It became obvious that if I were ever to succeed in garnering acceptance of the factuality and truth about my claims concerning the events of 1949 and 1950, I would first have to find sufficient documentation that would back up my claims; and, that meant I had to find that box in the attic. Motivated by the absolute necessity of maintaining my credibility, I did find it. It proved to be a literal treasure throve of volleyball material from that early period which I found stored in a very dusty shabby box back in a dark corner of my attic.

My first priority was to find something that would justify my mistake in thinking that Al Scates had been a doubles tournament participant in 1949. I not only found a list of all the doubles tournaments' participants See Appendix B-2, but, best of all, also the original entry blanks submitted by each doubles team. You can imagine my elation when I found an entry form submitted by a team consisting of an Al Linnick and Herman Sater See Appendix B-3. Even the most jaded cynic would have to admit that the names Al Sater and Al Scates bear a resemblance sufficient enough that the two could be confused in someone's memory over a half a century later. I immediately sent a copy of it to Al Scates, because after hearing of my claim, he had written to tell me that he would have been much too young to have participated in that tournament.

In the following chapters I will attempt to aggregate a chronological documentary about the events leading up to and including collegiate volleyball at USC in 1949 and 1950. Also, included will be enough of my personal volleyball history to put the events leading up to the achievements during those two years into proper perspective. The report will incorporate hard-copy documents, news clippings, photographs, etc. from those two years of what I call my 'Volleyball Camelot' era. The sheer amount and undeniable quality of the material I found and plan to present should leave no doubt in anyone's mind about what truly and factually took place during those two years. How this report is received will be up to those interested enough to read and evaluate my offering.