Saturday's football spectacles, when all is said and done, are the creation of a single personality: The Coach. His prestige was never greater than it is today. Between the opening of this season and the close of the last, there was a scramble among large universities to land the best coaching names. Alabama lured Bear Bryant away from Texas A&M, which promptly sought Duffy Daugherty of Michigan State, Forest Evashevski of Iowa, Frank Leahy, once of Notre Dame, and the late Red Sanders of UCLA before settling for Jim Myers of Iowa State. Dan Devine moved from Arizona State to Missouri, and Jack Curtice went from Utah to Stanford. There was a rumor—the year before—that Indiana had been willing to go to the drastic extreme of de-emphasizing basketball to get Jim Tatum of North Carolina.
The coach is paid well, works hard, lives high, operates under a code of ethics that enables him to see himself as a public benefactor. Meet him now in a fictional, but factual, dialogue that takes some dramatic license—but not very much—with the adventures of a big-time coach.
The Campus of Greeley University was an architectural hodgepodge, reflecting the tastes of dozens of administrations, building committees and alumni donors through the years. Here there was a touch of Princeton, there a pillared facade reminiscent of the Old South and here again a nakedly modern creation of glass and brick that was quite plainly the result of someone's enthusiasm for California.
In the fall, thanks to Greeley's fine old trees, the total effect was not unpleasant, and the campus was at its best this particular October morning with the air crisp and clear and the leaves fluttering down in the sunshine to soften the harsh outlines of the newer buildings. As students hurried along the meandering pathways on their way to class, the brightly colored sweaters of the girls blended with the falling leaves to create the effect of a tapestry so artfully woven that no single element of it stood out.
But then something happened that would have caught and held any great eye looking down upon the campus. An old Cadillac pulled into the parking space adjoining the ivy-covered gymnasium building. The door swung open, and a giant of a man with a great shock of thick white hair struggled out from behind the wheel and raised himself up to his full height of 6 feet 4 inches. He reached into the car and drew out a ten-gallon hat and put it on. Slamming the door, he leaned over to finger his string bow tie before his image in the glass. Reaching down, he half tucked in the cuffs of his trousers at the top of his high-heeled cowboy boots. Then he strode along the pathway to the gymnasium entrance, dominating the scene as if it had been designed for no other purpose than to heighten his entrance.
But the students, chattering as they hurried along, seemed not to notice him at all, even though the big-man bowed and muttered as if in acknowledgment of their greetings. It was a habit from a day (not very many years ago) when his stage was the teeming campus of the state university with its 25,000 students—a day when everybody hailed him for the great and celebrated man he was: Coach of the Year, Terror of Big-time Football—Horace Jasper (Boogey Man) Blenheim.
Coach Blenheim (there was some dispute about whether Grantland Rice or Bill Corum had first called him "Boogey Man" in making the point that his opponents often behaved like frightened children) had resigned as big-time coach at State four years ago. He announced that he had received a flattering offer to coach de-emphasized (no scholarship) football at Greeley and wished to wind up his career (he was 64 now) in its low-pressure atmosphere.
There had been rumors that Coach Blenheim was about to be fired after a disastrous season at State, but his sportswriter friends had agreed not to give the reports publicity.
Coach Blenheim entered the gymnasium and walked past a sign which read, "Athletic Director Upstairs," and descended a flight of steps to a door which was lettered: "Football Department. H. J. Blenheim, Head Coach." He opened the door and reached for a light switch (the windows of the basement office were set below ground level and didn't get the sun until the afternoon) and as the lights went on, a thick-necked young man seated in the chair beside a battered roll-top desk jumped to his feet.
"Yes?" said Coach Blenheim.