Slocum, Davie feel some of same heat

Wednesday, August 30th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – R.C. Slocum and Bob Davie used to jog the same running trails together at Texas A&M, winding way out west of Kyle Field past an old pig farm.

Like most close friends, their lives have often followed similar paths. Both were tight ends at NCAA Division I-AA schools. Both married their high school sweethearts.

Both played the tuba.

And now, as A&M and Notre Dame prepare to play each other for the first time in a regular-season game Saturday, the old jogging partners once again arrive at similar points in their career path:

Running from the squealin'.

A lot of Notre Dame fans are mad at Davie, coming off the Fighting Irish's first losing season in more than a decade.

Some Texas A&M fans are unhappy that Slocum didn't take advantage of Texas' lean years, allowing Mack Brown to slip in and fire the public imagination.

Of the two, Davie's situation seems a little more grave.

"If he's under fire," Davie said of his old friend, "I'm already ashes."

Funny, but that's how outsiders see Slocum's coaching staff every spring.


Since he became head coach in 1989, Slocum has made 24 staff changes. Not everyone left for a better job, either.

Most of the changes came on offense, and the rumbling was that Slocum couldn't stay out of the mix. Insiders will tell you it isn't true. Tim Cassidy, an associate athletic director who has been at the school since the mid-'80s, said he knows of only one occasion in which Slocum called a play, and that was at the 1998 Cotton Bowl.

A reverse. Gained 43 yards.

"If that's the case," Cassidy told Slocum, "you need to call more plays."

Hey, Tim: R.C. probably has a hard time just keeping up with who's supposed to be calling the plays.

The criticism probably isn't entirely fair. Frank Broyles went through a lot of assistants at Arkansas: Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer and Joe Gibbs among them, and all anybody outside of Ken Hatfield talks about is what a great mentor Broyles must have been.

Slocum's staff? Who'd he run off now?

But, of the assistants who have worked for Slocum at A&M, four are head coaches (Davie, Tom Tuberville at Auburn, Bob Toledo at UCLA and Mike Sherman at Green Bay), and six more are NFL assistants. One national magazine decided Slocum is the best in the business at assembling a staff.

"There was a big to-do when R.C. made Mike Sherman the offensive coordinator," Cassidy said. "People said, 'How could you do that?'"

A month later, Green Bay hired Sherman away.

Still, you got the impression not everyone was sorry to leave A&M.

Bob Davie was. He left for Notre Dame because he thought it would give him a better chance to be a head coach someday. But he left reluctantly.

"Of all the coaches who have come through here," Cassidy said, "Bob was one of R.C.'s closest friends on the coaching staff."

They met when Davie interviewed in 1985 for a position as a defensive assistant. Slocum, Jackie Sherrill's defensive coordinator, already had a fellow in mind for the job, and Sherrill said it was Slocum's call. But Davie had worked for Sherrill at Pittsburgh, so he got an interview.

The prognosis didn't look good. Slocum was supposed to pick up Davie at the airport at 7 p.m., but Davie's flight was delayed. He didn't make it to College Station until almost 11.

"This is the last thing I need," Slocum said to himself.

But he waited. After Davie's plane rolled up, Slocum rolled out the red carpet, taking him to the only restaurant in town still open.

They hit it off right away. They're not sure why. Maybe it was all the similarities in background. But there were clearly differences. Davie grew up in Pennsylvania, and Slocum has spent most of his life in Texas.

Slocum weaned Davie on Texana. He needled him into buying a pair of Tony Lama boots, and he took him along every year to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

Not all of it took. "I didn't pay much attention in the livestock show," Davie said, "and I never was really comfortable in those boots."

Some spring days, Slocum would just take Davie out to see the bluebonnet fields.

Those pastoral days must seem a little nostalgic now. The two still talk at least once a week, and Slocum counsels Davie not to take any of the criticism seriously.

"You shouldn't let it bother you when someone who hasn't even played football tries to tell you something about a business you've spent 30 years in," Slocum said. "It isn't smart."

No, it isn't. But it's human nature. On a national radio talk show Tuesday, Slocum gave the host a scouting report on Notre Dame.

"I go along with everything," the talk show host replied, "except the 'well-coached' part."

Normally as excitable as a basset hound, Slocum was in the rafters for maybe five minutes before he finally climbed down.

"Guy kinda hit a sore spot with me," he said, and it wasn't clear if he was defending Davie or himself, or both.