Are you up to a question that you thought you would never be asked?
OK, here it is:
Starting in one more season, just one man will have coached football at three different Southeastern Conference schools.
Remember that situation hasn’t happened yet, but it most likely will during the 2012 season.
Hint: He generally is regarded as the best coach in the history of college football, not just in the SEC. He has been a Wildcat and at a school where they yell “Roll, Tide!”
Have I given you enough hints?
Of course it’s Paul “Bear” Bryant.
A&M new in SEC
Texas A&M, the new SEC team, was where Bryant coached after he left UK.
After wrestling that bear in his native Arkansas where he got his nickname, Bryant played in the Rose Bowl for Alabama. After coaching at Maryland, he was lured to the University of Kentucky when two transportation officials, one from Lexington and one from Louisville, raised an enormous sum (for those days) in 1946. The total was $100,000.
Bryant took over the Wildcats, who had a 5-14 record the previous two seasons, and posted a 7-3 record in 1946.
The Bear took the Wildcats to undreamed of heights:
In the Orange Bowl after the 1949 season, Bryant made the biggest mistake of his career: He took the Wildcats to Florida early and worked them so hard in the heat and humidity that they left their game on the practice field. Santa Clara beat the Cats 21-13.
Cats didn’t revolt
UK captured its first Southeastern Conference championship in 1950 and was invited to the 1951 Sugar Bowl.
Then something unheard of happened. Team leaders went to Bryant and told him that they would not go to the bowl unless he promised not to work them so hard that they would not be ready for the Sugar Bowl against mighty Oklahoma, which boasted a long unbeaten streak.
Bryant, surprisingly, told the Wildcats that he agreed with them.
The result: In one of the classic games of all time, the Wildcats, captained by All-American tackle Bob Gain of West Virginia and halfback Wilbur “Shorty” Jamerson of Henderson Barrett High, upset the Sooners 13-7.
Dave Sagarin of USA Today much later used his computer to rank that year’s teams, and he declared the Wildcats national champions.
The Cats made me an honorary team member and presented me with a Sugar Bowl football signed by Gain, quarterback Vito “Babe” Parilli, halfback Harry Jones and some other Wildcats. I cherish it because I was in school with those Cats during Bryant’s glory years, and they always invited me to the annual reunion of Bear’s Boys.
Why did Bryant leave Lexington for the heat of Texas A&M? No, it wasn’t because, as the Bear liked to say at banquets, UK supporters gave basketball coach Adolph Rupp a new car. Then he would pull out a cigarette lighter and say, “This is what they gave me.” It was good for a laugh, but it was untrue.
As I have said and written many times, I am honor-bound not to tell the real reason. Sorry.
Not for Zimmer
At Kentucky, Bryant took the Cats to a horse farm for illegal summer practices. He did the same thing at MMI (Millersburg Military Institute) in neighboring Bourbon County where prospects would arrive in the morning and hit the road before afternoon workouts, hoping they could hitch a ride in the direction of home.
One such player who got out of Millersburg as quickly as possible was a Cincinnati prospect, Don Zimmer of baseball fame.
I knew all about MMI because my high school played there every other season.
One summer the year I transferred from Eastern to UK, an Irvine football star, J.L. Wolfinbarger, asked me to coach a team of freshmen against MMI.
On a Saturday morning when the heat was stifling in the valley where MMI’s field was, Wolfie almost killed one of the Dawahare brothers who was a Cadet linebacker. I finished my football coaching career undefeated.
Oh, those Vols!
Wolfie was the strongest, toughest human being I have ever seen. He dated one of my friends and she made him as docile as a little puppy dog.
He lost his life in a wreck before he could get to college. The UK doctors said that they had never seen a human being put together as strongly as he was.
Bryant tied Tennessee twice, but could never beat General Bob Neyland’s team. Bryant’s Cats did beat the Vols one time, in 1953 by 27-21, but Neyland had been called back into the Army during the Korean War.
Category: Earl Cox on Sports
About the Author (Author Profile)
Earl Cox, Sports Columnist
Earl doesn¹t just write about sports legends, he counts many of them as his
friends. A member of the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame, he has been writing
about sports for 60 years. Incidentally, that¹s about how long it’s been
since he¹s cleaned his desk but he knows where everything is.