Time interviews Vaught - 1960 - Ole Miss Sports - SECTalk.com

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Time interviews Vaught - 1960

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#1
Noah

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Monday, Nov. 28, 1960
Coach Johnny Reb


By bigtime football standards, the whole operation seems as pleasantly relaxed as a backyard barbecue. The players are almost all home-state boys.

They perform in a modest stadium before informal crowds that are packed with friends and relatives. The games draw less national publicity than the price of cotton raised on nearby farms. But year in and year out, the University of Mississippi plays some of the finest football in the nation. The reason: Coach Johnny Vaught, 52, a bluff, leather-faced perfectionist who has so identified the success of his team with the prestige of the state that Mississippians long ago forgot his Texas origins and now regard him as a native son.

Since signing on at Ole Miss in 1947, Coach Vaught has compiled a won-lost record of 109-29, second only to the 123-19 of Oklahoma's Bud Wilkinson among major college coaches. In 1959 Ole Miss was a strong second to Syracuse in the national rankings. Last week, on the strength of its 24-3 defeat of tough Tennessee, Vaught's undefeated, once-tied wing-T squad stood third in the standings for the finest two-year record of any college team.

Night Light. Inspired by Ole Miss, the whole state vibrates in a constant football flap. No high school would think of scheduling a game for the time that Vaught's team is playing; anyone who cannot get over to Oxford for the Ole Miss game listens to it over his radio. But every Friday night the state is set aglow from the Gulf to the Tennessee border by the lights of high school games. Towns too poor to have a Confederate memorial are too proud not to have a football field. Says Ole Miss Line Coach Frank ("Bruiser") Kinard: "Most every place manages to throw up a stick and put a light on it."

When he sets out to harvest the best of this bumper crop of high school stars, Coach Vaught is a shrewd and patient recruiter. He quietly notes that a degree from Ole Miss carries more weight than one from archrival Mississippi State. To hear him talk, Ole Miss football is a family affair. Eight of Vaught's assistants are graduates of the school, and most have been coaching there for a dozen years or more. Above all, Vaught extols state pride with the fervor of a militia colonel. "Boys we get from out of state can go home and never hear about Ole Miss football," he says. "But in Mississippi the game is talked about all year round. We like to get Mississippi boys, boys who love Ole Miss and want to win for her."

Vaught flatly refuses to give a scholarship to a married man ("They're too much trouble, and they're bad for discipline"). He has equally firm notions about regulating the lives of his players. None may have a car during the season. The entire football team is housed in Miller Hall, a segregation made easier by the fact that the lobby is plush enough for a Las Vegas motel.

Block & Tackle. Around the gracious, red brick campus, the football area is known tersely as "Vaught's Valley." Into the valley each afternoon strides Coach Vaught, his square shoulders bulging a red sweatshirt out of shape, to teach a brand of football that is as tough as he looks—and as tough as he himself once played. Back at Texas Christian they still remember one tackle made in 1932 by All-America Guard Vaught that left both the ball carrier and himself lying senseless on the field. "I'm a fundamentalist," Vaught says. "I believe in perfection of execution, in the blocking and tackling angles of the game." Signs spotted around his office spell out his football philosophy: "Put 'em on the ground!"

Under Mississippi law, the state-supported university cannot give Coach Vaught a contract for longer than four years. But Ole Miss does its best to show its deep appreciation to Vaught by giving him a new four-year contract every year, honoring him like the state institution he is. When Vaught makes his annual speech before the alumni in Jackson, says one official, "you'd think the President was coming." Colleges from other states have invited Coach Johnny Reb to become an adopted son, but to no avail. "Home is where the heart is, and that's Oxford," says Coach Johnny Vaught. "I never expect to leave."


After everything is said and done, more is said than done. - Noah

#2
bbqit

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Don't know how you found that but it made my morning.  Dad would take us to one game a year but listening to the game while he drank a beer watching the charcoal get ready for parents steak and our stuffed hamburgers was a wonderful time in my life.  I caught the later years of his tenure but enough of them to remember how it felt back when.

