Tommy West is a class act

 

Thanksgiving is next week and in that spirit I want to take a break from the BCS, player arrests, and the coaching carousel to tell you a good story about a good man.

About a million years ago I played high school football against Tommy West. His Gainesville High School team beat my team from Greene County for a conference championship. West was a running back and a really good player. That’s why he played college football at Tennessee and I became a sports writer.

I followed his career at Tennessee and then later when he became an assistant coach on the rise. He worked for Danny Ford at Clemson and later became the Tigers’ head coach. After he was let go at Clemson he eventually became the head coach at Memphis. Personally, I always knew him to be a class act.

 Last week he proved it to the rest of the world.

Tommy West got fired last week. He’s 55 years old and had done just about everything he could do at a place like Memphis. He made them competitive and took them to four bowl games, which is not an easy thing to do in the middle of SEC country. But this season the program took a dip and is currently 2-8. The powers that be decided they wanted somebody to “take the program to another level”, as they always like to say.

 After his dismissal was announced, West stood before the press and told Memphis some stuff it didn’t want to hear. He told Memphis that if they wanted to get to another level in football, they had better start investing some money into the program as their competitors have. Most fired coaches take their settlement and go quietly. West said what needed to be said. I admire that.

West agreed to coach for the rest of the season and last Saturday Memphis played its final home game against UAB. It had to be a bittersweet moment for a man who has given so much of his life to college football and isn’t quite sure what he is going to do next.

I didn’t do the original reporting on the story that follows. That was done by my friend Geoff Caulkins of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. But because it is such a good story, and because West is from Gainesville, I wanted to share it with you here.

Memphis was getting absolutely destroyed by UAB, which led 31-7 in the third quarter. But with less than two minutes left Memphis blocked a punt and recovered it on the UAB six-yard line. West sent Brett Toney into play quarterback.

Toney, you should know, is the Memphis version of Notre Dame’s “Rudy.” He was a good high school player who grew up loving Memphis football but wasn’t good enough to get a scholarship. So he walked on and was content to ride the bench of for five years. He got to play some when other quarterbacks got hurt but in all that time Toney had never, ever, scored a touchdown.

But West sent Toney into the game with a play designed for him to either keep the ball or pitch to a running back. To no one’s surprise, including West’s, Toney kept the ball and scored. It allowed West the luxury of a smile in what was otherwise a dismal week and a dismal season.

“If I don’t do anything good in my life, I feel like I did some good there,” West told the Commercial-Appeal after the game.

So while we’re consumed with who’s going to get fired and who’s going to get hired and whose team is going to get a $19 million payday from the BCS, let’s take a moment to remember that there are a lot of guys out there like Tommy West and Brett Toney. To them the game is about more than just getting paid. It’s about doing something you love.

Brett Toney will never make a dime playing football but no one can ever take that touchdown away from him. And the older he gets, the more priceless the moment will become.

Tommy West has two more games to coach at Memphis, on Saturday at Houston and on Nov. 27 at Tulsa. Those could be the last two football games that he ever coaches. But he will always remember how he felt when Brett Toney crossed the goal line.

College football can break your heart and often does. But every now and then it can also make your heart soar. That’s why it is a helluva game.

 

 Please follow me on Twitter:

http://twitter.com/MrCFB

143 comments Add your comment

WilliamC

November 18th, 2009
10:25 am

Enter your comments here
Tommy West is a fine man. And ask the Georgie staff if West knew how to recruit when he was at Clemson. High school coaches loved the guy. Hope he lands in a good place.

I Bleed White and Old Gold

November 18th, 2009
10:30 am

I left Gainesville long before Tommy played there. But I was always happy to see a local boy do good. We never know what door will open next.

Good luck Tommy!

AHey, Coach O...

November 18th, 2009
10:31 am

“Actually, Frank Beamer has been on Alabama’s short list in their past few coaching searches. But I don’t mean to spoil your vitriolic attitude toward CFB — Carry on…”

And, he didn’t get the job despite being on the short list, now did he? So, the other poster is correct. Now, please apologize and….carry on!

Starring Kam Fong as Chin Ho

November 18th, 2009
10:35 am

junkie, we”ll see on the 28th if Ga is “circling the drain”. Tech wins 9 games and buys rings for one win in a decade and they’re on top of the world. Tech football is a cesspool and their 200 fans are idiots

Hardy

November 18th, 2009
10:36 am

Anybody who uses “coach” in their nym, and there are several, need to present some ID. I’m pretty sure they are pretenders. No real coach would need to puff himself up like that.

