Wednesday, June 02, 2004

There Was Only One Bill Reichardt

It was a Saturday morning in 2002 and Bill Reichardt was on a roll.

“Have I ever told you that I was highest illegally paid player in the history of Iowa football?” Reichardt asked me.

“I’ve heard you mention that story,” I said. “But tell it to me again.”

So Reichardt did just that as he and I sat in a small office near the clothing store in the Shops at Roosevelt that he formerly owned.

I had made an appointment with Reichardt while researching my book, “Tales from the Iowa Sidelines,” which was published last August by Sports Publishing L.L.C.

I knew Reichardt, who lettered as an Iowa fullback in 1949, 1950 and 1951, would be a fountain of information.

I purposely made him one of my last interviews for the book so I could ask him lots of questions about former Hawkeye coaches and players with whom I had already talked.

He didn’t disappoint me. True to form, Reichardt gave me facts, opinions, seriousness and laughter as he summarized his years as a football player and his years before and after he was in uniform.

How fortunate I was to be able to pick his brain hour after hour that day. Certainly neither Reichardt, who appeared in robust health, nor I had any thought then that he would be dead at 73 of cancer in June, 2004.

Unfortunately, I was too young to see Reichardt play many games at Iowa. I figure I watched the Hawkeyes only two or three times when he was playing one season for coach Eddie Anderson and two for coach Leonard Raffensperger.

So most of the information about Reichardt had to come from the man himself.

He particularly liked telling the story of being Iowa’s highest illegally paid player.

As I explained in “Tales from the Iowa Sidelines,” Reichardt said he cut a deal to play for pay after deciding to attend Iowa instead of Southern California.

Southern California? Why Southern California?

“My mom wanted me to get out of Iowa City,” Reichardt explained.

“I accepted a scholarship to Southern California and was already on the train that was headed there. But just before the train pulled out of town, my dad, Iowa coach Eddie Anderson and Dr. Red Scanlan got on board to talk to me.”

Reichardt said Anderson “had never asked me to go to Iowa—he just assumed I’d go there.” But people interested in convincing Reichardt he should be a Hawkeye swung into action once they knew Reichardt was on the train bound for California.

“Dr. Scanlan was head of an Iowa booster club and was our family doctor,” Reichardt said. “He said, ‘Here’s what we can do for you,’ and offered me $200 a month for four years—a lot of money in those days—plus a job when I got out of school. I was to pick up the $200 in cash at his office on the first of every month.

“Anderson didn’t hear what Dr. Scanlan told me about the money, but
I got off the train and decided to attend Iowa. When I was in school, my room, board, books and tuition were paid, and so were my fraternity dues.”

Although Reichardt was one of the best players to wear an Iowa uniform, he never performed for a Hawkeye team that had a winning record.

He was named the Big Ten’s most valuable player in 1951, even though Iowa didn’t win a conference game.

“I maybe should be in the Guinness Book of World Records,” Reichardt told me while reflecting on his career. “I may be the only athlete in intercollegiate sports, male or female, who was named the most valuable player on a team that didn’t win a conference game.”

Iowa’s only victories in a 2-5-2 season in 1951 were over Kansas State and Pittsburgh. The Hawkeyes tied Minnesota and Notre Dame. They lost Big Ten games to Purdue, Michigan, Ohio State, Illinois and Wisconsin.

By the way, what happened in 1951 was horribly misstated by Rob Borsellino in today’s Des Moines Register. In a sloppy job of reporting, Borsellino wrote that Reichardt “was the Big Ten MVP in a year when the school didn’t win a single game – 0-9.”

Borsellino didn’t bother checking Iowa’s record books and didn’t bother asking anyone before writing that. Now I guess I wonder about the accuracy of some of the other things he writes.

Saying that Iowa was 0-9 in 1951 was an injustice to the late Leonard
Raffensperger, who coached the Hawkeyes that season, and to his son, Gene, a longtime veteran of the Register’s newsroom.

