Now that college football season is nearly upon us, and wildly inspired by Cracked.com’s Sunday article, “The 5 Most Creative Acts of Insanity by Modern Dictators”, I couldn’t help but wonder if I could get my creative, historical snark on and write up a tome on similarly bat-shit college football coaches. After all, this a world where Bo Pellini, Les Miles and Wil Muschamp prowl the sidelines.
The amazing thing I learned in writing this diary is that a coach need not be named “GERG” to engage in motivational hilarity, and that our former Defensive Coordinator’s pep talk with a fur-covered hand puppet didn’t even make my Top 5 (though it might have been #6 since we were all left asking “What. The.F-ck?”). Neither did Rich Rodriguez’s use of YouTube and ten gallon hats and Josh Groban.
Google “insane college football coaches”, and you’ll get nearly 2.8 million hits, and not one of them will mention so much as a sock monkey (go ahead and check – I’ll wait).
#5 Brian Kelly Tries to Recreate That Scene from “Scanners”
You know the one I mean. Against a mediocre South Florida team in 2011, Notre Dame head coach, Brian Kelly, went all Bobby Knight after his team coughed up its third turn-over of the game. Now, I imagine that he was just reacting as most ND fans did at that moment, what with the Irish deep in Bulls territory and threatening to score, and all.
Still, Coach Kelly managed to put the “A” in “apoplectic”, nearly having a stroke on the sidelines that was captured and replayed by media talking heads far and wide for the next week and on opposing fan sites long after. There are MGoUsers who actually have the photo of the key moment as their avatars, and they’re probably not the only ones.
#4 Lane Kiffin Holds a Press Conference for the Recruit That Never Was
Back in World War II, the British made Mincemeat of the Nazis by staging an elaborate ruse that involved a real dead man, a fake identity, a submarine and a clown car (I’m finding the last bit difficult to confirm) in an effort to make the Germans believe the forthcoming Allied landings in Sicily were going to be anywhere but Sicily. Everyone who has ever head-faked their dog by pretend-throwing a Frisbee knows how the trick works. The Allies were delighted to find that Hitler was a lot more trusting than a retriever, who sent his army chasing a stick out near Malta while the Allies were invading Sicily.
Evidently taking a page from British history (or not, Lane Kiffin doesn’t strike me as the type to open a lot of books) the coach decided to stage a fake press conference for nine recruits to Tennessee in 2009. Unfortunately for him, that’s an NCAA violation.
But Coach Kiffin didn’t stop there.
Continuing with the “World War II” theme, the coach channeled Humphrey Bogart and the end of Casablanca by installing a fog machine to simulate a “game environment” for those same recruits, which is also an NCAA violation. No word on whether he was also thinking about adding a disco ball and the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.
#3 Marshall Strength Coaches Think Kevin Bacon is a Pussy
Taking the term “hot seat” into uncharted territory, not only was the Omega house initiation apparently used as a how-to guide for motivating the Thundering Herd, but Marshall’s former staff upped the ante by lighting the paddles on fire.
With their breath.
Fortunately for Matthew McConaughey, none of the players on the business end seemed to enjoy lunches of double bean burritos and egg salad sandwiches. He’s done that movie once and his agent has probably insisted that he’s not interested in filming a We Are Marshall sequel, no matter how hot he is for January Jones.
#2 Woody Hayes Forgets That Size Does Matter
Speaking of wood, this story comes to us courtesy of Urbz himself, who claims he witnessed the event. I don’t normally speak ill of the dead but I’m making an exception in this case because Ohio State.
For those of you too creeped out to watch Urban Meyer (and who isn't?), I'll give you the gist of it. Evidently, Woody had advanced to that age where he no longer had a useful purpose for Little Woody, or at least one of the two that Nature most intended. So, just like in that heart-tugging ending from Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, the old coach said “F- You!” to PETA, dug deep and pulled one out (of his pants).
