Archive for Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Woodling: A rural coaching mecca

September 7, 2005

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Hooray for Gary Patterson.

Patterson put Texas Christian University on the map after Saturday's stunning football victory over Oklahoma at the Snake Pit in Norman, Okla. At the same time, the Horned Frogs' head coach made Kansans everywhere proud.

Although Larned is listed as his birthplace, Patterson actually is from Rozel, a blink-and-you'll-miss-it burg located several miles down the road. Population: Approximately 180.

The 45-year-old Patterson played football at Kansas State, yet also has a tie to Kansas University. He's a nephew of former KU football and basketball standout Hal Patterson, a member of the Canadian Football League Hall of Fame.

Incidentally, Larned, the seat of Pawnee County, now has the right to bill itself as the Kansas Cradle of Major College Coaches. The town, known mainly as the site of Fort Larned, one of Kansas' few national historic sites, also is the birthplace of Gene Keady, the former Purdue University men's basketball coach.

At least two other NCAA Division I-A football coaches were born in Kansas - Dennis Franchione of Texas A&M; and Charlie Weatherbie of Louisiana-Monroe. Both are from the southeast part of the state - Franchione from Girard, and Weatherbie from Fort Scott.

When Glen Mason left Kansas for Minnesota after the 1996 season, Franchione, then at TCU, was regarded as the leading candidate to replace him, but KU hired Terry Allen instead.

Weatherbie was a starting quarterback at Oklahoma State. Son Jonas was a backup quarterback for the Jayhawks a few years ago.

I'm probably missing somebody, but I came up with one more native Kansan who is a head football coach. Kevin Verdugo is in his first season as boss of the Fort Hays State football program. Since Verdugo is from Weatherbie's hometown, I guess that makes the city best known for Fort Scott, one of the state's few national historic sites, the Kansas Cradle of College Football Coaches.

Parenthetically, it would appear that a fort factor, while prevalent, is nonetheless extraneous.

At the same time, I also should mention Darrell Dickey, who has opened some eyes by turning North Texas into a spoiler. Dickey wasn't born in Kansas, but he spent several years in Lawrence and Manhattan while his dad, Jim, was an assistant coach at KU and later head coach at Kansas State. Young Dickey played football at Lawrence's West Junior High, but his dad moved on before he reached high school age.

As you're no doubt aware, no native Kansan is a head football coach in the National Football League, yet several NFL assistant coaches were born in the Sunflower State. Among them are Nolan Cromwell (Seahawks), Darrin Simmons (Bengals), Bruce DeHaven (Cowboys) and Steve Crosby (San Diego). All have a small-town Kansas common denominator.

Cromwell, a former KU quarterback, is from Ransom. Simmons, a former KU punter, is from Elkhart. DeHaven, who played at Southwestern in Winfield, is from Trousdale. And Crosby, a former Fort Hays State standout, hails from Pawnee Rock.

Is the rural factor just a coincidence, or is there something in that small-city lifestyle that pushes men into football coaching?

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