Football Short Stories - 2
Let other authors entertain us.
Grease the Skids
If at All Possible, Involve a Cow: The Book of College Pranks, Neil Steinberg (1992)
When Rutgers challenged Princeton to the very first intercollegiate foot­ball game in autumn of 1869, the contest was to have been a best of three series. The first game took place placidly enough: "the Princeton players arrived at ten o'clock that morning, strolled around the town, were entertained at dinner, and met their foe on the field at three in the after­noon," a school history records.

The calm was not to last for long. To their everlasting glee, Rutgers won that historic first contest (which, truth be told, was a game much closer to soccer than modern football, with a few rugby-like touches thrown in). They lost the second at Princeton. The rubber game was never played. It was cancelled by a joint agreement of the two schools' faculties, nervous over the "great zest and rivalry aroused" by the game.

1869 Rutgers vs. Princeton
Princeton-Rutgers 1869
It was the same wherever football was played. "Although college football had only been in the Deep South four years, Tech was already a hated ri­val," says an Auburn University history, describing the atmosphere on the Auburn campus when the first football game was played there, against Georgia Tech, in 1896.

The visiting Georgia Tech team was greeted before the first contest by a prank that had such a deep impact on the collective Auburn psyche that it was reenacted each year for nearly a century.

In that pre-bus era, teams traveled by train on the day of the game. The night before that first big game, Auburn students slipped out of their dorms and greased the rails ? a common 19th-century prank ? from before the station platform to well east and out of the town.

When the Tech team train arrived from Atlanta the next morning, it applied the brakes but could not stop. The train, with amazed Tech players and fans aboard, slid by the station and, if accounts of the time can be be­lieved, halfway to Loachapoka, 10 miles away.

The team had to walk into town, with its fans trailing behind, and lost the game 45 to zip. Perhaps the lopsided loss was due to the humiliating ef­fects of the prank, or perhaps the victory was due to Auburn being coached by John Heisman, the man for whom the Heisman Trophy was later named. Who can say?
1896 Auburn football team
1896 Auburn football team with Coach John Heisman in lower right
Burning as much from the prank as from the loss, Georgia Tech refused to play Auburn the following year, and would only agree to a rematch in 1898 if the administration promised their team would not be traipsing along the Loachapoka road again.

Auburn administrators, with typical subtlety, announced that anyone caught trying to grease the tracks would be expelled. This of course was the moral equivalent of an embossed invitation to track greasing, hand delivered to the students. The faculty must have been aware of this be­cause, the Friday night before the game, educators camped out trackside, hoping to apprehend students sneaking out of their rooms with pails of grease. At first the threat appeared successful, but as the evening wore on, more and more students poured out of their dorms, in their pajamas, and assembled at the tracks. Suddenly expulsion seemed somewhat problematic.

"If they expelled everyone who participated, there would be no need to have classes Monday. There would be no students," an Auburn history reasoned. This wouldn't have stopped some administrators, but at Auburn calmer heads prevailed, both among the faculty and students. The faculty did not expel the students gathering trackside and the students, perhaps daunted at the thought of being nudged out into the chill of the real world, did not grease the tracks. Instead, they held a giant pep rally, lining both sides of the railway easement.

Auburn students liked this so much that they repeated it, yearly, before the Georgia Tech game, in what eventually was called the "Wreck Tech Pajama Parade." This went on from the twilight of the 19th century to 1987, when Georgia Tech, which was obviously getting the short end of the stick (although they won a respectable 39 games to Auburn's 43), announced it was no longer scheduling games with Auburn.
Auburn Pajama Rally 2003
Auburn Wreck Tech Pajama Parade in 2003
What an Indian Can Do
Carlisle vs. Army, Lars Anderson (2007)
Dawn broke over the plains ... that surrounded the town of Lawrence, Kansas. ... On January 12, 1900, one thousand Indian students at the Haskell Institute Indian School stumbled from their bunks and rushed into the freezing midwinter morning ... Dressed in gray military uniforms, gray overcoats, and blue caps, the students lined up in formation outside a four-story dormitory. Moments later, they fastened their gaze onto the group of football players who emerged in the distance and pounded their way through the crunchy snow. Eleven-year-old James Francis Thorpe ... was one of the students shivering in front of the gray stone building at Haskell. Like everyone at the school, little Jim couldn't wait to meet the Carlisle Indians, who were quickly becoming larger-than-life figures to Indian boys and girls across the country.

Carlisle coach
Glenn "Pop" Warner

The football players marched closer. Thorpe could see that they were wearing blue military uniforms with yellow-lined capes. They were led by a stocky, power­ful-looking white man who exuded the au­ra of a leader - a general in command - who told his young men what to do, where to go. ... The Carlisle football play­ers were heroes, representing all that was possible for Indians, and now the young Indian's heart pumped with excite­ment as the team stepped closer.

Just twelve days into the twentieth cen­tury, the Carlisle football team was on the tail end of a historic journey. The Indians were returning to Pennsylvania after ma­king the first cross-country trip in the history of college of football. The University of California, seduced by the potential of a hefty payoff at the gate, had invited Carlisle to San Francisco for a post-season game to be played on Christmas Day, 1899. ...

Carlisle 1899 football team
1899 Carlisle Indians football team
The Carlisle players understood they were going into hostile territory, yet they voted in a landslide to take the long trip and become the first eastern team to play in the Pacific Time Zone. Warner expected the game to be bitterly contested - Cal had finished the season with a 7-0-1 record and had smashed Stanford, an elite team, 30-0 - but he was anxious to see how his wide-open style of play would match up with a team from North­ern California. As always, Warner was curious to test his methods in a new laboratory ...

