The vinegar back in his voice, Don Fambrough will be back in his seat at Memorial Stadium on Saturday morning, rooting on his alma mater, Kansas, which battles Georgia Tech and long odds.
Fambrough listened to the first game on the radio because, he said, the parking pass near the elevator entrance he had used for years had been taken away from him.
The day after Lew Perkins “resigned” as athletic director, Fambrough said, he received a call from somebody in the athletic department informing they had a parking pass for him.
“We had a falling out,” Fambrough said of Perkins. “I’m not sorry to see him go.”
Fambrough didn’t like anything about the way KU wasn’t ready to play in the season-opening loss to North Dakota State any better than anybody else did, but knows coaches can’t be judged on one game, no matter how ugly.
He remembers KU losing to Ohio University, 30-15, at home, an embarrassing setback that made Pepper Rodgers 0-3 in his first season, 1967. The very next week, Kansas upset No. 8 Nebraska, 10-0, and the same people who peppered Rodgers with venom would have carried him off the field. So it goes in sports.
“Pepper was a damn good football coach and one hell of a recruiter,” Fambrough said. “No. 1, that’s what you’ve got to be, a recruiter. You’ve got to be able to go out and get the football players. We’ve got to give Turner Gill a chance. It takes some time. He’s got to get established, find out where the players are and go get them. I certainly am one who thinks he can do it and he’ll get the job done. We need to get behind him, give him some help. You can’t do it overnight.”
KU’s loss, which Fambrough listened to on the radio, made Fambrough think of a bad loss Bear Bryant’s Texas A&M; team suffered at home.
“He went on the loudspeaker and said, ‘If you would remain in your seats we’re going to have a scrimmage and I guarantee you you’ll get your money’s worth,’ and they had a scrimmage for about two hours,” Fambrough said. “Every great coach I’ve known has a different way of doing it. Bear Bryant did it from hard work, fear and being mean. You have to be your own person.”
Rodgers, Fam said, spiced the air with four letters at a time. Gill has the cleanest tongue in the dirtiest game.
Rodgers, a graduate of Georgia Tech, will not be at Saturday’s game, Fambrough said, but at least one of the members of the 1968 Rodgers staff loaded with future head coaches will be on hand. Fambrough said former UCLA coach Terry Donahue will be in for the game and so will former KU quarterback great David Jaynes.
Gill’s staff is loaded with accomplished recruiters. So was Rodgers’. Other members of Pepper’s 1968 staff that went on to head-coaching jobs: John Cooper (Tulsa, Arizona State, Ohio State), Dave McClain (Ball State, Wisconsin), Dick Tomey (Hawaii, Arizona, San Jose State).
Donahue, a gentleman’s gentleman, as is Gill, was hugely successful at UCLA.
“Terry was a young stud, well-educated, smart,” Fambrough said. “Like our coach, he could go in the homes and the parents loved him.”
Love is what KU fans need to show this team Saturday, Coach Fam stressed.