With Frank Leahy
eliminated for reasons of health, the search for a big-name football coach to
succeed Paul (Bear) Bryant at Texas A&M is right back where it was when
Bryant, the old character builder, first announced that he was returning to his
alma mater, Alabama.
Texans, who are
accustomed to getting anything that money can buy, are now beginning to wonder
not what is wrong with Texas (for, of course, nothing is), but what kind of
perverse fate is fouling up the football situation. Prior to the unhappy
findings of Leahy's physician (his condition does not affect normal activity,
but is said to be unequal to the rigors of coaching), two other big names had
been approached. Duffy Daugherty found he could not tear himself away from
Michigan State. Red Sanders of UCLA was told what grateful Texas A&M alumni
could do for a coach in the way of oil deals and stock market tips to
supplement the walking-around-money salary of $15,000 a year. Sanders seemed to
be tempted, but (call him a sentimentalist if you like) when he went back home
to Los Angeles, he began to speak almost tearfully of his duty. While he was
regaining his composure, he hadn't the strength to protest against a raise in
pay, a raise in expense money, a new station wagon every year and $1,000 a year
for its upkeep.
Now the stage was
cleared for Frank Leahy, and he swiftly made the preceding actors in the piece
look like bit players in the Late Late Show. Leahy liked what he heard, made no
effort to conceal the fact that he was interested.
But first, Leahy
let the air fill itself with rumors. Then there leaked out a tantalizing
fragment of a phone conversation in which Mrs. Leahy was said to have told a
friend: "I'm going to love living in Texas." And then:
Scene: The Leahy
home in Long Beach, Indiana. Time: Christmas Eve. Soft strains of "It came
upon the midnight clear" are heard in the background. The father laden with
gifts hurrying down the icy path to the door and then his legs suddenly
skidding out from under him, the gifts flying.
hospital in Michigan City, Indiana. Coach Leahy abed, a leg held aloft by
pulleys, a broken ankle in plaster cast. Statement in response to statement by
Dr. M. T. Harrington, president of Texas A&M, to effect that Leahy will be
new head coach and athletic director: "It is 99% definite. I will know as
soon as I have had a physical checkup. I couldn't go back to coaching without
doing that because I had some serious trouble." It was a stomach disorder
that forced Coach Leahy to resign at Notre Dame in 1953.
Scene: A room in
Chicago's Passavant Hospital. Coach Leahy, sitting up in chair, explains
decision to get physical checkup: "While I was conferring with Texas
A&M officials, one of the athletic board members, Doc Doherty, looked me
right in the eye and said, 'Coach Leahy, are you certain you are physically
able to handle this job?' I got to thinking..."
mounts. As laboratory tests proceed, Coach Leahy says he will name his old
Notre Dame assistant, Bob McBride, as No. 2 man at Texas. Leahy to be head
coach, but in three years' time hoping to turn the active coaching over to
McBride, retaining the post of athletic director himself.
Texas, the sports-writers revel in the absorbing byplay up north. It comes out
that Leahy's salary would be $16,000 a year as against Bryant's $15,000, but as
with Bryant, Leahy's would be a salary with a fringe on top, all sorts of
fringes really, a house, business deals and television shows.