#3
Noah

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Monday, Dec. 21, 1959
    Capturing the Big Gun




Four seasons ago they began quietly showing up in the wooden stands  behind Natchez (Miss.) High School, and strolling with practiced  nonchalance across the field after the game to introduce themselves to  the kid with the whiplash passing arm. By the end of this year, there  was hardly a football coach in the South who had not cast covetous eyes  on Perry Lee ("The Gun") Dunn, 18-year-old son of a Natchez factory  worker. For Perry Lee is a quarterback with the roughhewn build of a  tackle (6 ft. 1½ in., 207 Ibs.). As a senior he has averaged a  startling 260.9 yds. a game, running for 20 touchdowns and passing for  14 more.


The scramble to grab off Dunn was a textbook piece on the ancient art of  recruiting. In the modest Dunn home, the phone jangled steadily with  long-distance calls placed by nearly every major-college coach in the  South, from Alabama's Paul Bryant to Arkansas' Frank Broyles. From  Dartmouth came a circumspect and indirect inquiry. Notre Dame forwarded  plane tickets to the Southern California game (Perry Lee mailed them  right back: "I don't much like cold weather"), and victory-starved  Mississippi State sent a plaintive note ("We all hope and pray that you  will come with us").


Dietzel v. Vaught. But from the start, young Perry Lee seemed to listen  most respectfully to two top men of the tough Southeastern Conference:  Louisiana State's blond, boyish Paul Dietzel, coach of last season's  national champions, and Mississippi's canny, reticent Johnny Vaught,  coach of this season's second-ranking team. Each man had an ally in  Natchez. Boosting Dietzel and L.S.U. was Orthopedic Surgeon Jack  Phillips, an L.S.U. alumnus (and former football manager), who took  Perry Lee to L.S.U. games, assiduously cultivated the elder Dunns, once  even helped Mrs. Dunn take in her washing off the line. Boosting Vaught  and Mississippi was none other than Natchez' Mayor Troy Watkins, a  Mississippi graduate (class of '49) of long and loyal memory.


Last week came the showdown. Under Southeastern Conference rules, not  until Dec. 7 can a college sign up a boy for an athletic scholarship,  euphemistically called a "grant-in-aid" (tuition, fees, board, room,  books, and $15 a month for laundry). For the final week's skirmishing,  Dietzel and Vaught suspended worry about their coming Sugar Bowl game  and grimly set out to capture the big Gun.


Steak v. Duck. On Monday, Dietzel flew to Natchez to talk to young Perry  Lee of L.S.U.'s winning tradition, national reputation, big stadium and  aca demic standing. Next day Dietzel had the boy flown down to Baton  Rouge for a two-day stay, produced All-America Billy Cannon to chat  with his prospect. Thursday, back in Natchez, Perry Lee had a steak  with Coach Wade Walker of Mississippi State, then excused himself to  down another with L.S.U.'s Quarterback Warren Rabb and two other  players specially flown in by Dr. Phillips.


Mississippi's Vaught bided his time. Then on Friday he played his big  card. He invited Perry Lee to Mississippi's campus at Oxford. Vaught  had long since learned that Perry Lee liked shooting almost as much as  football, cagily detailed a trio of first-string linemen to take him  duck hunting.


Bewitching Hour. That weekend did it. On Sunday afternoon Coach Dietzel  flew to Natchez, cooled his heels for eight hours waiting for Perry Lee  to return from Mississippi. But Schoolboy Perry Lee, closely convoyed  by Coach Vaught, was heading for Room 1137 of the King Edward Hotel in  Jackson, where Mayor Watkins and Perry Lee's father were waiting.  There, at 12:05 amon the morning of Dec. 7, Perry Lee signed his  "letter of intent" to play for Mississippi.


"I've wanted to go to Mississippi all along," said Quarterback Perry Lee  Dunn. "But I wanted to be sure. I'm glad it's over—I thought the  pressure the last two weeks would drive me crazy. I haven't studied a  lick the whole time." By week's end, Perry Lee was already talking like  a Mississippi man, sniffed scornfully at top-ranked Syracuse: "Ole Miss  could take them—they're just a bunch of fat boys."
  
After everything is said and done, more is said than done. - Noah