To keep his squad in shape while on the three-week trip, Warner often had his players jump off the back of the train and run alongside it. ... When the train stopped, Warner usually found an open field where he could hold an impromptu practice. ...

On Christmas Day the Carlisle team jogged onto the football field at the Berkeley campus to play Cal in what had been dubbed the "East-West Championship" by sportswriters. An audience of 8,000 fans ringed the field ... The field was in terrible shape; it was covered in so much sand that Carlisle's Frank Hudson, who had been named an All-American by Walter Camp ..., had trouble drop-kicking the ball. The shape of the football itself also befuddled the players. It was fatter and heavier than the ones they had used on the East Coast ...

As the eighteen players emerged from the portal under the covered west­ern grandstand and ran into the crisp winter air, a few of them cart­wheeled onto the field. The crowd applauded loudly in approval. ...

Because the field was layered with sand, footing was treacherous and neither team moved the ball consistently on offense. With the score tied 0-0 late in the first half, Warner reminded his boys that they hadn't traveled all these miles ... to lose or tie. ... Warner implored them to win for one another and all the Indian people.

Then Carlisle caught the only break of the game. Cal had the ball on its 28-yard line when the Bears were forced to punt. After the kicker lined up in deep formation, the ball was snapped. But it sailed far over the head of the punter, who then turned and sprinted after the ball, which was boun­cing around the field. When the punter, Pete Kaarsberg, reached the ball at the four-yard line, he scooped it up and just as he turned around to run back up the field, bam! ... Bennie Pierce, one of the biggest players on the Carlisle team at 210 pounds, smashed into Kaarsberg. Pierce pushed Kaarsberg back ... into the end zone and then through it, tossing Kaars­berg into a low fence that sat a few feet behind the end line. Carlisle was awarded two points for the safety - the only score of the day. Carlisle won this unofficial East-West championship game 2-0. ...

Jim Thorpe at Carlisle
As soon as the boys at Haskell found out that the Carlisle Indian football team would be making an early morning stop at their boarding school, excite­ment buzzed through the campus ... Jim Thorpe had learned how to play the game only about a year earlier, but ever since he first stepped on the field, running with a football in his hand seemed the most natural thing in the world. Out on the field he felt unencumbered, content, and, most of all, special - sensations that little Jim hadn't experienced often in his short life. ...

After breakfast ... all the students moved into the chapel, where the Haskell school band and the glee club performed for the Carlisle football team. ... After the speeches were over, the students of the two schools mingled and talked as they walked through the school hallways. Dressed in their red turtlenecks with the C on the front, the Carlisle playes shared stories of the long trip to California and how they had beaten the boys from Cal even though they insisted on using a football that was almost as big as a watermelon. ...

Thorpe's eyes danced up and down at the Carlisle Indians. Here in the halls of Haskell, he was rubbing shoulders with the heroes of Carlisle. He was looking at his future, but not even Thorpe could have predicted how winding and peri­lous the road to Carlisle would be.
The Wild, Wild Southwest
The Greatest Moments in the Southwest Conference, Will Grimsley (1968)
Controversies were rampant in the swaddling years of Southwest football, and few of them were ever settled to everybody's satisfaction.

There was the case of Baylor's "quick switch" in 1908. The Baptists had al­ready lost two games to Texas Christian and were seeking some sort of revenge in a third meeting at Waco, Texas, on Thanksgiving Day. But the game took the trend of the previous encounters and the Christians led 8-6 at the half.

For the Baptists, this called for desperate measures. So during the half, Baylor, with the aid and connivance of both the coach and captain, cooked up a diabolical scheme. John Flouts, the star Baylor end, changed from Baylor's gray to TCU's blue stockings but kept on his gray jersey. After the kickoff, however, he rushed to the sidelines and donned a blue jersey such as that worn by the TCU team, so that he looked like a twelfth man on the field for the Christians.

The TCU team was thrown into a state of complete befuddlement. It pro­tested to the officials. But Baylor's captain, Babe Gantt, said there was no rule against it, and there wasn't. Out of the chaos and confusion, Baylor emerged with a 23-8 come-from-behind triumph that sent the town of Waco into wild hysterics. TCU chose never to record the game. Baylor did.
1910 Football Game
1910 football game
The bitterness on both sides was almost as keen after a 1910 game be­tween Baylor and Texas which Baylor called a 6-6 tie and Texas listed a 1-0 Longhorn victory by default. The Golden Bears of Baylor had gone into the game with an unbeaten record, but the powerful Texans were heavily fav­ored. For three-fourths of the game the two teams battled furiously, with neither gaining a dominant edge. With the score 6-6 late in the second half, there was a controversial play. The official ruled in favor of Texas. Baylor Coach Ralph Glaze … became so incensed that he bundled up his players and took them off the field. The game was listed officially as a forfeit, but Baylor never recognized the decision.

It became quite evident after a while that such madcap disorganized compe­tition could not continue. Otherwise, it was feared, some of the players might start bringing six-shooters onto the field, as one player, a rangy guard named Ed (Cowboy) Bull of Addran College [TCU], once threatened to do. "I always wear my shootin' iron when I'm among strangers," Bull told a teammate as he rammed a Colt into his belt. He was dissuaded from carrying it onto the field against Texas.

