Inside Look At '72 Heels
Assuming you are old enough for this question to be relevant, how would you react if a total stranger came up to you and informed you that he could tell you what you were doing on a date thirty years ago and how well you were doing it? I didn't exactly do that recently with Robert Pratt, an offensive lineman on the Sun Bowl Champs '72 UNC football team, but I came close.
Let me explain. Recently I was told by a friend of mine Kurt Hickman, that his father, Bill Hickman, had in his possession a diary of the UNC football team's activities for 1972. He asked if I would be interested in seeing it and, if you know me at all, you know what answer I gave. Mr. Hickman was an asst. football coach at UNC for several years in the late 60's and early 70's before going on to join George Allen's and Joe Gibbs' staffs at Washington and Los Angeles.
I didn't know what to expect because I had never seen a "diary" of a football team. I didn't know if it was something Mr. Hickman had maintained for his personal use or if it would constitute some sort of official chronicle of activities for possible future use by the Athletic Department. It turned out to be the latter.
The book which contains the information is a bound , 4" high, has a Carolina Blue hard cover and contains material that for the most part is typed. Very little of the material is done by hand, an exception being the diagrammed plays. I assume most of the material was originally produced for distribution to the other staff members and, in some instances, team members. The book is embossed with the year "1972" and "Bill Hickman" on the spine.
So maybe you are starting to understand why I posed the question earlier about Robert Pratt because after examining the book, I could determine the grade he received in a scrimmage held on that date.
You might wonder why and how Robert Pratt fits into this story , so I'll tell you. Robert now operates a golf course in the western part of Henrico County near Richmond. I had met him earlier at a reception held in Richmond for Chancellor Moeser but I was sure he wouldn't remember me. So as a fun thing, I thought I would just go out to his place of business and show him the book that I had borrowed. He seemed very interested in the contents of the book and spent some time just leafing through the book and occasionally chuckling at the contents.
In case you are wondering just what the contents were, I'll try to describe them.
The first section in the book gives the practice schedule for the team during spring drills. It would give the order of the drills and the amount of time to be spent on each one. Some of the drills listed were play polish, stance, start and cutback, huddle-formation and break. Some of the drills were easy to figure out but some were not. The term "kurate" was used and I have no idea what this referred to but it didn't sound good, To someone like me who never played organized football, a lot of things can be intimidating. Three broken collar bones when I was young convinced me I should take up tennis which I did. Had I chosen football I might not be here in one piece today.
Depth charts were compiled after each drill. Man, did we have an offensive line back then. How about this for an offensive line. Taylor, Pratt, Huff, Thornton, Rusnak, Sain, and Bethea. Names of players on the '72 team who now have sons playing at Carolina are Chacos and Chapman. Ted Elkins was on this team and he has signed our guest book so I hope he reads this article and enjoys it.
Each player received a score for his performance in a scrimmage and that may have been why Pratt was chuckling. I will reveal but one score and that was a 100% received in the 9-2-72 scrimmage by a player no longer living, Jimmy Jerome. Most of you know he was killed several years ago when the car he was driving was hit by a drunk driver in California. Believe me when I say there were not many 100%s scored in a scrimmage or a game during the season.
The scouting report for each opponent is included in the book and one thing I can say for sure now that I had only assumed was true before and that is that teams do scout their opponents in their spring games. No wonder these game are never very revealing. Why show your hand to your opponents before the season even starts?
On game day, there is a schedule of activities starting with rising at 8:30 and ending when the team arrives back in Chapel Hill that night. RP told me that the Sun Bowl game was played starting at 11:00 a.m. in order for the game to be seen at the desired time on the east coast and that the players were on their own after the game until the next morning when they assembled for the flight back to RDU at 10:30. RP said they had a great time that night but I knew better than to ask for details.
In case you have forgotten the record for the Heels in '72, they were 11-1, the only loss a respectable one to Ohio State. I asked RP why Carolina didn't get a better bowl invite with that outstanding record and it was his feeling that a late season game with U. of Florida prevented the Heels from getting a higher invite. UNC upset Fla. in that game played in Jacksonville and I guess the bowl people did what they usually do. Try to nail down the teams as early as possible. We beat Texas Tech in the Sun Bowl and we ended up with one of the best records a UNC team has ever had.
That about covers it. It was a thrill to get an inside look at what goes on with a football team, especially Carolina's and I never dreamed that material of this sort was so carefully documented. I plan to talk with Mr. Hickman again in the near future and discuss some of the things that were not totally clear to me as I read them.
One last thing. You may assume from what I have written that nothing dealing with the human element was contained in the book. It's true there wasn't much but there were a few things. One comment was "Way to hit, Jerome" and several to the effect that individuals and sometimes entire sides of the line were "loafing." I have a feeling the linemen were reminded of their "loafing" when they returned to Chapel Hill, if not before.