Even the Toughest College Football Coaches Can't Avoid Being Goofy Dads in the Summer

By Johnny Ginter on July 29, 2016 at 2:10 pm
Just chillin'
David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Almost every major college football coach has a horror story about being a graduate assistant in their early days of coaching, usually punctuated by a note that they were splitting the rent in a studio apartment that was really a chemical waste disposal unit in an abandoned hospital haunted by the ghosts of GAs gone by who never learned the fine art of dumpster diving for food.

Bad pay, punishing hours, and a really shitty version of a monastic life is part of the rites of passage for the legends and myths that we build up around these coaches. And that's fine; there's more than a kernel of truth to the near hell that these guys put themselves through to reach football coaching glory. This article, from USA Today in 2004, details some of the more borderline abusive aspects of the job:

Before the season started, Daft scouted his sleeping quarters. The running backs meeting room, where his desk is, was claimed by another squatter, a volunteer assistant. Daft reserved a corner of the offensive line meeting room because it had an air conditioner, even though the room also had remnants of the offensive line.

"Those guys like to eat a lot so they leave food around, which means there's been ants," Daft says.

Occasionally, he would hear the raccoons having their nightly feast as they roam the corridors outside and dine in a nearby food court at the 81-year-old stadium.

So after surviving plagues of insects and rabies, this young GA might (might!) get the chance to work his way up the coaching ladder and have the opportunity to get enormous amounts of grief from fans looking to pin the blame on someone for a bad punting performance. Kevin Daft, featured in this article, survived the gauntlet and now finds himself the offensive coordinator at Cal. Not bad, and in doing so joins the vaunted pantheon of sociopathic nutjobs who we venerate for essentially killing themselves 11 months out of the year as they sleep three hours a night, survive on a frothy mixture of Red Bull and sunflower seeds, and pretend to be able to have normal interactions with humans while secretly wishing they were screaming at a 19 year old for not using proper deadlift form.

And we like that! Part of the appeal and inherent risk of having Urban Meyer as your head coach is that he will give your team approximately 10000000% at all times, at times to the detriment of his health. People in regular jobs do this too, but the difference is that if a teacher is losing weight and going several days without sleep worrying about how her students are going to perform on a quiz next Tuesday, her friends and family and coworkers will hopefully pull her back a little bit to put things into perspective.

Chillin', thrillin', little bit of illin'

It's fortunate that Urban Meyer's family did the same for him, because fans absolutely expect that kind of tireless, fanatical devotion to their football team and really don't care how it impacts their coaches. The ridiculous amount of conspiracy theories that sprung up around the most successful coach in Florida football history having legitimate and serious health problems is proof positive of this.

So if the question is "Are football coaches allowed to be human?" then the answer from fans is often a resounding "Hell no."

I'm here to tell you that's wrong. Not just because it's the humane way to look at a person who is working themselves to the bone for your entertainment, but because we have so much evidence to the contrary. While it's true that yes, college football coaches are weird nutcases with limited social skills outside of sports or sporting events, that really only applies for 10-11 months out of the year. The other precious few months, when contact with recruits and players alike is limited, these coaches turn into something much more strange and unsettling.

They turn into Dads.

Some of them literally, but all of them figuratively. In this context a Dad isn't necessarily someone with kids, it's a middle-aged male devoted to having a good time in the only way he knows how. It's super goofy and legitimately kind of awesome.

Hanging around in their massive golf-course adjacent mansions, dressed in their finest Tommy Bahama, even the toughest college football coaches cannot resist the siren song of Adult Contemporary played on a crackly stereo while they crack open a delicious Bud Light and watch their family or dog do something dumb by their pool.

Maybe they go to a baseball game that they half pay attention to. Maybe they check out a band that most of the American public had left for dead 15 years or so ago. Maybe they just spend weeks on end embarrassing the living hell out of their kids. All of that is both cool and good; being a Dad is more about a state of mind than anything else, a feeling of extreme relaxation and comfort in being an incredibly dorky individual in public. It can only be achieved through a supreme amount of self-confidence, and frankly and without sarcasm I'm a little jealous that they are able to be that comfortable in their own skin.

Yeah, it's weird to see these guys acting so relaxed for such a short period of time, but they've earned it, dammit! If they want to be Dads and do Daddish things, I'm all for it. If Urban Meyer needs some "me" time that consists of laying out on a gross old hammock and thinking about his favorite brands of lawn mowers, I'd say the guy is entitled to it.

You probably agree with all of that, unless you're not an Ohio State fan and think that the head coach at your school is being significantly overpaid. But the point that I'm making is that these guys can't help but be dorks when on vacation, because we ask that they be unfeeling automatons for so much of the rest of the year. Ultimately what I want is for us to occasionally give these guys a break (assuming they're not awful people actively spending their offseason covering up horrible things that they're complicit in, in between taking some time to get in some wakeboarding) and allow them to be human more often.

That's the healthy thing do to not just for them, but for the game of football overall. The less we look at the players and coaches as something almost inhuman, the safer, more sane, and healthier our relationship with the sport will be. Because until we do, we'll continue demanding more games per season, that players play through injury, sometimes debilitating and long term, and that coaches ignore their inner Dad way more often than they should.

All I'm saying is, let them let their inner Sister Hazel out. For our peace of mind and theirs.

It's hard to say what it is I see in you

Wonder if I'll always be with you

But words can't say, and I can't do

Enough to prove

It's all for you...

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