Interviewee: Ray Graves
Interviewer: Julian Pleasants
Date: July 15, 1997
P: It is the fifteenth of July. This is Julian Pleasants talking with Ray Graves in his
home in Tampa. Coach, tell me when and where you were born.
G: I was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, on December 31, 1918. I grew up in Knox
County. My father entered the Methodist ministry, and we lived in a lot of
parsonages in east Tennessee during the Depression.
P: What was Inskip, Tennessee like?
G: Inskip was a little suburb of Knoxville. I know Tom McEwen [Tampa Tribune
sports editor] has referred to that many times, where is Inskip and what is it? I
do not know what it is, but it was home for a while and we enjoyed living there.
In fact, after I left pro-ball, we went back to Knoxville. My wife taught school out
in Inskip, so that place is a little memory that I will always enjoy.
P: And you went to high school there?
G: Moving around with my father (the Methodists move around a little bit), who was
a pastor of several churches in east Tennessee, I went to high school for two
years at Dayton, moved in the middle of my second year to Rockwood where I
went to high school for two years, and then moved to Knoxville and finished up at
Central High School in Knoxville, Tennessee. I moved from Dayton to
Rockwood during the basketball season. I had been on the basketball team in
Dayton and then wound up in Rockwood playing against Dayton before the
season was over. I guess anybody who has been a Methodist preacher's kid in
east Tennessee has had a lot of interesting experiences. I think those
experiences helped me later in life and gave me a background to overcome a lot
P: How influential was your father in setting your values and influencing your view of
G: I do not think there is any question that he had a real influence in my life and
gave me faith to step out on the rock sometimes, when I could not feel anything
underneath me, and to carry on. He certainly was a dedicated minister and had
a great life. He built two churches in the Holston Conference and wound up
building the last one, the Beardon Church, there in Knoxville which is one of the
biggest in the conference.
P: How did you get interested in sports?
G: I really got interested because I wanted to get an education, and I knew that the
only way I could probably get an education was by receiving a scholarship.
Growing up, I was a pretty good football player. When I was in the eighth grade
in Dayton, they wanted me to try out for the high school team, and I did that for a
while. One time I thought, well, I should concentrate on basketball, and my
brother, Edwin, who was the manager of the football team said, no, you are going
stay out here and play football. He had a lot of influence on my life at that time
and all the way through [my life]. I went on and played football and basketball
for the three high schools I attended and that gave me a scholarship opportunity.
When I graduated from Central High School, we were claimed to be the high
school national champions. We had a good record. We were undefeated and
untied. About four of the boys [on that team] got scholarships at major
universities, three of them at Tennessee, and I got a scholarship at Tennessee
Wesleyan, which at that time was a small junior college in Athens, Tennessee.
So I went down there and had a good year. The coach of Duke University at
that time, Wallace Wade, said to me, let's help you with your scholarship, figuring
that I would go to Duke, which I had planned to do. So after my first season at
Tennessee Wesleyan, I planned on going to Duke until Tennessee found out
about that. General Neyland, who was Tennessee's coach then, said, come on
up, I want to talk to you about the University of Tennessee. I felt really
obligated to go back to Tennessee Wesleyan, graduate, and go to Duke. But he
came out and talked to my father, my brother, and my mother. He even had
some friends of the family to talk to me. So I finally [decided] to transfer to
Tennessee which made me ineligible for one year because I did not graduate yet
from Tennessee Wesleyan. I was red-shirted for my first year there, and then
went on to have an interesting and exciting career at the University of
Tennessee. I was captain of the 1941 Tennessee team.
P: Why in the end did you decide to go to Tennessee rather than Duke?
G: It was about family. You have to have some feelings for location and where you
grew up. It was a challenge. Of course, I always knew that University of
Tennessee had a great football team through those years and continue to have a
good team, but Duke was about right up there with them too. I felt some moral
obligation [to Duke] because they had helped me out with a scholarship at
Tennessee Wesleyan. But Tennessee made that scholarship money up to
them. General Neyland was hard to figure out sometimes, but I think that he just
did not want me, a local boy, playing for Duke, and maybe coming back and
playing against Tennessee. I really got to know a lot of the assistant coaches at
Tennessee, especially the line coach, John Barnhill, who became a personal
friend of mine. I had a lot of respect for him as wll as a lot of the other assistants
at Tennessee. Also a lot of my former teammates were still playing there too.
Bob Sufferage, a boy I played with at Central was there, Hodges West was there,
and a couple other boys, so I really thought that I made the right decision.
P: Do you ever regret not going to Duke?
G: You never know what will happen. You have to make decisions. Yogi Berra
[catcher and later manager of the New York Yankees] was given a doctorate at
some university up in Massachusetts just last year, and he was telling the people
at the graduation, when you come to the forks in the road in life, take it. [laughter]
So I came to the forks in the road several times, in sports, marriage, and all that,
but you never know. The one thing I think I have always believed, is you cannot
look back. You just have to try to make the right decision.
P: What position did you play?
G: I played guard in high school [in Dayton] and wound up playing center at Central
High School in my last year there. Then I played center at Tennessee Wesleyan
and at Tennessee. After graduating from Tennessee, I played center for the
P: What kind of formations did you run in Tennessee?
G: We had the single-wing, and it was a side-saddle T where the blocking back went
under the center and never took the ball, but he was over there where he could
take it and he did maybe once a year, so he was a threat. There was the Notre
Dame shift and the Tennessee side-saddle T. We had a balance single wing
which was a pretty good offensive threat.
P: Did you ever run the old hook-lateral play?
G: Oh, yes. We had all those trick plays to keep everybody honest.
P: It was harder though to be subtle in the single wing because most of the time you
ran to the strong side.
G: That is exactly right. Playing under General Neyland and the army discipline
that he demanded was something that helped me out later as a coach. He
would have the squad meetings and then we would break down by position into
groups. Every player had to go to the board and draw up every play that we ran,
and give the assignments of everybody on the team along with the advantages
and disadvantages. You had to know everything about the play. So when you
got through at Tennessee, you knew their offense. You knew what every
position entailed and what the responsibilities were, and what the weakness was
of every play. When I played with the Eagles, I realized how fortunate I was
because the players in Philadelphia did not have any idea about what a team
effort was, which I learned at Tennessee.
P: Did you ever play both ways?
G: Oh, yes. We had to play both ways. I played linebacker and center.
P: Which did you prefer?
G: I really liked playing linebacker. Of course, when you had to center that ball with
your head between your knees and did not know who was going to knock your
head off, it was a little different than linebacker. Then I got to play the T up with
the Philadelphia Eagles so that was different, and I enjoyed that.
P: How much influence do you think Coach Neyland had on your coaching career?
G: It is hard to say. His discipline certainly had a real influence on my coaching
philosophy. But he had to be a general, and he did not get close with the
players. He did not ever want to know the players personally, and we always
heard that he took a few extra drinks, but you never saw him drink. He never
fraternized with the players; he let the assistant coaches do that. I thought at
times, if you could just get to know the general personally, maybe that would be
good later on. He was an interesting person, a great coach and well-disciplined.
For instance, we had an off-tackle play ten, and everybody knew he was going
to run it and how many times he was going to run it, but he said that does not
make a bit of difference; it is execution that counts. We just will execute
offensively better than they will execute defensively, and we will win.
P: It must have worked because you went to three bowl games: the Orange [in
1939], the Sugar [in 1941], and the Rose Bowl in 1940. What was that like?
G: That was something. Of course, we took the train, so it took us about a week to
get out there. Before we got there, we worked out a couple times in Texas and
Arizona. Once we were there, we were entertained royally. We were going
somewhere all the time, and we did not have time to think about the game. Roy
Rogers [famous actor and singer] put on a show for us, and we went to all the
movie sets and saw some of the stars. Clarence Brown was a graduate of
Tennessee, and he directed some hit movies out there. I forgot who it was, but
General Neyland said, if I was looking for the most beautiful girl in the world, I
think I have seen her here. We were all enjoying it. But then about two or three
days before the game we started to realize that we had to play Southern
California. It was something that I am sure a lot of teams had to face their first
time in the Rose Bowl. You realize what it is you are facing when you are
playing against a team that is right there at home where they can sleep in the
same bed and then get ready for the game. Southern Cal had a good football
team. They beat us 13 to 0. We were a little bit crippled for that game. We
had a couple all-Americans out (Sufferage and Caprigo were hurt), but we had a
good experience there. The next year we were undefeated, untied, and
unscored on. In the history of football, not many teams have done that. So the
General had a lot of influence on my coaching philosophy, but I did not agree
with the way that he handled the players.
P: When did Hank Lorasello play at Tennessee?
G: He played in the 1950s. I was an assistant at Georgia Tech then and played
P: You played in the Orange and the Sugar Bowl. What were those experiences
G: In the Orange Bowl, we beat Oklahoma. That was a good ball game. But the
Sugar Bowl was one that we want to try to forget. We played against Boston
College and we were better than they were. We thought it would be an easy ball
game. At that time, nobody had heard much about Boston College. Frank
Leahy [famed Notre Dame coach] was Boston College's coach then, and they
had a big center, Gladchuck, who went on to play with the Giants. He was 6' 4"
and weighed about 240 pounds. At that time, there was not many of them
around that size. They had Davie O'Brien who I believe was a tailback. It was
an interesting ball game. We did what we wanted to do in the first half. At
half-time we were leading 13 to 0. We thought we would win easily, but then at
the start of the second half they blocked the kick, which was the first kick that had
ever been blocked against Tennessee when Neyland was coaching. They
scored and went on to win by about three points. I forget the final score, but that
game got Leahy the Notre Dame job. It was one that Tennessee really should
have won, but we were not prepared for that ball game. In fact, we spent the
preparation in Knoxville getting ready for the game and it was like a spring
practice. We had our pads on, we scrimmaged, and then we played a game just
before we left. General Neyland kept a daily notebook of what went on in his
life, and I was a janitor there at the office of the coaches (which was part of my
scholarship), so I knew what was going on. I would get up early in the morning
and look at his notebook. He put interesting notes about the coaches and
everything in that little diary. After we returned from the game in January, he
wrote down that we had left the game on the field, (Sheilds Watkins Field). It
was interesting. I think everybody realizes that bowl games are different than
regular season games in how you prepare. I know Bobby Dodd [Georgia Tech
head football coach] had a record of about five straight bowl games that we had
won [at Georgia Tech]. When "Bear" Bryant [Alabama head football coach] was
at Kentucky and finally was going to a bowl game, he said, Dodd, how do you
prepare for a bowl game? Bobby just told him, after the season is over, we let
them go home and enjoy Christmas. The players then come back, and we get
ready. We just try to treat it like it is an award for a good season. The players
are so happy that we treat them like that maybe they play a little harder. And
"Bear" tried that, and he got beat by Santa Clara. So he said later, I do not want
to coach a bowl team the way Dodd coaches. I just want to play somebody that
coaches a team like that.
P: But Dodd was very successful.
G: Yes, he was. We won five bowl games. He and Bryant were pretty close at
that time. He would come down and visit with us, and he had a lot of respect for
Bobby Dodd. Bobby was just the opposite of Neyland. He would kid with the
players; he would get out there before practice and kick to the side line, out of
bounds with the players. [He would] bet them a quarter that he could out-kick
them; he made it fun. So the players really enjoyed playing for Coach Dodd just
like the assistants enjoyed working under Bobby. You did not really work under
Bobby; you worked with him. One time I saw Frank Braws, who was an
assistant coach at Georgia Tech with me for a few years, at the airport in Atlanta,
and I said, Frank, you know what is the best coaching job in America? He said,
no, what? I said, assistant coach under Bobby Dodd. We did have a lot of fun.
He would let us run our offense and defense, and if it worked, he would give us
credit, and if it did not work, he would take the blame. He brought a lot out of his
assistant coaches and the players. I had a different philosophy which I think I
realized after watching different coaches. You have to coach like you believe; I
do not believe you can mimic any other coach and be really successful. You
have to use your own philosophy and just try to make it right, and if it is not, then
maybe you are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Athletics is certainly never
dull, that is for sure.
P: When you graduated from Tennessee in 1942, what were your immediate plans?
G: Of course, the war was going on. I volunteered for the Navy and was going to
be in their athletic program. I passed the local physical exam, but when I got up
to Washington I failed the physical. I had a congenital deformity -- I was really
deaf in my left ear -- so I went back to Tennessee and figured I would probably
coach somewhere. I wound up getting a high school coaching job in Charleston,
West Virginia. Then I decided I would go in and play pro football. I did not
know for sure if they were going to have war-time football in the NFL, but they
did. So I went with the Philadelphia Eagles for a couple of years.
P: Were you drafted?
G: Yes. I was drafted by the Eagles, which already had some Tennessee players
playing for them. Bob Sufferage and Hodges West, two of my teammates at
Tennessee and Central High School, were playing for the Eagles. So I had met
SNeal and got familiar with the Philadelphia coaches and players.
P: What kind of salary did you get?
G: $5,500. That was a lot of money too. I saved money and bought a car.
P: You did not get one of those multi-year million dollar contracts?
G: No. [laughter] In those years, the highest paid player on the team was Steve Van
Buren. I think his top salary was $14,000. When we would be getting beat or
nothing was working for us, we would say, give it to Van Buren; he is getting all
P: He was a running back?
G: Yes. He was a good one from LSU.
P: Did Chuck Bednerik play?
G: The last thing that I did there was sign Bednerik. I wound up as assistant coach
and for one year was a player/coach there, and I also was a scout. I went up to
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, his home town, and signed Chuck Bednerik. I kid
about that a lot. That was a good deal. He had a great professional career.
Once in a while, I would bump into him at speaking engagements and at different
places. He has done real well.
P: What was the league like at that time?
G: It is hard to say, really. It was pretty good football. Of course, a lot of the
players were certainly 4Fs. But a lot of the old pros were there -- Poole of
Mississippi and Sammy Boyd who was with the Washington Redskins; they were
tough. Of course, Coach George Halas' Chicago Bears were really the
dominant team at that time. They had Sid Luckman and a pretty good
supporting cast to go along with him. Green Bay was pretty good too.
P: Don Hudson was playing for Green Bay?
G: That is exactly right. As linebacker, I was covering him in a game in the snow up
in Green Bay, and I did not know why [Coach Neal] had me covering him. So I
told Coach Greasie, you got me covering him. Wait until they find out that I am
covering him; they will get a touchdown. I was just kidding about it, but I would
give him a good cushion. He finally did score a touchdown and beat us 6 to 0 in
the snow in Green Bay. It was the last ball game of the season. He had about
three different speeds. You thought you had him covered; you thought he was
running full-speed, but he always had another speed. Then you thought, I will
give him a little more cushion, but he had that third gear. He was something. I
really do not know how fast he was, but he did not give you the feeling that he
had that speed, but he just could really get another gear going. In fact, I have
always said that [Carlos] Alvarez of the University of Florida had a little of the
same thing that Don Hudson had. You thought you had him covered, but he
always had something. You would throw it just a little farther, and he would go
get it, and the defensive back could never believe it. It was interesting playing
pro ball during that time. In my last year, we did not have enough players, so we
merged with the Pittsburgh team. They called them the "Steagles." Of course,
they wanted to continue pro football. There has been two books written about
P: What year was this?
G: This must have been 1945.
P: So you played three years of pro football?
G: Yes. After my first two years with the Eagles, I went back to Tennessee to be an
assistant coach for Barnhill. So I was assistant coach at Tennessee for two
years: 1944-1945. I was assistant coach there when Barnhill took over for
General Neyland who was in the service. I was a line coach. We had three
coaches: a backfield coach, a line coach, and an end coach. Of course, there
was the head coach, Barnhill. We wound up playing Alabama twice and
Kentucky twice, and we had a good record. We played against Southern
California in the Rose Bowl again.
P: How many coaches did you have on staff before the war?
G: There were about six coaches under Neyland. They had an end coach,
defensive backfield coach, offensive line coach.
P: But nowhere near as large as the staff they would have today?
G: No comparison. Now you get about twelve coaches.
P: When you played in the pros, how much different was the skill level of
professional players from the skill level of college players?
G: That is an interesting question. I do not know. I think that Greasy Neal was a
good offensive coach. We [the Eagles] had a good coach and a good system.
We probably did not have the best players and the depth that some of the other
teams had, but the imagination was there. Halas had gone to the T formation,
and they [the Chicago Bears] opened up offensive football quite a bit for the
colleges as well as the pros. Everything progresses and gets better. When the
coaches made the move to two-platoon football, it became another ball game. It
is all just part of the evolution of the game. I know a lot of people have probably
tried to realize just what has happened [to the game] and how it has happened.
It would take a lot of explaining and a lot of writing and talking to find out where
we have come since the 1940s.
P: How did the T-formation evolve?
G: It started with Clark Shaughnessy [Stanford head football coach], and then
picked up with the pros and then some of the high school coaches started picking
it up, and it really caught on pretty fast after the Bears got to run it with
P: It opened up the passing game?
G: Oh, yes. It made you defense more the width of the field than the single-wing
did. That is something that you have to have now. I always felt like you ought
to compliment a running game with a passing game and make [the opposing
team] defense the width of the field, that way you always have a chance to have
them make a mistake and if you have some skilled players, then it gives them
better room to operate. I always felt like motion or shifting was good too.
Anytime you can force the defense to make a decision after they have already
called their defense, you have a better chance for them making a mistake. I
think that is a philosophy that a lot of coaches have, but I certainly felt like that. I
guess the one legend I might have left in football, which evolved in a strange
way, was the strong-safety and free-safety defense. We were trying to stop the
split-T which Bud Wilkinson [Oklahoma head football coach] was running so well
at Oklahoma. When I was assistant defensive coach at Georgia Tech, Coach
Dodd said to me, Ray, go out to Oklahoma and talk to Bud Wilkinson and find out
what he thinks is the toughest defense to play against. Find out how you stop
the split-T. So I went out there after our spring practice. Bud Wilkinson was a
personal friend and he really was most gracious in giving us every opportunity to
talk with his staff and everybody. That was the Oklahoma defense which
became very popular. I took the Oklahoma defense back [to Georgia Tech].
To play that defense you need two corners. I told Coach Dodd, I do not believe
we can go from a three-deep to two corners after spring practice. I think I
figured out something that we might be able to do. And we had great defensive
players there: Larry and George Morris, and Wade Mitchell. I said, we could
maybe play corners on the short side of the field where we have a little less field
to protect. Then we will take our fullback and let him be a free safety, have him
go to the strong side of their formation and confuse them a little bit. We will be
playing corners on the short side of the field, and three-deep on the wide side of
the field. We can also mix that up and let the fullback be a corner sometimes
over on the strong side. It got where it was fun, and it was a challenge for the
players. Coach Dodd let us go to a lot of clinics, and I got invited to a lot of
clinics just to explain the free-safety/strong-safety defense. We called it a
"monster" defense, referring to the one man who instead of being called the
strong-safety or the weak-safety we called the "monster." Now I think they call
him the "wrecker" at Georgia Tech instead of a "monster." Anyway, that was
interesting and everybody right now in the pros, colleges, and everywhere is still
using the strong-safety and free-safety.
P: The strong-safety is usually a little bit bigger mainly to protect against the run?
G: No, that is the weak safety. The strong-safety is usually the free-safety that has
a little more speed and can do a lot of things. You do not know how they are
going to play after the ball is snapped. After Florida had gone with [Danny]
Wuerffel [QB for the University of Florida, and 1996 Heisman winner], they were
talking to him about which he liked better, the shotgun or the direct snap. They
[the coaches] thought the shotgun looked better. He did not get that rush, and
he can see everything that was going on. They said, what do think? Is the
shotgun better than having to take the ball from the center, go back and set up
not knowing where the rush is coming from? He said, no. You have to
remember that when I am taking the ball from the center, I do not have to worry
about getting the ball. I know on the snap that I am going to get the ball. But I
can also read the first step that defensive safety makes or the corner makes. I
know who is going to be the open man. When I am back in that shotgun, I have
to get that football first, and by that time the safety or corner has already made
his step. Wuerffel is really a smart quarterback. He is coachable, and he was a
P: While we are on that, is that why you think [Steve] Spurrier [University of Florida
head football coach] delayed going to the shotgun?
G: Sure. When you had to defense two good defensive ends like FSU [Florida
State University] had, you did not have any choice. We did not have good
enough offensive players with all the injuries we had during the middle of the
season, on the offensive line to have Wuerffel take the ball from under center, so
that game was really a challenge.
P: Let me get back to pro football. Why did you leave pro football?
G: The last year I went back up [to Philadelphia in 1946] as assistant coach, I
wound up having to play. So I was a player/ assistant coach and scout. That
was when I signed Bednerik. I was back up there with an interest in coaching,
looking for coaching positions. I figured being up there would be a good place to
start. Philadelphia was doing pretty well then. They were in the playoffs; they
were playing well. Then after the 1946 season with the Eagles, I got the call to
go to Georgia Tech to be an as assistant coach under Bobby Dodd.
P: Did you know him before that?
G: I had met him in Knoxville, but I did not know him personally. Some of the
players he played with were good friends of mine. Herman Hickman was a good
friend of mine. When I was with the Eagles, I scouted Pennsylvania for Army,
because that game [Pennsylvania vs Army] was one of the big games back then.
I went up to West Point and gave my scouting report on Pennsylvania. By
doing that, I got to be real good friends with Herman Hickman. When Coach
Dodd lost Bob Woodruff [who later became Florida's head football coach,
preceding Graves], his assistant line coach, to Baylor University, he called
Herman Hickman and said, Herman, I may need a line coach. Can you
recommend anybody? Herman said, I have just the man you want, but it will
cost you two country hams. We kid about that a lot. Coach Dodd said, all right,
who is it? And he said, Ray Graves, who is assistant coach and player for the
Eagles right now. I have worked with him here at West Point, and I think he is
the man you are looking for. He has the Tennessee background, and we have
been talking about shifting defenses, and I think he is sold on that. I think he will
do a good job for you. I was on vacation up in the mountains, and Bobby [Dodd]
called me and invited my wife and me down to Atlanta to interview for the job. I
was talking earlier about the forks in the road, that was another good fork I took.
In a lot of ways, Georgia Tech was probably the happiest years of our lives. I
did not have the responsibilities I later had at Florida, but I was coaching some
good players, and I am still real close to a lot of them. They are personal
friends. They have taken a couple of them into the Hall of Fame -- Bob Davis
and Larry and George Morris. Now they are taking another boy in the Hall of
Fame this year up in New York, Ray Beck, who was a boy I coached at Georgia
Tech. It was a lot of fun at Georgia Tech. I learned a lot of football, and I got a
chance to travel around all over the country and study other people's ideas,
philosophies, and formations. I think that helped me later in my coaching
P: You mention that Bud Wilkinson helped you with defensive schemes and Dodd
helped "Bear" Bryant. Was it pretty typical that coaches shared information?
G: Yes. They were friends. Being in Atlanta [was good] because a lot of the
coaches wanted to come to Atlanta, it was a good town to come to. We would
have Bud Wilkinson, "Bear" Bryant, the Northwestern coach, the Purdue coach;
we had ten or fifteen coaches come in and watch our spring practice. We would
invite them into our coaches' meetings, and it was really good. Bobby said,
listen, they think I am doing them a favor, but we're getting something out of this;
we are picking them too.
P: More of an exchange.
G: That is right and having fun with it. We made a lot of friendships there that
lasted a lifetime. I met a lot of head coaches and assistant coaches. I met
Bobby Bowden [FSU head football coach] when we were both assistant coaches.
I had a real close friendship with Bobby. In fact, he gives me credit for a lot of
his defensive philosophies and formations that he uses right now.
P: What about your overall benefit from working with Dodd? You mentioned that
he helped you in your player relationships. What else did you benefit from
coaching under Bobby Dodd?
