Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

One Phone Call Sends Mumme to Big Time

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

One Phone Call Sends Mumme to Big Time

Article excerpt

Small-timers dream and scheme about the big time. Their fraternity convenes over the telephone, gossiping about who's going where, about which jobs might come open. The small-timers are football men who haven't yet gotten their break, career assistants in Division I-A or head coaches at flyspeck schools. Hal Mumme is a small-timer gone big.

Not four months ago, Mumme was the head coach at Valdosta State, a Division II school that relies on Pell Grants for scholarship money. On Oct. 21, the day Kentucky announced that Bill Curry would be dismissed at season's end, Mumme and his defensive coordinator were sitting around talking, as small-timers will, when Mike Major said: "You ought to go after that job."

It so happened that Carl Parker, analyst for Valdosta State's radio broadcasts, played at Vanderbilt in the '80s, when C.M. Newton was the athletics director. Newton had since moved to Kentucky. Acting on a small-timer's whim, Mumme asked Parker to call Newton, and there the matter figured to end. Except that Newton called back within 20 minutes. A startled Parker asked what he should say. Said Mumme: "Tell him I'm a good coach." Today Mumme (rhymes with "yummy") is an SEC head coach sweating out the first wave of signings, same as the big-timers Spurrier and Bowden. One what-the-heck phone call led to a hiring that has been much debated and, in some circles, derided. Upon introducing Mumme as Kentucky's coach, Newton felt obliged to say: "This is not as goofy a hire as some people initially thought." Maybe it's not. Never a football stronghold, Kentucky regressed under Curry. It hasn't had a winning season in the '90s. Last season's average home attendance of 40,647 was the lowest in Commonwealth Stadium's 24-year history. Mumme says his goal is "to win the SEC," but success at Kentucky doesn't necessarily hinge on titles. …

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