After a humbling bowl loss, then-Buckeye head coach, Earle Bruce, asked Woody to come in and give a pep talk to the coaches on toughness. Immediately after berating the current staff on its lack of meddle, Hayes opened a box to reveal a snapping turtle, whipped his (apparently seldom used) baby maker out of his trousers, and demonstrated for Earle’s staff what a real man is capable of doing that they aren’t.
In case it’s not readily apparent what he did, I’ll let you use your imaginations or read the story yourselves. It hurts below my waistline to even write about it.
I feel awful for the turtle. Reptile or not, no species of plant or animal should have to do that for a Buckeye. And it got a poke in the eye for its troubles.
Thank God Bo didn’t bring every one of Woody’s lasting lesson with him to Ann Arbor.
#1 John L. Smith Tries to Get the Voices in His Head to Stop
What? You thought I wouldn’t remember this one?
In the raw vote (which I conducted solely inside my head) this episode of The Ball Coach Be Crazy Yo’ only finished second. But since this happened while he was still in the process of earning the Sparty No! Lifetime Achievement Award, and it was caught on camera by everyone, and it’s been replayed eleventy billion times, and he later went on to become some kind of Bat Shit Superhero at Arkansas, he’s earned the outright top spot in my list.
In doing the research for this story, I realized I could have written it as “Top 5 Reasons JLS is Insane”, but that would have been too easy. And it’s probably already been done.
As always, your mileage may vary.
Just found this on the interwebs:
All I can say is "ew."
I was able to talk with Michael Rosenberg, the Detroit Free Press columnist and author of War As They Knew It, at an event here in Columbus back in September. And after our chat Michael was gracious enough to agree to answer some questions via email. I figured Ohio State Michigan week would be a good time to take him up on that offer. I posted Ten Questions to him regarding his book (see above) over at Collected Miscellany, but wanted to focus more on football in this set of ten.
So here they are:
1. How did the rivalry between Bo and Woody change Michigan football?
Michigan is the all-time wins leader, all-time win percentage leader and plays in the greatest rivalry in college football. So naturally, Michigan fans like to think the program has been one of the best in college football since its inception. That is largely true, but in the 1960s, Michigan State surpassed Michigan on the field and in fan interest. If Bo had not succeeded and MSU had hired a fabulous coach to replace Duffy Daugherty, who knows what would have happened?
Bo put Michigan football back at the forefront of college football, where it has remained ever since. He also gave the rivalry incredible life - even if you didn't care about Michigan or Ohio State, you knew Bo and Woody. It created a momentum for Michigan football and the UM-OSU rivalry that has never really abated.
2. Is it fair to say that Michigan has underachieved in the years following the 1997 National Championship?
No, I don't think that's fair. Michigan never had a losing season, won an Orange Bowl, played in three Rose Bowls and won several other January bowl games in that period. Were other programs better? You might be able to find five or six. You won't find 10. So I don't think "underachieved" is a fair term.
3. What do you think is behind the apparent weakness of the Big Ten when compared with SEC or Big XII? Is this just a cyclical thing with recruiting, etc. or has the Big Ten lost its edge in fundamental ways?
I think it is cyclical. Contrary to popular opinion, the SEC is not far ahead of every other league every year. The Big Ten held its own in bowl games against the SEC. That's just a fact. People concentrate on the national-title games and ignore all other evidence.
Having said that, I do believe the Big Ten is down this season. Almost every program is in transition in some way. Let's see where the league is in three years.
4. Was hiring Rich Rodriguez a mistake in your opinion?
I don't know yet. I think it's a strange fit and Rich should have won more games with the talent he had this year. I think he has given himself a thin margin for error with some of his actions. But I also think he is a bright coach who has a great track record, and of course he deserves time to turn this around.
5. What was his biggest mistake and what has been his best decision so far?
His biggest mistake was not settling that lawsuit against West Virginia. He got very little out of fighting it, except some embarrassing depositions involving him and his agent and bad publicity (some deserved, some not). It just wasn't worth it. He dug his heels in, and Bill Martin encouraged him to do so, instead of finding a way to end the ugly mess. I don't see how anybody can look back and say it was worth it for him.
