Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

`Old' Tag Unfair to Wilkinson and Vermeil

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

`Old' Tag Unfair to Wilkinson and Vermeil

Article excerpt

To suggest sarcastically that the Rams' Dick Vermeil was like bringing back "another Bud Wilkinson" is unfair to the coaches - unfair to Wilkinson, who didn't have ample opportunity, and to Vermeil, whose opportunity hasn't begun.

The suggestion is, of course, that both coaches not only were too "old" for the job, but, particularly, that Wilkinson, 61, had been away from coaching 16 years ago and that Vermeil, 60, diagrammed his last serious "x" and "o" 14 years back.

Over the years before Wilkinson came here in 1978, the biggest surprise package in Bill Bidwill's delight in fooling everyone, Bud gave up a brilliant coaching career at Oklahoma for a run at the U.S. Senate. Wilkinson lost narrowly as a Republican. The graying Galahad of the gridiron spent considerable time as a television color commentator and cooperated annually with Michigan State's Duffy Daugherty to run profitable coaching clinics. Chances are that Wilkinson dropped in on college campuses ahead of time, to talk with coaches of teams he would cover on the tube, but there's little likelihood he did it with the early-week curiosity and intensity of Vermeil. Dick revels in what he learned, obviously from coaches flattered to have their brains picked by a great one. Indeed, Vermeil was outstanding, as evidenced by his record in rebuilding both UCLA in college football and the Philadelphia Eagles professionally. But if Vermeil was great, based on his background, Wilkinson was a coaching legend. His record at Oklahoma included remarkable winning streaks - 31 games, then 47 and finally 73 straight in conference play without defeat. By the time Wilkinson came here in 1978, disenchanted with the way President Nixon's team ran the White House, the Big Red here were having trouble as the Little Pink. After winning 38 of 52 games for Don Coryell over a three-plus year stretch, they lost their last five in `77 - and the disappearing coach. So the football Cardinals had an 0-for-12 losing streak, eight under Wilkinson, when they surged to six victories the last eight games in '78. In the heavy chain of command then, Bud could only offer suggestions to Bidwill, Larry Wilson and controversial draft designer George Boone. …

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