When The Why Gets Lost In The Doing

January18/ 2000

… I have never met Carl Torbush.  Never been in the same room with the man, but I do know people who do know him well.  Today Carl Torbush was announced as the Asst Head Coach at Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, TN … his alma mater.  That news makes me happy.  Men like Carl Torbush are very important for the GAME of football but just not for the BUSINESS of “big time college sports”.

I have no idea why Carl Torbush chose “football coaching” as his profession but I can guess.  His coaches along the way in youth league, high school, and at Carson Newman made a positive impression on him and he just wanted to “be like them” … and wear a whistle instead of a tie.  Heck, that’s more “thinking” than most folks put into picking a life’s occupation.

I recall a few interviews by/with him when he was Head Coach at UNC.  Two aspects of Carl Torbush jumped out of those interviews …. (1) He did NOT like  doing interviews … and (2) He DID like to “coach football”.  He will get that chance at Carson Newman and 48 hours from now he might have done his last interview ever.  Again, I hope so because EVERYBODY says “Carl Torbush is a very nice guy”.   I would like to see Mike O’Cain get something similar.  EVERYBODY says he is a very nice guy too.

If Carl Torbush sat down with his best buddies from High School in a Bob Greene-esque retrospective of their lives I bet Carl might say “the WHY got lost in the DOING.” That’s another Swagger t-shirt logo for the ages.

When Dickie Baddour gets inducted into the Short Athletic Directors Hall of Fame, three men will likely not be considered to give his introduction … Carl Torbush, Frank Beamer, and Matt Doherty.  (OK, maybe add Mike Roberts and Devon Brouse in there too)  Of that Holy Trinity, Carl was the most innocent bystander critically wounded in the bloody trainwreck known as Dickie’s Early Years.  Carl will be inexorably linked to The Little Prince.  Who, for the record, “directed” UNC Athletics to a 4th place finish in this year’s Director’s Cup for overall athletic excellence.

I am not going to regurgitate that glorious mess.  It is rehashed daily on various fan asylums in the off-season and usually hourly in-season.

Carl had been a Head Coach for a short time at one of those directional Louisiana colleges.  That had not gone well.  That “he shoulda known what he was getting into” at UNC is easy to say but next to impossible to apply in reality.  I understand Carl to be an uncomplicated man with simple tastes.  I mean that as a compliment.  But every man wants to provide the very best for his family even if they too are uncomplicated people with simple tastes.  It is a LOT easier to have “simple tastes” if it is a choice and not a requirement.  ….. yes, I just made that one up too. I really should go to work for Hallmark Cards.

So Director Dickie, after soliciting the sage advice of a few dozen kids with a combined zero knowledge of the skill sets expected of a major college Head Football Coach, offered Carl twice his salary to essentially keep “coaching football” at UNC.  That was more money than anyone from Rowan County ever made who wasn’t an original investor in Food Lion.  Carl said yes and probably took his family to dinner at Golden Corral and told them to order steak AND lobster.

  You know the rest of the story.  There was the geek outside the club on Franklin Street who got in the way of the kicking feet of a dozen or so of Carl’s players.  Luckily one pair of those kicking feet belonged to the obligatory “walk-on” who draws the short straw in all such altercations.  That was not handled really well.  Then there was “the Furman game” and there was no “walk-on” to blame for that one.  There were “those sunglasses” and as we later learned, “sunglasses” are an item of considerable discussion when worn by Triangle area coaches of branches of the UNC System.

The name NASCarl was not intended as a compliment by the snoot wing of UNC faithful.  Most of the snoots had no idea what the moniker meant but their lips curled when they said it.  It was just a matter of when not if by that time.

Depending upon which Kenan fable you prefer, Carl Torbush got fired more times by Dickie Baddour than Lewis Grizzard had wives (5) or heart attacks (4).  “Little Jessica” was rescued from the well in less time with far less confusion.

Those “delightful” Internet septic tanks were just gearing up back then and Carl, although not computer literate, knew he was being called names he wouldn’t say if he hit his thumb with a hammer.  And his family was hearing profane stage whispers along “beautiful Franklin Street”.  Was all that really worth being able to order dinner at The Rathskellar without worrying “can we afford it?”  In Carl Torbush’s case … No, it wasn’t.

