Votes of Confidence

Published 8:49 am Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Commentary by Dr. Don Newbury

The old expression “can’t know a player without a program” still has traction, but particularly at this time of year, the same is true of coaches.

Few would join picket lines opposing college presidents announcing “votes of confidence” for coaches soon to be sent packing. Typically, firings occur after coaches have delayed dissection of horrid losses, pending “seeing the tapes.” Such coaches sound like “broken records,” sadly shepherding yet more teams that never broke any. Such “confidence votes” usually are announced when guillotines are on downward swings, not worth the wheezes of lungs from which they come. Such occurred to me when the University of North Texas’ Coach Dan McCarney got the axe before homecoming fans cleared the stadium. Alas, the 66-7 drubbing administered by Portland State couldn’t be brushed aside.

A similar situation once involved another Texas team, but that time, it prevailed. And the “egg-faced, mid-major host” was New Mexico State University. True, the Aggies fell to a comparative “mid-minor” expected to be a “patsy,” and eggs were cheaper then. Sul Ross–the 1963 42-15 victor–pocketed “only” $25,000. Even after paying the bus charter, SRSU coffers bulged with 24 grand and change.

Despite admitted change, much doesn’t. Large schools now must schedule non-league games years in advance. Teams considered “mid-minor” at contract time can become raging devils, roaming about seeing who they can devour. In Denton, they were Vikings, administering a 59-point loss and taking home a $425,000 pay check.

UNT brass didn’t “study the tapes” to determine what to do next. (In olden days, did they study the oil paintings?)

Once more, the guy claiming he’d coach football in Texas only if he had a home with wheels on it, makes a strong point.

One afterthought: The NMSU coach in 1963 was the late Warren Woodson, who likely was neither as brilliant as his strongest supporters suggested nor as inept as his cruelest critics claimed. He kept his job for four more seasons, leaving only when the “mandatory” retirement age of 65 was called into play. However, thorns prevailed. The brass couldn’t wait to lean on the rule, despite significant huffing and puffing about an exception being made–or a birth certificate being altered.

It should not be ignored that he won several bowl games–and, during a long career–coached basketball, track and baseball teams to conference titles. Long-time NMSU fans still call his firing “the Woodson curse.” Since his departure, the Aggies have had ONE winning season (7-5) and no bowl trips.

During the rip-roaring years of the Border Conference, Woodson coached at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene. The Cowboys had as much fire as smoke, disposing of major schools left and right.

Few coaches—then or since—have had highs or lows equaling Woodson’s. Doubters should Google him.

HSU now has sports in perspective, playing in Division III, where athletes compete for the love of the game. “The game” matters most to the players, their parents, current students and alumni who return at homecoming.

Consider the current season. The Cowboys are undefeated. Recently, though, there was as much stir about a missing bird as there was about football. Gilbert the Goose–long seen gliding gracefully on the campus pond—was missing. That was the murmer in the stands during HSU’s victory over cross-town rival McMurry. There were groans for their goose–a minority group insists should be gander—one honored at the HSU Library coffee bar. No longer at issue is his whereabouts. Gilbert had NOT been “goose-napped” by McMurry baddies, and charges against Harold Preston were dismissed. (Preston–longtime HSU financial VP known for ever-tightened fists–thought all creatures eating on campus should pay. Gilbert quacked in his face. The university’s heralded six white horses, however, breathed easily only after Preston was retired to pasture. It is said, BTW, that HSU folks were admonished to climb over gates to save the hinges.)

Dr. Lanny Hall, HSU president, could have claimed spotting Gilbert near the campus. However, two students were there first, and, well, what with social media…The university’s drone– we all fear–knows the WHOLE story. Anyway, the hunt was called off. Gilbert is gliding again. The horses are getting second helpings. And Preston–for now–is exonerated.


   Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Inquiries/comments to: Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: Columns archived at, newbury blog.