The Monday and Tuesday following the official end to the college football season, the Big 12 coaches met in semi-secret fashion at a hotel in Dallas. They do this every year as sort of a state of the football league meeting of the minds. They try to help each other out as well. They analyzed out of conference teams and talked about trends in college football and discussed bowl games. Also, they helped out each other in recruiting to a certain extent. If a school was full at a position and had been recruiting someone that they couldn’t take now, they would pass that name on to the other schools. Plus, they got to know each other a little better, which helps everyone out. Mack Brown gave a presentation on manipulating the media. Gary Barnett had a nice power point presentation on dealing with apathy. Iowa State did not send a coach to the meeting. Bo Pelini talked in depth about unrealistic fan expectations, coaching in an area that had no talent, and what dying local economies mean to football teams.
On the second night, they broke into focus groups. The north coaches went to one room and did what they do. The south coaches went to another room and started playing Texas Hold ‘em.
It was an interesting group of people. Mike Leach, Mike Gundy, Mike Sherman, Bob Stoops, Mack Brown, and Gary Patterson. Art Briles wasn’t invited. They stopped inviting the Baylor coaches several years ago when Grant Teaff was kicked out of the hotel for some reason. I don’t know why, and no one would tell me, but the TCU coaches have been filling in for the Baylor coaches for years.
Their style of play told a lot about what kind of people they were. Gary Patterson simply folded every hand until he was out. He stayed in longer than most of the other players, but his conservative style of play made it impossible for him to ever win in the end.
Mike Leach was drinking heavily from the get go. He went all in six times, managed to win five times then went down in a blaze of glory with a queen high. After he was eliminated, he sat away from the table and continued to drink straight from a bottle of Jack Daniels. He complained and muttered incomprehensible half sentences. He said something about graduation rates.
On one hand, Mack Brown beat Bob Stoops. Mack had a full house and Bob had three of a kind. Bob went ahead and took the pot anyway. Mack whined about it for a little while then made a banner that he put up on the wall that said “full house beats three of a kind”. Bob said it was out of his hands but he kept the money. Mack had been eliminated. He called Greg Davis and cried.
Gundy, well, he was really a character. The way he played made no sense. He would fold holding pocket aces. He would hold a two and a ten of off suits. He would start yelling for no reason. He couldn’t stay on topic. After he was eliminated, he started to brag about what a good poker player he was. He said this:
“So there I was at the table, half a dinghy out of pocket before the turn, holding a crippled eddie and two spankers. The dealer twists me a red onion – no help. Fat Tony across the table plays Rockette and sings a hymn. I raise him two lazy chickens and toss the cole slaw. Tony corroborates. Second card is a dutch enchilada – I’m looking at the short end of a chopped el camino, and the greaser could be sitting on a slovakian seamstress. It looks like I’m screwed, but I push the pram and raise a viking oarsman. Last card is a gilded salami and I am screwed, but Johnny Vegas isn’t my middle name for alliterative purposes – I raise again, this time a full Dirk Bogarde all the way. Guido is sweating, eyes darting, but a nascent smirk on his lips convinces me that he’s about to roll a constipated aardvark and take an Inca Christmas – but at the last second, he drops the pork, flips his cards and folds. After that, I finished my complimentary Irish Setter (Bailey’s and Karo Syrup on the rocks), cashed in, ate some crab legs at the buffet and caught the last half of the Rick Springfield Experience in the Cabaret.”*
It didn’t make any sense to anyone, and they all just kind of discounted him as being short on top. Leach invited him over to his side of the room to drink. Gundy looked scared and opted sit beneath Mack’s banner.
Sherman hadn’t really said much the whole night. He had been playing a steady game. He didn’t get very good cards, but he was being smart about it. In the end, Sherman and Stoops were the last ones left. Patterson was sitting in corner and had barricaded some chairs around him. Mack was talking to Ron McKelvey on the phone since he liked to get advice from his elders. Leach was still drinking and was now wearing an eye patch. Gundy was muttering something about being forty-one and how it just didn’t sound right.
Sherman had more chips than Stoops. Stoops called all in. This was it. This was the last hand. This is the one that could be the game. They flipped their cards and waited for the dealer. All of sudden, Stoops just flips over his cards and says, “I fold.” In the biggest possible hand, the finale, the coup de grace, Stoops just folded.
I had been just a silent observer up until this point, but I had to know what was going through his mind. “Why would you fold? You’re already all in. Folding just means you lose. You still had a chance.”
Bob looked at me and shrugged. “I don’t know, I just didn’t feel good about things.”
Sherman traded in his chips for cash. Sherman was the winner. Sherman is a winner.
* DG’88, 2004