Blake Burleson and Maxey Parrish: Baylor coaches Teaff, Hart saw wisdom in staying, just like Drew (2024)

BLAKE BURLESON AND MAXEY PARRISHGuest columnists

Many of us are tempted during our careers to leave our jobs for greener pastures. Maybe we’re enticed by a higher salary or a greater challenge. Perhaps we’re tempted to leave because our job has grown stale and we just need a change in scenery.

Baylor University head basketball coach Scott Drew’s recent decision to reject an offer to coach the basketball team at the University of Kentucky — perhaps the premier coaching job in the nation — and to remain at Baylor University has led us to consider the value of staying put in college athletics — and specifically at Baylor.

Drew isn’t the only Baylor coach who had a chance to leave the green and gold for what most would call greener pastures. In mid-December 1986, Grant Teaff received a phone call from University of Southern California Athletic Director Mike McGee to inquire if he’d be interested in leaving Waco to coach a Trojan football program that had produced nine national championships and three Heisman Trophy winners. USC was and still is one of the greatest programs in college football history.

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Teaff’s name was among the hottest in college football at that time. Taking over a Baylor program so woeful in 1972 that many said it should leave the Southwest Conference — the Bears had managed only three victories the previous three years — Teaff won the league’s championships in 1974 and 1980. In both 1985 and 1986 the Bears came one game short of two more titles.

When McGee called, Baylor had received three bowl invitations the past four years, winning the 1985 Liberty Bowl over a highly favored LSU team. The name of Jimmy Johnson had also been mentioned, but so serious was USC about hiring Teaff after 15 seasons at Baylor, McGee flew to Dallas on Dec. 15 to meet Teaff with an offer inviting him to Los Angeles.

He ‘believed’ in Baylor

Teaff anguished over the decision. He’d built Baylor’s program from a laughingstock to a highly competitive one commanding respect nationwide. Under the motto “I Believe,” he’d proven he could win conference championships and be in the conversation for national titles. At USC those titles were considered a birthright. With vastly greater resources and a much deeper tradition, the Trojans could give Teaff better chances for national success. Most coaches would jump at such an opportunity, but Teaff thought of more than money and championship rings. Baylor’s mission mattered.

“I’ve had very many opportunities to move to other schools,” Teaff said at a Dec. 18 news conference announcing his decision. “I’ve come to grips with the different offers in various ways. This is the first situation where I truly opened up my heart and mind and took a strong consideration. I went back and forth wildly over the last few days.” Athletic Director Bill Menefee later said he thought Teaff was leaving at one point.

“I appreciate their consideration of me,” Teaff said. “But after deep, prayerful consideration of all aspects, I feel the place for me at this time is at Baylor University.”

One fan claimed the collective sigh of relief could be heard for miles up and down the Brazos.

Blake Burleson and Maxey Parrish: Baylor coaches Teaff, Hart saw wisdom in staying, just like Drew (1)

“I based my decision on what was important to me ... The financial opportunities and a chance at winning a national championship were not a consideration. I strive to do the Lord’s will in my life, whatever that is. The success and stability we’ve achieved at Baylor have been worked for long and hard. I’m deeply committed to Baylor. I care for it deeply. I hope to continue to contribute to the ideal of Christian education here and across America.”

Teaff coached at Baylor until 1992. By then he’d been named National Coach of the Year (1974) and Southwest Conference Coach of the Year twice (1974, 1980). In his final two seasons the Bears won a combined 15 games and played in two more bowls. He ended his coaching career with a 22-15 win over highly favored Arizona in the Sun Bowl. Special commemorative rings given to players and staff were inscribed with a new slogan, “From Pride to Excellence.” In 2001 he received the game’s highest honor with his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Coaches ran concessions

In the fall of 1968 Baylor track and field coach Clyde Hart faced a dilemma. He’d coached the team at his alma mater for five years, laying the foundation for Baylor becoming known as “Quarter Miler U,” the world’s preeminent program for 400-meter runners. Today, a gleaming facility, one of the nation’s best, bears Hart’s name.

But before all the Olympic glory and a world-class venue, Hart coached during a time of budgets that could be described as spartan at best. With an entire athletic staff numbering in the low 20s, everyone took on extra chores. Hart managed the parking lots at football games and did some academic advising. Even the head men’s basketball coach was tasked with running the concession stands at football games.

So thin was the money, newly hired football coach Bill Beall told Hart and the two other men’s coaches, Bill Menefee of basketball and Dutch Schroeder of baseball, that he’d help himself to their budgets and scholarships if he wanted, a common practice in the Southeastern Conference where Beall had been an assistant coach at LSU. “I’m going to win, and I’ll take your budget and scholarships if I want,” Hart recalled Beall saying.

“We were called into Athletic Director Bill Henderson’s office to meet coach Beall. Beall said some things about Baylor that were pretty bad. Here was someone from the outside knocking my school. Then he talked about taking some of my budget. My temper got the best of me. I asked Mr. Bill if he was the AD, and if he’d allow Beall to take some of my budget and scholarships. Well, from then on, I was on Beall’s list. He let some people know he was going to get me fired.”

Blake Burleson and Maxey Parrish: Baylor coaches Teaff, Hart saw wisdom in staying, just like Drew (2)

The next summer Hart got a phone call from Sam Bailey, the right-hand man of Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. (Bailey had coached with Bryant at Texas A&M in the 1950s, and by the time Bryant retired, Bailey, an associate athletic director by then, had spent more time as a Bryant staffer than anyone.) Bailey wanted to know if Hart was interested in becoming Alabama’s head track and field coach.