As for his best decision, that's hard to say right now. Rich is sticking by his gut, though: recruiting who he wants, implementing his system, doing everything exactly as he wants to do it. I would say (and I think he'd agree, actually) that his best decision probably won't be clear until two or three years down the road. Maybe it's the decision to recruit somebody or a hire he has made that will pay off later.
6. How long do you think it will take for him to build a competitive program?
It was a competitive program when he showed up. It should have been more competitive this year, though obviously there are talent issues. I think it's reasonable to expect a winning season next year and contention for a Big Ten title in year three or four. I don't see how this team contends for the league championship next year with a freshman quarterback and so many losses on defense.
7. Has the Ohio State dominance of late reduced the luster of the Ohio State rivalry?
The rivalry has always seen stretches like this. Bo once went four years without beating Ohio State. It happens. I don't think the rivalry is in any danger of going away or losing importance. It has always been incredibly important in Columbus, and if anything, OSU's dominance has made it more important in Ann Arbor.
8. When was the last time Michigan was this big of an underdog going into The Game?
As far as I can tell, the answer is 1934. Michigan was 1-5 entering the game and had scored 15 points all season. Ohio State won 34-0. This shouldn't surprise anybody - it's rare to see Michigan this bad, Ohio State this good and the game in Columbus.
9. If you had to pick one early indicator of a possible Michigan upset, what would it be?
Um ... an extra week of eligibility for Tom Brady? I really don't know. Michigan's best chance to win a battle is with its defensive front. If that happens, and U-M forces Terrelle Pryor into some freshman mistakes and the Wolverines make a play or two on special teams ... stranger things have happened. But not many.
10. If they were to pull off the upset, where would it rank in terms of the rivalry?
I checked the history, and couldn't find one instance when a team as down as Michigan faced a team as good as Ohio State, especially on the road - and won. This would be the biggest upset in the history of the rivalry.
Few sports fans would argue that we needed yet another book about
the "Ten Year War" - the intense rivalry between the University of
Michigan and Ohio State football teams and their iconic coaches Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler. The subject has been covered voluminously in books, magazines, newspapers, and videos (I have reviewed a few myself).
So I have to credit Michael Rosenberg for coming up with a new angle to approach this classic subject. His book, War As They Knew It: Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, and America in a Time of Unrest,
uses the backdrop of the protest movement in the era of Vietnam and
Watergate to situate this sports rivalry within the culture and history
of the time.
This allows him to portray the players and coaches as human beings
with opinions and emotions beyond the football field while reminding
the reader that the university, and the surrounding community,
obviously had to deal with a lot more than just the success of the
But while this background is interesting - the different levels of
political agitation on the Ohio State versus Michigan campus for
example - what really makes the book shine is Rosenberg's portrait of
By placing Hayes in this historical context and by connecting his
work as a coach with his unique personality and background - his
inspirations, dreams and deep seated beliefs - Rosenberg captures Hayes
as a multidimensional person rather than simply as an icon or
Rosenberg highlights two figures, among others, who made an impact on Hayes life: General George S. Patton and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
And at key moments in the story we see how these influences made Hayes
the man he was. Military history and tactics were never far from
Woody's mind and he regularly used the language of war to describe
football. This is interesting but not shocking or hard to understand.
But Rosenberg's use of Emerson quotes to flush out why Hayes might
have acted the way he did or had the attitude he did jump out at the
reader. It is hard to believe that a Transcendentalist poet/essayist
would best capture the mindset of the famous coach but Rosenberg makes
a strong case that this is one of the most effective windows into
understanding Hayes' life.
Rosenberg also helps show how Hayes was a traditionalist in an age
of upheaval and conflict. He frequently visited the troops in Vietnam
and supported the war until the bitter end. He became friends with
Richard Nixon and was upset when the president resigned; l seeing that
act as cowardice in the face of your enemies.
