Four Coaches...Four Approaches...Same Result
In today's world where there is so much scrutiny on college coaches and the programs they run, we take a look back at four coaches that forever remain a model for all to emulate. These gentlemen ran second to none programs that not only resulted in success on the field, but are as well known for the lasting impressions they made on young men off the field. You may call this a tribute to some astute individuals, but it also was very inspiring researching these men and is invigorating to me as an avid sports fan. Wondering who I am speaking of....drum roll please....I would like to call to the podium Mr. Paul “Bear” Bryant, Mr. Bobby Bowden, Mr. Barry Switzer, and Mr. Lou Holtz. As the title eludes to, these men were influential coaches, who went about things in a different manner, but all are remembered as WINNERS!
Although Paul “Bear” Bryant made a total of four stops in his college coaching career, he is best remembered for his tenure at the University of Alabama. Not only was he defined by his trademark signature look, his hard-nosed, no nonsense approach is what most fans praised him for. A hero to most who enter the coaching profession, Tuscaloosa and the university he made famous were never the same when this man first stepped foot on campus. Coach Bryant was known to work his players to the point that was almost intolerable, but what did that get him over the years – 6 (count them) 6 National Championships. Wonder what attributed to his work ethic and helped mold him into the man he was? Before he was Coach Bryant, he was student-athlete Bryant at the University of Alabama. When at that time, he was a member of the 1934 NCAA Champions Crimson Tide, Paul was known as the “other end” for his formidable teammate was none other than Don Hutson, who went onto fame with the Green Bay Packers and later a member of the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, OH. As a result of trying to match Hutson, Bryant developed an unmatched drive that obviously became his staple for he never accepted anything but the best. His career stats and achievements could be talked about forever, I chose to include a couple of his famous quotes which epitomize the man he was.
“When you make a mistake, there are only 3 things you should ever do about it : 1)Admit it. 2) Learn from it. 3) Don't repeat it.”
“Never quit. It's the easiest cop-out in the world. Set a goal and don't quit until you attain it, set another goal, and don't quit until you reach it. Never quit.”
Fittingly, Bobby Bowden walked away from a college football as a winner, leading the Florida State Seminoles to a victory in the Gator Bowl on Jan. 1, 2010, over a program he put on the map, West Virginia. When trying to think of a word that would best describe Coach Bowden, a resounding thunder shouts “Motivator”. Bowden took a personal approach with his players and was looked up to by most as a father figure. To recognize the compassion and sincerity this man exhibited, just look to Marshall University and ask them what they think of Coach Bowden. When tragedy struck in 1970 when 70 members of the Marshall football program perished in a plane crash, Bobby Bowden, then coach of West Virginia, stepped up to the plate. He asked permission of the NCAA for his team to wear Marshall jerseys and play Marshall's last game of the '70 season vs. Ohio. The NCAA denied the request, but what a heartfelt proposal by a man trying to help a grieving community. Thumbs up to you Coach Bowden! Although Bowden was seen in the media limelight as quite a personality, comical at times, he did not accept anything but a winning attitude out of his players and coaches. Twice he achieved the pinnacle of collegiate athletics by taking home the National Championship trophy in 1993 and 1999. In 2011, Bobby Bowden did take the podium when he received the Paul “Bear” Bryant Lifetime Achievement Award. Now we will take a look at some famous words mouthed by Coach Bowden years ago, a testament to the man he is.
“When I go after something, I go after it hard. It has always been that way. I don't know. It is in my blood”
“If somebody mistreats you, treat 'em good. That kills 'em.”
The son of an Arkansas bootlegger, Barry Switzer, superseded his father's legacy by being looked at as an offensive minded genius in the game of college football. Coach Switzer refined and mastered the wishbone offense leading Oklahoma to 3 National Championships throughout his 16 years in Norman. Coach Switzer, often seen with a huge grin on his face, was truly a players coach. Connecting with players through his understanding and wit helped lead Switzer to one of the best winning percentages in college football history. Not many coaches have ever been able to make the leap from the collegiate ranks to the NFL and experience success. In fact, Switzer and Jimmy Johnson are the two elite figures to ever win the big trophy on both levels. Upon retirement from coaching, Switzer was a color commentator for Fox Sports. With the infusion of humor and vast knowledge of the game in his commentary, he is a true gem providing unparalleled insight. In looking back at his career there is one thing that rings true, this guy was a winner. Switzer is still seen in Norman, OK for he retired there supporting the community that made him their adopted son. One of Switzer's greatest achievements was being awarded the Paul “Bear” Bryant Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009. Are you starting to see a trend here? To sum up Barry Switzer take a look at this quote he fired off in a Q & A session, this is classic Switzer.
“That's always been my philosophy – don't be an actor, don't be a phony, don't create crisis, don't go out there with a scowl on your face. It's fun. It's OK to have fun and coach practice. It's alright to have a smile on your face; it's alright to joke around. Anyone who says you can't smile and have fun coaching practice is full of it. That's that Neanderthal mentality where you don't give the guys water during practice. Give me a break.”
I don't know about you but when I think of Notre Dame head football coaches, two names come to mind, Knute Rockne and Lou Holtz. Although either could be featured in this article, we will focus our energies on a man short in stature but with one of the hugest hearts, Lou Holtz. Lou's stardom came when he led Notre Dame to the National Championship in 1988, but he is also the only NCAA football coach to take 6 different programs to bowl games. What does that say about Lou, every where he went he was a winner. Most people recognize Lou today for he is the well versed and enthusiastic commentator yielding the mic for ESPN. Lou Holtz has always been viewed as a great motivator for his former players still have the messages he relayed engrained in their minds. Coach Holtz was a firm believer that complacency had no place in a locker room or in the soul of that performer when taking the field. “Can't” definitely wasn't a part of his vocabulary for Lou at times throughout his career was able to take mediocre players and bring their game to a new level. I would think this would be the guy you would want to come speak to your organization if they needed some firing up, which is exactly what Lou does quite often as a motivational speaker. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the fact that in 2005, Lou Holtz was awarded the Paul “Bear” Bryant Lifetime Achievement Award. Coach Holtz was never short on words so let's take a look at some of his words of wisdom.
“Ability is what you're capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.”
“Show me someone who has done something worthwhile, and I'll show you someone who has overcome adversity.”
The trend is now solidified, Bowden, Switzer, and Holtz all left a lasting impression on the game for they hold 3 of the 11 spots as winners of the prestigious Bryant Lifetime Achievement Award. Coach Bryant serves as the benchmark and the other 3 in one way or another reached his status, hence they received the honor that “Bears” his name. These four coach's names speak for themselves. From the hard-nosed Coach Bryant, the father figure Coach Bowden, the jovial everyday guy Coach Switzer, to the continual motivator/analyst Coach Holtz, these four men epitomize what it takes to lead a group of young men on the grid iron. Not only to lead them though, but to lead them to bigger and better things – winners on and off the field. If we could take a piece of all of these guys and mold that into one prototype coach, you would find a man with unprecedented character and resolve. When the history of the college game is rehashed and debated by fans, I can guarantee you that one of these names is echoed in those discussions. So yes, they were four coaches with four different approaches, but they all reached the esteemed status of being known as a WINNER.