It was obvious that football in the Southwest needed some sort of direc­tion, so a move was begun in 1914 to form a conference which would gov­ern the competition. The Southwest Conference emerged a year later.
Aggie Traitor
Football - Texas Style: An Illustrated History of the Southwest Conference, Kern Tips (1964)

To set the stage for the events of 1917, it was the negotiated truce be­tween Texas and Texas A&M that was basic to the founding of the South­west Conference two years earlier. When Charley Moran and A&M parted company, the Aggies brought in Billy Driver as athletic director; he is turn engaged E. H. Harlan, formerly of Princeton, to coach the 1915 team. The following year, Driver imported a promising young coach from Mississippi College, named Dana X. Bible, to coach the 1916 A&M freshman team.

That was quite a squad of fish (Aggie word for freshman); it defeated the varsity regularly under its youthful coach (Mr. Bible was twenty-four). But he was not to finish his first season at College Station. L.S.U. was in diffi­culty; it asked A&M's permission to hire Bible as its head coach to finish out the 1916 season, and A&M consented. Bible led the L.S.U. team to a glori­ous finish, tying Rice and Tulane, defeating, of all people the Texas Aggies, and others. When the 1916 season ended, L.S.U. offered Mr. Bible a new had coach contract; so, wisely, did Texas A&M.

"I felt a moral obligation to A&M," says Mr. Bible. "They had consented to let me go to help out at L.S.U.; now they wanted me back. I was delighted and honored to return to A&M as its head coach." ...

The 1917 Aggies were undefeated, untied, and unscored on; Bible, as a pursuit pilot, and most of his 1917 squad served in World War I in 1918, and were reunited in 1919. Again in 1919, the Farmers went undefeated, untied, and unscored on - a mesmeric sort of invincibility that ... generated a fierce esprit de corps that has lingered as a hallmark of the college through the years. ...
Texas @ Texas A&M 1919
Texas A&M defeats Texas at College Station, 1919.
Bible's 1916 freshmen ... swung through eight games in 1917, ten games in 1919, and nine games in 1920, undefeated and unscored on until the final game of the 1920 season in Austin on Thanksgiving Day against the University of Texas - and WHAM, it happened. A Bible-coached A&M var­sity was scored on for the first time; the score: Texas 7, Aggies 3. It hap­pened late in the final period, with A&M leading 3-0 ...

Twenty thousand - largest crowd ever to watch a game in the Southwest - roared as Texas moved to the A&M eleven-yard line with time growing short; twice Texas hit the line and was stopped; and then on third down - here's how a reporter saw it: "There was a criss-cross pass that electrified the Texas rooters. Swede Swenson snapped the ball to Domingues; he started to his right and handed the ball to Barry circling on a reverse; run­ning to his left, Barry threw a forward pass to Tom Dennis [Texas's great RT who had been made eligible ... by the peel-off of the RE before the snap] - a throw across the field that Dennis caught, leaping and falling, with one hand on the four-yard line. Domingues ploughed over for the touchdown; Hart added the extra point."

And Texas had won a ball game to rupture A&M's greatest winning string.

The statistics of the game are interesting by-products of coaching method. Roswell Higginbotham ... punted ten times - many of them on first down - for an average of forty-nine yards; the Aggies threw just one pass, and it was intercepted. Texas was less cautious, throwing eight passes, comple­ting five, including the key criss-cross to Dennis late in the game; Dennis, also Texas's punter, kicked nine times for a 41y average.

... the victory gave the Longhorns their first official Southwest Conference championship, undefeated and untied, in the first year under Coach Berry Whitaker. ... That 1920 championship team included such all-time Longhorn stalwarts as Captain Maxey Hart, Hook McCullough, Tom Dennis, Swede Swenson, Grady (Rats) Watson, Lane Tynes, Bud McCallum, and Kyle (Slippery) Elam. ...
1917 Texas Aggies
1917 Texas Aggies
Kyle Elam is in the upper left corner.
If you look closely at the Aggies' team picture of 1917, you will spot K. Elam - a rather slight lad who played safety for Bible's first undefeated ... team; and had it not been for Kyle Elam on one play in one game in 1917, there may have been no record to become part of the hallowed years. It was E­lam who, in the 1917 game against Baylor and playing safety, stood alone between a receiver who had caught a pass and the Aggie goal line; Elam shifted, ran, spun, maneuvered, and made a flying tackle to cut off a Baylor touchdown. The Aggies won the game 7-0 ...
1920 Texas Longhorns
1920 Texas Longhorns
The arrow points to Kyle Elam is in the upper left corner.
If you look closely at the Texas team picture of 1920, you will spot K. Elam - the same, now a Longhorn; Slippery Elam, now the starting quarterback for the Texas team that dynamited the big Aggie train on Thanksgiving Day of 1920 and ended the A&M string he had helped to create in 1917. It is credited to Elam that he called the "criss-cross" pass that uncovered Tom Dennis for the backbreaking play that set up the winning touchdown for Texas.
If this seems a little offbeat, you are reminded of the times. The eligibility honeymoon of the new Southwest Conference was interrupted by the out­break of World War I; the Conference wisely ordered the suspension of the rules governing the eligibility of the men who went to war.
The Bronk's Hitting Style
Classic Football History (

Bronko Nagurski

In 1930 Bronko Nagurski known as "The Bronk" had a reputation as the toughest pro football player in the NFL. His style was described as smashing, driving and forever fighting. On September 28, 1930, the second game of the season between the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers, the Bronk hurt two Packer players. The first player was Hurdis McCrary, FB by ramming his knee up into his chin. The second was Cully Lidberg RB who was carried off the field with broken bones after being hit by the bone crushing Bronk. Lidberg was good at hitting and tackling himself but ran into trouble against Nagurski. Lidberg made the mistake of getting into a head-on collision with Nagurski at the line of scrimmage. "The Bronk" was booed for this hit, and when he saw the Packer lying there not moving it shook him up. Lidberg was in great pain and could be heard moaning as he was taken away on a stretcher from City Stadium. As Lidberg was being carried from the field, the Bronk told the Bears Quarterback Carl Brumbaugh, "I'm never going to hit a man like that again. Brummy, I don't want them to think I'm a dirty player - no way." George Trafton, the Bears C, heard what the Bronk said, "Look - everyone in the league is gunning for your &*%$; besides, with me around, nobody is ever gonna call you a dirty player."

