Delaware is a staying power, thanks to Raymond's big-time love for I-AA

December 21, 1993|By Frank Dolson | Frank Dolson,Philadelphia Inquirer

NEWARK, Del. -- In 1954, a young Michigan grad named Harold "Tubby" Raymond took a job as backfield coach at the University of Delaware. He saw it as a relatively brief stop on the road to the big time.

"Three years and Notre Dame or three years and back to Michigan, that was my feeling," Raymond recalled. "I was going to be here for a little bit, then go big time."

Four decades later, Raymond is still here. His 28th season as Delaware's head coach ended a couple weeks ago with a last-second, 34-31 road loss to Marshall in the second round of the NCAA's Division I-AA playoffs, a defeat that hardly could diminish the accomplishments of this program and this coach.

Raymond has compiled a 232-92-2 record since succeeding another highly successful Delaware coach, Dave Nelson. He has won three national championships and 11 Lambert Cups, emblematic of Eastern small-college supremacy. He has led five Delaware teams into the Division II playoffs and seven into the I-AA playoffs.

So why, you well may ask, is he still here? What happened to that "three years and Notre Dame" battle plan?

Simply this: Raymond discovered that "big time" is in the eyes of the beholder, that's what. He found out how lucky he was to be coaching at a school that is an island of sanity in a sea of collegiate football madness.

At most schools, football coaches come and go. If they win, they look for a bigger job. If they lose -- or fail to meet often unrealistic expectations -- they get fired.

At Delaware, they come and stay.

Delaware, Yale (where Carm Cozza just concluded his 29th season) and Penn State (where Joe Paterno moved from top assistant to head coach 28 seasons ago) are among the exceptions to what has become a most troubling norm.

During Raymond's tenure as head coach at Delaware, Penn has had six coaches. So have Villanova and Princeton. Temple has had five. It's a game of musical chairs, of unrelenting pressures.

By any standard, the enduring marriage between Raymond and Delaware is a truly monumental achievement. He could have gone to Ivy League Princeton, to one of those big-time programs he once coveted, or to the pros. Yet, at 67, he's still at the old stand, still turning out exciting, winning teams.

As far back as 1959, he had a chance to join Blanton Collier at Kentucky, or Paul Dietzel at LSU, or his old buddy, Marv Levy, at Cal-Berkeley. Always he said no.

"I liked this level of football," he said.

And the more he came in contact with the thinking at that other, higher level, the more he appreciated what he had. There was one big-time head coaching opportunity, in particular, that turned him off.

"I'm not going to say the name," Raymond said, "but they told me, 'We want you in a Rose Bowl in four years.' I said, 'I told you, I'm going to have a very player-oriented program. I want to make sure they have a great experience.'

"And this guy looked at me and said, 'Wait'll the president hears that; he'll love it. But we still want to be in the Rose Bowl in four years.'

"You know what Ara Parseghian told me one time when he was at Notre Dame. He said, 'I'm going to have to get out just to keep my sanity.'

L "That's the kind of thing that's led me to stay right here."

Having Bob Carpenter involved in the program also helped immeasurably. He was a trustee, a benefactor, but never a bother. It simply wasn't in Carpenter's nature to make demands on a coach.

"I loved him dearly," Raymond said.

He loves his son, David, alias the Phillies Phanatic, too. In his pre-Phanatic life, David Raymond punted for his dad, initially taking over for an injured teammate.

"That was a very special time because my oldest son, Chris, was a graduate assistant then, too," Tubby Raymond said.

When it appeared a punt was imminent, the Delaware kicking team would assemble behind the defensive coach. On third down, Tubby Raymond would yell, "Get ready," then turn to look at the kicker and say, "Kick it."

"I'd forgotten David was going to be the kicker," he said.

So when Tubby Raymond turned and saw David Raymond standing there, he blurted out the loving words of a proud father: "Is that all we've got to kick?"

Fortunately, David Raymond has a sense of humor. He loves to tell the story, explaining that it illustrates how his father, the coach, instills confidence in his players.

Ten years ago, Tubby Raymond was thinking about retirement. Then his wife contracted a terminal illness, and he decided he "just didn't want to be alone, and not have a job, and have to make the dramatic changes you have to make in retirement."

His wife passed away, and Raymond remarried last January. Retirement is no longer on his mind.

Said Raymond: "I read in the paper where Marv Levy [the Buffalo Bills coach and an old friend] said he didn't know how long he was going to coach, but that guys who say they're going to coach one or two more years, they've already quit, and that he would never do that.

"So I called him, just before the Super Bowl. He says to me, 'When are you going to quit?' I told him, 'I read what you said.'

"When we finished the discussion, he said, 'All right, the first one to quit is a sissy.' "

Levy has his work cut out for him if he hopes to outlast his pal. Raymond enjoys coaching Delaware football so much these days, he says he might go "another 20 years."

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