G: That is a good question. He always believed that he was lucky. There has
been a book written about his luck. Dodd gave everybody confidence that he
was going to call the right play at the right time, and he had a little discipline on
the sideline where you are thinking he wanted everybody to make a contribution
during the ball game and on the sideline. On the sideline, he had a chair for
every assistant coach and you sat in that chair. You only got up from that chair
when he got up to talk to you or asked you to go talk to some player or group.
But otherwise, you sat in that chair and watched the ball game. I tried that at
Florida the first year, and I was the only one sitting down. I found that did not
work for my assistants. Dodd was Dodd, kind of like Spurrier [is Spurrier].
Spurrier is an east Tennessee boy who says what he thinks and never takes it
back, and Dodd was like that. Dodd talked like he was from east Tennessee --
said what he thought and believed that he was lucky. Once we were in Texas
coaching the East All-Stars and Jess Neely [Rice head football coach] was
coaching the West who had the best players, but Dodd told them during the
pre-game, you all keep this game close in the forth quarter and see, I am lucky,
someway I will figure out a way to win that ball game. And we beat them 7 to 3.
The players, some of them were all-Americans, later talked about Dodd and his
luck, and how if they just kept it close in the forth quarter that Dodd would find a
way to pull out the victory for you. He just did a lot of things with the players that
you would not believe. He got real close to the players. Before practice
started, he would kick with the players, and he would pass with them and gel with
them. He was just like one of the players. He was a player's coach, and I
picked up a lot from that philosophy. I felt like I really wanted to get close to the
players and to their families and backgrounds. I always felt each player had a
different background in his life -- different high schools and different families --
and if I could get to know those things, I could coach him better. I know a lot of
the assistant coaches thought that I spent too much time recruiting, getting to
know the players and their families, but I felt that in time that would pay off
because you cannot approach all players in the same way. You can criticize or
correct some players right in front of the team, but others you better take off to
the side and in private say, now listen, this is the way we want this done. I do
not know if that is right or wrong, but that was my philosophy. I felt that at times
it really paid off. I think the thing that has come out of my coaching at the
University of Florida is the Silver Sixties, which is an organization that the players
started that has been very active through the years. A lot of lasting friendships
with the players and their families have come out of my years coaching. We
stayed real close to them through the years. Of course, we are godparents of
Amy Spurrier Moody [Steve Spurrier's daughter] and stayed real close to their
family. Tommy Shannon, Larry Smith, and all of them live around here, and we
just stayed real close to their families and watched their children grow up. The
Silver Sixties is a unique organization.
P: What was the main reason for Bobby Dodd's coaching success?
G: He had a lot of imagination. He could make decisions during a ball game that I
do not think any coach could ever make. Some of the things he did on the
sideline were unbelievable. I talked to pros, I talked to "Bear" Bryant, and I talked
to other head coaches and assistant coaches about what he would do. Once
when we were playing Georgia, Coach Dodd saw what a defensive back was
doing when the tailback got the ball on a sweep. So he put in a play that we had
not even practiced. He called the players together in a huddle and said, now,
we are going to call this sweep, but the quarterback is not going to give the
tailback the ball; he is going to keep it. So he told the end to go down and fake
like he was going across with a safety, then go for the end-zone and he will be
wide open. The defensive halfback will already be gone for the sweep, and he
went in for the touchdown. The players just went out there, and Coach Dodd
said, this is the way it ought to be run, and it will work. They made it work. The
decisions he made during a game I think was the real strength of his coaching
philosophy. He did not discipline the players too much during a scrimmage or
anything; he usually got on the assistant coaches more. But when he did get on
the players, they knew they were due for it; they knew they were wrong.
Another coach could never coach like Bobby. Like "Bear" Bryant said, I do not
want to play Bobby Dodd; I want to play somebody who coaches like Bobby
Dodd because nobody else could win the way he coaches.
P: Did you do recruiting for Georgia Tech?
G: Yes. I enjoyed recruiting. I recruited a lot of the players, and that is the way I
got acquainted with them and their families. I remain friends with those players
and their families.
P: What would be the difference when you were recruiting at Georgia Tech and at
Florida? Did recruiting change much during that time?
G: My philosophy did not change, but recruiting changed. When I was at Georgia
Tech, we viewed Florida as south Georgia, but when I got to Florida, I turned it
around and looked at south Georgia as part of Florida. Recruiting at Georgia
Tech was really easy. You had a lot to say and sell to the recruits. When you
went after the players, you knew that they had the grades; you knew you were
recruiting a quality academic player, and education is one thing that Coach Dodd
always believed in; you get that degree. Believe it or not, Bobby Dodd never got
his degree. I think that was something that stuck in his craw for a long time, and
he knew he had made a mistake. He came down his senior year to Atlanta to
play in the North-South All-Star game, and Coach Alexander hired him right there
and he never went back to Tennessee. He stayed there as assistant coach and
started playing golf after the all-star game, and he never got his degree. Some
of them were talking about him as a candidate for president of Georgia Tech, and
they found out he did not even have his degree and that was embarrassing. But
he had scholarships for players after their eligibility and made them get their
degree, and that is probably one of the reasons Georgia Tech got out of the
Southeastern Conference. Bobby Dodd kept players on scholarship after their
eligibility so they could graduate, and the conference was counting them as
scholarship players. The Southeastern Conference had a limit on the number of
football scholarships a school can have, and when they counted those players
that meant the next year Georgia Tech would have only about six scholarships to
offer recruits. Bobby just told the president, listen, we cannot do this; we just
have to get out of the conference and be an independent. I think that was really
the main reason that Georgia Tech did get out of the conference.
P: Talk about your position at Georgia Tech. You were originally a line coach?
P: What were your duties?
G: I was also assistant head coach. Coach Dodd had appointed me as assistant
head coach which gave me more responsibilities as far as the athletic football
program was concerned. So I had to make some of his meetings and take care
of some of the head coaching requirements --just take a little burden off of him.
Taking on those responsibilities helped me later as athletic director. I also
coached the defense. We had just gotten back into the platoon system and that
was the thing that changed football and made Georgia Tech better. Coach
Dodd wanted two-platoon football.
P: When did that come in?
G: It went out and then it came back in the 1950s. I do not know exactly the date.
But I coached the defense, and I later wrote a book, Modern Defensive Football.
P: So you started as an offensive line coach and then you shifted to defense?
G: I was both an offensive and defensive coach, because we were playing both
ways, but then at Georgia Tech, I did coach just offense for one year before we
went back to platoon football.
P: Who were the best players you coached while you were at Georgia Tech?
G: Defensively, that would be George and Larry Morris, and Ray Beck. All three of
them are in the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame. Wade Mitchell was
the smartest defensive safety man that I think ever played football, and he was a
straight-A student. He was a brilliant boy, and he never made a mistake.
Those were the players I remember right off.
P: Why did you decide to take the job at Florida?
G: That is an interesting story. Bobby Dodd, Jr. was a freshman at Florida. I was
sitting in the office with Coach Dodd when President Reitz [J.Wayne Reitz,
president of the University of Florida, 1955-1967] called Coach Dodd and said,
Woodruff is leaving and would you recommend somebody. I know that you
would recommend somebody who you would want to coach your son, and I have
a lot of respect for you. I was sitting in the office with him, and he said, Coach
Graves is here and we will talk about this and see who we could come up with
who might be available. So we talked, and I said, I have been traveling around
to a lot of clinics and Ara Parseghian [Notre Dame head football coach], who was
at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, at that time, I believe is a good coach, and I
have a lot of respect for Davey Nelson, who is a good young coach at Delaware.
I think either one of those coaches would do a great job. We had not played
against them, but I said, they are guys I think I would want coaching my son if I
had one. So we recommended both of them, and they were both interviewed.
They did not have a chance of getting Davie Nelson, since he was in with that
DuPont family who had him set for life, and Ara came down and they thought
they were going to hire him. But one of the members on the selection
committee, I think it was Dean Stanley [Dennis Keith Stanley, Dean of the
College of Physical Education and Health, 1931-1969], said that he cannot even
spell or pronounce his name, or something like that. I think Ara was really the
one that they were going to hire, but they did not. It was during a bowl season,
and Georgia Tech was playing Arkansas in the Gator Bowl. I was called out
from the banquet after the game. Dick Stratton and a friend of his were there,
and they said, who is going to be the coach at Florida. I said, I do not know. I
think Ara. But they had just heard that he was not a candidate anymore. So
they said, why don't you apply for the job, Ray? I said, well, I have not thought
about it. I have a pretty good job where I am. But I will think about. I went
back and talked to Coach Dodd after the banquet, and he said, yes, I will
recommend you; I will call Dr. Reitz. And he did. Then I went on up to New
York in January for the National Football Clinic, and Dean Stanley and another
member of the selection committee came up to New York to talk to me. I said, I
will come down to Gainesville after the banquet and the NCAA meetings and visit
and see what we can work out. They did not offer me the job in New York.
Then I got down there and met Dr. Reitz at the Holiday Inn in Gainesville, and we
talked about philosophy. He said, I want these players to be students first, I
want them to get a degree, and I want you to understand that. How do you feel
about salary? I said, I had not thought about it. He said, I tell you what. We
will offer you $17,500; that is what I am making. You will never make more than
the president. We talked a long time about a lot of other things. I also asked
about having a special fund in the budget for scholarships after the boys' have
completed their eligibility, so they can finish up and get their degrees; I think that
is important. I had seen that at Georgia Tech. Finally, he summoned the
committee, they offered me the job, we shook hands, and they said, you are the
coach and athletic director. Dr. Reitz felt that [me being] athletic director was
important too. That was his idea and his philosophy. At that time, with the
programs we had, I think it worked pretty good, and it got more demanding as the
years went by. Of course, it came to the point where we had to decide which
one it was going to be: [athletic director or head football coach].
P: At one point you said that this was the most difficult decision that you had ever
G: It was tough leaving Georgia Tech and the family. We had just bought a new
home that we had been looking for in Ansley Park. The family was there, and I
was making out pretty good there. I had a TV program. I wound up taking a
pay cut to go to Florida. I was making about $20,000 a year in Atlanta as
assistant at Georgia Tech. The thing about it was Coach Dodd had just pretty
much intimated to me that when he retired, I would be the head coach at Georgia
Tech. They had given me a car for being assistant coach. Georgia Tech was
fun; it was a good place to work. It was very difficult to leave Atlanta and
Georgia Tech for a team that had not had very much success, and I knew that
recruiting at Florida would probably be a problem. I did know that Florida had a
good freshman class the year before -- Bobby Dodd, Jr. had given me a pretty
good background on the team's future -- but their academic requirements were
getting tougher. The state had senior placement tests that they required
incoming freshman to take, and the school was limited in the number of
scholarships that they could offer. It was a big decision that I had to make.
That was one of the forks in the road, and I took the right one.
P: This was 1960?
G: That is right.
P: When you came on the campus, what was your impression of the athletic
G: We had a lot of work to do. As an assistant at Georgia Tech, I knew how to
compete against Florida for recruits. Florida was the only school in the
conference that did not have an air conditioned dormitory. It was Murphy Hall,
that old hall still right there on the corner. I knew that we needed to have
permanent east stands. I knew we had a big building program going. We had
to enlarge the stadium, get an athletic dorm (which was really important in
recruiting in those days), and get a training table. They were eating in different
places and that was a problem, so I knew that we had a lot of things to do. We
also had to get a practice field. We were practicing on the drill field which is now
the parking lot. After every game, we had to line up the players across the field
and walk the field and pick up glass and garbage so we could practice. It was a
lot of work to do with the recruiting and everything. It was a challenge. I was
lucky to get some good assistant coaches, which I knew was going to be one of
the important things that I needed to do if we were going to have a chance to
succeed. I did not take the job until I talked to Gene Ellenson. I had met him
down in Miami at the North-South game when Coach Dodd and his staff were
coaching the South. At that time, he was assistant coach at Miami under Andy
Gustafson. We were well acquainted. He was a defensive coach too, and we
shared a lot of the same philosophies. I told him, Gene, I will take the job if you
will come with me as my assistant, and he agreed. Then I hired Jack Green
who was a West Point alumnus who was doing an outstanding job up there at
West Point. He was a Kentucky boy with a little hillbilly accent, but he was a
good coach and a tough one. I got Pepper Rodgers to coach the offense. He
was out of the Air Force. I recruited him at Georgia Tech. Pepper was my
offensive coordinator and Gene headed up the defense. So we had some good
assistant coaches to start with, and, as I said, it was a challenge. Also, I had to
think about the basketball program, which at the time did not have a coach. The
first thing I did was hire a full-time basketball coach. That is something that I
knew had to be done, and it was the right decision. I hired Norm Sloan [Florida
head basketball coach] who was at The Citadel then. I had some good
recommendations on him. It was so much work to do; I did not know how big a
job it was. But we were making some progress, and in the 1960s we had a
good year in football which helped a lot.
P: How big was the stadium in 1960?
G: A little more than half of what it is now.
P: One of your early goals was to expand the stadium?
G: Yes. In addition to the stadium expansion, we would have our athletic dorm and
our training table (which was a good one) built right there together. I recognized
then the importance of the boosters. It was really a big challenge to get the
boosters started for the alumni to help support the program through both ticket
sales and contributions. It started out in a meager way, but it grew and now it is
really something to be proud of. The Gator Boosters now raise over $11 million
a year. It has come a long way.
P: What do you know about the firing of Bob Woodruff ?
G: Bob Woodruff was a Tennessee assistant football coach who followed the rules
and did what he thought General Neyland would want him to do. He kicked on
third down in certain ends of the field, where I was just the opposite of that. I
believed that you have to try to anticipate the defense and what they are going to
do, and it is a challenge--a guessing game. Woodruff's defensive philosophy
hurt him more than anything. I remember when they were out in Texas playing
Houston, and they were about a two touchdown favorite, and he played for a tie.
Coach Dodd and the Georgia Tech coaches would usually talk to Woodruff once
a week. Woodruff had been assistant at Georgia Tech, and I took his place
when he went to Baylor. Coach Dodd told Woodruff, you were going for a tie out
there; you are probably going to get fired for that. Of course, he was just
laughing about it. But by talking to the alumni people later, I realized that maybe
that was an important decision [to play for a tie] in his life as coach.
P: He was just too conservative?
G: Yes, that is right. Conservative football will win for you, but when you get beat
playing conservative football, the players and the fans do not like it. You have to
think about the players. That is why I always felt that we should try to help the
quarterback by calling plays from the sidelines, but if you get a quarterback that
is well-coached, the play he calls with the players on the field has a better
chance to succeed than a play called by a coach or somebody on the sideline. I
have always said that I helped a lot of them [the quarterbacks] out quite a bit, but
with Spurrier, I would call a play, and he would go check off to a better play on
the field. He had a great sense of the game. He knew the opposing defense
and the players--who was the weakest defensive player or who might have been
limping a little bit. He was always thinking. When he crossed his feet back
there, they thought he was resting, but he was looking; he was thinking.
P: Sometimes in the flow of the game, the players have a better sense of what is
happening out on the field.
G: They do. The offensive tackle, for example, can say, I can handle this defensive
tackle; he is working my outside all the time. So you [the coach] say, all right,
we will run a counter-play. Steve [Spurrier] talked to the players in the huddle.
He challenged them. He would say, listen, you said you can do this, now you
better do it. The players later said that it was good that he did that; it helped
P: I understand that Reitz offered Bob Woodruff the job as athletic director.
G: That is right.
P: Do you know why he turned that down?
G: No, I do not. I never did ask Bob. We saw him four or five times a year during
those years after he left and still see him sometimes at some of the meetings.
He is not in too good of health right now, but I never did ask him why he did not
take the job. He was a good athletic director.
P: He went to Tennessee to do that, did he not?
G: That is right.
P: When you first took this job, did you have a weekly television show?
G: Yes. We started a show, and we had to go to Jacksonville to tape it usually
early Sunday morning. Finally, we got a state network that would fly the tapes
after we would tape the show early in the morning and get it down in Miami,
Pensacola, Tallahassee, and Orlando. So we finally got a pretty good network.
Dick Stratton was co-host, and he did a good job editing the film. There is a
picture out there on the wall from Dick who said, we never lost on Sunday, which
was pretty good. He would do a good job editing the film for us. We would
come back after some of those night games, and he and I would stay up all night.
I would drive on over from Gainesville, and we would fly back with him. It was
not easy. We always had something on the program about the university and
the research that is going on at the university, and then something about the
players. We tried to be fair too. I think you have to be honest in your
evaluation of games. When you get beat or when somebody is better than you
are, you have to recognize that and you have to admit that you were out-played
or out-coached. I always felt that you had to be as honest as you could be with
the media and the fans.
P: One writer said that one thing that he admired about you is that you could stand
straight in defeat and take the blame for what happened.
G: That is right.
P: Of course, that is what you are paid to do in a sense.
G: Truman had that pretty well figured out. The buck stops here.
P: What about your extra opportunity for making money. Were you paid for you
G: Yes. I started out making $2,500 a year. Prudential Life was a sponsor, and
then the Ford Company became a sponsor. I did some commercials for them,
but Dr. Reitz would not let me do that. He said, listen, let us think about this.
Now you are doing a Dodge Plymouth commercial, which was a part sponsor
down here in St. Petersburg. There are some Gators who are Ford and
Chevrolet dealers, and then there is also Prudential. I do not think that is right,
and I agreed with him. So I never did any commercials. I finally got $5,000 my
last two years for doing the weekly show.
P: Did you have anything like a shoe contract?
G: No. Of course, we were the guinea pig for Gatorade. I guess we helped to
perfect Gatorade. The doctor brought it out for the first time with all those salts,
and it was not anything but medicine.
P: A little bitter, was it not?
G: It was bitter, but finally we figured it out. We said, let us put some lemons or
limes in it, and we got it a little more palatable. Then Stokley came and bought
Gatorade, and they paid me a little something for three or four years to help them
P: Did you have a summer camp?
G: We had a summer camp, which I always felt was important for the assistant
coaches to supplement their salaries and also to get some of these players in
and get them interested. We always enjoyed the camp. We moved it around to
different locations. It started in Saint Petersburg.
P: So it was not in Gainesville?
P: How successful was that?
G: It was very successful.
P: Did it help your recruiting?
G: Yes, I think it did.
P: How would you compare what your package was with other coaches at Georgia,
Alabama, or Georgia Tech?
G: Of course, there was "Bear" Bryant and Dodd who were just like brothers, but
they had a big blow-up. When Tech was playing Alabama and Chick Granning
got a late hit from an Alabama boy, Dodd really challenged "Bear" on it, and they
had a big blow-up and did not speak for a long time. They got back together
later on. Georgia Tech had gotten out of the conference, "Bear" called me and
said, let's see if we can get Georgia Tech back into the conference. I called
Bobby and made up with him, so we are good friends again. I think Georgia
Tech belongs in the Southeastern Conference. We got most of the schools to
agree on that, but it had to be unanimous, and Georgia said, if Georgia Tech
comes back into the conference, we will get out. So it never did materialize.
P: At this time Georgia Tech was an independent? They were not yet in the
Atlantic Coast Conference?
P: How did you allocate your time between football and athletic director?
G: That was not that big of a problem to start with, but when I got into this physical
plant and had to deal with all of the changes I had a lot of work to do. And then
I had to try to get a practice field. The band and ROTC had the present practice
field, which was also the intramural field. Dean Stanley was a tough one; he
was my friend, but he was tough. The practice field was the band field, and it
was going to stay the band field. Finally, we did get the practice field there. But
it was just having to do all those things that took a lot of my time. In addition to
all that, President Reitz made me feel like I was part of the faculty, and I was
involved in all of the faculty meetings and everything. It got to be where I felt
that was a responsibility too. I made a lot of friends in those colleges. When
we brought a prospect in, they would sit down and talk to him and just sell him on
us. They knew me, and they knew I wanted them to sell that prospect on
engineering, agriculture, business administration, or whatever it was, and they
would do it. We had a good rapport with the faculty. In fact, Opal [Graves's
wife] worked with the faculty wives, and we were just part of the total university.
I felt that those things were part of my responsibility as athletic director and head
football coach. I liked all sports. I wanted to build up the tennis program. I
always played tennis at Georgia Tech; Coach Dodd made all the assistants play
tennis with him. We would go out to the Betsy Grant Center and play tennis.
When I came down to Florida, Pepper and the coaches and I all continued to
play tennis. I helped the other programs recruit. I helped recruit swimmers
and tennis players. We made a lot of friends, and we still are friends with many
of the players who played those other sports, which is rewarding. It was
interesting doing that, and I felt it was important and enjoyed it. Now it is really
making life pleasant in the golden years.
P: You mentioned Pepper Rodgers. I read just the other day that he is still in the
business and that he is now public relations director for one of the pro teams. I
believe it is the new Tennessee team.
G: Yes. He moves around pretty good. He went to UCLA, and he went
Hollywood. Then he came back to Georgia Tech and was still Hollywood, and
that did not go over too well at Georgia Tech. He is Pepper, and he always had
a good football mind. He maybe did not have the ability physically that a lot of
quarterbacks have, but Coach Dodd got the most out of Pepper and had
confidence in him. As I said, Coach Dodd believed that if you put somebody out
there and tell him he is the best, he would feel like he was the best.
P: How important were the academic requirements at Florida in terms of your
G: They were pretty strict. They had just put in a state senior placement test, and
we had an agreement with FSU that they would honor this. If a boy was not
eligible to enter the University of Florida, he could not go to FSU. I am not sure
that they held up their side of that agreement. We argued a few times about it.
We knew that was going to be a challenge because Florida's enrollment was
increasing, and they were having to limit the number of incoming freshmen. It
was really a challenge, but at the same time I was familiar with the high
academic requirements at Georgia Tech, which helped me and the staff to
compensate for this problem. But still a lot of those players who we could not
recruit went to Georgia, Auburn, and Alabama, and we had to play against them.
So it was a problem, but I think overall we got some good out of it because the
players realized that if they were going to be students here, we were going to
graduate them. About two or three years before he died, Dr. Reitz was speaking
to an alumni group and went over to the registrar's and said, I just want to see
how many players you graduated in the 1960s, coach. He said to me, do you
know that 93 percent of your players graduated? And that over 50 percent of
them were in graduate programs? I said, no. We had doctors, lawyers,
accountants, and all that. I said, that is something I am proud of. And he said,
you should be. That is what we shook our hands on when you took the job. He
was a great president to work for. You did not work for Reitz, you worked with
him. He was chairman of the athletic board. So we would sit down and talk,
and he would listen to me. It was a really rewarding experience.
P: Since Florida's academic standards were higher than say a Georgia or an
Alabama, did you lose a lot of good players to that?
G: I think we lost some; I cannot say off hand who and how many, but we lost some
P: Today the president has the leeway of admitting football recruits. Did you have
that option then?
G: No. In 1961 we lost seventeen players on scholarship because they could not
get in the upper division. And some of them were real good players. [Frank]
Lasky was all-conference and [Jimmy] Morgan, who later came back, was
captain. A lot of them would have given us depth, and we suffered from that
loss. It was good that some of those players who went to junior college came
back and graduated.
P: What are your views now on Proposition 48?