Bronko Nagurski had developed his style of hitting and tackling as a linebacker at the University of Minnesota. He would fold both of his arms across his chest and lean forward at a forty-five degree angle, driving his right shoulder into his opponent's sternum. The player would go down and stay down most of the time. Some players were left breathless, others unconscious.

On November 9, 1930, in Chicago, the Bears played the Green Bay Packers. During the game the Packers' Cal Hubbard said to Red Grange, the running back of the Bears, "Hey, Ghost, let me through this time. I promise I won't block the punt. I just want a shot at that Nagurski; I want to see if the boys as tough as everybody says." Red Grange, The Galloping Ghost, had seen enough of Nagurski's playing style to know that he was the toughest pro football player of all time and it was not just talk.

Grange agreed because he knew what would happen; this would be a lesson that Hubbard would never forget. Cal Hubbard came through the line full blast and came right at Nagurski and, when the Chicago Bronk gave him a stiff right arm to the Packer's jaw, there was a loud crack. The crowd could hear it in the stands.

Cal Hubbard was on the ground; once he got to his feet he was stumbling, groggy and having trouble focusing. After his lesson with the Bronk, Hubbard came up to Red Grange slurring his words and said, "Thanks, Ghost, my old pal. Please make sure that never happens again."

Early in the third quarter, Nagurski ripped through three Packer tacklers, Verne Lewellen, HB/FB and Cal Hubbard, T/G and one other Packer. He ran 57y before these three Packers caught up with Nagurski and brought him down at the 2y line. Carl Brumbaugh, the Bears QB (who was not wearing a leather football helmet), had tricked the Packers by using the Bronk as a decoy. Brumbaugh had pulled the ball out from Nagurski's arm and pitched it to Bears halfback Laurie Walquist who scored the touchdown, but the extra point was missed.

In the final two minutes of the game, Nagurski carried the ball eight times to the two-yard line. Then Brumbaugh handed the Bronk the ball, and he blasted through two Packers for a touchdown. However, he had been running with his head down and hit the outfield wall head on with his leather helmet and bent his neck. The crowd saw this and there was a loud groan all across the stadium. Nagurski was shook up from the crash; his legs felt like rubber as he staggered to the Bears bench. When he managed to get to the sidelines, George Trafton asked, "You all right, Bronk?" "Yep, Traf, but that last sonofabitch hit me pretty hard," said the Bronk. Trafton laughed. "Bronk, that wasn't no player; you just cracked a brick in that wall." Twice in his career he had run head first into the outfield wall at Wrigley Field. Two different times he was running with such fury through the end of the end zone that he ran down into the dugout steps. 

The Packers went on to win the game 13-12. Al Capone, the Chicago mobster who was at the game said, "Greatest performance I've ever seen."
The Bear Comes to Texas A&M
The Junction Boys: How Ten Days in Hell with Bear Bryant
Forged a Championship Team
, Jim Dent (1999)
Kentucky Coach Bear Bryant
Bear Bryant at Kentucky

Ironically, Texas A&M's opening game of the 1953 season was played against Bryant's Kentucky Wild­cats. The Aggies won 7-6 in spite of being badly overmatched by a Kentucky team that would finish the season with a 7-2-1 record, good enough to be ranked number sixteen in the final A.P. poll.

As the A&M players boarded the buses that night after the victory, they could still see the stadium lights shining brightly. They could hear bodies col­liding down on the field. Bryant was so exasperated with the defeat that he'd ordered a midnight scrim­mage to begin at the same spot where the game had ended. He marked the ball and blew his whistle, and the Kentucky Wildcats went to work until four in the morning.

Aggie RB Charles Hall shook his head as the Aggie buses rolled into the Lexington night. "Boys, how'd you like to play for a sonofabitch like that? Those fellas are gonna be sick and sore in the morning."

Six months later, Bryant's plane was landing in College Station.

When the annual maroon-and-white game kicked off six weeks later at Kyle Field, it seemed that every ex-student and Aggie follower ever born had come to see the controversial new coach. They also wanted to know why he'd chosen a weak-armed buzztop from Brenham [Elwood Kettler] to lead the team.

Answers came quickly. It was clear there would be nothing artistic about Bryant's offense. From the Split-T formation the Aggies ran off-tackle bursts and countertraps and QB sneaks and power sweeps. Kettler carried the ball several times on the QB sweep for some decent gains. a€¦ [Bryant] had for­gotten about the passing game when he left Lexington. He'd come to Texas to by-God run the football.

Two months after arriving at Texas A&M, Bryant had smiled upon Kettler's fine work in the annual spring game until he broke free on a bootleg and was tackled ten yards downfield by C/LB Fred Broussard. As Kettler fell, he felt a horrible pain ripping through his ribs and lower back. Broussard's knees had landed squarely on Kettler's lower back. Air gushed from his body, and as he lay motionless on the ground he thought at first his back was broken.
Texas A&M Backfield 1954
Bear Bryant with his 1954 starting backfield at Texas A&M:
Don Katchik (#30 - FB), Don Watson (#24 - HB),
Elwood Kettler (#47 - QB), Joe Schero (#47 - HB)
Thirty minutes later, Kettler still lay on the trainers' table at halftime when Bryant marched into the room. Steely eyes starred daggers into the QB. "Looks to me you ain't my QB after all," he growled. "I don't need a boy who's gonna get hurt. My QB has gotta be a tough sonofabitch."