Hardy

November 18th, 2009
10:39 am

“Tech football is a cesspool and their 200 fans are idiots” Chimps split off from the family tree about 8 million years ago. How did you get those chimp genes?

JB

November 18th, 2009
10:44 am

Martinez for head coach at Memphis……………………hey, he’s gotta eat.

G8R GRAD

November 18th, 2009
10:45 am

Great piece, Tony.
Maybe your best ever, at least to date.

OrlG8r

November 18th, 2009
10:48 am

Great article, Tony. It’s nice to put things into perspective this time of year. And it’s nice to have a good writer to do it.

Mitch

November 18th, 2009
10:49 am

Great story, I never knew that Tommy West was such a 1st. class guy.

Big Canoe

November 18th, 2009
11:07 am

A nice story. I’ve kind of followed West’s career when he was at Clemson…then I think he was at South Carolina…and on to Memphis. Memphis (until this year) was always a competive team in a tough arena. Hope he catches a star.

MoDawg

November 18th, 2009
11:07 am

When I heard the press conference I wanted to stand up and cheer the guy. While he was a coach, he was limited to what he could and could not say, but once they told him he would not be back, he let it rip. Good for him! I loved the fire and desire he conveyed in that press conference. He gave everyone hell from the administration to the fans.

My favorite part was when he said to “either put some money into it or do away with it!” (with regard to the football program). How many times do you think he wanted to say that over the past couple of years?!

Good for him! We need his fire at UGA!!

MoDawg

November 18th, 2009
11:12 am

*1 JG, welcome back to relevance for GT! Tell me, how was it going to Boise or out to Seattle back when your team was struggling to even make a “bowel”?? How did the “Choke-fil-A Bowel” work out for your team last year? Enjoy this little run while it lasts, ’cause it won’t last long.

Until then, though it’s hard to draw upon past experience, try to act like you’ve “been there” before! Your kind of fandom is a complete joke!!

Asst. Coach

November 18th, 2009
11:21 am

Tony West sounds like a good man, but he has proven not to be of head coaching material. Losing record at UT-Chattanooga, Clemson and now Memphis. Good man, but he couldn’t win consistently at CLEMSON. Come on, Clemson was one of the nation’s top jobs back when he was there. I know we all hate when a good person gets fired, but bottomline, he couldn’t win in the pathetic Conference USA.

LAKE OCONEE DAWG

November 18th, 2009
11:23 am

Jake C:
NOBODY WILL WANT THAT JOB…TURNER GILL WOULD BE AN IDIOT TO TAKE IT….IT WILL ALWAYS BE LOSERSVILLE BECAUSE FOOTBALL BOWS TO THE KING OF MEMPHIS, BASKETBALL….AND GOOD LUCK ON GETTING TO “THAT NEXT LEVEL”, BECAUSE IT WILL BE A LEVEL YOU WILL NEVER SEE IN YOUR LIFETIME….WONDER IF ANY OF THE ADMINISTRATORS WHO FIRED HIM WOULD LIKE TO TAKE THE JOB UNDER THE CURRENT CONDITIONS AND “TAKE THEM TO THE NEXT LEVEL”….THE MEMPHIS JOB WOULD MAKE BEAR BRYANT, VINCE LOMBARDI, AND ALL THE ALL TIME GREATS INTO A MEDIOCRE COACH…YOU SEEM TO HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS, WHY DON’T YOU MOSEY ON DOWN AND APPLY????? THE FOLLOWING QUOTE IS FOR YOU AND OTHER WANNABEES WHO SIT ON THE SIDELINES AND CRITICIZE….READ IT WELL….
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat….

Rebel Fan

November 18th, 2009
11:29 am

The thing is West told them the truth. If Memphis is going to be successful, they are going have to get off of the purse strings and spend on the football team. God knows, they aren’t high profile like the basketball team but when was the last time a Memphis football player was in the news making stupid decisions and getting in trouble. West did his job and Memphis canned him. Memphis is and always be pathetic until they learn that to be successful, you need to spend the money to be successful.

theTruth

November 18th, 2009
11:30 am

Tony, please tell that Mr. Nice Guy that he still owes Chattanooga the money for breaking his contract.

500k I believe is still on the table. He took the Clemson job and never paid a dime.

mexdawg

November 18th, 2009
11:31 am

This just in.Tennessee just announced that they will be changing their team colors from Orange to BLUE.They will also be changing their team name from the Tenn Vols to the Tenn CRIPS.Coach Lame clean program Kitten is asking all fans to wear their new colors to the game this week.