G: You should never admit a student that does not have a 50 percent chance of
graduating. If they are going to make the first two years Micky Mouse courses
so they can wait until they get good enough to go to the pros, you ought to just
have a minor league and let them go into the minor league and forget about
education. But they do not think that way right now. They are trying to move
that way, and it has been a problem. There is not any question that minorities
may be part of that problem, but here again, I think you can challenge them, just
like Eddie Robinson, the head football coach at Grambling, had done. I got to
be close friends with him when I was working for George Steinbrenner [owner of
the New York Yankees]. We put in a weight program for him at Grambling
compliments of Steinbrenner and the Yankees. He said that he tells the players,
listen, you are not discriminated against because you are black, you are
discriminated against because you are not qualified. You come here and get
your degree, and if you handle yourself right, you will get the job. If you are
coming here just to go to the pros in two years, you ought to go to junior college
and then go to the pros. He recruited that way. He became the winningest
coach in football, passing "Bear" Bryant. The black minority caucus had a dinner
for him and some of his players, a lot of them had been in the pros, came back,
and they complimented him on the things that he had told me, his philosophy and
what it meant to him. My wife taught English, and she said that they did not
make a grammatical error. He [Eddie Robinson] said he always had an English
professor come out on the practice field, and after practice the professor would
interview the players. He would say, you looked pretty good out there today,
Joe, but I felt like you got whipped on that short side on the goal line. He would
then play back the tape of the interview, and if anyone made a grammatical error,
he would correct them the next day. He said, if your grammar is correct, you will
make a good impression on anybody and get a good job. The players who
testified for him [in Washington], did not make a grammatical error. My wife said
that is unusual. I know that was off the subject, but I think the academic
problem, Proposition 48, is a tough one. I think they are trying to compromise
and sometimes compromise is good and sometimes it is bad. Some of the rules
for eligibility, to me, have a ring of ambiguity. They do not jive. Right now, for
instance, we have Doug Johnson [quarterback for the Florida football team]. He
signed with the Yankees and plays in the minor league. He is eligible for
football, but he is not able to play for the Florida baseball team. In fact, he is
eligible for every sport except baseball. He is not a pro, his agent is not going to
sign anything, but if an agent talks to a basketball player or a football player, that
player is put on probation and is ineligible to play. The rules just do not make
sense. What are you, an amateur or a pro; I do not know. Baseball has their
minor leagues [in which] players are paid, but for football and basketball the
minor leagues are the first two years in a major university, if they can get in to a
university. And some of these players are never going to graduate. If they get
good enough to go to the pros, they will turn pro, and if they do not, they will
never graduate; they will flunk out. It just is not fair to the boys, and I think it is a
problem. But on the good side, the school does a real good job of tutoring the
players. The tutoring program at Florida is excellent. I think they have done a
good job with that and that is a challenge.
P: Do you agree with the general movement in the NCAA to increase the academic
standards of collegiate athletes?
G: Yes, I do. It levels the playing field for all universities in the NCAA. I think that
the NCAA has gotten so unwieldy and big that with over 1,300 members now,
they cannot really do the job they are supposed to do. About thirty years ago in
Dayton, General Neyland said, General, I think the NCAA has gotten too big.
We have got people up there running our athletic program who never played
athletics and do not know anything about it. I think we ought to get about 75 or
100 of the top universities in the conferences and start another national program.
The NCAA just grew so big. It has divisions that have different rules, and they
can vote on some of the major rules, but they do not have to live by them. It is
P: What is your general view of the NCAA when you were coaching? Did you have
any specific problems with them?
G: No, not really. I know their recruiting rules were not as strict [as they are now],
but they were still real strict. But back then, the rules were easy to read. You
knew what the rules were and the players knew what the rules were. Last year,
they gave me a thirty or fifty page book on recruiting rules and interpretation of
rules. College recruiters are supposed to go to the high school coaches before
going to the players; there are contact rules that specify how many times, when,
and who can talk to players. I cannot, for example, talk to a player in Sunday
school class about the University of Florida. The NCAA could get me for doing
P: Are those rules necessary?
G: I do not think so. There are just so many rules. When a prospect is visiting,
you cannot give him a meal off-campus. At the University of Miami, there is a
McDonald's just across the street, so they go there to eat, and the NCAA
charges that as an offense, a violation because they entertained prospects at the
McDonald's across the street. It does not make sense. The reason they have
that rule is that some of the recruiters were taking players to country clubs and
giving them the royal treatment.
P: But there were some significant violations. The wealthy schools had an unfair
advantage in terms of recruiting. So there has to be some regulation in
recruiting. It just has gotten too complicated and too archaic.
G: That is right. They do not have the staff to enforce all their rules.
P: Why is that? The NCAA has plenty of money, you would think that the schools
would support a larger NCAA staff because they could get these issues resolved
in three weeks instead of three years.
G: I have no idea. Of course, as a layman now, it is easier to see some of the
things that ought to be corrected in football. I can see a lot more from the
stands now than I could see on the sidelines. The NCAA has evolved into a
business. You must realize that it is a business. You get a debt service on a
stadium and improvements, and you get to where the woman's program is just as
important as the men's program. They have to travel first class, and it comes
down to where you have to balance the budget and that is where you have to
give the University of Florida and Jeremy Foley [Florida's athletic director] all of
the credit in the world to be able to run all of the athletic programs that Florida
has now and compete nationally. It is amazing to me that Stanford, stays right
at the top with its athletic program. There is a school that has academic
challenges recruiting, but they survive. You get the students who start
recognizing that this is the kind of university I want to attend. When I get a
degree from this school, it is going to be worth a little bit more than a degree from
an other school that is also recruiting me. A school like Stanford has something
to sell, and I think that Florida has reached that point. They have great coaches,
and they can recruit these academic scholars.
P: It is interesting that, in my view, Stanford is one of the best academic university in
the country, and they also have the best athletic program in the country. So it
can be done.
G: That is right. They have something to sell, and all over the country you read
about them, and people know about Stanford's high academic standards and
good athletic program. Recently, an article said that right now the University of
Florida has the best woman's program in the country. And women all over the
country are going to see that, and that will help the University of Florida recruit
good female student-athletes.
P: Let me go back to when you were first hired. One of the things that you did that
you said was extremely important was hire Norm Carlson [University of Florida's
assistant athletic director for media relations]. What was Norm's job and how
did you plan to use him?
G: I did not hire Norm until 1962. He was at Auburn then, and I knew that he was
respected. I met him when he was working for the Atlanta Constitution or
Atlanta Journal, and then he moved over to Auburn and I knew that he was doing
a great job over at Auburn. I just told him that I knew he was a Florida boy. I
said, Norm, come on back home; we need you. Getting Norm Carlson was one
of the best things that I did. Now he is our historian and assistant A. D., and he
has been through a lot through the years. He could tell you more about Florida
football and athletics than anyone.
P: At that point did you try to upgrade sports publicity for the university?
G: Yes. I have always felt that was important to us. I started a weekly newsletter
that went out to the alumni, the boosters, and the fans. Norm would help me
edit it, and we would get it out so that we could try to keep in contact with the
alumni and friends of the university. I think that helped us to build up our season
ticket base. Doug Dickey [Florida head football coach who replaced Graves,
1970-1978] proved that he could win in the Southeastern Conference [coaching
at Tennessee], but when he come to Florida, he told the alumni, do not call me; I
will call you. He just did not feel like he had to get involved with the alumni.
And at the University of Tennessee, he did not need to get involved. All you had
to do at Tennessee was have a few people in the right place, but Florida is
different. Alumni in Key West want to know what is going on with Florida as
much as alumni in Pensacola. I felt that keeping up personal contact as well as
media contact with those people would help you recruit and would help you with
the alumni. I tried to make all of the alumni meetings I could. I just felt that was
a challenge, and it was something I enjoyed too. I guess I am a people person.
That is something the University of Florida coaches have to do. Now it has
gotten so big. Steve makes a lot of these trips to see alumni. He makes as
many of these Gator gatherings as he can. You need to keep those contacts.
There is no substitute for it.
P: Your first year, you went on a tour of the state to get acquainted with the Florida
fans. How were you received on that?
G: They were questioning me being here. They thought, Woodruff was fired
because he was a conservative, defensive coach and [then they turned around
and] hired a defensive coach from Georgia Tech. Where were we going?
Backwards? I told them, I have heard this question going around about why a
defensive coach was hired, but I am going to put in a good, challenging offense.
I have hired Pepper Rodgers and along with a good offensive staff. We are going
to put in an offense that, as a defensive coach, I would not want to play against.
We are going to spread it out, we are going to have motion, we are going to
stretch the passing game along with the running game. We will make our
opponents defend the width of the field. If we can get enough speed to do it
and, I believe we can. So it was interesting.
P: How did the press react to your hiring?
G: I do not really know. I think they questioned it sometimes, but they also were
supportive and gave me a good shot at it. I think they gave anybody who came
to Florida that opportunity. Of course, I was fortunate in a way--Dodd would say
a little bit lucky--beating him in that first season. That season got the press in
our corner, and I realized that the press and the media were really important.
After every game, I had a media conference at our house. A lot of the media still
say that they had more fun out at my house after a game. It was one-to-one,
and I tried to be honest with them. We had a good relationship. Every summer
we would have a press meeting in Daytona Beach. There was a motel and a
beach house that was just perfect. We had all of the media over there, and we
just had a lot of fun, and at the same time we got a chance to know them
personally and talk football and show some films. It was good. When you know
somebody personally, you can relate to them, and if you are honest with them,
you can get along with them. I always got along with the media.
P: Was that the first time anybody had done anything like that?
G: I think so. I am sure in Florida, yes.
P: Because Florida is such a large state, you need to have contact with people from
Miami to Pensacola, and one way to do that is to get support from the media.
G: That is right. I tried to have some alumni leaders in every metropolitan area that
would help me in recruiting.
G: Spring practice is different from fall practice. In spring practice you work more
on techniques. But in a game preparation, you really broke it down by defense
and offense. You try to get your offense to comprehend their defense and
execute against it. You do a lot of the teaching and coaching in the groups.
Then you go half and half and then to teams in the end. I always had a kicking
drill. In every close ball game, some phase of the kicking game is going to be
the difference, and I never slacked a kicking game--now they call it special
teams. I always felt that the kicking game was important. During practices for
about fifteen to twenty minutes, we would always stress the kicking game, which
includes the kick-off, return kick-off, coverage, and field goals.
P: Blocking kicks as well?
G: Yes. In fact, I remember that Steve Tannen had a knack for blocking kicks.
When you have someone who naturally has a knack for blocking kicks, you had
better use him. Steve Tannen was one of those players. That is something you
are always looking for, and you realize that when you have a skilled player in
any position you want to use him.
P: If you were preparing for a game, what would you do from Monday up to the time
of the game?
G: On Monday we would go into groups and review our last game. We were
usually in sweats. Sometimes we would go all week without any contact, but
then other times I would feel that maybe we would need a little goal line
scrimmage. You would vary the contact part of it, but I always believed that if
you are going to get them hurt, get them hurt on a Saturday. You try to do all of
your rough work, or at least the majority of it, in pre-practice before the season
starts. Without a lot of contact work, the players are able to get over the
soreness of last week's game. But we would have some contact work, maybe a
thin line or something. My philosophy was that you try to get them as educated
as you can and coach them as smart as you can about an opponent's offense
and defense. You need to realize I always had to guard against my assistant
coaches over-coaching. You just reach a level where you want to perfect it so
bad that as coaches you over-coach to the point where the players will never be
able to execute what it is you want them to do. I think right now that is still a
problem. A lot of coaches probably over-coach rather than just limit their
coaching so that the players can execute the game plan on the field with 84,000
people in the stands and an opposing team across the ball. Maybe you change
your philosophy during the season as things move along, but all in all, it is a
game of anticipation. You try to anticipate what your opposition plans to do and
how they plan to do it.
P: Who did the scouting?
G: I usually had one coach [as the head scout]. John Eibner, one of my assistants,
was the head scout and a B-Team coach. He would come back and put on the
opposition for that week. The big thing was that we would agree to exchange
films with our opponents for the incoming week's game..
P: Everybody did that?
G: Most of them. I think there was one or two schools that we had problems with.
But if we did not get their film, they did not get ours, so it offset each other.
P: When you practiced on Monday, you were not in pads. What did you do on
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday? Did you work with both the defense and
the offense in developing the overall game plan for that week?
G: As head coach, I really tried to stay up on the tower and watch both offense and
defense, but I would come off the tower some. I stayed on the offensive field
more than the defensive field. Gene Ellenson headed up the defense, and I had
a lot of confidence in him. Of course, we all knew what we were going to coach
and what we were going to try to do, but I felt that with my defensive background,
I guess subconsciously or consciously, I owed the offense a little more attention
than the defense. I did not think that anybody noticed, but I know I did show
offense partiality on the field.
P: What would the Friday practice be like if, for instance, you were playing Georgia
G: It would be very light and we would review the game plan and what we did that
week. We never had closed practice, so you would run through a few basic
plays and warm-up and get used to the feel of the field because that is very
important--every field is different. In Jacksonville, that Gator Bowl is a different
field. One year they let the grass grow too high, and that was a problem. You
have to know the field; you have to let the players stay out there a little longer so
they can get used to that high grass. We played North Carolina State over at
their field in 1964, and they had a new field. The grass was about thirty inches
high. In fact, we could sit on the bench on our side of the field and could not see
the bench on the other side of the field. When we were warming up on Friday,
the quarterbacks were throwing their passes right over the receivers' heads.
The field made a lot of difference. Spurrier and I later talked about that game.
We had a bad game.
P: That was the game Spurrier threw a lot of interceptions?
G: Is was not so much the interceptions as it was the incompletions. We finally
scored on a pass in the last two or three minutes to beat them. They later
corrected that field, and that field was a problem. As I said, the feel is different
on every field. So on Friday we want to get a feel for the field.
P: So you would always go the day before a road game to the place you are playing
the game and have just a workout on the field?
G: That is right, but there was one exception. One time we flew down to Miami the
morning of the game. We were going to take the train down to Miami, and I
said, we are going to try something different. We are going to stay in
Gainesville, and we will fly down to Miami that morning and play the game. And
Miami beat us. So we never did that again.
P: What is the attitude and atmosphere on Saturday morning before a big game?
G: We just try to be as relaxed as we can be. Of course, you need your
pre-game meal, and before that you might have a quarterback meeting or
defensive meeting. I felt that the game was in the well by that time. The
groups would get together with their specialist coaches or their group
coaches and just do a review. On Saturday you try to get mentally ready
to play a ball game. I think that is really important: to get mentally ready
to play a ball game. A player thinking on his own about what he is
responsible for is just as important as a coach talking to him. I did not
feel like you accomplished a lot on a Saturday morning. Now a lot of the
teams do have meetings on Saturday morning and finalize some of their
P: What did the players do prior to the game?
G: They are given a lot of freedom because we usually get over to where we are
going to play in time to have dinner, and then they have a little late snack before
they go to sleep. I found out that if you do not give them the opportunity for that
late snack, they will send somebody out to get them a hamburger. I said, let's
just get them a hamburger ourselves before they go to sleep. The next day they
would have the pre-game meal. We would try to get them to sleep in, but I do
not think that we had any strict rules.
P: Did you have a curfew?
P: And you would get them all up at a certain time?
P: So everything was done an a team-basis?
G: That is right.
P: When you got them to the stadium, what did you do in warm-ups at the field?
G: You warmed-up as a squad, and then the players would go into their groups and
do their own special warm-ups. During warm-ups, the players would review,
rehearse, and perfect the game plan. The receivers would run some of their
routes, and the quarterbacks would throw passes to the receivers. The kicking
specialists would practice a little, and eventually the team would run a few plays
to get warmed-up before the kickoff. That pre-game format has not really
changed too much. It was pretty basic with us, and I think that is what most
teams do today.
P: What did you say to them before the game to either inspire them or give them
G: I was not too much on speeches. I know when I did say something, they
listened. But I never felt that I was going to give them any real inspiration by
giving them a pep-talk. I did not think that any speech was going to change the
way that they would play. There were times late in the season or before
important games when I would make some comment. I remember when we
were playing FSU in 1965 before going to the Sugar Bowl, I said in the pre-game,
I do not know how we are going to win today, but we are going to win. We are
going to beat FSU; we are not going to the Sugar Bowl with another loss. It's
just that simple. But it was not that simple. We finally did win the game, and
the score (30-17) makes it seem as though it was an easy ball game, but they
had gone ahead late in the game. That is when Steve Spurrier with two
minutes to go, put his arm around me and said, coach, do not worry. He said,
we have got plenty of time; we are going to win. I thought, I wish I had his
confidence going out on the field. He took them down the field, changed the
routes of receivers two or three different times, got them into the end-zone, and
we went ahead. FSU threw the ball on their first play, and Allen Trammel
intercepted the pass and ran for a touchdown. We beat them 30-17. So the
score makes it look like an easy ball game, but it was not easy.
P: What about half-time?
G: Half-time is very important. At half-time, you need to review what had happened
in the first two quarters of the game. We always tried to be as organized as we
could be. We got together in groups, and I reviewed the first half with each of
the assistant coaches. We would decide what changes we wanted to make for
the second half. I think that is very important, because you need to make
changes. You never know what they are going to do in the second half. So you
realize that you need to make a change here or there, but most of the time you
pretty much stick to the original game plan. That is how you play them. If there
is a change to be made, that is the time to make it, and I think we did make some
changes during games.
P: If your running game has been very successful in the first half of a game, you
anticipate that they are going to make some changes in their defense to stop that
aspect of your game. How do you anticipate what they might do?
G: You have to figure that out and maybe go with the same game plan you had
before the game. You say, they are going to make some changes in their
offense. Since we have stopped their running game, they are going to throw the
ball. And if we are ahead, certainly they will throw the ball more. So you
change your game plan and what you do defensively based on their field
position, the score, the amount of time remaining -- you take everything into
consideration. And those factors can change your whole game plan.
P: When you had the choice, did you prefer to receive the ball or kickoff to the
G: If I felt that I had a decent defense, I liked to kickoff and put pressure on their
offense in the first series. I felt that created more of a problem for the opposing
team. Steve Spurrier does not feel that way, and I can appreciate that. He has
his philosophy, and right now I agree with him. But back then if I had a good
defense, I felt that to stop them in the first series would be more to our
advantage. Of course, you get the ball back in the beginning of the second half.
P: On the sidelines, who called the offensive plays?
G: I would have staff meetings with the offensive coordinator, and we would go over
the plays that we wanted to call. Sometimes we would change from one coach
to another. Maybe an assistant coach would give the plays to the quarterback.
P: How did you signal the plays then?
G: The signals differed. We would change them from time to time. You would use
different hand signals and body signals. And maybe there would be a player
next to me who might be giving signals too, so you never knew who was giving
P: Someone would be giving a false signal?
G: That is right. So we changed it from time to time, but we tried to stay consistent
with the formation and then maybe change it for special plays and so forth.
P: Would you sometimes send in a player with a special play?
G: Yes. We did that quite often.
P: So Gene Ellenson would call the defensive formations, and Pepper Rodgers
would call the offensive plays?
P: When would you intervene?
G: I could intervene at anytime. In fact, we had inter-communication, where I knew
what he was calling from upstairs in the booth. The play went from the booth, to
the sidelines, and then to me. So I knew what was going on, what was called,
and I always had the final decision to overrule the call.
P: During a game, if a player made a bad mistake and was coming off the field,
what would you do?
G: That is when you need to put your arm around him, because he certainly did not
plan on getting beat or make a mistake. I would just talk to him rationally and
give him a little confidence, so when he got back in there it would not happen
again. Players know that they made a mistake, and I did not always like to take
a player out after he made a mistake. It was good maybe to leave him in for a
couple of plays before you substitute for him. I tried to let him know that I still
had confidence in him.
P: So you did not yell at him?
G: No. I was very calm on the sideline.
P: You did not throw your hat or visor?
G: No. I did not have a hat to throw.
P: Let me talk a little about things that happened outside the field. How much
control did you have over the lives of the football players during the season in
terms of when they were in Yon Hall [Gator player dormitory]?
G: That is a good question, and I am not sure. With my schedule and traveling, I
knew that I needed somebody to help me with that problem, and I had a few
assistant coaches to police the dorm regularly. I also had an apartment in Yon
Hall for a father and mother who lived there. Wilber James and his wife lived in
that apartment, that is John James's father and mother. I put them there, and
they would be at the training table, they would walk the halls, and they were the
players' mother and father, and they knew if anything went wrong. If something
did go wrong, I would be the first one to hear about it. I really thought that was
one of the best things that I did, and I think that it helped too. You are always
going to have problems, boys will be boys, but considering everything, we had
P: Did you have any major incidents?
G: We had one when [Richard] Skelly cut off the alligator's tail. That was a big
P: What was that story?
G: He may have been ineligible for a game or two because he did that. I do not
know which alligator he was, Albert the third or fourth, but Billy Cash, Skelly, and
some of them got together and said, we are going to put Skelly in there so he can
cut off the alligator's tail. I do not know exactly whether they cut the tail off or
whether they wounded him, but that was a big incident. It was something
important on campus. Awhile back, I was reading articles about that incident,
which was a headline story. Skelly, a tailback on the football team, was in the
pen with the alligator trying to cut off the alligator's tail. And Cash and some of
his buddies were out there coaching him and policing the area. They got
caught, and I forgot what the punishment was.
P: That could be pretty dangerous; you could lose a player to something like that.
G: That is right. That was not smart. I think they talked Skelly into a dirty
P: Do you think that the fact you had them in the dorm at Yon Hall helped you
control their behavior?
G: I do not think there is any question about it. I still think that is the only way you
can discipline the athletes because they live a different life. Their study habits
are different, you demand more of them, we have curfew at times when other
students do not. I think these things are good under the right climate.
P: Did you have an academic advisor?
P: How closely did you monitor grades and class attendance?
G: Real close. We had a good report from the professors -- we knew when boys
were in trouble and needed tutoring -- and we had a good tutorial program going
at that time. I think that is real important.
P: Did you suspend players for not attending class or for poor academic
G: No. We would wait until the semester was over and the record was in. I had a
faculty man who was my academic advisor, and he worked with the faculty heads
and we knew what was going on. We kept real good control over their academic
progress, which I knew was important for their eligibility and for them to graduate.
P: Would you talk to them personally or would you leave that for the academic
G: I would talk to them personally after I got the report.
P: Talk about weight training. How important was it while you were coaching?
Now it seems to be much more important than it was then.
G: We just had a limited weight program to start with and then about the second or
third year we got the weight room. We did not have mandatory weight room
sessions; it was a voluntary thing. The room was used more by certain athletes
who needed some help in certain areas of their body that we could work on with
weights. Then we got into really stringent weight programs. I felt that weight
training was just as important as practice. We had big sign-ups in the weight
room, and it was something we took a lot of pride in, and I think it helped us.
P: Did you have a professional trainer then?
G: We had a boy from LSU come in from Baton Rouge to help us get started and to
counsel us. Then assistant coaches and some of the faculty from physical
education worked with us. They were real cooperative. I taught a course over
there in the physical education graduate program, and I got real close with the
faculty over there. Of course, the gym we worked out in was in the physical
education building, so it worked out good.
P: Could you monitor what they ate?
G: I do not think we could or did. We had a fat table at times, but I am not sure we
monitored them any better. They would eat their salad and then go get a
hamburger or a dozen doughnuts at Krispy Kreme. I think all of that is reflected
in their weight. They knew when they were out of shape and overweight. You
could intimidate them a little and put them on a fatty table or a skinny table to try
to fatten them up with some Gator-Go or whatever, [but that did not always work].
P: How important is watching film in preparing for a game?
G: It is important. It is important for the players and for the coaches. Films help
highlight the players, which is most important. Lindy Infante [NFL head football
coach] was a student assistant, freshman coach, and Lindy had a football mind.
He and Steve Spurrier had the best football minds of any two players that I have
ever coached. I have said that right after they played and have said that ever
since. Pepper, who I helped coach at Georgia Tech, also had a great football
mind. Lindy would look at films, and then he would come back and say, coach,
I have got a pass here that they cannot stop. I would look at it in private with
him. He would say, since I am an assistant coach or freshman coach trying to
put a play in, they are not going to listen to me. But he knew that he could tell
me, and I could put it in. I like to give Lindy credit. He gave me some good
plays and passes to put in for the offense. I do not think I ever gave the credit
that I should have given to him or to the rest of the staff. They thought it was my
P: And the players as well the coaches watched a lot of films?