"Coach," Kettler groaned, "I'm sorry. But I can't even raise my right leg right now. It's numb."

"You mean you ain't gonna play in the second half?"

"Yes, sir. No, I guess I won't. But I'd like to."

Bryant thought about Joe Drach, his QB at Maryland during his first season ever as a college head coach in 1945. Drach had broken a bone in his right hand in the first half against West Virginia. The hand was twisted gro­tesquely into the shape of a question mark and throbbed horribly. Bryant told the trainers to "tape it up" at halftime. Drach was close to tears, and his jaw dropped as he said, "Tape it up?"

In a rage, Bryant grabbed the QB's arm and pressed the hand against the locker-room wall. The bone popped back into place, and Drach fainted from the pain. Drach came to after a trainer snapped an ammonia capsule under his nose, and he played the entire second half.

Kettler stayed in the trainers' room. Doctors discovered that he'd broken four bones in his lower back known as transverse processes. Two ribs had been torn completely loose from his sternum. Several days would pass before Ket­tler could even walk again. Breathing was next to impossible. But Bryant still couldn't fathom why his QB hadn't at least tried to play in the second half.

"I really felt like I let Coach down," a despondent Kettler told [trainer] Smoky Harper a few days later.

"You did all right. Even I can't make a boy play who can't walk."

Now, on the second day in [September training camp at] Junction, Kettler again was leading the first-string offense.
Coach Search - I
The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football,
Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian (2013)
Over the years [Nick] Saban's departure from the Miami Dolphins and hiring by Alabama in January 2007 have been the subject of more than a bit of mystery and outrage by die-hard Fins fans. How was former Al­abama AD Mal Moore able to spirit Saban ... to Tuscaloosa? Especially after Saban had repeatedly denied the rumors, going so far as to say on December 21, 2006, "I guess I have to say it: "I'm not going to be the Al­abama coach." ...

In Moore's mind he had three candidates: South Carolina's coach Steve Spurrier, West Virginia's red-hot Rich Rodriguez and Saban. Moore said he first offered Spurrier the head job in December 2006. "It was intriguing, that's the word he used, 'intriguing. But he said, 'Mal, I'm just too dug in at South Carolina.' ... He told me, 'You should go hard for Saban.'" ...

A few months earlier, Saban had sent word through Jimmy Sexton, his powerful agent, he was leaning toward leaving the NFL. In Saban's first year the Dolphins had reeled off six straight wins to finish the season 9-7. But his second year had dissolved into a difficult grind - a 1-6 start precipi­tated by problems at QB and players grumbling about the inten­sity of practice and what they saw as Saban's dictatorial style of coach­ing. ... Both Nick and Terry discovered they missed campus life and the spirit of the college game. Saban told a friend in Miami he felt as if he were going to work at a factory every day; he missed the camaraderie of college coaching and realized he felt much more comfortable building young men than fighting the habits of professional athletes.
Alabama AD Mal MooreAgent Jimmy SextonDolphins Coach Nick Saban
L: Alabama AD Mal Moore; M: Jimmy Sexton, Nick Saban's agent; R: Nick Saban
So Moore told Sexton he was prepared to make his client the highest- paid coach in the Southeastern Conference. "Well, you can stop right there," Sexton told him. "We need to be talking the country, not the conference."

Moore made it clear he "absolutely never spoke with" Saban during the 2006 NFL season .... But that didn't stop Moore from working on a deal sheet with Sexton. ... Then Sexton suddenly stopped returning his calls. So Moore heated up conversations with Rodriguez ... Again, ano­ther deal sheet was constructed. Then Sexton called back. Moore told him he was about to hire Rodriguez. It was the last thing Sexton wanted to hear. The NFL season still had a month to go; Saban needed more time. Time Moore frankly didn't have. Alabama's president, Dr. Robert E. Witt, had been quietly urging Moore to make a choice.

So on Thursday, December 7, 2006, Moore reached an agreement with Rodriguez - $12 million over six years, $700,000 a year more than his pay at West Virginia. ... he and Rodriguez sealed the deal with what Moore called a "blood oath" not to utter a word of what had trans­pired. By mid-afternoon ... the paperwork had made its way to the Ala­bama administrative building for vetting by university lawyers. Then within two hours news broke on ESPN that Alabama had reached an agreement to hire Rodriguez. Moore was anything but pleased with that piece of news. The next day Rodriguez publicly denied any agree­ment had been reached, saying he had de­clined an offer. "This is my school, my alma mater, my dream" ... In Moore's mind it didn't matter what Rodriguez said. An oath had been broken. "I never spoke to Rodriguez again," he said. ...

Alabama was set to play in the Independence Bowl December 28. Miami's season ended three days later. ... Instead of flying home with the team after the bowl game, [Moore] drove to Tuscaloosa to avoid the press and hopped on a friend's Gulfstream ...

Upon landing, he reached Saban by phone. ... Moore spoke with hus­band and wife for about thirty minutes. Saban was struggling, clearly caught up in the persuasive powers of Dolphins' billionaire owner Wayne Huizenga ... "I tell him I want out, and he talks me back in." ... Saban told Moore he would call him the next day at noon.

Noon came and went. Ninety more minutes passed. ... Moore checked out of his hotel ... He called Sexton one last time. "Hang in there," said the agent. ... Saban told Moore to meet him at his home that night. ... just as Moore was pulling in front of Saban's house, his phone rang. It was Paul Bryant, Jr., Bear's only son and a member of the Alabama Board of Trustees. "How you doing?" asked Bryant. "I'm right in front of Saban's house," Moore whispered. ...