Of course Hayes is most known for his temper on and off the football
field. Rosenberg discusses the theatrical nature of his temper when
trying to reach his team - and how this seemed to decrease in
usefulness over time. He also makes note of the role diabetes may have
played in his temper; including the actions that led to his being fired.
Hayes, however, always saw himself as a teacher. He was deeply read
in history (particularly military history) and was engaged with
politics and current events. Even in the era of student protests and
anti-war demonstrations he continued to reach out to young people and
he was always ready to decry what he saw as an assault on the
traditional values that made America great. Hayes may have been
increasingly at odds with the spirit of his age but he never stopped
wrestling with it and attempting to make an impact. His competitive
drive and energy drove him to never quit trying.
Hayes was clearly an incredibly unique individual who burst onto the
college football scene and left an indelible imprint. But he was also
a product of his time and time eventually passed him by; or caught up
with him depending on your perspective. There seem to be some
parallels with his friend Richard Nixon in this. Both men built
impressive careers before being brought down by poor judgment. And
both men attempted to live out the remainder of their lives so as to
not be defined by those infamous acts; with mixed success.
Rosenberg covers the other side of the field as well, but Bo
Schembechler doesn't stand out quite like Hayes. The iconic Bo really
develops after this "Ten Year War" period. Sure, the personality is
there but it doesn't quite blossom until after Hayes recedes. But this
history is a neccesary foundation for understanding the events that
were to come.
The other character who stands out in the book is Michigan athletic
director Dan Canham. Canham was a critical figure in the development
of modern college sports and in many ways made Michigan football the
marketing giant that it is. It seems off that this influential figure
is not better known outside of sports historians.
War As They Knew It is much more than a sports book. Sure,
it is a fascinating story about one of college football's greatest
rivalries and the coaches who put it on the map. But it is also a
valuable look into the time period through the lens of college
athletics. You don't have to be a fan of Michigan or Ohio state
football to enjoy the story because the characters and events involved
Of course, if you are a fan of either program and their legendary
coaches this is a must read. And really anyone interested in the
history and development of college football would do well to check it
out. You will come away with a better understanding of how the schools
became the dominant programs in the conference and even the nation at
times. And you will understand better the men behind these programs as
they faced each other in intense competition on the field and dealt
with the tumultuous times outside the stadium and practice field
I admit it. I read a lot of posts on MGoBlog. I also admit that I don't understand half of the silly language that is used here... the "inside speak" of blogs if you will... but it's still fun! I'm a 40-something which I am sure is old by standards of readers here, but what the heck? I'll try this out! It will give me a place to share my "M-thusiasm!"
I don't know a lot about recruiting and because I live well south of Cow-lumbus, (actually in the former land of Rich Rod) - it's a little risky wearing M apparel around. But I do know that I love to follow the Wolverines. It's not easy here, but I still do it. MGoBlog REALLY helps too!
I didn't even attend Michigan. I graduated from another school in Michigan, but I grew up going to the games. I believe my first game was a Wisconsin game when I was somewhere around 8-10 years old. This was back in the days when we were wiping teams out by dozens and dozens of points.
But I learned to love the traditions of all that is the M experience. I'm doing my best to pass them on to my kids now.
The one thing that MOST attracted me to the program was Bo. He was straight up an incredible influence on a lot of young impressionable males my age. Yes, our dads were the ultimate men we looked up to, but Bo ran a close second. Every time I met him he always was kind to me. Always had time for a word. Always encouraged a young fan to keep rooting for his team... our team. He ran the show the way it should be run. I'm sure a lot of OSU fans my age feel the same way about Woody Hayes. But I'm on the Maize & Blue side of this line - forever!
So, thanks to Brian for putting up this site. A chance to connect and feel a little closer to the place where I had so many great memories as a young person!
And now - it's back to reading about WVU and OSU in my local paper every day. Ha-ha!