Sunday, June 21, 2009

The coat and tie coach, gone for good

Read with amusement that Kevin O'Neill is going to USC.

Remember when he arrived on Rocky Top, big promises, fanfare and high expectations. The malaise that was Wade Houston was ending. Lopsided losses to Kentucky (on my birthday) would fade in time.

Slight aside: A friend told me once that his friend wandered into the athletic offices a day or two after a terrible loss. Houston had his feet propped up on his desk watching soap operas. When said friend held up the morning newspaper headline from the game, Houston straightened up, coughed and began to look busy. I don't know if the story is true, but if it isn't, it should be.

I always thought O'Neill was all mouth and no results at Tennessee. He was a foul-mouthed Yankee, bad representative for the university, sad example for the kids that might have sat a few rows up from the home bench.

Those who know more than me say he is a good coach, great recruiter, full of energy. I don't know.

I do know that he crept out of here with his 36-47 record, a literal thief in the night, for what he must have thought would be greener pastures at Northwestern. I still laugh at the image of Bob Knight insulting O'Neill after a game and Short Stuff trying to give it back to him. Amusing and pitiful.

Guess you can tell I never cared for him. And I don't care for that coaching style.

But, I'm out of touch. I like the old school, wear a coat and tie on the football sideline, stay stoic, know how to win and how to lose with class. Don't run your mouth. Be an adult. An added plus is when you show a little education, like maybe you know about a world outside of athletics.

I am one of about 10 people who still like John Majors. I still believe you don't show somebody who gave more to UT than anybody besides Gen. Robert Neyland the door without allowing the smoke to clear. I will never forget Johnny's mother, John Elizabeth "Bobo" Majors looking shellshocked that bleak Friday the 13th in Memphis.

"I gave one son to Tennessee," she said, thinking of her son Bill, assistant coach, who was hit by a train and killed in 1965 on the way to work. "Now I've given another."

But, then again, my alma mater is also the university that thanked George "Bad News" Cafego for a stellar multi-decade career upon his retirement by presenting him with a used van -- the means by which Tennessee's women's basketball team traveled to away games. Cafego never said a word, but it hurt him to the core. A bit later they welcomed back Doug Dickey with open arms, the Tall Guy who told his players he was staying, then slithered off to Florida.

The old-school breed of college coaches is long gone with the wind. I prefer solid defense to fun and gun offensive explosions. I dislike loud music at the stadium, a gargantuan jumbotron, fans cursing in the crowd. Doesn't matter now.

I'm waiting to see what Lane Kiffin delivers when talk must give way to what happens between the lines. We will see if the glitter turns to gold.

A good friend cautioned my do or die, show me soon, do so or I'm gone outlook. He needs two years. Give him a chance. He's inheriting a bad situation like we haven't seen since the end of the Battle years.

Maybe so.

But I just don't care for the arrogant, low-class Nick Sabans and Urban Meyers of the world, call a time out to throw another touchdown pass when the outcome is no longer in doubt. Outside of Howard Schnellenberger, we'll never see a coat and tie coach roaming the college sideline. Now it's visors and polo shirts, slobs that look like they just rolled out of bed, the Patriots coach sporting his homeless guy cut off sweatshirt.

The bright lights of modern college football mean win games or else. It is a business. Earn your bloated salary or take a hike.

The gentleman era is gone for good. I'm not so sure that is a good thing.

Labels: , , , , ,


Anonymous Oskie said...

Big time Johnny fan here, too. I rant every year about the jacket, and I think it's ridiculous that our coaches are wearing windbreakers out there.

Just one point of clarification - Johnny's mother was John Elizabeth (you just got the names swapped).

Great post, man.

9:04 AM  
Blogger Jake Mabe said...

Thanks for the great comments, man, and for the clarification. Shows what happens when you go by memory!

9:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While what you say is very sad indeed, I think you really morn the passing of the age of the gentleman and the lady, of thoughtfulness, and of meaningful conversation.

1:00 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home