Among the jobs handled by Gene Raffensperger at the newspaper were city editor, sports editor, Eastern Iowa Bureau Chief in Davenport and senior reporter. He now is retired and lives in West Des Moines.

Reichardt told me he had an emotional start to his Hawkeye career.

Iowa’s first opponent in his first season of 1949 was UCLA. It was Anderson’s final year as the Hawkeyes’ coach.

“My fraternity roommate was George Constantine of Fort Dodge, who was one of the most delightful guys I ever knew in my life,” Reichardt told me for the book. “On the Friday night before the UCLA game, he went home to Fort Dodge to get some stuff for our room and was killed in an automobile crash.

“I was horribly devastated. I went down to St. Mary’s Church and sat there all night lighting candles. Eddie Anderson was a devout Catholic who went to church nearly every day. At 6 a.m. Saturday, he walked into the church and saw me praying.

“He thought I was praying for the game. I was so excited to be on the team, but I was exhausted before the game. In the locker room, Anderson said in front of the whole squad, ‘Carideo [assistant coach Frank Carideo], who are you going to put in there at fullback?’ Carideo said, ‘We’re going to put in [Gerald] Nordman.’

“Carideo, don’t you know Nordman can’t remember the plays?’ Anderson said.

“’OK, we’ll put [Donald] Riley in there,’ Carideo said.

“’Carideo, what are you trying to do, ruin me?’ Anderson asked.

“’Well, we’ll put that Reichardt in there,’ Carideo said.

“’OK, Reichardt, you’re in there,’ Anderson said.”

Reichardt said he then went to team physician Shorty Paul and said, ‘Shorty, I don’t have my knee taped. I don’t have my ankles taped.”

Reichardt said Paul “tugged on Anderson’s sleeve and said, ‘Dr. Anderson, Reichardt doesn’t have his knee taped.’”

Anderson then said, “You tell Reichardt to put a Band-Aid on his knee.”

Then there was the story Reichardt told me about Lou Ginsberg, a guard on Iowa teams in 1945, 1948, 1949 and 1950.

“Louie died a few years ago,” Reichardt said. “But just before he died, I called him on a Saturday afternoon. I’d heard he was in the hospital, dying of cancer. I said to him, ‘Louie, how are you doing?’ He said, ‘Why would you think of me?’

“I said, ‘Louie, I’ll bet I’ve thought of you once a day for the last 45 years.’ Louie said, ‘Why would you do such a thing?’

“I said, ‘Louie, you were in front of me on every play I ran at Iowa, and you never threw one fucking block, and that’s why I walk with a limp now.’

“Louie laughed and laughed and laughed. He died three or four days later.”

There was only one Bill Reichardt. I’ll miss him.


Nebraska isn’t interested in taking Missouri’s place on Iowa football schedules in 2005 and 2006.

So writes Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World-Herald.

Barfknecht wrote, “With Missouri bailing out of the first two games of a four-game football series with Iowa, the Hawkeyes are in need of a non-conference opponent in 2005 and 2006.

“Nebraska has only one non-conference game scheduled so far in those two seasons, and has open dates that match Iowa’s.

“Sound like a natural fit?

“Members of the Iowa athletic staff thought so, and phone calls to Lincoln were made, U of I athletic director Bob Bowlsby said.

“But a deal is unlikely.

“Unfortunately, Nebraska needs a home game in ’05 and so do we,” he said. “So it doesn’t look like this one’s going to work out.”

“However, Bowlsby said he’s interested in putting together games with Nebraska more frequently (in the future)….”


The Register seems determined to hire a woman to replace Dick Doak as its editorial page editor.

But there’s just one problem, and it’s a big one. The people doing the hiring can’t talk anyone into taking the job.

Maura Casey, associate editorial page editor for The Day in New London, Conn., accepted the Des Moines job recently, but then decided she didn’t want it after all.

Casey won a Pulitzer Prize for general reporting in 1988 and is the co-author of a handbook on editorial writing.

Vol. 4, No. 236
June 2, 2004