What Pont Turned From - and Toward
IF he were 40 years old again, says John Pont, he'd do it all over. He'd try to land the biggest college coaching job he could get and win as many bowl games as possible. "If I were 40, I'd be part of the whole cycle, and I wouldn't see it the way I do now."Now, at 62, John Pont sees a collegiate pastime whose free will has been sold out. "The major colleges have lost control over things like scheduling," he says. Michigan and Minnesota were supposed to play a televised game one recent Saturday. But the World Series moved the game at the last minute to the Friday before. "That has a tremendous impact on a lot of fans," says Pont, "and it's just another example of how the colleges have lost control. "I could see it coming 20 years ago when I was at Indiana. Illinois asked the Big Ten to help defray the cost of lights for their stadium so they could move a game to a better television slot in the evening. The conference went along with it because we all shared in TV receipts. Now, the money and TV dictate.... Football, unfortunately, has to bear the burden of meeting the expenses for most of the other athletic programs at most colleges, and if it doesn't, what happens to the other sports? I don't envy the position that Devision I schools are in at the present time. "Big-time college football is at the point now that the money is so great, there's no turning back." For Pont, however, there was a turning back - a fact for which the College of Mount St. Joseph is eminently grateful. "Coach Pont is not just recruiting football players for the Mount - he's recruiting students," says Ed Eckel, the school's Director of Admissions. Since Pont started up the football program two years ago, male enrollment at the college has more than tripled, from less than 10 percent to 30 percent of the student body. "And this has happened in a time of very tough demographics," says Mr. Eckel. "For the six-year period ending in 1994, senior class numbers for the state of Ohio are down 21 percent. In times like that, the only way to keep enrollment steady is to do something dramatic." That's where Pont came in. "Because of his background, Coach Pont has brought us a lot of national exposure," says Jean Dowell, the school's athletic director. "That's a big advantage for the school, and let's face it, it wouldn't have happened with another coach. I don't believe Tom Landry [former Dallas Cowboys coaching legend] was interested in the job."