Before Paul Johnson, there was Homer Rice, and guess what?

I’ve chatted with Homer Rice off and on for more than 30 years. He’s always been riveting. In fact, just when I think I’ve heard it all involving this caretaker of sports wisdom, I discover something else.

Did you know Rice has a Jackie Robinson connection?

We’ll discuss that in a moment, but let’s start with this: Rice is the former Georgia Tech athletics director. So this is interesting with the Yellow Jackets holding their spring football game Saturday: Coach Paul Johnson has spent the past dozen years, spanning from Georgia Southern to Navy to the Flats, perfecting the triple-option offense, but guess who invented the thing about six decades ago?

Yep.

Take a bow, Mr. Rice.

I’m guessing Johnson and Rice huddle often about the inner workings of B-backs, A-backs and the such. “I’ve been down there to meet with Paul a couple of times, and I went to practice [this week] to talk about the needs and that sort of thing, but we don’t talk football too much,” said Rice, 83, threatening to make the earth spin backward before adding, “Well, we kind of go back over a little bit of history.”

That history eventually moves to the present, where Rice says of Johnson, “He has done the best job with this [triple-option] play and what he has added to it than anybody I’ve known in the history of the play. He has a great feel for it. There’s a lot of teaching involved, and it doesn’t come easy, but he has stayed with it.

“Once Paul gets the type of players you really need for that offense, he’ll be unstoppable.”

He’ll be like Rice during much of his coaching career. But listen to this: Here I was this week enjoying my latest conversation with Rice, and the subject switched from football to baseball, especially since Wednesday marked Jackie Robinson’s 62nd anniversary breaking the color barrier in baseball.

It turns out Rice interacted with Robinson back then, along with all of those other famous Brooklyn Dodgers. That’s because Rice was a rising catcher in the organization. “There’s a guy named Campanella who came along, and I thought, well, I better go into coaching,” said Rice, chuckling, referring to future Hall of Famer Roy Campanella.

No, I didn’t know any of that. I did know Rice fought in the Philippines during World War II. I knew he was a storied high school football coach in Tennessee and Kentucky (a combined 102-9-7). I knew about his slick offenses as a coordinator at Kentucky and Oklahoma in the 1960s and as a coach at Cincinnati and Rice.

He also was the coach of the Cincinnati Bengals in the late 1970s, when we first met. Plus, he was an athletics director at Rice and North Carolina before spending 17 years, through 1997, turning a pitiful athletics department at Tech into a prolific one. The trophy given to the top AD every year is named after Rice, too, and did I mention he just authored his seventh book?

He’s the man.

He’s the renaissance man.

52 comments Add your comment

lakerat

April 20th, 2009
7:13 am

You left out that Homer was also head football coach at little Davidson College in the late 60’s – took them to the last Tangerine Bowl (as Southern Conference champions) in 1969 – the smallest school (enrollement was 1000, men only, back then) ever to get invited to a bowl game!

Bumble Bee

April 19th, 2009
6:50 pm

Hey Mutts; ya got beat by a better team last year, Get over it.All I’ve heard since is “that should have never happened” If willie mart. were not our defense cord.we would have won.BLA, BLA, BLA. DOGS do 3 things; eat,bark, & crap. And they’re full of CRAP.

macrotech

April 19th, 2009
3:19 pm

SugarHillDawg=Nerd Tormentor, tired?! We’ve JUST begun running this offense….you know…..the one that you leg humpers refer to as a gimmick offense. Talking about tired; you’re NOT a tormentor of ‘nerds’….you’re more like an itch that you can scratch or choose not to scratch. In short, you’re not that big of deal to us considering that you can’t seem to stay off our blogs (i’m referring to ALL the Tech blogs that you seem to show up on). I understand your concerns! You’ve enjoyed seven years of bragging rights and it’s apparent that you have reason to believe that the tides have turned….get used to it! Mr. Moore, I applaud this write up and share your thoughts regarding Homer Rice’s legacy….indeed, he is underrated and worthy of greater fanfare! GO TECH!!!

GTPHISH

April 19th, 2009
2:17 pm

Great article, Terence, Thanks!!

Waiting for '09 kickoff

April 19th, 2009
1:34 pm

AJ,
Thanks for the info, great to know someone from UGA is not serving fast food. Very happy and excited for you.

Moore,
Great to hear you are taking the time to talk to various Tech folks. It’s easy to over look Rice with legends like Dodd, Heisman, and Ross (maybe someday we can add Johnson and Hewitt to the list). I knew little about Rice and appriciate your article. I’ll try and pick up a few of his books…. Is there a particular Rice authored book you recommend?

AJ

April 19th, 2009
11:33 am

Hey bees sting,
My law degree pays real well. Go Dawgs!

WHY DO MUTTS BARK? CAUSE BEES STING

April 19th, 2009
10:20 am

why are those mutt fake ugay fans on this message board? I THOUGHT WE STUNG THEY A$$ BETWEEN THE HEDGES IN ATHENS UGAY,o`yeah the so-called joke down by coke was the last NATIONAL CHAMP IN FOOTBALL 1990,UGAY 1980.

those chicken degrees compared to our ENGINEERING DEGREES are not comparable,its sad when nerds dominate you in FOOTBALL AND EDUCATION
45-42!

1995BRAVESHAD BROTHAS WORLDCHAMPS

April 19th, 2009
10:12 am

LOOK LIKE ALL BRIGHT ALL WHITE AINT GONE CUT IT FOR THE BRAVES, AND YOU WERE RIGHT TERRENCE THE BRAVES NEED MORE BROTHERS,LOOK AT WHEN THE HOUSTON ASTROS WENT AGAINST THE CHICAGO WHITE SOX IN THE WORLD SERIES,HOUSTON HAD A ALL KLAN TEAM AND THE WHITE SOX WERE MIXED AND THEY WON THE TITLE, FRANK KLAN WREN NEED TO BE RUN OUT OF TOWN

m

April 19th, 2009
9:23 am

Actually before Paul Johnson and DRAD, and after Homer Rice, there was the worst AD in the history of the world, Dave Braine-dead, who hired the worst coach in the history of the world, Gomer Gailey. Thank God and Greyhound that Braine-dead and Gomer are gone forever.

Jim Veitch

April 18th, 2009
10:08 pm

I get so tired of hearing the (S)ick (E)go (C) onference REDNECKS talk all of their trash. Bring on Miss. State, Vandy, and UGAly this year. We are ready. We were 2-1 verses the SEC last year. WE dominated Miss. State and beat Georgia in Athens. We have 1 bad night and the world is coming to an end for Coach Johnson. That is funny, souds like an SEC Redneck talking to me…Enjoy your Copenhagen down there in the Bayou….