I said at the time “This guy needs to just do what he always wanted to do … “coach football” … at a simple environment like Catawba or Elon or … or … or Carson Newman” … but Carl had not quite figured it out. He went from a relatively civil world of UNC Football into the absolute maelstrom of Tuscaloosa, but he was not the point man.

Carl’s first Tide defense was #1 in the SEC.  He had “coordinated” award-winning defenses at UNC.  Carl Torbush was an OFFICIAL “Defensive Genius” … like Bob Stoops and Nick Saban and Pete Carroll.  Yes, he was.

Before most folks in Tuscaloosa had learned to spell Francione, they had added a G** D*** to the front of it as Dennis bailed for College Station.  Carl … he just wanted to coach football and provide for his family.  He went with Fran to College Station.

Any body’s list of “fanatical football hotbeds” will include Tuscaloosa and College Station.  Lots of pressure at both places … LOTS!  To make matters less pleasant, the rest of Coach Fran’s staff were men of rather prurient tastes and interests.  We’re talking hard drinking, hard partying sorts.  The men Carl was spending 18 hour days with were his antithesis.

And Carl’s old friend Mack Brown was REALLY making matters worse for Carl.  Mack’s orange juggernaut in Austin had trouble with the Sooners but they were whuppin’ the Aggies every year like rented mules.

 the “why” Carl wanted to “coach football” had gotten lost in the doing of it.

Fate stepped in in the form of the Coordinator’s Curse.  Like Dave Huxtable and Noah Mazzone and countless other doomed souls.  The quite mad Aggie fans demanded a human sacrifice so Coach Fran sprayed Carl with PAM and tossed him to the ravenous mob to be devoured.

But yeah verily this good man’s journey into the utter depths of “big time college football hell” now offered him escape.  The Prodigal Son has come home to tiny Carson Newman where “football matters” on Saturday, but so does quality time with the family and recruits without “stars” and getting your haircut without worrying that the barber will slit your throat because your cornerback slipped down and the Catamount receiver caught a bomb.

Carl has found his long lost “why”.  We should all be so fortunate.  Actually I am so fortunate too, thanks to you folks.

Carl Torbush has made and likely saved some money over the past eight years.  Surely enough to take his family to dinner at the finest restaurant in Jefferson City TN and tell’em not to look at the prices.  Don’t laugh, Cracker Barrel ain’t Waffle House.

I think Ken Browning understands.  I think Bill Guthridge understands.  I think Joe Holliday understands.  Now, I think Carl Torbush understands.  Some men “just want to coach”.  Ambition, and all that it demands in return, is fine for men like Mack and Urban and Steve and Mike and Nick and Rick and maybe for Burly John, although I think if he had his druthers … Burly John would rather “just coach” too.  ……. what about Ol’ Roy?  You know I’m not sure about Ol’ Roy.  He’s a cagey sumbitch. I just know “he knows” and BobLee is OK with that.



You might call this Texas Ranger from many years ago 

“the Michelle Wie of MLB”.  A high schooler in “the show”.  

What was his name?


 BLS sez … 

Kids whose dads are Proctologists just say “he’s a doctor”.


    Al Capp’s Dogpatch was the place to find Kickapoo Joy Juice and Shmoos.  But who would play Daisy Mae in a 2006 remake … Stacey Keibler or Jessica Simpson?

   Day Three of BobLee @ The N&O passed without incident although apparently my previous column was indeed printed out and posted in the N&O break room.  BLS will provide a full synopsis of the week’s experience in Saturday’s column.  BLS started at The N&O on Monday … Wednesday’s paper contained the words Bunny Hole Entertainment for the very first time … Coincidence? … yeah, right.

   In World News … Ho #2 (Kim The Embezzler) has contacted Reuters News Service regarding “that crazy bald French soccer honkie”.  Although she did not hear any “epithets” she would like them to fly her to Paris on The Concorde to discuss what she did not hear.  Cousin “Jakki” would like to come too.

   There is a WONDERFUL poem by a guy named James Kavanaugh.  It is titled “There Are Men Too Gentle To Live Among Wolves”.  Mizzus needlepointed a copy for me while she awaited the birth of The Kid 18 years ago.  If you read Bob Greene’s book LIKE I TOLD YOU TOO you might want to look up that poem.  Let me know what you think.

   Want to e-mail BobLee?

[email protected]

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