My dorm roommate had been pre-selected at random. Wayne Shepard (in photo - first row, far right, plaid shirt) was a freshman from Sacramento and a guard on the basketball team. His brother, Wayland, was a scholarship player on the football team and as is common at BYU, had played a year or two, gone on a mission, then returned to BYU to complete his education and play the remainder of his eligibility. Like many others in his situation Wayland had married and had a child. A large percentage of BYU athletes fall into that category, return missionaries and married with children. According to NCAA rules college athletes have five calendar years to complete four years of eligibility. Once an athlete either practices with a team or enrolls at a college, his five year “clock” begins to tick. With very few exceptions, the clock may not stop for any reason. (there are some reasons that an athlete may appeal to have a year reinstated but such appeals are rarely granted). The only things that can 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 return 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 but the NCAA has stood fast and the policy remains in place.
Wayne was from North Sacramento where he played sports with another LDS athlete, Jim Kimmel. (in photo: second row from top, second from left). 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 (in photo: second row from top, third from left, next to Jim). 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 thereby became my roommate by default.
Phil was 6’2” and weighed about 200 lbs. and at 5’11” and 128 pounds I was a mere wisp. His heritage was Hispanic but his family had been in California long before mine had considered coming 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 play had ever been written. Phil was meticulous about his housekeeping, his clothing, personal hygiene, courses, schedules, etc. He was highly organized and rigid. 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.
I had never washed a sock, ironed a shirt, nor 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 underwear and had a spotless, well-organized half of a dorm room. His attitude toward me went from parental to pathetic to hostile. 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 went to have 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 of course, by the time they 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. Of course, 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 more suitable roommate.