Billy

November 18th, 2009
11:32 am

I swear, UGA fans are just like the bullies on the playground. For years, they spew out hate and make fun, but once it starts happening to them, they whine about “act like you’ve been there before”. Whatever.

misterwax

November 18th, 2009
11:36 am

Tommy did get the short shrift at Clemson …just like Memphis…..but it’s hard to keep a good man down, he will catch on somewhere as a top assistant/head coach somewhere and continue to add value as a good coach….you can bank on that.

skeletons in the closet

November 18th, 2009
11:50 am

it is true, he did leave UT Chattanooga and never paid them a dime of what he owed them on the contract, I believe to be close to $500,000 and neither did Clemson….so…what goes around comes around

Tammy Bowden

November 18th, 2009
11:51 am

Well, you know what they say about Klempsin. Graveyard of coaches.

up and onward

November 18th, 2009
11:52 am

life will go on, here’s an insightful look’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8GuH9oDHrU

Coach O

November 18th, 2009
11:52 am

AHey, Coach O…

November 18th, 2009
10:31 am
“Actually, Frank Beamer has been on Alabama’s short list in their past few coaching searches. But I don’t mean to spoil your vitriolic attitude toward CFB — Carry on…”

And, he didn’t get the job despite being on the short list, now did he? So, the other poster is correct. Now, please apologize and….carry on!

Coach Beamer, in an interview earlier this season, admitted that he had been approached multiple times by Alabama and that he had told them that he preferred to remain at VA. Tech. Perhaps he was lying? I have no reason to believe that.

Martha White

November 18th, 2009
11:58 am

Enter your comments here

ZZ

November 18th, 2009
11:59 am

I bet ole Phil Fulmer would take that Memphis job.

The Walrus

November 18th, 2009
12:07 pm

IT’S PAINFUL!!

Coach O

November 18th, 2009
12:12 pm

With all due respect to Coach West, I do wonder who is on the short list to replace him. Tommy Tuberville publicly denied interest in the job last week. Will they go for Tommy Bowden, or will they shy away from Tommys altogether?

Any Memphis fans out there with connections that have a clue?

G8R GRAD

November 18th, 2009
12:12 pm

BTW, Tony:

Aren’t the Gainesville Red Elephants in the playoffs this year?

Class Acts

November 18th, 2009
12:21 pm

Thanks for the article. Well done!

Ain’t it a shame that nice guys finish last?

I thought Lloyd Carr’s remarks after getting canned at Michigan were classy, too. That’s one reason I have enjoyed watching Rich Rod twist and squirm, I guess.

And, going way back to another sport and another time (70’s), the media asked a Braves relief pitcher named Terry somebody what he thought when he got released and his quote was “life goes on”.

My favorite quote by a football coach upon getting fired, by Pepper Rogers: “My wife always said that any grown man whose job depended on an 18 year catching a football was a dern fool.”

Keith

November 18th, 2009
12:32 pm

He should vote with the legends! What a great idea tony. More stupid old men screwing up college football.

Jackson

November 18th, 2009
12:33 pm

Tony is a Class a ugag homer moron

lawzoo

November 18th, 2009
12:36 pm

West is a good guy but no matter where you are firing is a part of the deal. It’s not like he got 3-4 years and was out. If memory serves ,this was his tenth year. Longer than most coaches who lose.

Also, he was an asst. at Carolina before going to UTC and HC at clemson.
Not ever a HC at Carolina.(Poster above)

Old Dawg

November 18th, 2009
12:39 pm

You’re absolutely right about Tommy West. When my son was sick with leukemia he sent an autographed photo and a nice note during the middle of a football season.

The photo and note gave my son a real boost because someone he didn’t know cared enough to show a little kindness and compassion, something lacking from a lot of folks these days.

Man Ray

November 18th, 2009
12:41 pm

Kid Ray is right. Probably in over his head as a head coach? He took Memphis to four bowl games. Get that? Memphis. Geez.

GW

November 18th, 2009
12:45 pm

Memphis already interviewing folks, including UT Assistant Eddie Gran, formerly of Auburn. Sounds like they did West a favor. The next wonder of the world will be AJC bloggers staying on topic.

Mook6666

November 18th, 2009
12:46 pm

I lived in Tally, when Clemson announced Tommy Who? He had the similiar drawl of Fords’ alabama, But that was ALL he had. He had some of the best athletes Money could buy, but He , instead of making a name for himself, Rode around, Anderson, Easley, Greenville, in a chuffered auto, with a case of booze, “Checking out the Chicks”

Tommy West the Shame of Clemson. Hatfield had more morals, but Had the Rodeo on his mind and not Football. His famous quote when fired ” WE won the ACC and went 9-2, I guess I don’t understand what these People Want in a coach”
And so Another one Bites the Dust.

