COLLEGE LIFE— MORE THAN CLASSES
Upon my arrival to the Brigham Young University campus I was assigned to a dorm, the name of which was Stover Hall. BYU was in a period of rapid growth. The student population had doubled to 11,000 students in the previous decade or so. More dorm space was needed so a complex of half a dozen or so dorms, named Helaman Halls, had been built in spoke-like fashion with a student services center, Cannon Center, in the middle. The buildings had just been built the year before my arrival so everything was fresh, new, and every room had a telephone that could receive long-distance calls but only make them if the charges were reversed.
My dorm roommate had been pre-selected at random. Wayne Shepard was a freshman from North Sacramento, California, and a guard on the basketball team. His brother, Wayland, was a scholarship athlete on the football team and, as is common at BYU, had played football a year or two, gone on a mission, then returned to BYU to complete his edu- cation and play the remainder of his eligibility. Like many other BYU athletes in his situation Wayland had married and had a child. A large percentage of BYU athletes follow that scenario. According to National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rules a college athlete has five calendar years to complete four years of eligibility. Once an athlete either practices with a team or enrolls at a university, the five-year “clock” begins to tick. With very few exceptions, the clock may not stop for any reason. There are some situations for which an athlete may appeal to have a year reinstated but such appeals are rarely granted. The only things that can routinely stop the athlete’s eligibility clock are active military service or a church mission. It is not uncommon for over half of the athletes on the BYU athletic teams to be returned missionaries, married, and two years older and more mature than the typical college athlete. Some sports writers and pundits have criticized the NCAA for allowing the church mission exemption to eligibility rules as BYU is the only school that uses it, but the NCAA has stood fast and the policy remains in place.
My designated roommate Wayne was from North Sacramento where he played sports with another Latter Day Saint scholarship athlete, Jim Kimmel. Jim was a football player and both he and Wayne were placed in the same dorm on the same floor, and in the same wing. Wayne was to have roomed with me and Jim was assigned another freshman from Sacramento, Phil Ruiz. But before Wayne and I had met, they convinced Phil that it would make more sense for the two athletes to room together and Phil room with the “new kid from Pittsburgh” (me). Phil Ruiz thereby became my roommate. He was 6’2” and easily weighed 200 lbs. At 5’11” and 128 pounds soaking wet I was a mere wisp of a kid. Phil’s heritage was Hispanic but his family had been in California long before mine had come to America from Eastern Europe. He was staunch in his religious beliefs; I was not. In short we did not share much in common.
We were the Odd Couple before the Paul Simon play had ever been written. Phil was meticulous about his housekeep- ing, his clothing, personal hygiene, courses, schedules, etc. He was highly organized and rigid. He even ironed his socks! I on the other hand was a laid back slob. My mother and sisters had always done household chores for me. My only chore was to empty the garbage after dinner and I learned that if I went to the bathroom after dinner and waited long enough somebody would do that chore on my behalf.
At age 17 I had never washed a sock, ironed a shirt, or cooked a meal. My personal hygiene was lacking and I rarely cleaned my half of the dorm room. It must have been pure Hell for poor Phil who even washed and ironed his under- wear and had a spotless, well-organized half of a dorm room. His attitude toward me went from parental to pathetic to hostile. After a particularly slovenly episode on my part he finally became so irate that he taped a line down the center of the room and told me I was never to cross to his side! What a burden I must have been for Phil. To exacerbate matters, as a prank I hid a container of milk inside his closet and the stench became overwhelming. He never did locate the source of the stench and when he could no longer stand it (he thought a rodent had somehow wedged itself inside a wall and died), he had the dorm mother call maintenance to tear out the wall if necessary. I quietly removed the rancid milk carton and tossed it down the trash chute. The maintenance crew was baffled as to the source of the odor and by the time they had arrived it had mostly dissipated. Phil might have had a suspicion that I was the cause of it but he never voiced that opinion to me. By that time we probably were not speaking to one another and he was anxiously waiting for the school year to end so he could move off campus and find a new roommate.