Nick and Terry Saban

Once Moore was inside the house, he and Terry talked. ... The conversation ranged from Huizenga to her husband's frustration with his job. Then the phone rang. It was Saban ... "I called Terry and I said, 'I don't think I'm going to talk to him [Mal] tonight,'" he said. "She said, 'Oh, Mal's already here. We've been talking for an hour.' That was the first step in the right direction."

Saban finally arrived home. "If I made a pitch, it began with the way I see it you don't have a choice but to come to Ala­bama," said Moore. "If you get beat with the Dolphins, they're going to blame you. And if you don't and we win at Alabama, you're going to wish you were at Alabama."

Saban excused himself to make a call. At that point, Terry grab­bed his right arm and shook it hard with both hands. "We've got to get him on that plane!" ... Moore let out a big laugh. "I knew right then I was in a helluva lot better shape than I thought I was."

Saban returned to say he had a meeting the next morning with Hui­zenga. He wanted Moore to return to the gated community and wait down the street for a call. The next morning Moore waited under an oak tree as television trucks gathered and helicopters circled ... Somewhere between 10:30 and 11:00 a.m. his phone rang. It was Saban. We're coming with you, the coach said. Give me until two o'clock. Saban later said he never directly told Huizenga he was leaving, but Huizenga finally said, "Nick, if that's what you want, I want you to do it."

Moore headed back to his hotel to pack ... By 2:00 p.m. he was back under the oak tree. His phone rang once more. Moore told Saban they needed to get moving. Did he want to take two cars? No, said Saban. Back your car into our garage; the luggage is ready.

So that's what Moore's driver did, only to find the Sabans, their daugh­ter and one of her friends waiting. ... Off they went. Reporters followed. Helicopters chased. On the way to the airport Moore made two calls, one to the owner of the Gulfstream, the other to a name synonymous with Alabama football. He handed the phone to Saban. "Congratula­tions, Coach," said Joe Willie Namath.

Half a dozen camera crews were waiting when Moore's car pulled up to the private plane entrance ... Moore reached into his pocket and pulled out a few hundred dollars. He handed them to his driver ... By accident a $10 bill fluttered away. One of the airport workers picked it up and handed it back to Moore, shaking his hand. "Great job, Coach Moore," he said. "I'm from Anniston, Alabama!" Seven years later Moore let out another long laugh at the pure pleasure he derived from the oddity of that moment. "I really could have hugged that man's neck," he said. ...

The pilot of the plane was the brother-in-law of Richard Todd, a former Crimson Tide QB. Welcome to the small world of the SEC. Then Moore uttered a line that should live forever in Alabama football lore. "I told him if I didn't come back on this plane with Nick Saban, he might as well have flown my ass straight to Cuba!!" ...

In a tribute to Moore shortly after he passed away, Saban said that his happiest moment with his friend came when Moore was honored as the nation's top AD in 2012. Saban said Moore had tears in his eyes when he told Saban he had changed Moore's life by accepting the Ala­bama job. "No, Mal, you changed my life," Saban said. "I'm a better coach. I'm a better person. I'm a better teacher for the lessons I've learned in partnership with you."

Next: Coach Search II - Michigan 2007
Coach Search - II
Three and Out: Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan Wolverines, John U. Bacon (2011)
Lloyd Carr announced his retirement as Michigan head coach at the end of the 2007 season.

[Michigan AD Bill] Martin put together a six-man search committee repre­senting a cross section of university leaders ... Martin told them what he was looking for and mentioned that Tony Dungy was his favorite candi­date. ... His Indianapolis Colts had just won the 2007 Super Bowl the pre­vious winter ... Exactly why Martin thought Dungy might be interested in Michigan, however, is a mystery. The committee then briefly discussed Cincinnati's Brian Kelly ... But Kelly had a well-earned reputation for be­ing unpleasant ... and Martin made it clear he was not a serious candidate.

What was most striking about that first meeting, however, was the num­ber of candidates they barely discussed, if at all: Mike DeBord, Ron Eng­lish, Jeff Tedford, Rich Rodriguez, and even Les Miles, the committee's first choice. "Bill didn't want him," recalls Ted Spencer ... "I have no idea why. He never gave us a reason." When the first meeting adjourned, the committee had been given no serious candidates to consider, nor any real direction. There was no urgency, no plan. The members left mystified ... and miffed. ...

Many observers seemed eager to believe that the very absence of any real news or activity emanating from the department was all part of some supersecret master plan that would result in Miles being hired after LSU's bowl game. But the truth was that the silence was simply the result of a slow, sloppy search. ...

The public also didn't know that Miles's representatives had been repeat­edly trying to connect with Martin after Carr's announcement, without suc­cess. Miles's people placed more calls on Thursday, November 29, but Martin and his wife were heading out for a three-day trip to Florida. When Jamie Morris, who worked in the development side of the athletic depart­ment ..., presented Martin with a short stack of pink message slips before Martin left that Thursday, Martin told him he planned to call Miles when he returned on Sunday ...

All this came to a head two days later, on Saturday, ... when Miles was preparing his team to play the SEC title game that afternoon against Ten­nessee. That morning, ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit announced that Miles had accepted Michigan's offer to succeed Coach Carr. Even while Herbstreit was talking, Miles's agent was trying desperately to get in touch with Martin in Florida, to no avail. ...

