Nov. 29, 2001
By Jack Williams – Take it from Bill Curry, a Yellow Jacket hero of note, this has been one of the most shocking college football seasons of all. “Believe it or not,” has become the favorite phrase of every Monday morning quarterback.
It stands to reason then that even two of the south’s most explosive rivals, Georgia Tech and Florida State, will be hard-pressed to match the mind-boggling events of recent weeks when they clash Saturday in Tallahassee. How many more headline surprises can be left in this zany season?
Curry, former star center and head coach at Tech, will find out along with a lot of other people. He’ll handle color analysis for ESPN in Saturday’s game, the first time he’s ever announced a contest involving his alma mater. He’s well-prepared for fireworks – well-prepared, indeed.
He was in the ESPN announcer’s booth four weeks ago when Arkansas beat Ole Miss in seven (count ’em) seven overtimes, 58-56. Whoever heard of anything like that?
Then Curry saw the strangest scores of all come across the TV screen last week:
Colorado 62, Nebraska 36.
Oklahoma State 16, Oklahoma 13.
Curry admits he was stunned by it all.
A reporter asked him this week what was the most exciting game he has covered this season? Come to think of it, that’s like asking a man who was on the Titanic what was his most memorable ocean voyage.
“When I was majoring in management at Georgia Tech, we studied tendencies, the probabilities and statistical possibilities of certain things,” he said. “The odds against a seven-overtime game in college football would have been astronomical. There’s never been anything to match that game. Easily, it was the most exciting game I’ve covered.
“One thing that stood out to me was how tired the players were at the end. They could hardly get out of their stance. That’s a lot of football for one night.”
Curry says one word sums up the upsets of Nebraska and Oklahoma–stunning!
“I’d love to tell you I predicted the outcome of the Colorado-Nebraska game,” he said, “but that wasn’t the case. I was at a loss for words when I saw that score. I have never seen anything like that. In fact, no one has. The last time any team scored that many points on Nebraska was in 1890. Nebraska was beaten in the same way it has been beating other people all these years.”
Curry says the Oklahoma loss was almost as big a surprise. “Coach (Bob) Stoops has had the uncanny ability to find a way to win whether his team was playing well or not,” he said. “But it didn’t work in that game.”
Now, Curry is getting tuned up for what he calls “one of my most exciting assignments.” He’ll join announcers Dave Barnett, Mike Golic and Michele Tafoya to bring TV viewers the regular season finale between the Jackets (7-4, 4-3 ACC) and the Seminoles (6-4, 5-2) at 3:30 p.m.
Curry makes only one promise.
“The job demands that I be objective – and I will,” he says. “I’ll take some ribbing from Mike Golic about my alma mater, but I can handle that.”
Curry believes it will be a highly exciting contest. “For one thing, the game brings together two really good teams,” he said. “They both are disappointed at this point, mainly because they lost to their top state rivals. I’m sure there are some sad people on the Tech campus this week. As an alumnus, it softens the blow for me to remember that Tech had beaten Georgia three straight years. That’s hard to do.”
Curry’s ties to Georgia Tech go back to the early 1960s when he was a sparkling center on Bobby Dodd teams. He then went on to play center for three Super Bowl teams in the NFL, one at Green Bay and two at Baltimore.
He brought respectability back to Georgia Tech football as head coach on The Flats from 1980 through 1986. He was just as popular as Yellow Jacket coach as he had been as a player. Two of his players, linebacker Ted Roof and defensive lineman Glenn Spencer, serve on the staff of current head coach George O’Leary.
Curry later was head coach for three seasons at the University of Alabama and seven seasons at the University of Kentucky. Since he stepped down from coaching, he has devoted his attention to announcing at ESPN.
“I never thought I would enjoy TV as much as I do,” he said this week. “The people at ESPN are wonderful, and the job has been a real pleasure.” He announces between 20 and 25 games each season and then is involved in motivational speaking during the off-season.
Curry is a staunch defender of college football and takes exception with those who are extremely critical of the BCS system for the college game.
“It’s the best we’ve got, and it’s not going to change,” he said. “I was one of three coaches on the committee who helped form this method for deciding a national champion. I saw in those meetings how opposed many are to a series of playoff games which might damage the relationship with the bowls and also extend the playing time of college students.”
Curry and his wife, Carolyn, live outside Murphy, N.C., in a secluded area that he says is 3,000 miles above sea level. “It’s a beautiful setting right in the heart of the mountains,” he said. “What a view!”
Curry still spends a lot of time in Atlanta, visiting his daughter Kristin and many friends.
He says he has seen Georgia Tech play in person only once since he last coached the Jackets in 1986. “That was in 1990 when my son (Billy) played for the University of Virginia,” he said. “We had a off-week at Kentucky, and I went to Charlottesville for Tech’s game there. Virginia was No. 1 in the country at the time. Georgia Tech won and wound up the season No. 1, of course.”
He has, however, watched the Jackets often on television. “I probably saw Tech more often that any other team this season,” he said, “because Tech played twice on Thursday night TV. I’m generally tied up at a game site on Saturday and cannot see TV games then.”
Now, Curry heads for Tallahassee where he will see the Jackets in a much different setting. He’ll spend the afternoon telling the country all about Georgia Tech football. He surely should be an expert on the subject.