The Coach had been in Honduras digging for Mayan artifacts (his collection is said to be vast), and from there had vacationed briefly in Managua. He was only now responding to messages. "Yours, Scribe, was third from the top," he said, "but I came here anyway, knowing your addiction for knowledge would require detailed answers. And the need to repeat a lot." He put his feet on the edge of my desk, crossed his highly polished loafers and, leaning back in the chair, removed the cellophane from his Jamaican cigar ($1.50 retail).
"Parity," he said. "It is time to think of parity as something worth striving for. Something necessary. The various conferences are out of balance, top-heavy in perpetuity. Vanderbilt must be given at least a fighting chance to rise up and smite the Alabamas; Rice a reasonable shot at mighty Texas; Washington State a crack at the Rose Bowl every 15 or 20 years...."
"Whoa, Coach," I said. "I haven't asked the question yet."
"You want to know what college football needs in this roseate year of '76. It is your annual question," the Coach said, drilling the end of his cigar with the sterling punch he keeps on his key ring. "The first thing it needs is to be left alone, it being, as they say, better than ever—drawing more fans, making more money. But the potentates are always doing their damndest to screw it up, so you can forget that. I used to tell my young president at M——'You must not think of football as a profit-and-loss item. You must think of it as a profit-and-expense item. Once you start worrying about losses you miss the point, as well as nullifying your chances to recoup later on.' My president was one of those who voted this past year to reduce coaching staffs to nine, thereby throwing able bodies into the streets and opening the door to class-action suits. The saviors of football have always been able to find and string up innocent parties. Non compos mentis."
"What does that have to do with parity, Coach?" I asked, leaning over to light his cigar. With his first puff he blew a perfect ring and, his steel-blue eyes squinting thoughtfully, watched it dissolve. I waited impatiently for him to go on.
"The bane of college football today is recruiting. Oh, how I hate it—the long drives in the night and the lonely hotel rooms." He paused. "Well, mostly lonely. The phony back-slapping. The pandering to drunken alumni. The lying—"
"I mean white lies to kids and parents. Telling Junior he's a cinch All-Conference. Telling Mama what a fine meal that was, when you almost choked on the okra. Recruiting is the root of almost every problem coaches have, including the ones that get their teams thrown in the slammer by the NCAA. They demean themselves. Actually, some of them makes asses of themselves. Besides that, it's expensive."
"I don't think I'm following you, Coach."
"You will, son, you will." The Coach got up and began to pace. I noted how trim he still looked. Occasional TV color jobs and commercial shilling obviously agreed with him.