The Times They Are a Changin’

“Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or
you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a changin’”

These words from Robert Zimmerman (Bobby Dylan to you and me) certainly ring true today, as they did, exactly fifty years ago, when this record was released. And that, most definitely, applies to the college football landscape.

From the AP and UPI poll systems, to the BCS, to the College Football Playoff, things have evolved dramatically in NCAA football. And THAT is an understatement.

From “three yards and a cloud of dust” to the HUNH (Hurry Up No Huddle), our father’s football is now almost unrecognizable. But don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that is a bad thing. Remember, at one time there was no forward pass. Can you imagine the furor when that change came into play?

Four years prior to Dylan’s release of “The Time’s They Are A Changin’”, I began my immersion into sports. EVERY sport. I could not get enough of sports back in 1961 and for many, many years there after.

I have now lost a great deal of my passion for professional athletics, although the Mantle and Maris home run chase of 1961 remains somewhat fresh in my mind. But I have not lost one iota of enthusiasm for college football. If anything, the love of that sector of sports, has grown in leaps and bounds. And it is quite humbling for me to find myself both writing and podcasting about that great game today. That was always a dream for me.

All of this sparked my thinking about what has become the FBS and how its current state might appear to those coaches of yesteryear. It also piqued my interest in how those coaches’ tenures compare to those of today.

I took the numbers of six legendary figures and matched them against all of the coaches who followed them at their respective institutions. I ranked them in order of the original coaches winning percentage.

1. Paul “Bear” Bryant – University of Alabama – 1958-1982
232-46-9 .824
9 coaches since – 273-122-1 .690

2. Johnny Vaught – University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) – 1947-1970 and 1973
190-61-12 .745
10 coaches since – 256-243-4 .512

3. Vince Dooley – University of Georgia – 1964-1988 – 201-77-10 .715
3 coaches since – 222-101-0 .687

4. Frank Broyles – University of Arkansas – 1958-1976 – 144-58-5 .708
10 coaches since – 276-178-3 .607

5. Charles “Cholly Mac”- McClendon – Louisiana State University – 1962-1979
137-59-7 .692
9 coaches since 276-144-6 .654

6. Ralph “Shug” Jordan – Auburn University – 1951-1975 – 176-83-6 .6754
7 coaches since 315-150-6 .6751

Four of the “legendary” head men coached at their one school for 25 years. One piloted his school for 19 years and one roamed the sidelines for 18 years at his institution of higher learning.

The one big thing that jumped out at me is that NONE of these great universities has had a winning percentage, as high as the “legendary” coach, with all of the coaches that followed him… COMBINED! ZERO. NADA.

Now boys and girls, that includes some very good coaches at each and every one of these schools. Nick Saban coached at both LSU and Alabama. Pat Dye coached at Auburn. Lou Holtz coached at Arkansas. David Cutcliffe coached at Ole Miss and Mark Richt is currently the head man at Georgia.

How about this? You have 6 of the greatest coaches of all-time who coached a total of 137 years between them. On the other hand, you have 48 coaches who coached a total of 202 years. NOW hold on! That gives the 6 coaches an average tenure of 22.8 years apiece while the remaining 48 guys averaged 4.2 years each!!!

As the former voice of Ole Miss football in the 60’s, Stan Torgenson, was known to exclaim… Hoo Hoooooo MERCY!!!

Obviously, some of these latter coaches held their positions for extremely short periods of time. Bill “Brother” Oliver was the interim coach at Auburn, in 1998, for 5 games. John L. Smith had the same position at Arkansas for 12 games and Mike Price of Alabama… well you know the story there.

So, sports fans, where does this leave us? One one hand, you can talk about “the good ole days”, simpler times, loyalty, and the like.

Conversely, one can speak of the demand to “turn it around quickly”, the huge number of demands on a coach’s time, social media, and all that goes with being a CEO of the mega-corporaate structure that is FBS football in the 21st century.

But, regardless of all this, there is one undeniable thread that weaves its way throughout the history of college football… WINNING. “Just win, baby” as, now deceased, Oakland Raiders owner, Al Davis, was oft-quoted.

Winning does “soothe the savage beast” that is today’s college football fan, but just for a bit. That fan wants to win today, tomorrow and forever. That fan also wants to win big and with style. And that winning includes having the best facilities possible.

So, what would I say to today’s young and eager, prospective college football coaches, if I had them as an audience? To those coaches whose tenure at a school might, possibly, fall into the 4.2 years average that was mentioned above?

My answer might go something like this…

“Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or
you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a changin’”

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Winter Words / Vol.9 / Football, Baseball and Blessings

The time has changed. The weather has changed. It remains winter, as the vernal equinox has yet to visit us, but spring is within sniffing distance. The forecast for north Georgia is for warm temperatures but it is going to be WET, really wet, this week. But, like a friend said, as I stopped to chat on my walk around midday, we certainly have it better than our friends and neighbors in the northeast. It’s been brutal up there. May you thaw quickly folks!

Baseball’s Spring Training is in full swing and I caught a good bit of the Braves vs. the Nats today. The Braves won, 2-1. It’s not like that matters at this point. All the youngsters are getting a good long look and all will have an opportunity to prove their mettle.

I do hope the Braves’ pitching will remain as strong as it has been thus far. Nine arms combined for a no-hitter this past weekend. That was an odd game. It ended in a 2-2 tie as the game was called after ten innings. They had a shutout through eight today. Good going!