Morris recalled, "I'm sitting on the couch about to watch some football when Kirk Herbstreit announces Les is going to Michigan. My phone starts going crazy! I'm getting calls from everyone ... the committee mem­bers, the regents, people at Schembechler Hall ... and all I can say is, 'I can't confirm this.' Then they start asking, ‘Where's Bill?' I'm thinking he must have stopped in Atlanta [where LSU was playing Tennessee] to meet with Les and get him signed before going to Florida."
Michigan AD Bill MartinLes Miles at 2007 Press Conference
L: Michigan AD Bill Martin; R: Les Miles at his impromptu press conference
Thanks to Herbstreit's report, the buzz became so deafening so quickly that Miles felt compelled to give an impromptu press conference of his own just hours before the SEC championship game. "There was some misinfor­mation on ESPN and I think it's imperative that I straighten it out," he said, jaw clenched. "I am the head coach at LSU. I will be the head coach at LSU. I have no interest in talking to anybody else. I've got a championship game to play, and I am excited about the opportunity of my damn strong football team to play in it. That's really all I'd like to say."

After Miles gave his public denial, Morris's phone started burning up again with calls from insiders who wanted to know where Martin was and why they could not get through to him on his cell phone. Before Martin had left ..., he had changed cell phones ... Which, in effect, meant the Michigan AD, in the midst of a search for a new head coach ... was ... unable to communi­cate when the popular front-runner for the post had been forced to refute ESPN's inaccurate report ...

"Bill was totally oblivious to everything," Morris said. "Finally Mary Sue [Coleman, Michigan president] calls Bill after he gets home Sunday night, and she's pissed off. So now he's finally getting it. He finally figures out he's in deep shit."
Michigan President Mary Sue ColemanRutgers Coach Greg Schiano
L: Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman; R: Rutgers coach Greg Schiano
The next day, ... with pressure mounting, Martin told the media he had a list of twenty candidates ... which seemed like the kind of slate he'd have at the beginning of a search, not in December. The same day Martin flew to New York City under the guise of attending the National Football Foun­dation's Hall of Fame dinner ... Martin met with Rutgers's Greg Schiano ... Word quickly got out that Michigan was actively pursuingA  Schiano, which not only surprised Martin ... who had naively believed the high-profile search could be kept quiet ... but also came as news to the committee members ...

A few days later, ... Schiano, after considering Martin's offer, declined ... The sporting public was stunned to see Michigan, one of the most re­spected athletic departments in the nation, failing to find a leader. ...

Detroit Free Press columnist Michael Rosenberg wrote that there were two possibilities: Martin had decided Miles was not his man and intentionally let him slip away, or he was simply asleep at the wheel ... [Former UM All­Big Ten lineman Bill] Dufek told the News he believed "Carr sabotaged the pursuit of Miles because of personal animosity, or petty jealousies."

After Schiano's rejection, Martin told the committee they would be post­poning the search until after the bowl games ... but that's when he kicked he search into high gear. ... But Michigan's awkward dance with Les Miles wasn't quite done. After Schiano turned Martin down, the Michigan in­siders realized Martin's slow search was the sign not of some carefully executed master plan but of an almost complete lack of preparation.... Miles's advocates realized it was time to make their move. ...

Friday, December 7, Bill Martin made an early-morning call to an interme­diary who told him Les Miles would not speak to Martin, only to President Coleman, but if Martin wanted to listen in on the conversation, that was fine. They arranged a conference call from Coleman's office at 11:00 a.m. that day, marking the first conversation either Michigan official had had with the alleged leading candidate ...

It was a simple, pleasant conversation. Neither side committed to anything more than keeping their conversation confidential and having another con­versation before LSU's national championship game. Miles did let them know, however, that, "I would never say no to Michigan." But, incredibly, by 1:30 that afternoon word of the conference call had already started popping up on the blogs ... and word quickly traveled down to Baton Rouge. Miles was understandably upset.

Three days later ... Coleman and Miles talked again. She said she could not hire Miles without meeting him first, and asked Miles to meet her and Martin in Miami, where Miles had already scheduled a recruiting trip. Miles replied that he could not do any face-to-face meeting until after the na­tional title game. Besides, he pointed out, Michigan couldn't keep a con­ference call confidential for more than a couple hours, and the media was already watching his every move in Baton Rouge. He already had a great job in a great program ... and he was not interested in leaving LSU unless Michigan ... and only Michigan ... was truly interested. And if they were, he figured, they could wait until January to seal the deal. But he added, "If you want me, then after the bowl game, I will be your coach ... I just can't do anything before that." ...

After they hung up with Miles, Coleman and Martin met to discuss their strategy ... When they agreed they should approach Miles, someone raised the question everyone dreaded: "Who's going to tell Lloyd?" After a pause, President Coleman said, "I will."

[The next day] someone leaked the story of the resurrection of Miles's candidacy to Mark Snyder at the Free Press ... Naturally, it got picked up in Louisiana ... marking the second time the "Miles to Michigan" story had broken ... That not only upset Miles, it effectively boxed him in. ... With Miles tied up until January, Michigan returned to [West Virginia coach Rich] Rodriguez. ...
Michigan Coach Rich Rodriguez
Rich Rodriguez
[December 16] Coleman talked with Les Miles for about ninety minutes ... the first time she really got to know him. Despite the good rapport, they had already offered Rod­riguez the job and were waiting for his answer. President Coleman wished Miles best of luck in the bowl, telling him to "make Michigan proud" of its alum, and told him they would see how the chips fell. In other words, if Rodriguez declined, they could be talking in January about Miles be­coming the next Michigan coach. ... Rodriguez ... decided to take the job before he had ever set foot in Ann Arbor ...
If at All Possible, Involve a Cow: The Book of College Pranks, Neil Steinberg (1992)
The constant back-and-forth tension between pranksters and sportsters is obvious in the fierce war between the University of California at Los Ange­les and the University of Southern California, perhaps the most prank-la­den sports matchup in the country. ...