G: Yes. Every player looked at them a little differently. Some of them looked at
them for fun, some of them for recreation, some of them would try to find out
what the other team was doing. So you had to help them along a little, and the
assistant coaches in group meetings would show films and go over the things
that they wanted them to know. Film is very important. Visual coaching is
P: When an offensive lineman had a particularly difficult defensive end to block, he
would watch and see what kind of tendencies that defensive end had?
G: Yes, and what technique he used. If he was strong, there was no way that you
were going to beat him at shoulder height. It is just like the FSU defensive ends
last year. You have to have to block low on players like that. Then the
defensive end realizes that the offensive lineman is blocking low, so they jump
over the lineman. It gets to be a guessing game. You change you techniques a
little bit to where you can handle it. A lot of coaching can be done one-on-one
by watching films and studying techniques.
P: One thing you do is try to look at weaknesses in the defense. Maybe a
defensive back is not as quick as another one. Is it hard to judge because you
are watching film? Obviously, it is easier if you are watching them in real time
as they play. Is it difficult to make those judgements on film?
G: No. I do not think it is tough to make those judgements by watching film. You
can see those things on film. But to go out and execute what you see is really a
little different. It is a challenge.
P: What did you say to your team after they lost a game?
G: It was different. It depended on who we lost to and whether we should have
lost. I tried to be honest with them. But you do not say very much right after a
game. You just make a very quick comment. You must be careful with what
you say because the coaches' and players' mental attitude after a game,
especially after a loss, is not normal. You better not say a lot. You cannot take
back whatever you say, so you have to try to be as honest as you can at the time
and not say too much.
P: What did you say when they won a big game?
G: Well, that is easy. There was that picture in the New York Times of me coming
off the field after we beat Alabama and "Bear" Bryant in Tuscaloosa, and it said,
"Guess who won?" So you do not have to worry about what you say after a big
victory like that. It is a celebration that you just enjoy with them.
P: What did the coaches do during the off-season?
G: I may have a different philosophy than a lot of other coaches, but I always
thought that you need to get away from football and relax. You can talk too
much football and see too much football. Play golf, tennis, or whatever, and
enjoy being with the family. I learned that at Georgia Tech. Dodd felt the same
way. During the season, in fact, he would not let us have a meeting over ten
o'clock. He said, any decision you make after ten o'clock in your staff meeting is
probably a bad one. If we had problems with personnel or whatever, we would
talk about it, but we did it all before ten o'clock. At ten o'clock, he would run us
all out. He would not let us work on Sunday; he would lock the door on Sunday.
It is hard to figure what you do in the off-season. Everybody is different.
Then, of course, you start going to clinics and start getting your fall recruiting in
line, which is a big part of the off- season. Then you get ready for your spring
P: When you started, some coaches like Dave Fuller, who was also assistant
baseball coach, had other duties which now would not be the case.
G: That is right.
P: Let us talk about recruiting. How did you organize your coaches for recruiting?
Did you do it by position or by geography?
G: Geography. We would give a coach an area that he was responsible for. We
had different coaches who were responsible for the different southeastern states.
Then we would try to get the alumni a little more organized in the different
areas, and we would know who would help and who was capable of making
decisions that were within the rules. Judge [Lucien] Proby was my recruiter in
Miami, and since Gene Ellenson had a lot of contacts with the high school
coaches in Miami, he also recruited in that area. We had all the confidence in
Judge Proby, he would set up recruiting dinners and had all the recruits in that
area at his home with their parents. Then we would have a signing party.
P: Was that legal at that time?
G: That was legal at the time. I remember when we signed Steve Tannen. We
had signed all our recruits, but him. He was going to visit a couple of other
schools, and Judge said, he might visit Georgia or Auburn; we may lose him. I
said, let's say to him that we have one more scholarship, and we have three
other players at other high schools in Miami that we are going to meet with
tomorrow, and we will probably offer one of them the scholarship. If you are
thinking about coming to Florida, this is your last chance. We will probably have
a scholarship for you, Steve. And he wanted to sign with us right there. I have
kidded him about that a lot.
P: That was certainly a good signing.
G: Yes, it was. He was a good one. He was an all-American defensive back, and
now he is out in California doing some work with Hollywood in the media or in the
films. I am not sure what he is doing out there, but he was a player.
P: How much out-of-state recruiting did you do?
G: Very little. That is why I probably would not have recruited Spurrier, which is
another story. If it had not been for my brother in east Tennessee and some
contacts I had up there, we would not have gotten Spurrier. We did not have as
much contact with prospects in Tennessee as Tennessee did. Our out-of-state
recruiting was usually just in Georgia, south Georgia (which is a real stronghold
for Florida), and then south Alabama and Alabama. If we had a family contact
or something, occasionally we would go up to another state.
P: Normally, you would not go to California or Texas to try to recruit the best
P: So 90 percent of you players would come from Florida?
G: Yes, that is right.
P: What was your best recruiting area in Florida? Where did you get your best
G: That is hard to say. It would change from year to year. But I would say Miami
with its high population and its high school program was historically the most
productive. Jacksonville was also a good area for recruiting. But we recruited in
Orlando and Tampa. It all depended on the year. Some years the best
prospects would be from Orlando and then other years they would be from the
Tampa Bay area.
P: How good were the football players in Florida in the 1960s? Today they say that
the best football players in the country come from the state of Florida and that the
three Florida schools can recruit the best teams in the country just by staying in
Florida. Was that the case in the 1960s?
G: I think it probably was. But Miami was not historically one of our big competitors
for recruits. They recruited in Pennsylvania and in the East. Of course, we
competed against FSU for recruits, and also against Georgia, which had a lot of
alumni in Florida.
P: Was Georgia a tougher competitor for recruits than FSU?
G: Yes. And Auburn was tough too. The pan handle is really south Alabama just
like south Georgia is north Florida. But every year recruiting was different.
P: Did you recruit by position or by athlete?
G: Both. You first look at your graduation losses and what positions need to be
filled. You always have to take into consideration a player's athletic ability. For
instance, the quarterback might be the best athlete in every school, but he will
not be a college quarterback; he might be a defensive back, a receiver, or a
halfback. Richard Trapp was a quarterback in high school, but he turned out to
be a super wide out at Florida; he was a just a very good athlete.
P: Like Chris Collinsworth [Florida alumnus, wide receiver for the Cincinnati
G: That is exactly right. So you concentrate on what you need to replace and you
recruit talent first. College football recruiting is like the pro teams drafting and
scouting players; they do the same thing in a different way.
P: How many of these players that you recruited would your coaching staff had
G: I would say 100 percent of them.
P: And you would use your coach's recommendation or the high school coach's
recommendation? Which would be better?
G: Both. It depended on who the high school coach was. Some of the high school
coaches were optimistic, some were pessimistic, some of them I knew well and
could rely on their judgement. Every high school coach is a little different too.
When those coaches would come in on Saturday, you did not know who won or
lost. I would say, coach, how did you do? And he would say, coach, we had
twenty-one first downs and 300 yards offense. I knew, right then, that he lost
because he started talking about stats. Stats are for losers. I tried to analyze
each high school coach, so I knew how much I could rely on their evaluation of
P: How many could you recruit?
G: I forgot. It changes.
P: Is it around twenty?
G: Something like that, maybe twenty-five. You had an overall total, so some years
you might have more and some years less. It is like I was saying about Georgia
Tech. They got out of the conference because the graduate assistants were
counted against them, so they did not have any numbers to recruit. The number
of scholarships are always varied a little bit. It is hard to make a blanket
statement about that.
P: When you recruit a class of twenty, would you ever feel as though there was
some great athletes that could not miss?
P: What percentage of the recruits would not make it?
G: That is a good question. I do not know the percentage. I would say out of a
class of twenty recruits, you would figure that six or seven of them would be
starters, and the rest of them would be second or third string reserves. Then
about four or five would get injured or would flunk out, and would not be players.
P: So you understood that as you went into each class?
P: How many successful walk-ons did you have?
G: We had quite a few. It is amazing. I will just give you an example of two.
Humphrey Haywood was coaching at Baylor Academy. A lot of Georgia Tech
players came from that prep school up there. He called me and said, if you
some up here and speak at a banquet, I have two players that might be good
P: This is Baylor Academy Academy at Chattanooga?
G: Yes. I spoke at the banquet, and he introduced me to the players and nobody
was really recruiting them heavily. Their names were Hagood Clarke and Alan
Trammell. So I said, come on down. We do not have a scholarship to offer you
now, but you can walk-on, which they did. I put them on scholarship right after
their freshman year. During the year, I told them that they would be on
scholarship and, as you know, both of them went on to the pros. Alan in
Houston broke his ankle, but he was a great defensive player, and Hagood
Clarke played for Buffalo for years and was one of the outstanding defensive
P: How did the recruiters miss these guys?
G: They took the top players up there, and they were not considered blue chippers.
A high school blue chipper might not be a blue clipper in college, and a blue
chipper in college might not be one in the pros. It is hard to figure. You have to
be in the right system with the right coach. It is amazing haw many variables
are involved in that. Humphrey Haywood thought that these were two of his
best players, and I worked very closely with him while I was at Georgia Tech.
You might get a boy that just loves Florida, maybe his whole family went there,
and he is willing to take a chance. Through the years, Florida has been pretty
fortunate to have had some walk-ons that have done real well, even up through
the 1980s and 1990s.
P: You can sometimes tell a player's ability, but to judge his character and his
willingness to work hard, that is always tough.
G: That is right. You cannot put a heart in a computer. Leadership quality in a
player is important too. I have always tried to recruit boys who were leaders on
their high school teams. Just like in life, there are not many leaders on the
team, most of them are followers. Having leadership is so important. I always
tried to get the high school coach to give me an evaluation of the boy's character.
There is no way in the world you can evaluate Wuerffel's leadership ability on
the field, off the field, at devotions before a ball game when he is up there in that
front row. And maybe all of the players were not Christians or did not even
agree with him, but they respected him. He was a leader on the field. If a boy
missed a block and he got sacked, he would say, get him next time. Leadership
is always important.
P: What makes a good recruiter?
G: He has to know the high school coaches, and he has to be able to see what the
player can do in your system and that is just a quality that you try to keep talking
to him about. That is important. He also has to know the family and the boy's
background: does he have any personal problems, where did he come from, is
he getting support at home? That is something that will help you recruit a boy
sometimes as much as evaluations from alumni, friends, coaches, or the school.
You have to know his parents and the background that he has grown up in.
P: Did you do much negative recruiting, in the sense that you might tell a recruit that
other schools do not have this or that and Florida does?
G: You would just try to be realistic and point out the values and the opportunities
here versus the opportunities at other schools. I would say, a degree from
Florida is going to mean more to you than a degree from any other university
because of the alumni base and support. Look where the Florida alumni are.
The leaders in every metropolitan area are former Gators. At that time they
were, and in a lot of places they still are. Back then, the state legislature in
Tallahassee had a cabinet with all Gators, and the majority of the Florida State
House and Senate were Gators too. You could walk through the capital and
realize that you were in Gator country.
P: If you had another team on probation, would you point that out as you recruit?
G: No. You do not have to point that out. They would know that. You just try to
compare who we are and who they are. Now FSU and Florida are comparable.
I think that we have a lot to sell in terms of research and other areas that they do
not have, but you just have to find out what the boy's interest is at that time and
maybe try to explore and point out the value here versus the values there.
P: In some cases, you might sell a particular academic program, like the vet
program, if the boy might be interested in becoming a vet?
G: Right. Before we got the vet school, we lost Tucker Fredricksen to Auburn. He
signed with us at the airport, and I said, take it back and have your dad sign it
and mail it to us. He got home and his father, who was a vet in Fort Lauderdale,
would not sign it and said, with the graduate program up there in Auburn, I think
you should go to Auburn. So he went to Auburn, and he wound up studying
business administration, and I have never forgiven him for that.
P: How do you actually persuade an eighteen year old to attend the University of
G: You have to realize that they are all impressionable. That is why I felt it was to
our advantage to have an attractive place that we could show them. I wanted all
of the offices to be neat. I put carpet in my office and got in trouble and had to
pay for it myself, because the president did not have carpet in his office. I said,
if these boys come in here and my office is impressive, they are going to be
impressed. They are going to come in here and sit down with their families on a
nice couch and look around the office and look out the window and see Florida
Field, and they will be impressed.
P: How do you make a player who you are recruiting feel comfortable about the
school and the program?
G: Every student-athlete being recruited is different, so you have to look at their
background. That is why I say knowing a boy personally and knowing his family
background gives you a better chance to recruit him because then you can
recruit to his interest. I think I have about a hundred different answers to that
P: Let us talk about your first year as coach in 1960. What kind of talent did you
have that year?
G: There was some really good senior leadership. We had some interesting things
happen that I think really brought out the leadership qualities in a lot of the
players. Vic Miranda who had been up in Canada, came back and was all fired
up. He was a good football player, but he got in a fight with one of my assistant
coaches, so I kicked him off the team. Finally, the players came back to me and
said, coach, would you consider taking Vic back? I did take Vic back, and he
turned out to be one of the leaders on the defense. He was all-conference, and
right now he is a successful insurance salesman in Fort Lauderdale and a great
alumnus in supporting the academic and the athletic programs at the university.
When we talk about the problems that he had and how he just got by, I say to
him, in that incident where you were wrong, the players believed in you and you
came back and really made a man out of yourself and better coaches out of us
too. It was the start of the season, and we did not know what we had, but we
had some good seniors and a pretty good nucleus. So we were comfortable
with that. We had a quarterback that weighed 138 pounds. That was a little bit
of a problem, but he was a great little athlete.
P: Larry Libatore?
G: Larry Libatore. We went into the season not knowing what kind of team we
were going to have. We had good work outs, and I think everybody was sold on
our defensive and offensive coaching philosophies and techniques. We just had
to find out. Then we played George Washington in our first ball game at night in
Jacksonville, and we still did not know much about the team; we looked pretty
good. Charlie Reed [chancellor of the Board of Regents, State University
System in Florida] was a guard on that George Washington team that we beat
over there. He has reminded me of that game a few times. Then there was the
Georgia Tech game which was in Gainesville, and a lot has been written about
that game. I guess everybody knows the story there. There are about two or
three games that I coached that I get comments about from a lot of the old
alumni, boosters, faculty, and students that were in school during that time. The
Georgia Tech game and then the Houston game in 1969 would probably be
second and the 1962 Alabama game in Tuscaloose would be third. The first
year was really a challenge to all of us. We had to go down and play Rice in a
big bowl game in Miami, and we tied them down there and that took a little wind
out of our sails. It was so hot down there that night that Libatore fumbled a few
times. The ball was so slick that he took the ball from the center with his small
hands and just dropped the football running the option. We came back and
went on down to Baton Rouge. LSU was really a top team. They were
nationally ranked and had just beaten Georgia Tech twenty-eight to nothing.
Coach Dodd called me up after they beat him down there and said, I know that
you are going down to Baton Rouge. I said, yes. How good are they? He
said, Ray, it is one of the best football teams that we have ever played. You are
going to get the hell beat out of you. So we went down there scared to death,
and they have that Tiger with that microphone which does not help any either.
But we had a good defense. On the first play from scrimmage, Libatore runs
sixty-two yards for a touchdown. So we are winning seven to nothing. Then we
both played a defensive game until they scored just before the half and tied the
game up seven to seven. As we were going out for the half, a boy up in the
stands poured a coke on me and said coach, you know you have not made a first
down yet? We went into the dressing room tied seven to seven, and we had not
made a first down. That was a big ball game with a lot of highlights, and we
could spend too much time on it. But we won 10 to 7.
P: Let me talk a little bit about that game. Why is it so hard to play LSU in Tiger
G: The fans believe that they are going to win and the team thinks so too. They call
the fans the twelfth man when they are there. It is hard playing there. One
reason it was tough to play there was that you did not know what those Cajuns
were saying. You could not read their lips, but they made a lot of noise, and
they came down early and they stayed late. Those teams had the talent.
Those Cajuns were good football players. They were disciplined and they were
tough. I think now a lot of teams like Florida are recruiting those players like
[Ike] Hilliard [Florida all-American wide receiver]. There are a lot of places there
where there is good talent and hungry kids who want to win. It is a tough
place. I think that LSU is making a comeback now with their new coach. In
time, I think they are going to be back to where they used to be because that is
one of the toughest places to win in the conference.
P: What is the difference between coaching a football game at night and coaching a
football game during the day?
G: I really do not know except trying to find out what to do in the afternoon. Some
doctor told me that you burn as much energy watching a ball game as you do by
being out there running sprints. Players can burn up a lot of energy by just
watching a ball game that they are excited about, so I try to have them just listen
to the radio or maybe even turn it off. It is a problem. I hated night games.
P: Is it more difficult for receivers to see the ball at night?
G: In certain fields where the lighting is different, yes. I think that is a problem that
the receivers, punters, and safety men need to work out if you are playing a team
at night on a field where the lighting is different.
P: Let me get back to Larry Libatore. When you had him as a quarterback, you
indicated that he gave Florida the "triple look." Explain what that means.
G: He ran the option about as well as any quarterback. In high school he was a
super all-state quarterback. At 138 pounds, you think that the kid is just not big
enough, but he was the toughest kid. He was so wiry that you never hit him
solid; he was always bending. He made the option work. He knew when to
pitch the ball, which is so important when you run the option, and that is
instinctive in a lot of ways. But he could operate the option to perfection. And
when he did pass, everybody was playing for the run, so he had a better chance
for a completion. He gave us a lot of options that we would have lacked if we
had a pro-type quarterback like [John] Reaves or Spurrier. So with Libatore we
did stress the option a little bit more, and we did get a little out of the other
quarterbacks in certain situations, but it was something where you just had to go
with your talent and that is what you always have to do in college football
whether it be coaching or recruiting. You cannot draft players in college like you
can in the pros. You just play with what you have, and he gave our offense a
dimension that we would not have gotten in another quarterback who was just a
straight dropback passer.
P: Once a newspaperman asked you who was going to start at quarterback, and
you said, give me Libatore or give me death. But you also played Bobby Dodd,
G: Yes. He was a safety-man and backed up Libatore. He came in and played
quarterback on some big series when we had a little different game plan.
P: He was a better passer?
P: At this time, freshman were ineligible for the varsity. What is your view on that?
Should that be re-instated? Did that give students time to get their feet on the
G: I definitely think that it would be better if freshman were ineligible and had to put
in a year to get oriented and acclimated to their school. It would certainly take
pressure off them. But a lot of the freshman coming into Florida this year are
going to be playing. I know Steve is counting on some of those wide outs. And
then they have to think about, well, what am I here for? Am I here to play
football or go to school and get an education? I think it would be a good rule,
but I do not think that it would ever happen because for a lot of players now
coming out, if they are not going to graduate or do not plan to graduate, that
freshman year gives them a chance to showcase their talents which is
unfortunate. The public universities have a different problem. They have to let
so many students in to continue to get some federal funds and grants which puts
a little more pressure on them to let some students in that are not qualified
students and who are not students you would like to have graduate. Whereas
private schools like Stanford and Duke, do not have that problem with federal
funding. Anyway, that is another ball game.
P: If they were to do that, then you would probably see a lot of players go directly
from high school to the pros like some do in basketball.
G: That is right. And I think that sooner or later, basketball and the football will
have their own minor leagues like baseball has, so that as soon as the players
get out of high school, they would go right into these minor leagues and go right
up, like they should, to the pros.
P: Did you red-shirt a lot of players?
G: The players red-shirt themselves. If they are not good enough to play on the
varsity's first or second team, then they are red-shirted. I never really planed on
red-shirting any boy, maybe I would red-shirt someone who had an early injury
where he was able to be red-shirted or if he was not good enough.
P: Let me get back to the early games. In the first year, you beat Florida State
three to nothing. That was the second game of the season for you. Why did
you play that game so early?
G: We had to keep our conference schedules and most of those games were
already scheduled before I came here. Of course, schedules for football are
made three, four, five or ten years in advance, so you do not have a lot of choice.
Just like Florida had been trying to break up the Auburn and Georgia games so
they would not have to play them back to back, and they finally got an open date.
It is a problem, and I do not know whether or not you want to play your rival
team early, like Georgia Tech playing Georgia or Florida playing Florida State.
Coach Dodd always said, play them early and then that way you can forget about
that game by the end of the season. The alumni and fans are going to
remember how you end the season.
P: The coach at that time was Bill Peterson [FSU head football coach], and he has
been quoted as saying a lot of very funny things. Once he said that he wanted
all of his players to line up alphabetically by height. I know you have some other
funny comments that he made.
G: In the huddle before a game, he said, all right, let us repeat the Lord's Prayer.
"Now I lay me down to sleep." Pete was smart, do not kid yourself. He got a lot
out of whatever you call those things. Pete and I got to be good friends; we
really were all season. He would give me a fit, and I would get on him about
saying things about me recruiting that was not true. We would argue a little bit,
and then we would go fishing together. He always borrowed cigars from me.
Kidding I said, Pete and I smoke the same brand of cigars, but he lets me smoke
them first. He never seemed to have a cigar, but he wanted to smoke a cigar. I
took him fishing one time, and he said that I almost drowned him. We were
fishing out at Whitehearst Lake [in Williston, FL] and there is a canal along the
backside of the lake, and I knew it was about fifteen feet deep there but we were
wading in the shallow part and catching fish. Pete was close to the canal, and I
forgot about him and in a few minutes I saw his hat going down the canal and
then Pete finally got out of the canal and said to this day that I tried to drown him.
I said, well, I thought about it later, but I did not think about it at the time.
Pete and I promised both schools offensive football, and it was the third year
before either one of us scored a touchdown. It really was a game that we could
not get our players excited about. We were supposed to win a lot of the games
and thought we would win, but did not win. Pete found out that we could take
what we wanted in the state of Florida and there would still be enough football
players left in Florida that they could recruit and beat Florida.
P: The rivalry was not as intense then as it is now?
G: No. It was only intense among the students. There were a lot of problems with
the students at that time.
P: Let me get back to that Georgia Tech game. What sort of pressure did you feel
when you were coaching against your old mentor, Bobby Dodd?
G: I wanted to look good. I knew a lot about Georgia Tech and their players; I
helped recruit a lot of them. They were big favorites over us, but it was a
chance for me to play well against Georgia Tech so Coach Dodd would be proud
and at least it would show that he recommended the right man for the job at
Florida. We played a good ball game, and we made that last quarter drive for a
P: Discuss that touchdown pass from Libatore to Infante.
G: Infante scored the touchdown, and then Libatore passed to Jon MacBeth for two
P: After Infante scored the touchdown, Georgia Tech was leading seventeen to
sixteen. And then you decided to go for two to take the lead.
G: There was not any question about it. That was the easiest decision I ever had to
make coaching. Here are kids who were two touchdown underdogs with the
chance to beat a nationally ranked team, and I said, we have to give them the
chance to win the ball game. If we had lost, I could have walked into the
dressing room and say, you all played well and did good enough to win. There
was not any question about going for two. Of course, Jon MacBeth juggled that
ball in the endzone.
P: You said that he might either lose his scholarship or his life if he dropped that
G: That game helped us more than any one game as far as getting us started that
first year, and we did have a good season. We went to a bowl game.
P: One writer said it was the biggest two points in Florida's history.
G: I am sure that is right, and it meant so much for the whole future of the program
that nobody could say that is was not.