Wary of Bear trap

Bryant’s interest in Hart came about as the result of a rare recruiting battle Bryant lost. Tennessee had just signed Richmond Flowers Jr., the No. 1 football player in Alabama and the top track recruit in the nation. Making it all the worse, Flowers’ father, Richmond Flowers Sr., was the state’s attorney general. The Volunteers had lured away Flowers Jr., who had broken the national high school record in the 120-yard high hurdles, by promising him he could run track as well as play football. (As a Volunteer, Flowers would earn All-America honors in football, run one-tenth of a second shy of the high hurdles world record and rank among the favorites at the 1968 Olympics before tearing a hamstring.)

“Bryant wasn’t going to let that happen again,” Hart said. So, they flew me over to Alabama. I thought, well, I’d been threatened to be fired, so why not go?

“I met with Coach Bryant. He was the legend. We had a good visit. He showed me around and told me about Flowers. Bryant said he wanted revenge. Bryant told me they’d build me a new stadium and let me do whatever I wanted [with the design]. The [track and field] budget was much better than Baylor’s. The money, everything. It all sounded great. And then we went to lunch at their athletic dining hall.”

It was the lunch meeting that planted a seed of doubt in Hart’s mind. “The dining hall was really more of a colonial mansion. The staff wore tuxedos and white gloves. On one side was a cafeteria. Very nice. But on the other side were these two oak doors. We went in and there’s a big oak table, linen tablecloths, crystal, china, waiters in tuxes and white gloves lined up to bring you everything you want.

“Bryant told me the athletes on the other side eat very well, they get steak and potatoes, but this room was special. It was reserved for the top 48 football players. Bryant told me, ‘They fight to get in here.’ All of that just didn’t seem right. It just didn’t seem to fit with my idea of what a team should be.

“After lunch, they offered me the job. It was a great deal. I pretty much gave them a verbal commitment. But flying home it hit me: What am I going to do? Baylor was my school, but I had this threat of being fired. Then I thought about recruiting. At Alabama I’d have to recruit the world. I’d be gone all the time. At Baylor I could recruit mostly within 100 miles. And the dining hall concerned me.

“I got home and met my family. I laid it all out. Greg, my son, asked if I’d ever be home for Christmas. Maxine (Hart’s wife and longtime Baylor business professor) said, ‘You’ll outlast that (Beall).’ And that did it. I called Bailey and said I appreciated the offer, but I had to turn it down. That was the only other job I ever considered.”

BU ‘gave me everything’

The choice was a good one for Hart and Baylor. By the time he retired as director of track and field in 2019, he’d served at Baylor 56 years. His career numbers are mind-boggling: 34 national champions, 566 All-Americans and nine Olympic athletes who combined for 17 medals (including 13 golds). Selected as USA Track & Field’s 1996, 2004 and 2006 Nike Coach of the Year, Hart is a member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, the USA Track & Field Coaches Association Hall of Fame, the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, the Baylor Wall of Honor and the Baylor Athletic Hall of Fame.

He was named the U.S. Olympic Committee’s National Track & Field Coach of the Year in 1996, 2004 and 2006. A Big 12 Coach of the Year honoree with multiple Indoor Coach of the Year titles from the NCAA and the Southwest Conference, Hart received the highest track-coaching honor in 2009 when he was named the International Coach of the Year by the International Amateur Athletic Federation.

“Baylor gave me everything I have,” said Hart, who recently turned 90 and still plays golf twice a week. “I got my education at Baylor, I found my wife at Baylor, I’ve made my living at Baylor. Baylor is in my blood. It’s my school. It’s my wife’s school. It’s not about money or facilities. It’s all about what Baylor is. Baylor’s Christian environment. That’s what made me want to come here as a student, and it’s the reason I stayed. Grant and Scott didn’t go to Baylor, but they understand.”

In this new era of collegiate athletics when some student-athletes are tempted after a successful season to trade their school colors for lucrative greenback offers from other schools, three legendary Baylor coaches have provided Baylor’s student-athletes (and even athletes, fans, and coaches nationwide) with moral examples of commitment to a mission bigger than their individual successes. Hart, Teaff, and Drew — each with distinguished hall of fame careers — put mission over money, mission over individual achievement in ways that inspire us to think about what matters most not only in our professional lives but in all our lives — familial, political, religious and civic. They have taught us to challenge the notion that a corporate ladder of success is what matters most. And, perhaps, even proven that there is something more fundamental, more soulful, more gratifying and joyful in staying put.

Blake Burleson is senior lecturer in religion and associate dean for undergraduate studies in the College of Arts and Sciences at Baylor University. He was a letterwinner on the Baylor track team under Clyde Hart and a member of the 1976 team that won the Southwest Conference Indoor Championship. Burleson set the Baylor record in the pole vault in 1978. Maxey Parrish is a retired senior lecturer in journalism and former sports information director in the Baylor athletic department from 1980 to 2000, where he worked closely with Grant Teaff and Clyde Hart. Parrish won the Collins Outstanding Professor Award at Baylor in 2005.

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Blake Burleson and Maxey Parrish: Baylor coaches Teaff, Hart saw wisdom in staying, just like Drew (2024)

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