Tommy Trojan
The earliest recorded prank between the schools was in 1937, when three USC Trojans burned "USC" into the UCLA quad. They bungled the job, and were caught. The same year, UCLA students were apprehended painting "UCLA" on the USC statue of its mascot, Tommy Trojan. They were tarred, feathered, and pulled down University Avenue displayed in a cage.

The Tommy Trojan statue, installed in 1930, has been a continual magnet for UCLA hatred. No­body has ever stolen the massive, bronze Tom­my. But his sword has been taken so often over the years that USC started replacing it with a wooden sword after each theft, since the bronze was getting expensive.

He has been painted so often that, in recent years, officials have taken to draping Tommy in canvas and plastic - referred to as "the bag­gie" - the week of the USC-UCLA game. A security guard sometimes watches over Tom­my, other times bands of volunteer students (one year, 100 students armed with clubs camped out around the statue).

Despite precautions, in 1979, a former Daily Bruin editor named Steve Hartman almost made off with Tommy's head after sneaking onto campus with a group of friends and an array of cutting tools, including a hacksaw. "We made a pretty good incision in the Trojan's neck," said Hartman. "But then we saw these five squad cars pull up." Now Tommy is under 24-hour surveillance by a video camera.

For a period of several years, the rivalry focused on what was known as the Victory Bell. The alumni association at UCLA bought a big train bell from the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1939 and presented it to the school. For two years, the bell rang out points during home games while the rooting section chanted along.

But in 1941, after the first game of the season ..., six fraternity brothers from the Sigma Phi Epsilon chapter at USC secretly joined the UCLA rooters. At the end of the game, while they assisted the students loading the 295- pound bell into a waiting truck, one of the Trojans stole the keys. The UCLA students went to get another set, and the fratnicks drove the truck and bell back to USC. To the growing rage of the UCLA campus, the bell remained missing for more than a year, spending some of that time in a Santa Ana haystack.

In retribution, UCLA initiated the tradition of drenching Tommy Trojan in blue-and-gold paint. USC retaliated by burning its initials onto UCLA lawns. After the campus raids escalated, including threats to kidnap USC student president Bob McCay (and threats by USC's comically named president, Dr. Rufus B. von KleinSmid, to cancel the game if the pranks continued) the two student governments decided to parlay.

On November 12, 1942, they agreed that the Victory Bell ... would forever­more be a trophy to be held by the winner of the yearly UCLA-USC game. It was never stolen again. (Concern over possible theft of the Victory Bell re­mains such, however, that it is removed from the stadium during the last quarter of the match. The victors display it for one day - the Monday after their triumph - then lock it away for another year.)

Still, this accord did not stop the UCLA-USC rivalry from producing a number of extremely satisfying pranks. In 1947, UCLA students kidnapped USC's beloved canine mascot, George Tirebiter, from a dog-and-cat hospital, re­turning him to the Trojans with "UCLA" shaved into his fur. USC sorority girls knitted George a little sweater so he could appear at the 1947 Rose Bowl without advertising his rivals.

In 1958, editors of the Daily Trojan, realizing that their newspaper was printed up at the same plant as the Daily Bruin, created the first of many game-paper pranks between the schools. The Trojan editors used the printing plant connection to get their hands on plates for the Bruin, and went to work altering copy for their own, modified, game version of the Bruin, which they then printed up. That done, they kidnapped the truck driver de­livering the real Bruin to the UCLA campus and, while the driver was being given breakfast at USC's frat row, loaded the truck with the fake edition and drove to UCLA and proceeded to the drop-off points

"I can't see any hope for our team," the UCLA head coach was quoted as saying in one article. "I'd feel much better about our chances against those terrific Trojans if we had a couple of players who understood the game," an athlete said elsewhere.

They wisely saved a few copies of the fake Bruin to pass out in a meeting of the Trojan Club at a downtown hotel. The alums were so pleased with the prank they reimbursed the group the cost of printing up the fake edition (and, to mitigate their punishment should they be caught, they made sure to deliver the real Bruin around noontime, so it wouldn't be out the day's ad revenues. Sports. Fair play. All that.)

That same year, in 1958, UCLA tried a prank against USC that while accom­plishing little, in fact, entered into joint college lore and illustrates the way myth often enhances the reality of a prank. This was the helicopter dumping of manure on the Tommy Trojan statue. Various accounts have between 500 and 2,000 pounds of manure dumped on Tommy Trojan from a helicopter, used to thwart the phalanx of Trojan men guarding the statue round-the­clock the week before the game. "They hit the statue right on the nose," gloated an article in a UCLA booster magazine.

Sadly, what happened is this. UCLA booster Irv Sepkowitz and his conspi­rators rented a helicopter. Initially they planned to loop a rope over the sta­tue and tear it out of the ground. But they quailed at the thought of illegality, not to mention the very real risk of crashing the helicopter and killing them­selves. Instead, they loaded the helicopter with four bags of fertilizer - per­haps a hundred pounds' worth. They flew to the USC campus, where they positioned themselves over Tommy Trojan. They overlooked, however, a ba­sic property of helicopter aerodynamics. "There is a wash of air that blows much of what you throw out of a helicopter back to you," said Sepkowitz. As the bags were torn open and dumped, the prop wash sucked the manure back into the helicopter. "We were covered with the stuff. It looked like we were in a minstrel show when we were done. How much landed I do not know."