Coach Nick Whitlow was sorting football equipment in the Leopards locker room when his cell phone buzzed. He looked at the caller ID. Coach Whitlow scowled and said, !@#$%^&*. Then he pushed the answer button, smiled and said, “Coach Whitlow speaking.”
The caller was Dr. Ima Farseer, dean of Letongaloosa Community Junior College’s School of Electromagnetic Communigraphics.
“Coach Whitlow, we need to talk,” said the dean.
“I’m real tied up right now, Ma’ am,” he said. “Got football practice, comin’ up ya know.”
“That’s why I need to see you in my office. Your football team has academic eligibility problems.”
“Whoa. Whoa. Hold on. I’ll be right there.”
Dean Farseer’s office door was open so Coach Whitlow walked in and sat in the visitor’s chair opposite the dean’s massive mahogany desk. All four legs of the visitor’s chair had been shortened. And one leg had been cut shorter than the other three. The visitor was forced to sit on a low, teetery chair. Advantage, Farseer.
“Ima,” pause, “Uh, I mean Dean Farseer, our atha-letes work very hard on their academic studies. Very hard, in deed.”
“With little to show for it when grade cards come out,” said the dean.
“Ma’am, the Leopards are ten and one on the year. Our best season since 2012.”
“And your athletes are zero and 23 academically. Not a single ath-lete (she pronounced the word slowly and enunciated it pointedly) is on the dean’s list. On the other hand, 17 football players are in various after school detention programs.”
The coach teetered silently. Then he said, “Let me get back to you on this,” said the coach.
“Please do,” said the dean. “Soon.”
It had never occurred to Coach Whitfield to call up the dean’s list on his computer, but he did so the moment he arrived back at his office.
The names of students with four-point- oh grades led the list, followed by others in descending order down to the bottom of the list where he recognized the names of a number of his football players.
At the top of the 4.0 list was Tyler Kirby. The coach remembered him. He had been an eager first-day-of- practice walk-on. Kirby weighed 187 pounds. His thick glasses were held on by an elastic band .
“Sorry, kid,” the coach had said, “We already got enough managers.”
“I want to make the team, Coach.”
“Not this team, you don’t Go take a shower.”
“Gaaaa,” said the coach, as he remembered the encounter. He left the building.
On the sidewalk outside the building he bumped into someone.
“Sorry, Coach, I wasn’t looking where I was going.”
“My fault. Say, aren’t you Tyler Kirby?”
“ Son, I need to talk to you. Could you come to my office?”
“Yes, if you’re free.”
After the meeting, Kirby Tyler set up a team of his own—a group of academically high achieving students who tutored athletes. The athletes thrived.
Coach Whitlow put Tyler on his team, and made sure that Tyler got to suit up for every game. Toward the end of the season when the Leopards were leading the La Mancha Mongrels 47-6 the coach called:
“Kirby. Get in there at quarterback and heave a long one down field. ”
Dr. Larry Day is a retired KU J-School professor turned humor writer. He is also the author of Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia, a collection of goofy and fun short stories that have nothing to do with old age,