By GARY SHELTON
I imagine them meeting in a quarterback’s living room. I imagine there isn’t enough chicken wings to go around.
Jimbo Fisher is at the table. Jim McElwain is at the door. Mark Richt is in the quarterback’s room. Charlie Strong is coming up the driveway. The family has put Scott Frost in the den. Butch Davis is in the rocking chair in the side room. Lane Kiffin is outside on his cell phone, perhaps talking to another college.
Has there ever been a state with college coaches like this? Most states have one school, some have two. But seven, with this kind of history? The state of Texas can’t match up, despite Tom Hermann and Kevin Sumlin. You still have Kliff Kingsbury. Hermann is just unpacking. Major Applewhite is new.
How about California? Well, not quite. Clay Helton? Really. David Shaw has a name, and David Shaw. Sonny Dykes, maybe. But who else?
No, if you’re a college football coach, this is the place for you. You have a guy who has won a national championship (Fisher), and an SEC coach of the year (McElwain). You have the guy who came home (Richt). You have the impressive first-year coach (Frost). You have a guy who has gone from Longhors to Bulls (that Strong likes beef, evidently). You like the wandering soul of Kiffin. You have the old guy on his last chance (Davis).
Gee, won’t you come play for me? (A totally made-up conversation):
Fisher: “You should come play for me at FSU. The best players do, you know.”
Richt: “We need another Brad Kaaya. Lord knows, you don’t want me to play quarterback, do you?”
Strong: “Hi. I’m a defensive guy in an offensive program. Can you play safety?”
Frost: “We’ll play freshman. We did this year.”
Kiffin: “I’d love you to play for me at Florida Atlantic. Or anywhere else I end up.”
And so it goes. You can have the SEC or the ACC or the American or Conference USA. Together, they’ve had 442 wins … and a lot of headlines.
Richt: “I like chicken. I also like shrimp. Do you like shrimp, Jimbo. Like you get in Baton Rouge. Where you’re always applying for work.”
McElwain (singing): Jambalaya, and crawfish pie, me-o-my-o.”
Frost: “I didn’t chase the Oregon job.”
Strong: “That’s because it didn’t chase you, Frosty. Pretty easy to pull out of job where they don’t want you.”
Strong: “I just didn’t have enough time. My first recruits were sophomores and juniors. I was canceled faster than Walker, Texas Ranger.”
Kiffin: “Nick didn’t have time, either. But he won. You’ve never seen Nick unless you’ve been chewed out by him at sunset.”
Fisher: “I remember.”
Davis: “It isn’t all about money. Sometimes, you get free food if you go to the early-bird special.”
Fisher: “I knew I recognized you. You’re one of those codgers on the Steak and Shake commercials.”
Fisher: “It’s about winning. You guys remember those days.”
McElwain: “I’ve been to bowls, too. They ought to make me mayor of Orlando.”
Frost: “Can’t. It’s in my contract.”
Kiffin: “What’s a contract?”
McElwain: “It’s like a scholarship. Like the one we’re all offerig Johnny General.”
The player looks around. He clears his throat.
“Well, guys, I have to tell you. I really like fight songs.”
Davis: “Fight songs?”
Player: “Boolah boolah.”
Frost: “Or Springsteen?”
Davis: “Or Rudy Vallee. He played at my prom.”
Fisher: “I like Born on the Bayou.”
McElwain: “Of course you do.”
Kiffin (singing): “Once I had a girl on Rocky Top, half bear the other half cat. Wait. That’s from my last job.”
Davis: “Actually, it’s a couple of jobs ago.”
Kiffin: “Good time Butchie’s got the blues.”
McElwain: “Anyway, I gotta go. There’s a linebacker in Orlando. You guys want to share a cab?”
Davis: “And maybe some oatmeal.””
(Gary Shelton is one of America’s most-honored and distinguished sports journalists. Gary has spornamed the Associated Press Sports Editors’ No. 1 national sports columnist twice, has been a top five finisher five ot,her times and was chosen by sports editors in the top 10 columnists eight different years. He has been selected Florida’s Sportswriter of the Year six times. He was a columnist with the St. Peterburg/Tampa Bay Times for 25 years after joining the newspaper from The Miami Herald. Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls and 10 Winter and Summer Olympics, The Masters, the World Series, the Stanley Cup Finals and national championship in college football and basketball — all on multiple occasions over the past four decades. He currently has his own website — garysheltonsports.com — blanketing all sports in the Tampa Bay area. He is among the most creative and thoughtful and opinionated, and hard-headed, columnists you’ll ever read. And funny. And one of the good guys. Don’t ever miss his columns, interviews and stories on garysheltonsports.com. Gary has agreed to be an occasional contributor to woodypaige.com.)