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Fan Memories VI: Harry Bockman & The Schnell

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Every campus has a guy.

You know, a character somewhat peripheral to school life, but who’s always around, insinuating, often annoying.

The guy who becomes a running joke of sorts.

In this day and age, he’d become a meme. In my student days, he was an annual mention in the Louisville Cardinal’s April Fools issue.

I’m talking about Harry Bockman, that guy in the Registrar’s Office. Everybody at U of L had an issue with him sooner or later.

I’ll get to his dislike for iconic football coach Howard Schnellenberger in due time, but first, the rest of his story.

Bockman, Class of ‘46, ran track for the Cards, was a WWII vet, Purple Heart winner, and entered the Athletics Hall of Fame in ‘84.

According to one former student, Harry loved to crochet.

I’m not sure how long he toiled in the Administration building, but he was sure around during my adventures on the Belknap Campus in the 60s and 70s.

Most of his infamy arose from his job, checking student IDs at football and basketball games. It was reputed that Harry knew the face if not name of every student on campus. Which “photographic” memory did not alleviate the necessity of having one’s ID Card in hand for Bockman’s scrutinization for entry.

Harry was, shall we say, rigid. The stories are legion. Both about his obsessiveness, and about those who tried, and on occasion, overcame it.

Lowell Katz M.D. was the Cardinal Bird mascot during his undergrad stint in the mid 60s. Katz tells how he’d dress in his mascot garb at home before games. Bockman still required Katz to show his ID.

DM, who shall remain anonymous for reasons that might be obvious, tells of an end run around Bockman, for a game at Freedom Hall.

Seems his DU frat brothers and he wanted more than their usual case of brew to quaff at a hoops game. So they decided to haul a keg into the tilt, using a wagon to schlep it up the ramp inside Freedom Hall.

“There were 10 or 15 of us. As we approached Harry we surrounded him, except for the guy pulling the keg, who scooted around his back as we overwhelmed Harry. He never saw it.”

Such was Harry’s notoriety on campus, he became an annual got to be in there of the school paper’s April Fools issue.

The ‘74 edition ran a story that APO, the service fraternity, had bestowed Bockman with their “Mr. Personality” award.

In a fake ‘66 article about how students were going to get free NCAA tickets, no punches were pulled. He was referred to as “Mean Ol’ Harry.”

In a faux ‘73 story about how the football players went on strike, Bockman was said to be the new QB.

In ‘68, it was reported he had been elevated in a surprise move by the Board of Trustees, from his position in the Registrar’s Office to Chief Executive of the university.

My favorite is a real story in a December ‘65 issue, titled, “Faulty System And Not Harry Bockman To Blame For Student Admission Problems to B-Ball Games.” Among several photos accompanying the article is one of Coach Peck Hickman (“No, I left my ID at home.”), and another of an elderly woman, walking through a turnstile (“But Harry . . . I’m your own mother.”)

What I know is, Harry Bockman was obsessively strident.

You could have been in his office that day over an issue that would only occur with a student, and Harry would still need to see your ID that night at the game.

* * * * *

What Harry Bockman also did during this employment was man the yard marker at home Cardinal football games.

Which brings me to Harry’s dislike for Howard Schnellenberger.

Years later, probably some time in the 90s, I ran into Harry at ear X-tacy. Though I really didn’t know him personally, I chatted him up.

Somehow, the conversation got around to the Schnell..

Harry’s eyes narrowed.

Harry hated the Schnell.

Because when Coach Pipe came in, he changed everything. Including who handled the yard and down markers.

“He started paying people, and we did it for free.

“We even bought our own uniforms.”

He had no kind words for the iconic pigskin mentor.

I took my leave. Otherwise Harry would have gone on about the Schnell until closing time.

— c d kaplan