Yes, regular season baseball is just around the corner, but that is not the Big News.

The Big News is… the Auburn Tigers being spring practice TOMORROW. Gus will have a press conference at 11:30 AM CDT and then the burnt orange and navy blue will go about the business of beginning FOR REAL preparation for the 2015 season. YeeeeHaaaaaw!!!

According to early Vegas odds, the Tigers are 4-1 to win the SEC. The Georgia Bulldogs also stand at 4-1 and Ole Miss comes in at 4.2-1. Alabama is favored to repeat at 2-1. Fine.

All of this may be much ado about nothing, in the grand scheme, but it is great fodder for conversation when you live, eat and sleep college football as we do here in the Deep South. March Madness might be about to crank up, but football is what truly captures our hearts and souls 365/24/7.

Speaking of roundball, the SEC Tournament begins, in NashVegas, in a couple of days. The big question is… Can anyone challenge the Kentucky Wildcats? I have heard, and used, the term Mildcats when referring to the Bluegrass State’s flagship school on the gridiron. No one, in their right mind, would refer to their basketball team as such. They are a juggernaut! Their record stands at 31-0 and they are the prohibitive favorite to win it all. I hope they do.

Auburn has no chance to win the SEC Tourney or play in the Big Dance this year. That’s okay, for now, because the future is VERY bright for the Tigers. Coach Bruce Pearl is doing an outstanding job of coaching and recruiting, on The Plains, and I expect them to make a lot of noise soon.

It really is remarkable what Pearl has done so far with the program. Who would have EVER expected numerous sellouts in basketball at Auburn? How about the presence of scalpers at an EXHIBITION GAME?

Incredible!

And how about the promise of Easter?

It seems that resurrection is rearing its head in every aspect of my life. I hope and pray that it is for each and every one of you.

So War Eagle and Go Cats!!!

And…

May God our Father/Mother and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.

Selah

Winter Words Vol. 6 / Spring’s a Comin’!

I walked, today (3/2/15), for the first time in two weeks. In years past I would walk in rain or shine, hot or cold. Back when, whether I was walking or jogging, I didn’t care what the temperature was, I exercised. I have jogged, in Upstate New York, when it was 5 degrees and my mustache would freeze. Heck, my face would freeze! No matter, I would “just do it.” My Nike years.

As I have aged, and gracefully I would remind you ;), I have lost my ‘hell bent for leather’ attitude in my cardio pursuits. I have slowed down. Did I just say that? Ugh!

No, the last two weeks, here in Upstate Georgia, it has been brutally cold, precipitating, very windy, or all three of these at once. Therefore, no exercise for this old boy.

My dear mate, Miss LeCroy, Paul, Melodye with an e, or whatever you might call her, goes to the gym. I have tried this in years past, but it is boring and just… I don’t know, I don’t like this method of exercising. All the sweating, grunting, posing, strutting and the little outfits… it’s just not my thing.

I LOVE being in the outdoors… ALONE (Twenty years on the road so you’d better enjoy you)! I love soaking up the sunshine, listening to the birds and being at one with nature. I mentioned, in a ‘Winter Words’ blog last week, listening and enjoying the silence. It’s meditative, peaceful and somehow ‘right’ for me.

To each his/her own.

So today, it is now 58 degrees and so very pleasant. GREAT day for a walk! And I think we’re thawing out. I know there will be some cold days, and particularly nights, ahead but we are thawing. We’re moving steadily through Lent as we continue our journey toward Easter. There are only eighteen more days until the vernal equinox, the first day of SPRING.

The Braves first spring training game is Wednesday! The game will be played against my old adopted team, the New York Mets. It seems fitting.

Now back to the vernal equinox. From Wikipedia… “An equinox occurs twice a year, around 20 March and 22 September… An equinox occurs when the plane of Earth’s Equator passes the center of the Sun. At that instant, the tilt of the Earth’s axis neither inclines away from nor towards the Sun. The two annual equinoxes are the ONLY times when the subsolar point, the place on Earth’s surface where the center of the Sun is overhead, is on the Equator, and, consequently, the Sun is at zenith over the Equator. The subsolar point crosses the equator, moving northward at the March equinox and southward at the September equinox… The equinoxes are the only times when the solar terminator is perpendicular to the Equator, As a result, the northern and southern Hemispheres are illuminated equally.”

Amazing!

The Coming of Spring
by: Mary Dow Brine (1816-1913)

The ice-king trembles on his throne,
And holds his rod with loosened hand;
For there are murmurs in the air
Of one who cometh, sweet and fair,
To break with smiles the monarch’s band.

The skies are dawning a new blue,
To welcome her whose dancing feet
Thro’ cloudland hasten from afar,
Guided by sun, and moon, and star,
Her waiting friends once more to greet

The timid violets lift their heads,
And heavenward turn their gentle eyes,
And catch the fragrance newly born
Which cometh with the Spring’s glad dawn,
And steal their color from the skies.

The merry birds on twig and branch
Trill out the news with fluttering wings,
While Robin seeks the early fruit,
Impatient watching the green shoot,
And the glad tidings gaily sings.

The brook, grown weary of restraint,
Has burst its weakened bonds at last,
And rushing down the mountain-side,
Lends its fresh influence far and wide,
And Winter’s icy reign is past!

Selah