P: One rumor I read about that two point conversion was that Pepper Rodgers drew
the play in the dirt. Who called that two point conversion?
G: We had worked on that. He might have reviewed something about that play, but
that sounds like a Pepper Rodgers story. There was not any dirt on the sideline
anyway. But that is a good story. The execution was perfect. That is where
Libatore was the threat. He could read the defense, and if that option was not
there, he could throw the pass and the guy was open. Of course, if the option
was not there, then chances are that the receiver was open.
P: It is tough to defend that. I believe this was the last game with Georgia Tech.
Why did the series with Georgia Tech end?
G: Because they got out of the conference, and we had to get another conference
game. We would have continued to play them if they had been in the
P: I read that Dodd and Woodruff had made an agreement. Dodd wanted to play
just in Atlanta because Gainesville did not have very good hotel facilities, and
Woodruff would not agree to that.
G: Yes. That was why we did not reschedule those games.
P: The other big win in 1960 was the twenty-two to fourteen win over
Georgia, which at that time was the largest crowd in Florida history. What
is so special about the Georgia game?
G: It was the second homecoming for both schools. When I was at Georgia
Tech, we had Georgia Tech alumni and people who would try to get
Georgia- Florida tickets down in Jacksonville, but you could not get any
tickets for it. It was always a sell-out. When I came to Florida Wally
Bucks [University of Georgia football coach] called me up. We chatted a
lot and got to be real close and real good friends. He had recommended
me for a couple of jobs at Alabama and Kentucky when I was at Georgia
Tech. Well, he called me and said, one thing that we always want to do is
play that game in Jacksonville because that is the one game that has kept
us financially in the black. It was the second homecoming for our fans,
and Jacksonville was a neutral spot, perhaps a little more for Florida, but I
think we ought to always play that game.
P: When did that series start in Jacksonville?
G: I do not know, exactly. I remember that first year with Fran Tarkenton
[NFL Hall of Fame quarterback]. We chased him all over the field like the
pros did in the NFL, and we finally survived. We beat Georgia the first
P: Obviously when you were hired, as any Florida coach, you need to be able to
beat Georgia, Florida State, and Miami.
G: Miami and Georgia were the two big ones, and FSU became a big rival through
the years. I said to that a Florida coach could lose to Georgia, FSU and Miami
and get fired.
P: In your second year, you had a disappointing four-five-one record.
G: That was one of the worst seasons we had.
P: You said this was your poorest team. What was the difference?
G: We lost those seventeen boys that could not get into the upper division and a lot
of those were really good players; I mean they would have been the football
team. They had some experience. Some of them did not go to junior college
and get their grades up so that they could get back in, but some of them did and
came back and helped us get back into things in 1963, providing the team with a
little better depth. We just did not have the depth or the ability to stay with some
of the teams like Auburn. It was one of those years where we did not have the
talent or the experience.
P: This is the year where your real problem was your offense. In games against
LSU and Georgia Tech, you did not score at all, yet you had your two
quarterbacks from the previous year: Libatore and Dodd. What was the
difference in your offense?
G: We did not have depth in our offensive line. We did not have the running backs
to complement Libatore. Skelly was hurt, Bob Hoover was back, but he had
some problems too. It was a team that did not have the leadership on the field
that we needed. It was a tough team to coach, and I guess the opposition found
it an easy team to play against and win.
P: I guess a key game at least for Florida State was that three-three tie. How
important was that for the Florida State program?
G: I think it was real important. That was when they tore down the goal posts and
had a big free-for-all. I had a tape of that for a long time. It was something: the
players, the fans and everything. It was a classic. It was one that I am sure
ESPN would like to have on tape. That was a big win for FSU, no question
about it. It helped them in recruiting and everything. I think that was the time
when we finally realized that FSU was our competition--recruiting and on the
field. It also helped us in the future to get us more prepared for that game.
P: Did that game really have any impact on recruiting for the next year?
G: I do not know. I might have worked a little harder and did a little better job in
selling, but the game helped us to recruit a little better because we did have a
good freshman class.
P: Let me go back. There is something that I forgot to ask you about the 1960
season. You played in the Gator Bowl and beat Baylor thirteen to twelve. So in
your first year you finished at nine and two. Was that something that you
expected when you started?
G: No. I did not think of goals as being real important at that time. I think the
challenge was to come out with some pride and show the exciting offensive
football that the Florida fans really deserved. I wanted to show them, and I think
the players wanted to show them too. We had a lot going for us that year. We
had some good leadership. Those seniors did a good job. That season was a
good season for my first year, and then we wound up with that good victory over
a good Baylor team in the Gator Bowl with Ronnie Bull and his cohorts.
P: So your rebuilding really does not start almost until your third year?
G: That is right.
P: Because you first year you have a pretty good nucleus. Talk about Lindy Infante
as both a player and a coach.
G: I have said that he had a good football mind. Lindy was really a halfback, and
you really cannot describe him as exciting, but he was one of the single
tailbacks in a lot of ways. He ran behind his shoulders, he had a
little acceleration when he needed to accelerate, like that touchdown he scored
against Georgia Tech from about the four or five yardline. When he saw that
endzone, he put it on and had the ability to run behind his shoulders. He was
not that big, but he was a smart runner. I had a lot of respect for Lindy. I met
him down in Miami after I accepted the Florida job (I was down there for the
North-South game). The hotel where we were staying had valet parking and a
boy got my keys and said coach, you do not know me, but I am Lindy Infante,
and I am going to be one of you tailbacks next year. He was working there at
the hotel during the Christmas holiday.
P: So he had already been recruited?
G: Yes. He was a sophomore then, but that was the first time I had met him. I had
not even met the squad. I had just taken the job.
P: What makes him a good pro coach?
G: I do not know. He sells the players on his game plan and has the ability to
coach an offense against any opposition. He was first hired as an offensive
coordinator because everybody respected his ability as an offensive coach.
Having to handle players in the pros has got to be the toughest job in America.
You can ask the coach of the Dallas Cowboys or any professional football coach
about how tough that is. You never know which players you are going to get.
You might get a group where you have leaders and are easy to coach and others
you cannot coach. A lot of the players make more money than the coach. That
is a tough job. Lindy has got a good football mind, and I think he will always
have a good game plan to defeat his opposition. I enjoy watching his teams
play because I kind of think about what Lindy is thinking in terms of what the
defense is doing and so on.
P: Did you ever want to coach in the pros?
G: I was offered a job with the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1960s, but I do not think I
actually ever considered the job.
P: What kind of offer did you get from the Eagles?
G: It was an interview for the head coaching job.
P: And did you get an actual offer?
G: No, just an interview. I do not think I ever wanted the job. I had been up there
enough to see some of the problems, and the opportunities might have been
there, but there were more problems than opportunities.
P: Let's go to the 1962 season. That year you had some new players, and I guess
the most important addition to the team was Larry Dupree.
G: That is right. Pepper was recruiting in the MacClenny area, and he said, coach,
you have to come up and see this kid. I know it is MacClenny, but he has got
some moves and he looks exciting. So I went up and watched him play, and I
said, we want him. He was something, and I say to this day that if he had not
gotten his knee hurt, he would have been a Walter Payton [Hall of Fame running
back for the Chicago Bears] or something. He would have written records that
no other athlete in Florida would have ever written as far as a running game is
concerned. After he got his knee hurt, we moved him to fullback, and he still
made all-American, but he was something. He believed that every time he got
his hands on the football, he was going to run for a touchdown. God gave him
moves that no other athlete had that I ever coached. He was a player.
P: When did he hurt his knee first?
G: In spring practice before his junior year.
P: So he played two years on a bad knee?
G: Yes. He made all-America his senior year as a fullback.
P: What did he add to the team that you did not have?
G: He added exactly what you wanted. The players also believed that every time
he got his hands on the football, he was going to run for a touchdown. So they
blocked for him once, twice; they would give him that extra block. That is the
difference. An athlete like that makes everybody on the team play better, just
like Spurrier did. The players believed that Spurrier was going to take them
down the field for a touchdown, so they began to block and run better and catch
the ball better. It is contagious.
P: Before the Georgia game, Dupree's wife had a miscarriage. What advice did
you give him because he was trying to decide whether to play in the game?
G: I remember going to him in that sad situation, which brought us closer than I
have ever been to an athlete at that time, and I said to him, you have got to live
with yourself, Larry, and your life is more important than the game of football. It
was a sad situation, but he wound up making the decision to go ahead and play.
P: Why do you think he decided to play?
G: I think that is what he thought his baby would want him to do, but I do not know.
We have stayed pretty close. Larry has had some problems through the years,
financially and otherwise. Right now he has back problems. I talked to him not
long ago, and we reminisce. He is a converted Christian now working in his
church and he has my prayers.
P: Do you think he made the right decision to play?
G: He made the decision, so I guess he did, and that is what I would have to say. I
did not influence him, though, I am confident of that.
P: You said 1962 was your strangest season. Why is that?
G: After the 1961 season, we came back and had to reestablish ourselves. I did
not feel that we had the personnel we needed to have the team that I was
dreaming and hoping to have. I knew it was a challenge. We did not yet have
the leadership that I wanted on offense and defense, but we played well and then
we played poorly. We executed well, and then we would forget what we
coached them to do. The loss to Duke that year was the lowest point in my
coaching career. We were leading twenty-one to nothing, and we were doing
everything right. After the half, we came back out, and they intercepted a pass
for a touchdown. Then later they blocked a punt and went on to beat us. My
wife says that it was the only time I ever cried after a ball game. Then it was
really a challenge to get those kids back up. Gene Ellenson was the guy I
always counted on to come up with a good war story or something to get the kids
to forget feeling sorry for themselves and get them fired up. He was good at
that. It was really something. That team could have gone completely haywire
and could have disintegrated, but we did come back after that loss. We showed
a lot of character. It was a team that later I was real proud of. We came back
and the next week we had a good game.
P: Talk about the Texas A&M game when you won forty-two to nothing. That was
when Gene Ellenson wrote that letter that you read. Explain what happened
G: After a staff meeting Monday night, Gene and I always stayed a little later to talk.
I said, Gene, we have got to do something. The coaches are down, the players
are down; everybody is low. What can we do? He said, let me think, coach. I
said, what do you do? Everybody is looking around for somebody to tell them
what happened and what we could do to get back up. He said, let me think
about it. So he wrote this story about the Battle of the Bulge, and he brought
that back into me at about midnight and read it to me. You quit feeling sorry for
yourself and start thinking about the team, your life, the future and what is going
to happen. They really responded. I know Hank Foldberg, the coach of Texas
A&M, came to me and said, what in the devil is wrong? What happened? You
have not played that way. It was a game that the coaches and the players were
really proud of -- to come back after that terrible loss to Duke. We were better
than Duke. We should have beaten them.
P: The story he gave was that he was one of the three people who were still living
who survived the Battle of the Bulge.
G: Right. Three of them were still living. One of them was running a filling station
in Illinois, one of them was in a mental institution in Texas, and one of them was
an assistant coach at Florida. It was something like that. That story was later
printed in Reader's Digest.
P: That was a true story?
P: And the players had no idea that he...
P: One of things he said in the letter, which I found, was, the first time you quit is the
hardest. Then it gets easier after that. There is no more self-pity. So you
cannot quit. Was that the overall message?
G: Yes. It would be so easy now just to quit, and it gets easier. I remember it was
very appropriate and a true story. I am sure the players still talk about it.
P: You finished this season doing something that became rather rare for Florida
teams, you beat Auburn, Georgia, and Florida State in the same season. How
did you manage to accomplish that when you look back on the poor performance
G: That was a time when you had to take a look at yourself inside and just realize
that you had to play every game for four quarters; you could not make mistakes.
You would get beat by your mistakes as much as your play or your ability. And
we got beat by Duke because of the mistakes we made in the second half of that
game. We did not make any mistakes the first half, and we were winning
twenty-one to nothing. Then we made mistakes, and they capitalized on them
and beat us. And they were not as good a football team. I would say, I do not
know who it will be, but every week there are going to be about six or seven
major upsets. I do not know whether Texas is going to beat Arkansas, or if Holy
Cross is going to beat Penn State, nobody knows, but there are going to be
some upsets because it is the way the teams play that day, and they do not play
the same way every day. In the pros, the teams in the same division play each
other twice and the second game is nothing like the first game. There is usually
a different score and a different game. That game against Duke gave us all a
lesson, and we learned from it. This was a team which still had some good days
and bad days, but they knew they could win and came back and got some
confidence that they did not have before.
P: At the end of the season, you lost to Miami and Georgia Tech. Talk a little bit
about Billy Lotheridge who was the quarterback for Georgia Tech. What kind of
quarterback was he?
G: I recruited him. He was a winner; he was a lot like Spurrier in some ways. He
was a thinker, a smart kid, a good quarterback, maybe he did not have all the
ability in the world as a real pro-type quarterback, but he was a winner and he
had the confidence of the team and the players and he was a tough one. We
played up there in the rain. It was bad weather to play a football game in.
Lotheridge was a good quarterback, they were well-prepared, and Grant Field
was still a tough place to win.
P: How does rain affect a football team?
G: It changes the whole game. Nobody will ever know how much it affects the play
of the game as much as the individuals on the team who have to change the way
P: You mean psychologically?
G: Yes, and your game plan. Maybe you are preaching a running game and that is
your strength and that will help you on a muddy field and maybe your offensive
line can dominate on a muddy field. It is like horses, some of them run better in
the mud than they do on a fast track, but it changes the game. And wind affects
the game as much as rain does. Spurrier will tell you this, and I always agreed.
A high wind will affect a football game particularly when you have one team that
features a passing offense. Steve would rather play in the rain than in a high
wind, at any time. I agree with him, but under those weather conditions it is
another ball game.
P: Did you prefer to throw in the wind or throw with the wind?
G: Maybe throw into the wind, but either way you use a different projection when
you throw into the wind or with the wind. Like a golfer, you have to make
different shots in the wind. Tiger Woods [professional golfer] has to figure out
this weekend in the British Open whether he wants to keep that ball down a little
lower than he normally does to avoid that high wind. In football, the weather is
such an important part of the game. I am sorry to see it go to the dome in some
places. The weather has made a lot of champions and has cost a lot of teams
the championship, but it is still a football game if both teams are playing in the
snow, rain, or mud.
P: Both teams are playing in the same conditions.
G: That is exactly right.
P: I have read somewhere that psychologically running backs worry about fumbling
the ball because it is slick and wet, but then there are some people who do not
think about it. For them, it is just another game. How do you prepare people to
ignore the weather?
G: You cannot talk about it. If you talk about fumbling, you are going to fumble the
ball more. If you talk about mud being a problem, it is going to be more of a
problem. I know General Neyland at Tennessee would once a week have us
scrimmage with a soapy football so in case we had to play in the rain, we would
be used to it. Maybe that is a good idea, I do not know. But whether you are
handling a wet ball or a dry ball, it all is going to come down to execution. Now
they do a good job of getting different balls in the game that are dry, so it is not
that much of a problem.
P: If the weather were bad, would you have the players change the cleats on their
G: It depends on the field that you are playing on. Sometimes at the half, we would
have some players change from a short cleat to a longer cleat because in a hard
rain, short cleats will give you less footing.
P: While we are on that, how different was the equipment when you were coaching
than when you were playing?
G: We always got some improvement in pads and in equipment that better protected
the players, but I do not think it is really that much different. Back in the 1940s,
we were pretty well protected with leather helmets.
P: When did the face mask come in?
G: I think later in the 1960s or 1970s. Face masks were optional. Some players
would wear them, and some of them would not; it was not required. But it was
required in high school at that time.
P: Did the new cushioned helmets provide better protection?
G: I think so. Technically, they have improved all of the equipment for the athletes'
P: But the helmet is harder, so if two players hit each other head on, it is possible
that they could really hurt each other.
G: Today athletes are bigger, stronger and faster than they ever were. If you get a
truck hitting a Volkswagen going sixty miles an hour or two Volkswagens hitting
each other, you are going to have more of an impact. So the speed and the size
of the athletes now are causing more injuries.
P: Who determined if a player who had been injured was able to play in a game?
G: I always relied heavily on my trainer, and I had some good trainers. I certainly
was fortunate to get Chris Patrick [Assistant Athletics Director--Sports Health,
1970- present] in the last few years, and he is still there. He is a super trainer.
You have to respect you trainer and your doctors, and we certainly were
fortunate to have good ones. Florida is still fortunate to have that kind of talent
available to work with in the athletic program. Some players have a low
threshold of pain and others have a higher one. You just have to listen to the
players sometimes. If he does not think he is able to play, then I do not want
him playing; I do not want him out there. A lot of them will play hurt. You also
have to guard against that. They will play when they should be on the sideline.
P: What do you do, for instance, if a doctor says that a player cannot play, and the
player says I can play?
G: I never play the player. If the doctor says he cannot play, then he does not play.
I just tell him that it is for his future and the game is not that important. Your
health is first. If the doctor says you are not healthy, then you do not play. You
just do not argue with that.
P: What about a player who has a slight ankle sprain, and it is not a very important
game. Would you play him or would you hold him out and hope that the injury
heals so that he would not lose the rest of the season? How would you decide
G: I would hold him out. I would talk to him and tell him that I would like to hold him
out and try to sell him on doing that, and it depended on what position he is
playing. A lineman could maybe play with an ankle injury that has swelled up a
little, and he would not get any new injuries or re-injure himself. But you have to
be real careful with the skill positions like quarterback, running back, wide out,
and defensive back. For those guys, an ankle sprain is worse than a break.
You know when a break is going to heal, but you never know when an ankle
sprain is going to heal.
P: Plus it is easier to re-injure a sprain.
G: This is true.
P: Your team was six and four in 1962. Were you surprise to get a bowl invitation?
G: After we lost to Miami, yes. I was up in Georgia recruiting, and I got a call that
informed me that they wanted to have Clemson in the Gator Bowl. They had the
same record that we had. I said, well, if you are going to take Clemson, I think
you ought to take Florida. We are a state school and are closer to the Gator
Bowl, but some members of the Gator Bowl committee did not want to invite us.
I think two or three of the bowl members, Henry Kramer was one of them, were
supportive of us and said, we should invite Florida. They got us in there and
that was one of the good things that happened to us. It gave us a chance to
redeem ourselves from the Miami game and the Georgia Tech game, but we
were playing against a nationally ranked team -- Penn State had a great football
team. They had soundly beaten Georgia Tech in the Gator Bowl the year
before, and we were backed to the wall with a challenge, but you always like to
get in a position like that. We were in a position to really prove that we were still
a good football team as we did two or three times during the year. So we took
them to Daytona, we traveled, we did a few extra things, and we used a
Confederate flag over there. We tried everything in the world to get them fired
up, and we were ready. We practiced well, and we changed our defense a little
bit into something that they had not seen. We had a good game plan, and we
went ahead and played a great ball game.
P: You said it was the best game of the season.
G: It was. Our quarterback then was Tommy Shannon who beat out Libertore, and
we were going against a team that everybody thought we did not have a chance
against. Everybody thought that we did not belong in a bowl or in a game with
Penn St. But we just completely dominated them and beat them seventeen to
P: Was Rip Engle the coach?
G: Yes, Rip Engle was the coach. Rip was a personal friend, and we had gone to a
lot of clinics together. He was surprised too. Two or three of those boys he
had went right into the pros and made all-pro.
P: Did Lennie Moore [outstanding back for Baltimore Colts] play at that time?
G: Yes. Lennie Moore and [Dave] Robinson. Their quarterback later became
head coach of Florida.
P: Galen Hall [Florida head football coach, 1984-1989].
G: Galen Hall was quarterback. My memory is not too sharp at times, but Galen
Hall was quarterback, and we kidded with him a lot through the years.
P: The Florida players wore a confederate flag and when they came on the field,
they played Dixie. Obviously, you could not do that today.
G: No. I think the players thought of doing that. They were excited about getting
the chance to play another ball game and figured this is the North against the
South again. No, you could not do something like that today.
P: Did Penn State have any other black athletes other than Lennie Moore?
G: Yes, Robinson. I think they had two or three, others, too. They were good,
solid football players. They probably were a better football team that we were,
but that day they were not. We were better prepared and had more desire.
Something that you cannot take out of the game of football is desire -- the desire
to win more than the other team. They had been down there the year before
and had beaten Georgia Tech who had beaten us. They said, well, we will win,
but it might be a tough ball game. They came down and got entertained and
had a good time, and we had a good time.
P: How do you get that desire?
G: It has to come from within. Sometimes you can motivate the players in certain
ways, but you give them the challenge which, in this case, was playing Penn
State. The players welcomed that challenge with opened arms, and they
wanted to be coached however they needed to be coached to give them a
chance to win. Desire has to come individually because you only can fool them
so much. Athletes know who they are playing against and how good they are
and how good they think they could be if they have a good day. That is a good
question, and every coach has different ideas about this, I am sure.
P: It is hard to get any group of athletes fired-up for every game if you play ten or
eleven games a year.
G: You are not going to get that top level of competition but about three or four times
a year. In fact, I think if you look at any season of any team, you will find this.
General Neyland always figured this. He would schedule three set-ups and then
Alabama, and then two set-ups and then LSU, and then three set-ups, and then
Vanderbilt, who were strong back then too. They always beat Kentucky back in
those years, so it was a challenge to get ready to play about three or four ball
games a year. General Neyland scheduled it that way, but you play any
schedule and that is about the way it is going to come out. You are going to
have three or four good, solid ball games, and you are also going to have two or
three where you are not going to play well like Florida last year when they lost all
of those offensive linemen. I do not know of any other team that could play
three freshman offensive linemen and go on to win a national championship, but
Florida did and came through and played some tough games.
P: One example of that would be the Vanderbilt game last year where they really
had a difficult time trying to win that game.
G: It will always be a problem, but it is a challenge in itself, plus the opportunity to
face that challenge.
P: Now in the Penn State game, you played the "monster defense," but you made
some adjustments to it?
G: That is right.
P: You tried to force them to pass?
G: No. We had some more stunts we could do off of that. We could conceal the
defense; they did not know whether we were playing three-deep or zone or
playing corners. We gave them a lot of different looks and made them make
some decisions. They had not seen that defense, and they were not prepared
for it, so that gave us a big advantage. I say we had the advantage because it
was a big challenge for us where it was just another ball game to them. Our
defense did give them a few problems, and offensively it was just our day. On
the one pass, for instance, on third down and long (about twelve yards for the
first) [Russ] Brown fell down and the back, who was covering him, left him. So
Brown got up and caught the first down. I said, this is our day. And it was our
day. Tommy Shannon had a great day and last year was taken into the Gator
Bowl Hall of Fame for that game he had against Penn State.
P: Why did you not recruit black athletes at this point at Florida?
G: The main reason was there were not any who were really qualified to get into the
University of Florida. We had recruited some, but they could not get in. Finally,
I was trying to recruit Willie Jackson, and he could not get in. So he went up to
a prep school in Fort Union, Pennsylvania, and got his grades up and his test
scores up and came back to Florida, and he was the first one along with Lenny
George. Lenny George's father and mother were from Tampa and were faculty
people at the high school there, and he had the grades. He is a lawyer now in
Tallahassee. Willie Jackson is the head of some civic park in Jacksonville.
Fortunately, he has given us [UF] some pretty good athletes--his sons Willie
[wide receiver for NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars] and now Terry, who is a fullback
and short yardage goal line player [for the Gators].
P: He [Terry] can play anything.
G: Yes. He blocks punts. He is a player.
P: What was the first year that black athletes actually came to the university?
G: We had been recruiting some track players for two or three years. Willie and
Lenny came in 1968.
P: I guess one of the great games in Florida history was with this team that started
out the season with a very unimpressive record of 1-1-1, barely beating
Richmond. Then you went to play a really great Alabama team at Tuscaloosa.