MoDawg

November 18th, 2009
12:56 pm

Billy, it sounds like you’ve had a few experiences with a playground bully or two in your day. There was some moron who called himself #1 Jeff George that I was responding to, but his comments must have been seen by Tony and removed because now it just looks like I was trying to be a “bully”, as you put it. That’s not the case. UGA is down this year, Tech is up. Tech beat UGA by 3 points for the first time in 8 consecutive tries and UGA has been hearing it ever since. Bragging rights for a year are one thing, but the vast majority of the garbage spewed by GT fans on here goes way beyond bragging rights, and straight down to idiocy.

UGA will be back, sooner rather than later. I just hope we get to see the best of both teams in a couple of weeks. Last year it went GT’s way and for that they are to be congratulated. The congrats went away a long time ago, though the idiots (and we all know who they are) hang around and beat their chests.

I’m just saying, if your team is that great, there’s no need to try and convince anyone else. The results on the field speak for themselves.

Tommy H

November 18th, 2009
1:02 pm

Like Allen, I knew Tommy when he was a kid. His Daddy was my Sunday School teacher for a while. His Dad was a classy guy, and Tommy turned out to be the same. Imagine that. Just as his Dad was a great role model for him, Tommy’s greatest contribution to college football is the fact that he has served as a role model for thousands of young people who had the good fortune to be around him. I suspect that if he wants to stay in that God-forsaken business, he could end up coaching somewhere else again…and I hope, for the sake of a lot of kids, that he does.

Eric

November 18th, 2009
1:05 pm

Always liked Tommy West. You’re right, he’s a class act. Thanks for the story. On another front, Saban to Notre Dame..and take that nacho nut with you.

FrozenGator

November 18th, 2009
1:18 pm

This is easy, thanks Tony

Brad

November 18th, 2009
1:19 pm

Hey Tony…

I seem to remember being pretty hard on you when you wouldn’t let go of the Brandon Spike/Urban Meyer/suspension thing a couple of weeks ago. I was a little annoyed with the ceaseless attention that whole thing got and I let you know about it since you decided to devote an entire week’s worth to such a non-issue.

However, judging by the above piece, it seems you’re back. Very. very good article Tony. The best you’ve done all year… I mean it.

Tech Fan

November 18th, 2009
1:29 pm

MoDawg, 100% agree with your last entry! Thanks for keeping it classy. Tech is up and UGA is down this year. We had a great win for our program last year and I hope it continues. Also, I hope UGA rebounds and Tech continues their success. Why wouldn’t UGA rebound? They will never be a mediocre team. It’s just a matter of time before they are contending for an SEC title again. If Tech can hold on to CPJ then we will be contenders for a long time. I would love to see the annual Tech/UGA game played with two highly ranked teams year in and year out. Good luck against UK and hope we beat you guys in a couple of weeks!

Got 12?

November 18th, 2009
1:34 pm

Rick,

Bama hired Mike Price, well kinda. Are you saying Mike Price is handsome?

Have you ever heard from Mike Dubose?

Got 12?

November 18th, 2009
1:37 pm

Eric,

If Saban goes to Notre Dame it’s because he’s visiting the College Football Hall of Fame.

One thing is for certain: He is going to Auburn next weekend. RTR

UT96

November 18th, 2009
1:52 pm

Tide Rising, the Memphis loss came in 1996, a dark day in Volunteer history, losing to Tiger high as we refore to it here in Knoxville. I pass on the the disparaging remarks about Memphis (the city) but they should sell it off to Arkansas or Mississippi:)

Tech fan

November 18th, 2009
1:53 pm

Wow!! you went to school where nesbit went to school!! Greene county tigers….

bibbs

November 18th, 2009
1:54 pm

not positive, but as i recall this class act walked from his buyout with UT-Chattanooga (to take Clemson job). Was never paid. I think he gave lip service to maybe scheduling a game between the two schools (i.e. big payoff for UTC) but it never happened. However, I did get the chance to meet him. Very nice guy. Class act is a stretch.

JaxDawg

November 18th, 2009
1:54 pm

Tony, thank you for sharing a positive story about the game. There are so many stories like this that never make the light of day as everyone seems so consumed with the latest scandal or controversy.
Well done, please give us more of these!!

DawginLex

November 18th, 2009
1:54 pm

Nice article about West being a class act.

Of course we all know you will never write an article involving class regarding any of the Tech posters like trade school, m, and yellow fuzz.

Rambler might be the exception because he at least acknowledges someone who has football knowledge. Macrotech is also a pretty cool guy and will converse with you cordially without spewing worthless venom.