published Thursday, August 16th, 2012

Mark Wiedmer: NCAA should make Curry its football czar

Georgia State coach Bill Curry shouts from the sideline during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Shorter at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Georgia State coach Bill Curry shouts from the sideline during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Shorter at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Possibly because he'll turn 70 in October, Bill Curry announced on Wednesday that he's going to do what all men of that age should do if they so choose. At the close of the upcoming football season he's going to retire from coaching the Georgia State football program he began four years ago.

"The opportunity to start a football program at a university that I love, in my hometown, and the privilege to coach these young men has been one of the highlights of my career," Curry said.

"But I am ready to move on to other things in my life and devote more time to my wife, Carolyn, and our children and grandchildren."

He's certainly earned that right. The groundwork he laid during head coaching stints at his alma mater, Georgia Tech, and Alabama led to national championships after he left. He guided Kentucky to a bowl game during his seven seasons there and only three other coaches in UK history could claim that at that time.

Beyond that, Curry worked 11 years for ESPN as a commentator, his personal integrity so strong that the network's Mike Greenberg said of him, "The first person I would send my kids to play for is Bill Curry."

The problem with all this is that the Curry family's gain is too big a loss for college football. That's why NCAA president Mark Emmert shouldn't allow this to happen. He should call an emergency meeting of his executive board and force Curry to become Czar of Football.

Think a scandal like Penn State could have happened with Curry running the show? Think the current academic mess at North Carolina would have happened with Curry at the helm?

Frustrated fans at Alabama and Kentucky might have voiced reasonable concerns over whether he was winning enough games, but none of them ever went to sleep at night wondering if the NCAA was about to shut down the Crimson Tide or Wildcats for violations.

It may have been a cheap shot at the time, but there were noble reasons why Curry and then-Bama athletic director Steve Sloan were known as the "Righteous Brothers" during their shared time at the Capstone.

And no one needs a righteous leader right now more than college athletics in general and college football in particular. It needs someone whose actions have always spoken as loudly as his well-chosen words. It needs someone who truly believes the journey is as important as the destination. It needs someone who embraces character as a trait rather than a person.

"Bill Curry's just always had so much integrity and understands how people should behave in an educational institution," said former Baylor School headmaster and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga chancellor Bill Stacy, who hired Curry in 2006 to start Baylor's leadership initiative.

"He reinvigorated our school's interest in leadership. He taught all of us to watch what we're doing, what we're saying and to ask ourselves if we're doing the best by the people we represent, whether it's our family, our school or our friends. He's just a terrific guy."

Terrific people often surround themselves with terrific friends. Susan Collins often assisted Curry during his time at Baylor. When he spoke to the school in May, he told her and several other Baylor employees that he would soon retire. None of them ever mentioned it until after his announcement.

"Every day I was with him changed my life," she said. "I'm glad he had his [final] run at Georgia State. But I'm also glad he'll have time to travel with Carolyn and see his family more."

Asked the biggest change he made in her life, she instantly replied, "The Fellowship of the Miserable. He taught me to put behind me what's been unsuccessful in my life and focus on the things I've been successful doing. Don't let yourself become miserable. That was his mantra when he was here and I try to follow that every day."

It doesn't get much more miserable than the current state of intercollegiate athletics, especially big-time football and men's basketball. Which is why the NCAA's Emmert needs Curry's help. Now.

Finally, schoolwork would come first. Players' futures would be next. Not their pro football futures. Their lives after football.

More time would be spent teaching integrity and ethics instead of encouraging helmeted hits to the head. More attention would be paid to putting money in the bank instead of tattoos. Most of all, best of all, Curry would demand that every male -- athlete or not -- treat all women with respect at all times.

"Bill retiring is definitely our loss in college sports and education," said Stacy. "It was just so great to see somebody do it right."

It would be even better for Emmert to enlist Curry to teach everybody else in college football to do it that way.

about Mark Wiedmer...

Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...

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