How did you manage to win that game?
G: We had probably been looking forward to that game a little bit more than
Alabama. We had not shown some of our game plan offensively or defensively
in the early ball games, and we knew that Alabama was a conference game and
a chance for us to beat a National Championship team [they were national
champs the year before]. The Richmond game was something. We could do
whatever we wanted to, but somebody would foul-up an execution on every play.
After looking at the films of their punt coverage, which was lousy, we said that
we could return a punt anytime we wanted to. So we returned two punts for
touchdowns. You have to be focused, and the thing about football is that it is
the greatest team sport of all. One player can get you beat if he does not
execute either offensively or defensively. We were pointing for that Alabama
game, maybe a little too much.
P: In the game, Bryant said that Florida was very well-prepared and was successful
gang-tackling. The defense probably played one of its better games. Why was
G: That again is just desire. When you see a team that is gang-tackling, you say
they came to play and you can just bet on that because the value of your team
varies inversely with your distance to the football. If there is a fumble or
anything, and you are around that football, something good might happen. That
is just an indication of desire. When you go up against a team like that, you are
a little scared, you are glad for the challenge, and sometimes you get the feeling
that you can win. We felt that we had a good chance to stay in the ball game.
Going up there, we knew that Bear had never lost at Tuscaloosa and did not lose
but one ball game there (the game against us) until his last year when Southern
Miss beat him up there. And we almost beat him the next year with Spurrier,
that is another story.
P: What did he say to you after the game?
G: I have forgotten, but I am sure it was something nice. Bear always had a knack
of saying the right thing at the right time. He was very polite. I always said that
Bear was the best recruiter in the country; he knew how to recruit. He recruited
the player's mom and dad. He would go back and help the momma cook
spaghetti or whatever it took to get that boy out of Pennsylvania or wherever.
He was a recruiter, and he was a gentleman at all times and was very humble.
In fact, he probably just said you out-coached us or out-beat us -- something like
that. I know that loss bothered him. He had them out practicing on Sunday
after the game.
P: He did not like that?
G: Bear did not like to lose. That is for sure.
P: He did not have to deal with losing much. What made him a great coach?
G: I think recruiting first. I have always said that he was the greatest recruiter.
When I was recruiting Scott Hunter from Mobile, we had him ready to sign and
his mother worked in the department store there. I was going up there to sign
him, and I spent the night in Pensacola and called him to make sure that
everything was OK. He said, coach, I am going to sign with you tomorrow. He
wanted to study journalism. He had been down to Gainesville, enjoyed the visit,
and was really sold on Florida. Then he said, but Bear Bryant just called and
said he wanted to see my mom and me once more and just wish us luck and
everything before I sign. I told Jimmy Haynes [head freshman football coach],
we have lost him. And we did. He called me and said that he signed with
Alabama. We kid about it a lot. I saw him later. He said, you do not know. I
was going to Florida, I was so sold on Florida, but Bear got back with my momma
and started talking to her and said that if I was to come up to Alabama, he was
going to be my daddy and if I ever needed him, he would take care of me. He
did take care of his boys, and maybe he was their daddy up there, but he was a
P: Was there much of that going on up there? Payments?
G: I would say some. Alumni might tell some boy that if he needed some help, they
would help him, and maybe that is fair.
P: Was that illegal at that time?
G: Yes. But you get to the point where a boy's father died, and you want to give
him some money to go to the funeral. You do things that morally are right, but
they are against the rules. It was against the rules to help an athlete out over
and above his scholarship. Of course, it used to be that football tickets were a
big problem. The players used to get four complimentary football tickets, and
the alumni would buy the tickets for a good premium. Maybe before the players
even signed, they would tell him, I will buy your season tickets for $1,000. That
was going on at Georgia Tech, too. People at Georgia Tech would buy the
players' season tickets and that was legal then. Then they changed the rule and
took out the season tickets, and you cannot give them season tickets now. The
players get four tickets for their parents and family, and they have to sign for
them and get them the day of the game.
P: They cannot sell them?
G: They cannot sell them. They have to pick them up the day of the game and then
give them a slip to sit in the seats, and they have to be their parents. Players
used to break the rules and that is why the rules were changed, but maybe it was
better the other way. These kids come to college and cannot get a job in the
summer or during the holidays where they could make some extra money, and
now they do not even give them spending money. They used to give them
laundry money. I think they got it up to $25 a month at one time, and they could
send their laundry back home for their mother and they had $25 to buy a
toothbrush or take a girl out and buy a Pepsi or something, but now they do not
have any money. And a lot of these kids do not get a dime from home.
P: What do you think about the proposal that has been made to just pay all of the
football players $4,000 a year or whatever, as a sum that they earn for the
university? Would that alleviate some of the problems?
G: It would never happen, because what you do for football players, you would have
to do for every other athlete in every other sport, both men's and women's, and
that kills it right there. Financially, it is just too costly. Football makes a lot of
money for schools, and for other schools say in the Midwest maybe ice hockey
also is a big money winning sport, but do you want to do it for two or three sports
in varying degrees depending on how much money they bring in? It is a utopian
idea, and it will never happen. But it would be fair in some ways.
P: Did you ever think about having something like a Hound's Tooth hat as a symbol
as Bear did?
G: No. I never thought about anything like that.
P: Did he deliberately wear that hat as part of his image?
G: Yes. I think the company in Birmingham that made those hats probably had
Alabama alumni running it, who said this is a good way to get a little publicity for
the firm and give Bear some national recognition.
P: How did he become such a legend in coaching?
G: Winning is part of it. He was the winningest football coach in America until
Eddie Robinson topped him after his death.
P: But it goes a little bit past that.
G: Bear was at the right place at the right time. In Kentucky, he had some
problems. He had some good years, but he had some bad games too. He did
not do well against Tennessee at all and that was probably the reason he left to
go to Texas A&M because he was going to get fired since he had not beaten
Tennessee. He tied Tennessee once, and they carried him off the field and
deposited him in front of Bowyden Wyatt [Tennessee coach]. He could not beat
Tennessee, and he went to Texas A&M and had some good football players
there. I went out to spring practice a couple of years at Texas A&M, and he had
the athletes there. Bear mellowed a lot in his late years. Some of the players
tell me about it, but I noticed that in his approach after he came back to Alabama.
He used to run up and down the sideline, then they put in that rule that a coach
cannot be outside the thirty-yard line. But before that rule, he would go to the
goal line, and he was coaching and officiating a lot of ball games. Bear was
something. In his latter years, you would see him stand on that sideline and just
blink. You did not know who was in there sometimes. They said they might
have given him a sedative sometimes to cool him down before a ball game.
P: He liked to coach from the tower during practice too.
G: He was a good coach. I tell you what else Bear did. If anyone was doing
something better than he was, he would go and listen to them and find out how
they were doing it. I know he came down to see us and wanted to know how we
scored against Tennessee. He went two years and did not score a touchdown
against them. He asked, how do you score twenty-seven points against
Tennessee? He listened and went back and put some of those ideas in that
Bobby Dodd and the staff gave him. He called me from Texas A&M wanting to
know about a punt return. He said, you all have been returning punts, and
Tennessee used to do that. What do you do on punt returns? And he paid my
way out there to talk to him about it, and he put it in. He had that knack. He
was up on the game. When he got [Joe] Namath [Hall of Fame quarterback for
the New York Jets], he set the offense up to fit Namath's style of play. Then
when Namath got hurt, he went with the option. He made good head coaching
decisions, I would say that. He had a good staff and a good system.
P: One of the things that has amazed me, talking about Bear Bryant as a legend,
when he died, hundreds of thousands of people went to his funeral. They still
visit his grave, and they still sell those hats. All these years later, he is still a
G: This is true. Alabama thrives on people like that who are legends, and I think he
will always be that legend. You have to keep in mind where he coached.
Alabama is a legendary school from back in the Rose Bowl days with Johnnie
Mack Brown [football player and actor] and right on down. Tennessee is also
legendary, but not as much as Alabama.
P: There has been no football coach in American history that has the status of Bear
G: Bear was a good PR man -- with the ladies, with the coaches, with the alumni.
Bear was humble, and he was really a gracious person. I enjoyed being in his
company at anytime. We would fish together. He had a country place down
there where he would go off for the weekends and fish. Bear was an interesting
person. He had the confidence of a lot of people, including the top people in
Alabama in politics and business. Most of them were alumni graduates.
P: Like George Wallace [governor of Alabama in the 1960s, 1970s, and first half of
the 1980s, ran for the presidency several times], for example.
P: When you look back at this history of Alabama, is it possible for Florida to ever
get that kind of recognition?
G: No. I do not think so in this day in time. Life is a little more complicated now.
There are more things to do with the pro teams coming into all the major cities in
Florida now. I do not think you can get a legend in Florida in any college sport
with the professional presence of say a [Don] Shula [longtime coach of the Miami
Dolphins] and the Miami team when they dominated everything. Shula is a little
bit of a legend, but then he wound up not doing too well his last year, so he is not
a living legend right now. But I do not think that Florida can achieve that
legendary status of an Alabama or a Penn St. There are too many things going
on. When you get the pros and the colleges competing against each other for
entertainment dollars, nobody is going to consistently dominate. I do not think
there is going to be any one team that is going to dominate like three or four or
five of them did in years past. And now they are all the college teams are
getting into conferences, so those old independent teams are just about out
except for Notre Dame. At the turn of the century everything is going to be the
same way. Anybody can win on any given day, and there will not be any
P: The 1963 team played a game after President Kennedy was assassinated.
What was your personal reaction to the assassination?
G: We were in West Palm Beach where we spent the night. We walked into the
dinning room there, and they had the TV set up telling about the assassination.
Then I got on the phone with Dr. Reitz, and he said he was going to meet with
the president of Miami and decide whether they were going to play the game or
not. So I waited for that call, and they decided that they would play the game,
since that is what the president would want -- the game must go on. We played
the game with a lot of protest from the fans and some other people.
P: What was your position? Did you think that the game should have been played?
G: Right off, I said the game would be called off, and maybe it could be rescheduled
after the season was over like we did with LSU when the hurricane blew us out of
Baton Rouge. We came back and played them after the season was over. The
presidents met, and it made some sense because President Kennedy was a big
supporter of athletics and football. They thought that is what he would have
wanted -- the game must go on -- so we had to play it. A lot of the players had
mixed feelings, but nobody really expressed themselves.
P: Most universities called off the games rather than play them. Do you think that
had any impact on the game itself?
G: I am sure it did with the different players and the way they reacted to it. I am
sure it did, and I thought that. I do not think we will ever know who it affected
and how much it affected their play, but it was a solemn day in a lot of ways and
neither team was really prepared to go out and play or execute the kind of game
plan they had hoped to execute against each other.
P: The 1963 team was 5-3-1 and did not get a bowl bid. Did that surprise you?
G: I think that maybe we had a chance at the Orange Bowl, but no. There were not
that many bowls then, but we did not really deserve to go to a bowl game. We
were not that good, just like the year before. I would not have questioned it that
year if they had not invited Clemson who had the same record we did, and most
of us felt like they should have at least given us a chance to come back since we
were in Gainesville, Florida, and the Gator Bowl was in Jacksonville. I do not
remember feeling bad about it. I felt that we were not good enough to go to a
P: A few comments on some of your players--Larry Gagner.
G: He was an unusual player. He was an all-American offensive lineman and a
very talented artist. He lives in Tampa now, and I see him every once in a while.
He does come to the Silver Sixties about every other year, although he has not
been there in two years. He had a bad injury from an automobile accident and
had to have a hip implant. Now his hip still bothers him, so he is really
embarrassed right now about that.
P: What made him a great lineman?
G: He wanted to prove to himself and to some people somewhere along the line in
high school that he was that good. Others might have had as much ability as
Larry or more, but Larry was just one of those players that was not going to be
denied. He was a team player, and he would go over and above what you
asked him to do. If you told him to run five laps, he would run ten laps. He
wanted to be the best, and he was and he made all-America and went up to the
pros. But he was an unusual player: a fine kid.
P: Charlie Casey.
G: Charlie is something. He and Steve were a real pair. They really worked well
together. They perfected certain passes, and they worked at them and
executed them and had enough togetherness to change routes. Sometimes if
Casey was not opened on one route, [Steve] would make him run another one
while he was already running. Casey is a winner. He caught a lot of
touchdown passes, and he is a legend along with Steve.
P: Alan Trammell.
G: He was a cheerleader. We would have a police escort in front with the blue
lights, and he always tried to get up there. He would ride in front of the bus
where he could see those blue lights. He got fired up. If you would tell a boy to
put on his game face every ball game, Alan Trammell did. He was a real
competitor. You could always count on him. You did not have to give him any
pep talk. You had to cool him off a little if anything. He was one of my favorite
players. A lot of players had his ability, but they did not have his desire. He
made himself a great football player.
P: A lot of the players that you have talked about here are players with a little above
average ability who play at a much higher level because they work hard and
because they have desire. Obviously, that is a tremendous component in
making a great player. And if you do not have that, ability is not enough.
G: That is exactly right, just like with Danny Wuerffel. Wuerffel did not have the
arm; he did not have the physical tools that the pros really look for in a
quarterback. So the pros put him in a computer and Wuerffel ends up being a
third round draft choice. But you cannot put that heart in a computer. What is
important in football are the things you demonstrate to the other players on the
team who recognize you as a leader. Those leadership qualities reflect a
player's character, spirit, and heart -- things that cannot be measured physically.
That is true in basketball and other sports too. Of course, it is very obvious that
you at least have to have that natural physical ability.
P: It is also like that in the military.
P: I think you see who the leaders are and maybe that is why Gene Ellenson could
relate that story to the football players because they could really identify with that.
P: Let's look at other players that you have played against. What is your evaluation
of George Mira who played at Miami?
G: He was a player that played on the right team at the right time to make him great.
He was a winner. He did not have the physical ability and the height to play in
the pros, but I had a lot of respect for him after he threw that left-handed pass for
a touchdown to beat us. That just showed what kind of an athlete he was. He
was taken into the State Hall of Fame this year in Lake City, and I saw him there
and we were kidding around. He was talking about his play. He and Sam
Holland, one of the boys who played for me, both were from Key West and
played on a good high school football team down there. Mira was an exciting
P: If you had to pick an all-opponent team during the time that you were coaching,
name some of the players who would be on that team -- who were the most
talented players that you played against.
G: If I had time, I think I could pick an all-opponent team that would look a lot like the
team picked by a lot of other coaches. In naming a team like that, you would
have to look at the way they played against you. That would probably be
something that would influence me. I would like to have a little time to think
about that one. I mean that sincerely. I could think of a lot of them. Some of
them who did not have the opportunity to play with some of the teams that were
national champions I respected later.
P: We will come back to that. Let's talk about the 1964 team and the
recruiting of Steve Spurrier. How did you find out about Spurrier?
G: That has been written up and has been pretty well documented, but I have a
brother who was a postmaster in Knoxville, Tennessee, and he saw Steve play
against my old alma mater, Central High School. My brother called me and told
me, have you heard of Steve Spurrier? And I said, no, I have not. He said,
well, he was all-state last year, he just beat your old alma mater, and he does
everything -- he passes, kicks extra points and field goals, and punts. He is a
player. They say he is not going to Tennessee because they play a single wing.
He then said, his father is a minister in Johnson City, and since our father was a
minister, maybe you will have a chance with him. I said, well, I will write him and
get in touch with him. So I wrote him and called him later. He was playing
basketball at the time, and we could not get him down for a visit during basketball
season, and then he got into baseball and we could not get him down because of
baseball, and then he had the flu or something. Finally, we got him down in the
spring for a visit, and he had a nice visit although he got sick, and we had to fly
him back in a private plane. He had gotten the flu with a fever, and we flew him
back with one of the coaches going with him. I thought he had a bad visit in a lot
of ways, but I did take him out to the golf course. We had just bought the
university golf course, and he had just taken up golf. His eyes dallied a little bit,
and he said, I like that golf. I said, get him a couple buckets of balls, and he
went out and drove a few balls. I have always tried to pin him down and ask him
why he came to Florida. I do not think that the golf course or golf had anything
to do with it, but I do not think it hurt either.
P: He did mention that he liked the fact that he could play golf year round.
G: Right. I think it all goes back to the fact that Steve does a lot of his own thinking,
as I found out later. I thought Ole Miss was really our stiff competition, but Ohio
State recruited him and Woody Hayes [Ohio State University head football
coach] called him regularly. He said he would take the phone off the hook
because of the phone calls. Recruiting him was interesting. I have not really
quite figured out why he came here, and maybe Steve has not either. I think it
was the challenge of it. Maybe Steve thought, they have not done it here, but
maybe they can do it and maybe I will be the one who will do it. Steve likes a
challenge, and I knew he was a good athlete. He was a good athlete in all
sports -- football, basketball, and baseball. In fact, I think he was offered a
combination basketball and football scholarship at Kentucky. You never know
why you get a boy or lose a boy. I thought I lost him at the press conference
and at the luncheon we had when I went up to sign him. The restaurant that we
were at had a back room where the Rotary Club met, and we had the press there
and all of his family. We had about twenty-five people there, and we started off
with shrimp cocktail; it was first-class. We were all eating shrimp cocktail, and I
looked up at Reverend Spurrier who was down at the other end of the table from
where I was sitting, and he said, Coach, you know we have not blessed this food
yet? So we had to bless it. That was classic. It was interesting recruiting
P: When you got him, did you know that you had a Heisman Trophy winner?
G: No. Steve never looked good enough in practice to be a Heisman Trophy
winner. He practiced hard, well, and methodically, and he stayed out and
worked extra on the pass routes and everything, but to just look at him as a
quarterback it seemed that he did not have that fling about him that you
expected. But when he got to scrimmaging, Steve was a player; that was
obvious. He had a good freshman year. That year he was building up the
confidence that he and the team had in him, especially the freshman that were
coming along with him.
P: Was he excessively cocky when he came?
G: No, he was not. He was just very reserved and went about learning the system
and playing. He was not cocky.
P: He did not start as a sophomore, is that right?
P: Why not?
G: Shannon was the quarterback, and he had come off a good junior year. And I
have always felt that you have to prove it on the field -- just like Shannon had to
beat out Libatore. You have to go with experience, and I talked to Steve and he
knew this and I tried to play him in situations. The first time I put him in, he
called a screen pass to [Jack] Harper for a touchdown. So he was ready. I
always had confidence in him, but it took a long time for me to put him in as a
starter. It was tough for Tommy too. Tommy was a good defensive player as
well as offensive player, and he played some defense even in his senior year.
Offensively, they were too good quarterbacks -- two of my best. Spurrier beat
him out once he got in there because then there was no stopping him. He just
proved that he was a general on the field -- a coach on the field. I do not know
of any quarterback ever that could think more on the football field and make
judgement calls on plays and decisions after that ball was snapped than Steve
Spurrier. He was one who could think on the field under pressure, and he made
the players better players, the coaches better coaches, and the fans better fans.
He would instill that confidence in everybody. The fans did not go home like
they used to at the end of the third quarter; they stayed to the end of the ball
game thinking that Spurrier was going to pull them out someway or another.
And, he did. He won more games in the last two minutes than anybody. He
was a legend, and he got better. When you look back at the players he had
playing with him, they were not a great, talented squad. We had good players,
but we did not have a Dupree, although Larry Smith came in at that time. But for
depth and the offensive line, we had some good, but average players.
P: It is interesting that the first pass that he threw at Florida went for fifty-six yards.
I guess that is a an auspicious beginning.
G: Yes. He threw a safe pass. It was a screen pass that he knew he could
P: You mentioned these comebacks. The first major comeback was against
Mississippi State. You ended up getting two field goals at the end of the game,
and you beat Mississippi State. At one point, you said if we took our opponent
off the field, tried to go that distance with no opponent bothering us, and tried to
kick two field goals in the time remaining, we would never be able to do it. How
did he do it?
G: I do not know. You look at some of these great last minute finishes in the history
of football; well, that was one. Nobody had any timeouts. It was amazing. We
had everything just fall into place. I do not know. There are just some finishes
P: He was the one who was at quarterback at the end of the game?
G: That is right.
P: So even though he was just a sophomore, you put him in at the most difficult time
of the game.
G: That is right. I felt like you could never put pressure on him. I had confidence
in him in certain situations and gave him time to give the other quarterback,
Tommy, a rest.
P: How good a center was Bill Carr?
G: Bill Carr was an all-American center, and he was a roommate with Steve
Spurrier. That really was probably the best thing that we had going for Steve
through those years. Your center is your quarterback for the offensive line, and
he was smart, talented, and executed the center position about as well as
anybody could. He and Steve complimented each other. They respected and
recognized each other and were a good team and proved it. I could not say
enough nice things about Bill Carr.
P: What about his tenure as athletic director?
G: I do not know. I know I helped and trained him to be athletic director. He had
all the professional training you could have and experience to go along with it,
and he had a lot of good ideas and helped me a lot with his imagination about the
capital improvements we needed to make and everything. I just thought he was
P: Was he your choice for athletic director?
G: Yes. It is hard to figure what happens with the coaching and football and
everything. It was not too pleasant. It can upset the whole team effort, I guess.
P: We will come back to that when we talk about basketball a little bit. A great
game was the Alabama game you lost seventeen to fourteen. At the end, there
were some mistakes. Would you explain what happened?
G: Spurrier thought he was on the one-yard line, and he was on the six-yard line.
He got hit on a roll-out pass after he threw the ball and was given a late sack at
the twenty-five yard line. He was wobbling around a bit out there. I do not
know. He was not completely Steve Spurrier that last minute or two.
P: He thought he had a time-out left, but he did not?
G: That is right. He finally called time-out to kick a field goal to tie the game, and if
Alan Trammell had any sense at all, he could have taken the ball and rolled out
and hit a pass to a guy in the end zone. Alan and I kid about that a lot. Freddy
Russell later said, I had a hunch that this was going to be one of the great games
of all time in the Southeastern Conference. He passed over Vanderbilt's game
to come down and see that game instead. And that was it. That was a great
ball game and went down to the last play. That was really a disappointment
because we played well enough to win and did not win up there, but we had it
right down to the end. And we thought we were going to pull it out.
P: At the end of the game, you sent in Jimmy Jordan to tell Spurrier to either pass or
stop the clock or whatever, but he apparently did not get into the game in time
and Spurrier had already called a running play. Is that what happened?
G: Yes. I guess that is what happened. My memory is a little foggy right now.
We did not get the automatic time-out with an incomplete pass or a touchdown
and that is when we had to go for that quick field goal.
P: And they only had ten players on the field. Did that make a difference?
G: It could have. We got a bad snap, but Trammell had a chance. He said he
thought about faking it and running for a touchdown. It was an exciting ball
game and a tough one to lose.
P: Particularly at the end of a game, who is responsible for the number of players on
the field? Occasionally you will see a team that has only ten players or has
G: The assistant coach is substituting the players at that time. Sometimes you get
a player who will go out on his own. They are there with the coach who says, I
am going to put you in, and then they say, I thought you told me to go in. It was
a time when we just fouled up the last part. We had to play Alabama twice up
there in Tuscaloosa to get our conference schedule; they would not come down
to Florida. Bear said the only way I will play is if you come to Tuscaloosa twice,
and I said, you have got the ace. I have got to play you to get my conference
P: You got him once and almost got him a second time.
G: That last one was a good ball game. It was down to the wire, that is for sure.
P: Did Spurrier do all of the punting?
P: How good a punter was he?
G: He was good. He never out-kicked his coverage and that is something that he
knew not to do, and I always wanted a punter that would kick it high so the
coverage could cover because it is not how far you kick the ball, it is where they
put it in play after you kicked it. You want them to fair-catch the ball forty yards
down field, not fifty-five yards so he can run and get all those clips and
everything. Steve was a good, consistent punter. Then I started recruiting a
specialist, a junior college boy. He was the same kind of punter you wanted --
someone who kicked it high rather than just far.
P: Is it better to have a specialist that just punts?
G: I think so. I think there is more to be said to have a specialist because they can
practice and do other things without being with the team all the time, although
that is probably debated too.
P: By this time, you had three separate teams -- the offense, defense, and special
teams. Explain how you worked that out.
G: Yes, we would have special teams. We gave a lot of credit and recognition to
the special teams. I still think that the play of the special teams is the difference
between any close ball game.
P: Is this when special teams became a separate entity? Because prior to this
time, there had not been a receiving team and a kick-off team.
G: That is right. I think everybody began to realize the importance of the kicking
game more and more. Special teams are really important, and you need to give
them credit. A lot of them do not get the credit that they [deserve].
P: When you chose people for the kick-off team, who did you want to put on the
front line when you were kicking?
G: You want head-hunters and all of these wild kids that want a chance to get in and
tell their girlfriends that they played in the ball game and made a tackle. You
find a lot of those kids on the B team. They are not quite talented enough to be
a regular, but they take a lot of pride being on that special team and that is what
you look for. You can get leadership on that special team just like you get
leadership on the first team and second team offense and defense. We took a
lot of pride and gave a lot of credit to them, and I think that is what you have to
do if you are going to get the kind of effort that you want.
P: When you would have a kick-off team in, you would have a set play where you
would try to kick it to the right hand corner?
G: That is right.
P: How would you send the players? Would you send some immediately down and
have others hang back? How would you position them?
G: There are different kinds of kick-off returns. We would sometimes drop them all
back and then split and try to have a middle return. We always had a different
look. A lot of teams were too consistent or organized and were always running
back to the right. With scouting, you know what the other teams have been
doing and if they keep doing things that way, it is easier to counter them. We
always had special blocking and tried to do something a little different to keep our
opponents guessing. We had a return where we would start to the right side of
the field and then throw back to the left side. We made a nice return on one of
those special kick-off returns. Something like that gives a little more interest to
the special teams.
P: I was wondering why they did not do that more often because you can actually
throw all the way back across the field, or you can run a reverse, or fake a
reverse. You rarely see that anymore.
G: We used to do that on punts too. We did that some, and it had its place.
P: Why do they not do it anymore?
G: I do not know.
P: I always thought that at least once a season a team would try something like that
to keep the opposing team honest.
G: That is right. That is why early in the season, I would always fake a field goal.
We would be in a position where we really did not need a field goal, and we
would fake it. Then the rest of the season, we will not have a lot of pressure by
the field goal rush because they had to play for the fake.
P: Because everybody would have seen that film and would have prepared
themselves for a fake.
G: Sure. The coach might say to his players, you got to be alert. They might fake
that field goal.
P: Probably one of the most difficult games was the first lost to Florida State,
seventeen to sixteen. When you went to that game, you had a sign on the
helmets saying "go for seven." Why did that backfire, or do you think it
G: I do not think it backfired. Pepper Rodgers came up with that in a staff meeting,
and we all kidded him. The players heard about it and so they picked it up and
wanted to do it. I really was against it. You were just giving another team a
little more incentive to put on the bulletin board. Of course, that was when FSU
really had a good football team, there was not any question about it. Gomer
Jones, who was the coach at Oklahoma, played them at the Gator Bowl, and he
called me up and said, Ray, what kind of team is FSU? I said, Gomer, what kind
of pass defense do you have? He said, that is the worst thing on our football
team. I said, you are in the wrong bowl, Gomer. You are going to find out how
good they are. The 17-16 loss was an exciting football game, and I said it had
to happen sooner or later, but I wish it would have happened later.
P: The team had a seven-three record and you did not get a bowl bid. Did you
think this team deserved one?
G: It was a better team than seven and three. I have forgotten the climate at bowl
time and maybe better teams with better records were available. In this day in
time, we would have had some kind of bowl, but there were not that many bowls
back then. I think that these extra bowls have diluted what bowls really mean.
Now they are trying to get the bowls to be like playoffs for championships, which
is good, but bowls used to be a reward for a good season.
P: Now they get teams with six and five records.
G: Yes. They cannot even get enough teams with at least a six and five record to
fill up some of the bowls. The bowl situation is a little different now. I was
disappointed that year, but we were probably just not good enough. The FSU
game probably would have made the difference. An eight and two record would
have been a lot better and things would have been a lot different for us.
P: At that point, Steve O'Connell [Steven C. O'Connell, University of Florida
President, 1967-1973] was president of the University of Florida. What influence
did he have on you or the football program?
G: Steve had been an old Gator athlete, and we had been very close friends with
him and his wife when he was a Supreme Court judge, before he was president.
He was the right president for the university during the 1960s, which was a tough
time. I have said that he was good for the university, and I feel very strongly that
he did a good job as our president. He was certainly always very interested in
our football team and would come to practice sometimes, and we would visit and
talk football. There was a time when I was getting more occupied with my
athletic director responsibilities and everything, and it was getting to be a difficult
time for me too, as far as the total program for men and women. I know that it
was a difficult time for the both of us, and I think nationally it was a tough time for
intercollegiate athletics on most campuses.
P: During this period of time, since you had not been to a bowl for a couple of years,
did you get any pressure from him?
G: No. I did not get any pressure from Steve. He was very supportive and
cooperative. I just always felt that since he had been an athlete, we could sit
down and talk. He was aware of some of the things that went on. But during
that time I stayed really close to him. I had no problems with him. He was a
different president than Dr. Reitz. He was very low-key and had a different
personality, but Steve O'Connell was certainly welcomed to the campus at that
time and we enjoyed a good friendship.
P: By that time you had been at the university for three or four years. Were the
students going to more games? Were they more supportive? Was attendance
increasing from 1960 to 1965?
G: Yes, students were more supportive. Season ticket sales increased. Interest in
the football team was picking up every year. We felt that we were coming along
to the point where we wanted to be. Spurrier's years were classic in that
respect. When he left, it wound up that we did not have a quarterback for
awhile. We did not carry on in that tradition that the Spurrier years had given us.
P: What do you do about student players or players on the team who do a lot of
talking about their opponents before the game? Did you try to discourage that?
G: Yes. I saw no place for that at all. No player should comment on any other
opponent, and I do not really remember any bad incidents. There might have
been some that I do not recall, but if something like that did happen, I tried to
forget about it.
P: Let's go to the 1965 team. This was probably one team that at least the Gator
fans expected a lot from.
G: This was the "Year of the Gator."
P: Why was it not the "Year of the Gator?"
G: That is hard to tell. We expected and thought that it would be, and we knew it
could be. We had a good football team coming back with a lot of experience,
and we just did not excel in a game or two. I know that we had to win the FSU
game to go to the Sugar Bowl, but I do not know what happened. It seemed we
could not get the big play at the right time to win a couple of ball games.
P: For instance, you lost the game at Mississippi State with a dropped pass that
would have changed the outcome of the season quite a bit.
G: Oh, yes, with just one play.
P: Then you lost again at Cliff-Hare Stadium. Was that loss to Auburn a problem
psychologically because you could not seem to beat them?
G: It always was and had been before I got there. If you get to talking about a
problem, then you have a problem, and if you talk about a jinx, you have a jinx. I
have always said, though, that the jinx was that people believed that Auburn had
a better football team, but that was not always true. We had as good a chance
and as good a team as they had sometimes, but [Ralph "Shug"] Jordan [Auburn
head football coach ] was a good coach and did a good job there, and I had a lot
of respect for him. I said many times that I could lose to "Shug" Jordan and walk
across the field and say that I am shaking hands with a gentleman and a great
coach, which he was.
P: What do coaches usually talk about in that brief interlude after the game?
G: That is a good question which I cannot answer. You walk across the field
thinking about what you are going to say to the players. So you walk out there
and say hello, good game, and good-bye; it is very polite. The losing coach
probably has a lot less to say than the winning coach. And now, a lot of them do
not even shake hands, how about that? I always respected the opposing coach,
and I thought that it was just out of sportsmanship and respect for your fans and
the team that you respect the other coach, maybe that is a little out-grown, I do
P: Was there more of a tendency then for the players to get together and shake
hands after the game?
G: Yes. A lot of them played together in high school or against each other in high
school, so they would visit. A lot of them would even go into a prayer huddle for
both teams, and it was a camaraderie that they had with each other. Players
respected their opponents. They realized that one team happens to win and the
other happens to lose.
P: Nowadays, a lot of teams just go right into the dressing rooms as soon as the
game is over.
G: Yes. It has changed a lot, and everybody's ideas about this are different. You
have a different type of player now in some ways with the specialization and the
emphasis and speculation on going to the pros. Some players probably play
more as individuals than they do as a team.
P: You called Florida's victory over Georgia in 1965 one of the most important and
most exciting games in your career. Why was that?
G: It was one where we did a few things different. This was a good Georgia
football team. Vince Dooley [Georgia head football coach] was a tough one.
That was a game where Richard Trapp really had one of the most exciting
individual games of his career and of any player that I have ever coached. On
one of his touchdown runs seven or eight players had a chance at tackling him,
and they did not. He almost ran another one back, which was the big play that
set us up for the winning field goal. It was an exciting game, and one that we
won and won it the hard way. We had a hard time getting down the field and in
position for the field goal.
P: What about Richard Trapp? How was he such a good receiver?
G: He had great hands, and he knew how to get open. He was a player who
studied his opposition and knew what they were going to do. He had a little of
that ability that wide receivers sometimes have to make the defensive back really
respect him. Alvarez did that. He said to me, if I can get down there and get
the defensive back to look me in the eye, I have got him beat, Coach, because
he does not know what I am going to do with my feet if he is looking me in the
eye and then I have got the one step that I need. I said, that is interesting. I
wish we could coach that so the other players would do it. A lot of them just
could not do it.
P: Where would you tell a defensive back to look, at their waste or their feet?
G: You tell them to look at their waste, but invariably it is like hypnotism, I guess. If
the other guy is looking you in the eye, you want to look him in the eye. You do
not know what you do in the heat of battle. You really do not know. Alvarez
thought on the football field.
P: You did very well against Georgia, but then after your years as coach, Georgia
won a lot of games against the Gators. Talk about Vince Dooley. What made
him such an outstanding coach?
G: He was a good recruiter and had some good football players. I was trying to
recruit Jake Scott, and I thought we had him. I had some good people in
Washington helping us. But Dooley was a good recruiter and had good athletes,
and he was a good coach. He came over from Auburn, and I knew him from
back there. I had a lot of respect for Vince and his coaching ability. I kid him a
lot of the time. Georgia really dominated the recruiting. It was tough to get a
boy out of Georgia. They were up there at the top playing and winning national
P: Did they do any illegal recruiting that you know of?
G: We heard about it, but I never questioned it. They had some people here in
Florida that were Georgia graduates and we found out later that they were
illegally recruiting some of the players here in Florida for Georgia, but in a way,
you never know what all of your alumni are doing.
P: You cannot keep up with them.
G: No way.
P: Comment on a couple of players: Wayne Barfield, for instance.
G: Shadetree. He was a great extra point and field goal kicker. He was always
ranked nationally among field goal kickers. Shadetree is another athlete that
could always laugh at anything and was still a good athlete under pressure. I
had a lot of confidence in him.
P: How about Harmon Wages?
G: He came one year too early or too late. He was a great high school player, and
he came the year after Steve. If he had come a year ahead of Steve, Steve
might have chased him. He was a good athlete. Anytime he went in as a sub,
he was a good quarterback. He could run, and he could put a football team in
the end-zone. Usually he came in when we were winning, so it was a little
easier for him to do those things. Then he came in spring practice and said,
coach, I cannot beat Spurrier; he is better than I am. Move me to fullback. So I
put him at fullback in spring practice, and he was a good one. Of course, he
went on and played in the pros and made the all-pro team. After spring practice
he said, now put me back at quarterback, maybe Steve will get hurt. Looking
back on Harmon, I would have to say to live the life he lived at Florida, under
those circumstances, you would have to be proud of him, and I really was proud
of him. I know after that he had some problems that we all know about, and now
I understand that he has come back and has a good TV program that is rated the
best in the state of Georgia and got two awards recently. I remember calling
him "Charmin' Harmon." He broke spring training curfew a couple of times, and
I had to put a little penalty on him. I forgot what discipline it was. And then the
second time, I said, why do you keep breaking curfew? He said, coach, it is
worth it. [laughter] So I never argued with him anymore. He was very
instrumental in getting the Silver Sixties starting back and took pictures of the
kids and their wives who were pregnant with babies and followed through on all
that and brought them back every year and showed the pictures to them.
Looking back, he had many things happen in his life, some of them he is not
proud of. But now he has come back and has got himself straightened out and
we are all very proud of him.
P: I suspect that he was considered a lady's man to a certain degree.
G: Yes. He was a good-looking, handsome guy. He was charming.
P: It was something for him to keep an interest in football with all of these other
G: That is right. He was a good student, and I have said many times that if he had
come after Steve, he would have been a regular, but he came a year too late.
P: Your 1965 team got invited to the Sugar Bowl. This was the first bowl outside
the state in which you played. What was your reaction to this invitation?
G: This was something that we all were excited and proud about. We had gotten
over that loss to Miami and took a decent record into the Sugar Bowl, and we
knew that we were playing against a great football team in Missouri. About
three or four of their players went into the pros the next year. We knew that
they were good, and it was a different challenge for us going to the Sugar Bowl
with the preparation, game plan, travel, and so forth. We worked hard, and we
knew that we were going to have to play a perfect ball game to have a chance to
win. It was a strange ball game that was reported and recorded in University of
Florida football history and Sugar Bowl history. We were down twenty to nothing
at the half, and it looked like a blow-out. But we came back and scored three
touchdowns the second half and went for the two point conversion three times
and did not make any of them. We had a chance to win the ball game and
probably should have won the ball game. Spurrier was the only player ever in
history to be voted the most valuable player and be on the losing team. It was a
disappointing game in a lot of ways. I know that going for two is something that
the players wanted to do; I guess everyone did. We always had somebody
upstairs to tell me what the options were and what we ought to do-- should we go
for one or two. There was not any question that we should have went for one.
P: Three touchdowns and three extra points would have won the game.
G: That is right. I do not remember who called it.
P: Ed Kensler [assistant football coach under Graves]?
G: Ed did call it, and I did not argue with him because at that time, I guess we were
so excited celebrating the touchdown that we felt that we could make the
conversion. And then after missing it the first time, the second time we had no
choice but to go for two.
P: On the other hand, if you had made one of these two point conversions, it would
have been different.
G: That is exactly right. You think to yourself that if you could take the ball eighty
yards for a touchdown, that you could go three yards for two points. We kid
about it all the time. It was an exciting football game and wound up an exciting
P: At the end of the game, you mentioned that Florida played well and made a good
come-back, and that football is not everything. You said there were 400 million
Chinese who did not even know that Florida played Missouri. Then you got a
letter from an alumnus in Hong Kong wanting to know why you went for two.
[laughter] Before the Missouri game, you had already gotten a bid. Is that
P: And then you lost the [Miami] game. Did the bids go out too soon back then?
P: Did getting the bid before the Miami game affect your team's play? You
might not play as hard now?
G: You do not know. It puts a little pressure on you that you do not otherwise have.
You think, if you get the bid, then you can relax. But then you think, if you get
the bid, you have the pressure to win and take a good record into the bowl game,
which was just like winning that FSU game. I did not know what to tell those
kids. If we had lost to them and then have two consecutive losses before going
into the Sugar Bowl, that would have been embarrassing to the Sugar Bowl, to
the football team, and to everybody involved in bowl games.
P: And that was a very close game.
G: You better believe it was. FSU was a good football team. They could have
easily won the ball game. It was hard to pull that one out and survive a real
P: Let's go to your 1966 team, which was nine and two. You said once that you
thought that this was your most talented team.
G: In terms of experience and leadership, it was. The 1960 team, having to play
both ways was one of the best, but this was probably the most talented, and I
thought this team had the best chance of having a great record.
P: Sometime during this year, you got an offer from Rice University to coach there.
Why did you not take that job?
G: That is another story that I have never told, and I do not think it has ever been
printed. When I was at Georgia Tech, Coach Dodd and I used to talk about
Jess Neelly [football coach at Rice University] and the Rice job. He said, the
best job outside of Georgia Tech is Rice. Jess Neelly said, they do not have to
win, they own Yankee Stadium, and he teaches a class. He just laughs about it,
and said, you all are coaching where you have to win. Rice is a good place to
coach and a real good school. They called me up, and I thought I would go out
and visit. They sent a private plane to get me. Nobody even knew that I was
out of town or going anywhere. I said, I will meet you in Ocala, and they picked
us up in Ocala and took the whole family out there. We went out to Rice, and
they put us up there, and it could not have been a nicer visit. We went out and
visited the faculty and the president. You just got the feeling that it was a unique
university. Rice is the Ivy League of Texas, you could say. Some of the
players and all-Americans took us down to the cotton bowl. Some of them had
been on that squad that Coach Dodd coached when he said just keep it close,
and we will win. It was really nice. The family enjoyed it.
P: So they did offer you a contract?
G: Yes. They offered me a good deal; I forgot what it was. It was much better
than I had hoped for and expected. It was double the salary I was getting at
Florida. Then we got back home and everybody was excited about the trip and
everybody had been nice to the girls and the family. Going back, I said to them,
what do you all think? And they said, it would be really nice. I said, well, I
might take the job. Then Monday morning when I was sitting at the breakfast
table, everybody was glum and blue and I said, what do you think, Katherine?
Do you want to go to Houston and Rice? She looked at Becky and the other
girls and said, I do not know, daddy. I said, Opal, what do you think? She said,
well, we have just been thinking that they are in school here. Then we got to
talking a little bit, and I said, what you all are trying to say is that you do not want
to go, do you? I said, well that is really easy and simple. All we would be doing
out there is saving up our money to come back to Florida, and we are already
here. So we might as well just stay here. That was the only job I ever
considered. I had some other invitations to interview, but I never considered
P: So you were not unhappy with Florida?
G: No. It was a challenge at a time when I had to make a decision, and I knew that
we probably would have some lean years, which we did have back then, but I do
not think I ever questioned the decision. I think we all had our roots in Florida, a
little sand in our shoes.
P: What other offers did you get?
G: I had an offer from the Eagles at one time, which I never even considered.
Georgia Tech called and wanted me to come up, and I said that would not be
right, so I did not even consider that one. Some of the players that I had
coached were on the athletic board there. When I was at Georgia Tech, I
almost had the Alabama job and that is unbelievable. The chairman of the
selections committee at Alabama was a former player who played with Bear
Bryant, and Bear was at Texas A&M then. I went over there and had a nice
visit. Then I got back and that did not materialize, which is a good thing. I
found out a long time ago that you cannot plan results. But Rice was an
interesting trip. When we flew back into Ocala, I do not think anybody knew we
had been out there for a long time. Maybe somebody rumored it later. I do not
think it has ever been reported, though.
P: That team got off to a terrific start. I guess that was Spurrier's senior year.
P: You got off to a 7 and 0 record, and one of the teams you defeated was N.C.
State. And Jim Donnan, who is now the Georgia coach, was their quarterback.
G: That is right.
P: What kind of quarterback was he?
P: It is hard to say. They were not a real talented football team, we were better
than they were, but they played us a heck of a ball game. They had a good
defense, but they did not have a lot of speed offensively. It is hard to tell how
good a quarterback is because you have to find out who he is playing with and
what his opportunities are to excel. So I do not know. I never had any opinion
about his quarterback abilities.
P: After Vince Dooley, Georgia has had some problems with their coaching. Ray
Golf did not do as well as they expected and now they have had to make another
change. How does that happen in coaching? Usually you will find a school
where they had good coaches consistently, but occasionally, they will make a
G: It is hard to follow a legend.
P: That is the tough part.
G: Yes. How does a coach follow a Bear Bryant or a Bobby Dodd? Legends are
hard to follow. Georgia has always wanted to win, that is for sure, and they do
not like losing. Both Georgia Tech and Georgia have been up and down through
the years. But I do not believe that you can keep Georgia down. They can get
the talent, and they are right up there in the top ten recruiting almost every year.
They have had some morale problems.
P: Do you think that Dooley might have been a better coach than the athletic
G: Yes, I would say so.
P: Let us talk about that famous Auburn game, which has to be one of the great
games in Florida history. Talk about the legendary story about how Spurrier told
Wayne Barfield that he felt like he was going to kick a field goal that day. He
had kicked field goals before, had he not?
G: If we were leading somebody by a big margin, we would let him kick a field goal.
He kicked them in high school, and he would stay out after practice and kick
extra points and field goals with the players, so he always thought he was a good
one. And he was, I guess.
P: So he had kicked a field goal in a game and had been successful?
G: That is right against Northwestern.
P: So with four minutes left, you were around the Auburn thirty, and it was a long
field goal. Describe what happened at this point.
G: On the third down, we called a pass to Tommy Christian and Spurrier overthrew
him, and to this day, I think he did it purposely. I would kid him about it, and he
probably would deny it. Then I had Barfield ready. I did not know that
Spurrier had a kicking shoe made that week with a zipper in it. So he got his
kicking shoe and waved Barfield off, there was not any question about who was
going to kick the field goal.
P: Did he ask your permission to do it?
P: Did you ever think about stopping him?
G: The quarterback on the field can wave off any substitute. Steve said later, you
probably questioned why I did not let Barfield do it, but I felt like it was a little out
of his range. And if I kicked it, they would not rush me. They would figure I was
going to fake a field goal. It made sense.
P: It was not a very good kick, was it?
G: It was right through the middle, but it was almost not long enough. It did not go
over very high. But that probably got him the Heisman Trophy.
P: Here was the guy who was not the field goal kicker and at the most critical point
of the game, he took it upon himself to kick it. He was sure he was going to
make it, was he not? Is this not what legends are made of?
P: What happened in that tough loss to Georgia? That was the game where
Spurrier threw several interceptions.
G: And Bill Stanfill was in bed with the flu, and he was not going to play and would
not even come with the team. But he did play. I think they flew him down the
morning of the game. He sacked Steve four times, played a great ball game,
and was the lineman of the week. I said, I was glad that Stanfill was sick today
because if he had been healthy, he probably would have killed Spurrier and been
put in jail for murder. It was a bad ball game for us. We did not play well
defensively or offensively. You are going to have one of those games during the
season, you just do not want that game to be at that time and against Georgia.
P: Why did Spurrier have such a bad game?
G: I do not know. They really put pressure on him with their rush. Georgia must
have mixed up their rush because they came clean a lot of times and sacked
him. I do not think we ever really had control of that game either offensively or
defensively. We did no execute our game plan. It was a bad game offensively
P: Erkskine Russell apparently put in a new defensive scheme for that game.
G: Yes, he did. He got a new rush on the passer and did a good job. We just did
not make the adjustments we should have made at the half. I do not know if that
would have made any difference. They had a good day, and they came to play
P: Talk about Larry Smith as a Gator running back.
G: He was one of the best running backs Florida has ever had, but then he got hurt.
He got an injury that really slowed him down. He pulled a hamstring that
bothered him the rest of his college career and then in the pros. He was a great
team-player and was one of those players you could give the ball to thirty times
in the ball game and it still would not be enough. He was a back who was easy
to coach, and you could count on him making yardage. He never made any
mistakes in his execution; he was a good blocker and protected the passer. He
did what he had to do. He was a good pass receiver and made some great
pass receptions like the one against FSU for a touchdown. I can see him right
now in the end-zone. He was one of these quiet boys who never said a lot, but
he could play on the field.
P: It is unusual that two of the very best runners at Florida were both really crippled
G: Yes. Larry was injured on a Sunday afternoon when we were working out in
sweats. We were running pass routes on the practice field, and he ran up the
hill and it was like a bullet. I could hear it from where I was on the tower. He
shot and snapped his hamstring. It was a bad injury which he never fully
P: I would like a couple of comments on some other players: tight end Jim
G: Big Jim. He was really one of the players that I wanted to recruit more than
anybody. When you saw him, you realized that we had not had anybody this big
or this talented. He was a good basketball player too. I saw him play
basketball in high school. He was something. He could move for his height
and size. He had just lost his father at the time we were recruiting him. We got
real close to the family during that time, and it was a different recruiting
challenge, but I do not think we had any real problem recruiting him. I think he
always wanted to come to Florida, but he was very saddened by his father's
death, and his coach was worried about whether he had the desire to play
football. It was at a time when he had a lot of trauma over his father's death,
and his family was very close. Big Jim was over at the Silver Sixties reunion
recently, and he was still a handsome guy and all the girls had a crush on him at
one time. He could do whatever he wanted to do whenever he wanted to do it
and did it, but we had a hard time getting him to block. His blocking was always
his problem. Then he went to the pros, and they put him at offensive tackle and
he was a good one. Jim was an easy boy to coach, and he was always a
team-player. I feel real close to Jim and his family and my wife does too
because we shared some of their problems with the loss of his father. We really
pulled for Jim all the way through and followed his pro career, and now he is
doing color for the Gators and does a good job.
P: What about one of you opponents, Ted Hendricks of Miami?
G: We had him ready to sign too. I think his high school coach talked him out of
going to Florida. He might have made the difference in whether we had a great
record. One player can have a lot of influence on a team. I think he might have
been the difference. I have always told him that I thought he could have been,
and he says, I almost was there, Coach. We saw each other frequently after he
graduated and played pro. He was something. He put two or three of our boys
in the hospital when we played Miami down there. In fact, I did not come home.
We had three of them in the hospital after the game, so I went to check on them.
P: He was an unusual size for a linebacker, was he not?
G: Yes. He had good speed and a lot of natural ability. He could rush the passer
and play the ball. He was an impact player.
P: In the pros as well.
G: That is right. He was something. I really wanted him, and I thought we had
him, but that was a tough one to lose. His mother worked for the University of
Miami, and they got to him pretty good. We had him sold on the university, and
he said a lot of nice things about University of Florida, but he still went to Miami.
P: Let me talk a little bit about scheduling. You mentioned earlier that the
schedules are made about four or five years ahead of time?
P: Who actually does the scheduling?
G: The athletic director consults with the athletic board and makes a
recommendation to them.
P: Does the president have any say?
G: Sure, he is the chairman of the board and certainly has some input. But in
making your presentation to the board, you do all the research on it. You just
say, here are three teams, and we cannot get another name team to come in
here because they want a home and home, and of course, you have to play your
conference games which really hurts in the Southeastern Conference. You have
to play so many conference games that you are real limited in the
non-conference games that you can play and who you can play. And Florida
must play at least six home games. The feasibility study showed that you
should always have six home games, and you get in the position where you
cannot have those if you have to go home and home. That has been the
problem with re-scheduling Miami. The schedule is pretty much left to the
athletic director, and I do not think that the athletic board ever turned me down on
any recommendations that I had for scheduling.
P: Who would you try to pick as your opponent for Homecoming?
G: It was Auburn when I came to Florida, and I said, listen, we have to change this.
Since that game is Homecoming, alumni want to come in here and get tickets,
and you do not have any tickets for them. Also your Homecoming game ought
to be somebody that you can beat, so the alumni can go back home happy. I
always thought that the Auburn game was too tough a game for a Homecoming
P: So you tended to try to get a lesser opponent for Homecoming?
G: Yes. I thought that would be better for everybody, but that is a pretty tough thing
to sell to the Homecoming Committee Board because the students get involved
in that too.
P: They want a big name to come here. Now it seems that may have changed a
little bit because this year our Homecoming opponent was LSU.
G: We did not have any choice, really.
P: For some people it is better to have a team like that for Homecoming because
the theory is that your team is up more and you are better prepared.
G: I would disagree with that. You want a Homecoming opponent that you can
beat three out of four.
P: What about the opening game?
G: The opening game depends on which year you are talking about. If you have a
better team coming back, you might want to tangle with a pretty good opponent
in your first game. I always liked to intersect some ball games. I always
thought that the Southeastern Conference was too localized in the South, so I
wanted Big Ten teams and the only one that I could get was Northwestern. I
first tried to get Notre Dame and some of the big ones, but I finally wound up
getting Northwestern and a couple of teams that would intersect some ball
games. It was tough because they have their conference schedule and trying to
get the same comparable dates was a problem.
P: Do you think you should schedule a game, for example, like Youngstown State?
Is that team just too much out of Florida's league?
G: Sometimes you do not have a lot of choice. You have dates already signed and
so do other teams, leaving you with very limited choices. Since the
Southeastern Conference has gone to a seven-game conference schedule,
everybody in the SEC is scheduling somebody they could beat two out of three
ball games. If you do no do that, you are going to have a long season.
P: Let me go back and talk a little bit about Steve Spurrier. Was he the best player
you ever coached?
G: Yes, he was the best player I ever coached. With the talent he had, Spurrier
executed his position better than any player on the team executed their position.
Defensively, we had some good players who really should be on that list, but for
just an individual player, it would have to be Steve Spurrier.
P: He had the most impact on the team.
G: That is right.
P: Was he the most talented player?
G: I am not sure he was the most talented player. You could say that Harmon
Wages was more talented, but Spurrier's feel and leadership as a quarterback on
the field was remarkable. The players recognized it, and I think the coaches and
fans and everybody felt that he was the one man out there who could get the job
done with the players that he had. He was an impact player. He was the best.
P: Describe Spurrier's Heisman Trophy presentation.
G: It was very moving. It has been reported and recorded. That is another thing
that shows that Steve Spurrier can be humble too. I do not know how to say it.
I wish I had a tape recording of the Heisman Dinner. Haydon Burns [Governor
of Florida 1965-1967] flew up in his plane, and we had a nice trip there with Dr.
Reitz and a lot of nice things were said about everybody and then they made the
presentation to Steve. Steve then turned and asked for Dr. Reitz to come back
up, and he presented him with the trophy and said, this trophy belongs to the
university, the fans, the students, and the players. And I wish you would accept
it from me. It was very humble, and you knew he meant it and that was the first
time in history that that has ever been done by a player.
P: He never kept the trophy.
G: He never kept the trophy. Dr. Reitz accepted it and said it would be properly
displayed in the halls of the university where it was appropriate and thanked him.
I wish we had a tape of that. It was a very moving conversation and the
members of the Downtown Athletic Club were talking about it and said that this
has never happened before. After that, they decided to give Steve a replica of
the trophy, and since then they have always given the player one and the school
one. So he set a precedent.
P: What does the Heisman Trophy mean for a player?
G: I do not know. It is supposed to be the outstanding collegiate player in America,
and it has been debated a lot of times. You get the vote by the media, which
people claim is dominated by the Midwest. Notre Dame, for instance, (a
Midwest school) has had more Heisman Trophy winners than any other school.
Norm Carlson probably had as much to do with Steve winning the Heisman
Trophy as Steve did himself because Norm has always had the respect of his
peers and has done a great job. When he went to a meeting of the sports
writers in the Midwest or on the West Coast, people would say to him, I will vote
for Steve if you vote for my boy next year. So a little politicking goes on, I am
sure. Norm did a good job of getting out information on Steve every week and in
the pre-season he was considered a nominee.
P: Should the voting be done by the coaches?
G: I am not sure who should vote. I think they should have a vote in it as well as
the media. It could be done a little better. If the coaches voted, it would help
get a truer representative.
P: I know that some sports writers voted against Wuerffel because they did not like
Spurrier. I guess you cannot control the way people vote.
G: That is right. And that is a problem. There is some politicking going on when
people decide who they will vote for, but it still has a lot of meaning to be the
winner although the Heisman winner is not always the number one draft choice in
the pros and some of them might not even play in the NFL.
P: In fact, the runner-up that year, Bob Greasie [NFL Hall of Famer], had a much
better pro career than Steve did.
G: That is right. If Steve had been drafted by the Miami Dolphins, he might have
been what Greasie was for that team. When the quarterback for the 49ers, John
Brodie, got hurt, Steve took them to the playoffs and almost set a passing record
in the NFL, and he played in only eight or nine games. Then Brodie came back,
and they got beat in the playoffs.
P: Why did Spurrier not have a better pro career?
G: Brodie was already installed as quarterback, and Steve was a back-up and was
always there as a back-up. He never really started unless Brodie was hurt.
P: Why did he not go to another team?
G: He could not at that time.
P: At that time, you did not have the freedom. So he was, in effect, stuck in San
Francisco for his career until he went to Tampa. Let me go back and talk a little
more about the Heisman. What does it mean for a coach to have the Heisman
winner from his team?
G: It really makes you proud to have the opportunity to coach somebody who is
talented enough and has the leadership qualities that a Heisman winner has to
have. I take a lot of pride when I go up there for the Heisman Trophy. They
take my wife and I up there every year with the Florida contingent, and it means
a lot. Many coaches cannot win that little pin that says that I coached the
Heisman Trophy winner. You have to be proud of that and the recipient is proud
of it. I shared as much pride in coaching Steve as he did in winning it. It means
P: Describe your feelings this year when a player you coached coached the
Heisman Trophy winner, Danny Wuerffel.
G: That is even better. Knowing Wuerffel as I do, that really is something that you
have to be proud of. As loyal as I am to the University of Florida and the
program, it makes me proud to see one of the boys I coached coach another
Heisman Trophy winner, especially when it is someone like a Danny Wuerffel. I
presented Wuerffel with the Most Valuable Player Award at the football banquet.
Just to be there and make that presentation made me proud, too. I said that
they can find somebody to take your place in the front row at devotions for every
ball game, but they are never going to find anybody that can take number
seven's place on Florida Field. It just really makes you proud. In fact, some
article that my brother sent me a copy of said that Wuerffel has got to be the best
player in America. It said that no player in history has ever won every award
that he was eligible to win. And Wuerffel won every one of the five. I think they
P: I know this is a question you might not want to answer but who was a better
player, Spurrier or Wuerffel?
G: That is a good one. If I had my choice to recruit and coach either one of them, I
believe I would take Wuerffel. [laughter] He is a little stronger physically, but you
cannot compare them because the players he got to play with were different. If
Spurrier had been throwing to those guys, he might have set records for all-time.
P: He had possession receivers. He did not have receivers with the great speed
that Wuerffel's receivers had.
G: No, he did not. So you look at what Wuerffel had and the players he had to play
with, it is hard to compare, but they were a lot a like in a lot of ways. They were
both smart on the field, and that is where Wuerffel is so good. He is smart on
the football field and can make decisions. He could take a ball from the center,
take one step, and then know who is open.
P: When Spurrier played, was he allowed to change any plays?
G: Yes. He could always check off any play.
P: Did he usually make the right decision?
G: Yes. I have said many times that I would send in a play, and he would check off
to a better play. I gave him that option because I felt that he knew. He was
thinking that maybe he found somebody who could block somebody better or
somebody was doing something on the defensive line. He was calling the plays
that he and the players felt were the best plays. I still feel that is a good way to
P: Do you think his experience as a quarterback helped him coach Wuerffel?
P: He encouraged Wuerffel to do the same thing.
G: That is right, and he knew that Wuerffel had the confidence in him and the ability
to think on the football field as he did. Wuerffel was talking about having to play
for [Mike] Ditka [New Orleans Saints head coach] and was asked if he could
play for a tough coach, and he said, listen, I played for one that demanded
excellence in performance and I know what that is all about.
P: I think that Wuerffel realizes that Spurrier made him a better player.
G: That is right.
P: And that is what the great players want.
G: The head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, Marty Schottenheimer, sent his son
Brian to play for Steve. He did not think that his son would ever be a regular,
but he wanted his son to be around the greatest quarterback and offensive coach
in America, and he said that.
P: What makes Spurrier a great coach?
G: First, he has a football mind. He thinks what the other guy thinks and puts
everything in the right equation to come up with the right answer, and you have
to be able to figure that out quickly and Spurrier can. When he went to that
screwy offensive Emory and Henry which they played around with as kind of a
fun thing for a long time, it is remarkable to think that he could make it work. In
his mind he thought it was the right time to do it, and the players thought, well,
this is it, and they made it work. They executed it perfectly, and it was amazing.
It is like Coach Dodd putting a play in from the sideline that the team had never
P: Why is Spurrier such a gambler? He often goes for it on fourth down.
G: He says the football field is a hundred yards long. If you are on your five yard
line, it is still a hundred yard field. In that playoff game against Alabama when
he was on the ten yard line, he called a passing play and the quarterback threw a
bomb for a touchdown and everybody figured he was going to try to get out of the
hole and do this, but he is not a gambler, he just tries to think what the other
team is thinking and then he calls the right play against the defense that they
might be in at that time.
P: It is unusual for a head coach to call offensive signals?
G: Yes, it is.
P: Does he get any help from the press box?
G: He gets some help and then makes his own decisions.
P: But he calls all the plays?
G: Yes, he does and that is unusual. All of the staff recognizes that this is the guy
we are working for and calling the offensive plays is his long suit, and he can do
it better than we can do it. It is amazing that he is able to call the right plays
from the sideline because a lot of times you cannot see too well on that sideline.
He probably relies on help from upstairs to find out how certain defensive players
are playing and what the distance is from here and there, and then he makes the
P: What kind of recruiter is Spurrier?
G; He is an honest recruiter. He says what he thinks. Archie [Manning, Peyton's
father, and ex-professional quarterback] said, we would probably have Peyton
Manning [star quarterback for University of Tennessee], if Steve had not told him
that he would probably have been red-shirted. He said, Steve was just too
honest in recruiting. I had lunch with Archie before the Tennessee game two
years ago, and he was talking about that again. He said, I told Steve, everybody
else is telling him that he is going to be starting his freshman year and that he will
be all-American. Peyton is the same kind of kid as Wuerffel. They are really
good friends too. They have gotten together a few times in the off-season. I
was at the Sugar Bowl game when he was a senior, and I sat with Archie and
Peyton at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Breakfast, and Peyton got up and
made the nicest talk you could ever expect from an athlete. It was very moving.
P: You have to admire him for staying his senior year at Tennessee.
G: That is exactly right. Somebody said when they had the supplementary draft, he
would go out in that one. He was just waiting for Miami [Dolphins] or the [New
York] Jets to make a decision. I said, no, he is staying because he wants to be
part of the team, and he wants at least to beat Florida one time before he leaves
Tennessee. I think I know him that well. He is a fine kid and has a lot of
character. He certainly will be the leading Heisman contender.
P: Spurrier might be honest, but it has not hurt his recruiting too much.
G: No. I think most of them [the recruits] appreciate that. Others say that you are
going to be this and that. But Florida has red-shirted a lot of their boys. You
can say to the recruit, red-shirting you will give you that five years to be a better
player no matter what your future is -- whether it is in the pros or in life. You get
your degree, and you have another extra year here.
P: Plus, they get some time to bulk-up and quarterbacks get to know the system; an
extra year can be really valuable.
G: Like everybody, I am pulling for Doug Johnson [University of Florida quarterback]
to have a good year. He has had that one year to be on the sideline with
Wuerffel and Steve, and he has been in some games, but he is a Gator through
and through. He is a boy from a local high school.
P: How do you think he will do?
G: I wish he had a little easier road before the Tennessee game, but I think he will
be all right. Steve is something. He told them at the Heisman dinner, I will be
back here in four years with another one.
P: He thinks he [Doug Johnson] is that good?
G: Yes. Steve likes him. He is a good quarterback mechanically, and he can
maneuver -- he can move around pretty good.
P: It is interesting that Steve has never really had a pro-type quarterback who would
be like Peyton Manning with the height, the arm, and the maneuverability. He
has always had smart quarterbacks who are a little limited physically.
G: In 1990 he took a fifth string quarterback and made him first string and
all-conference. But some people would say that he was just a quarterback out
of the Spurrier system. They do not call him an all-American. A lot of the pros
are saying that Wuerffel is just a product of Spurrier's offense.
P: What do you think of that? Is there some truth that Spurrier can turn out some
G: At the college level, yes. I think he has proven that, but whether they can go on
and play in the pros is another question. The boy he had at Duke, [Dave] Brown
[quarterback for the New York Giants], plays in the pros. He has not been a
super player in the pros, but he has done all right.
P: He has never had a great quarterback in the pros. Maybe that says something
about his ability to coach quarterbacks, since he has had several who have
played very well for him.
G: I think that is right. He has always been able to come up with a good
P: Let's go to your 1967 season. Your big problem was getting a new quarterback,
since Spurrier was gone at that time. How did you choose a quarterback?
G: We did not have a lot of talent in that position to work with. That was a problem;
there was not any question about that.
P: What did you do finally? Jack Eckdahl was one possibility.
G: Yes. He was a local boy. I guess you can dismiss a lot of things from your
mind, if you want to.
P: That was a season you sort of forget?
G: That is right. That was one that I really approached with a lot of concern. I
knew that we had some problems, and it turned out that way too.
P: By 1968, you had already at that point indicated that you wanted to coach one
more year. Why did you make that decision at that time?
G: I thought it was the right time to make the decision because I felt that the two
jobs certainly were too demanding. I was not giving the time and dedication that
I needed to give to football as the head coach, and I was not putting in the time I
needed as athletic director. The athletic director's responsibilities were getting
so diverse with the women's programs coming in, and it was getting to be a
challenge just to be athletic director much less football coach. I probably stayed
on a year or two too long to try to do both. At that time, everybody recognized in
all the major institutions what the future was with Title IX. You were going to
have to have a complementary women's program that would need to be
budgeted and financed. It was a real demand trying to figure out what was best
for the University of Florida for the future. It was a decision I had to make. I
told President Steve O'Connell that I felt it was time to think about me stepping
out as head football coach. I said, if I could be athletic director, I would like to be
athletic director for a few more years.
P: Why did you not opt just to coach and give up being athletic director?
G: Recruiting was getting tougher with the academic requirements. A lot of times,
things enter into your mind like the bad 1967 season, and you do not know which
decision is the right one. But I had been in athletics all my life, and I felt it might
be a good change from coaching to go out and dedicate everything to being
director of athletics for a few years.
P: Were you in any way tired of coaching football?
G: I got tired of not being able to coach as much as I used to coach. You get so
many demands on your time with the committees and meetings, and then the
boosters were getting more and more demanding. And I felt that the athletic
director and coach ought to be more involved in fundraising for boosters. I
realized that it was getting complicated and more demanding, and I wanted to do
the best job that I could and if that meant getting out of both, I would have been
able to do that. I was considering a lot of opportunities, but I felt that it was time
for me to get out of coaching and focus on the athletic program from an
P: How did you deal with the stress of coaching big-time football at a large state
G: I was talking to my wife recently about this. How did I do it with all of the
traveling? I put about 100,000 miles on my car and did not have a private plane
to fly around in. We finally got the Gator plane, a DC-3, that we kept for a few
years for recruiting, but I just bumped private planes with a ride here and there.
I was doing things that I was thinking I could never do again. I do not know how
I did it, but I did and enjoyed doing it. But at the same time, I realized that I was
spreading myself too thin and maybe I was doing a poor job of coaching and a
poor job of being the director of athletics. I thought about giving up both and
resigning and starting another challenge, which later I did and that was when I
went to work for George Steinbrenner.
P: When you had a six-four record, did you get a lot of phone calls or letters from
fans who were upset?
G: No. It is amazing, I did not. I expected it, but I did not get them.
P: Unlike Bill Curry [Alabama head football coach] at Alabama, for example.
G: I did not get a lot of flack. I am sure there was disappointment in my coaching at
times and if I ever heard it, I agreed with it. I was not happy with it either. I
thought we would do better, and when we did play poorly we tried to correct our
P: The 1968 season, you started out four and zero and then you had this game in
the rain at Chapel Hill where you lost eight fumbles. Has that ever happened
before or since?
G: No, I do not think it ever has or ever will. The officiating was lousy. They called
us for pass interference and everything. It seemed that everything bad that
could happen to us, besides the rain, happened. That and the Duke game were
the two most miserable ball games I have ever coached through. I never forgot
that rain in Chapel Hill. The next year the players remembered it too. If ever I
have gotten a team ready to play a Homecoming game, it was the game against
P: Did you play them in Tampa or Gainesville?
G: In Gainesville.
P: While we are on that subject, let's go to officiating. How would you asses the
quality of the officiating while you were coaching Florida?
g: I thought it was good. Most of the time the SEC officials were better trained than
the officials in some of the other conferences. You are always going to get
some controversial decisions, but that is football and that makes it a great game.
I never questioned officials. One time at Auburn, the officials called me for a
fifteen yard penalty for putting a player in the game who was ineligible.
P: Illegal substitution?
G: Right. I knew the call was wrong, and I said, look at his jersey; he had not been
in. I had him check the number again and the official was Neil Pope, a boy who
had played for me at Georgia Tech, and he gave me a fifteen yard penalty in
addition to the illegal substitution penalty. The game film proved that I was right,
and he was wrong. He quit officiating after that. He called me and said, I knew;
and I said, I did too. Sometimes it is a judgement call, but this was a lack of
communication or recording, because they had to keep a record of the boys who
had been in, and he just had the wrong number down twice. Officiating is
always going to be controversial, and there is always going to be lot to talk about
it. I do not care whether it is Florida and FSU or Georgia Tech and Alabama,
somebody will always blame the officials. I never really blamed the officials for
any ball game that we lost. We got some good calls and some bad calls.
P: One of the things that the officials can do on any given play is call offensive
G: That is right. The way the rules are now, that is a bad rule. With the rule now,
you could call it on any play and be in the gray area. I believe that the way the
rule is now and the pressure that you put on the officials because of that rule is
unfortunate. Now the officials say no harm, no foul; or no foul, no harm --
whatever it is. And then it depends on where it happens and when it happens.
The officials called that holding foul on Florida which brought back the touchdown
they scored against FSU. If the penalty would not have been called, Florida
probably would have won the ball game. There is a lot of pressure on the
officials to be in the right position to call plays. A lot of times officials have
problems getting in a position to make the call.
P: A couple of times in the FSU game last year, the FSU lineman actually tackled
the Florida defensive line and no call was made. You wonder how the officials
could not see that, since it seems pretty clear.
G: These were Southeastern Conference officials too.
P: How do they miss those kinds of plays?
G: I do not know. Maybe they are not in good position or they are waiting for
somebody else to call it who had the priority to make the call. A lot of times you
see officials over yonder coming over to make a call on this official. They try to
respect each other and try to keep the officiating crew together as a team.
P: So a head linesman might make a call that a back judge missed?
G: That is right. Maybe both of them were in a position to make a call, but one of
them makes it and the other does not, or maybe one of them is not in position to
make a call, but he sees the foul and he will run and that looks bad. They are
trying to educate the officials to officiate together as a team. It is tough to
officiate now. If you get down on a field to officiate twenty-two football players
playing inside the width of the field, you would want to get the hell back up in the
stands and be a fan because it is tough down there. Just to get out of the way
of the players is tough. The back judge gets knocked down as many times as a
quarterback gets sacked.
P: The players are so big and so fast, and you only have a split second to make a
G: And these officials are part-time officials. Most of them are successful
businessmen who could afford to be away from officiating. They are dedicated
and most of them are former players, and they want to stay close to the game.
P: Should they be full-time?
G: If they could afford it, I think they should. If they get full-time officials, they would
get better officiating. But that would probably never happen.
P: That is too costly?