Thursday, September 21, 2023

To Buddy Teevens

Our Dartmouth game in 2018 was one of the more nationally publicized Ivy football games I can recall.  Afterwards I described it as a "Rocky" movie, and although the cliche one-play game can get overused, that game truly was a one-play game with the team that won thrilled and a heartbreaking loss for the loser.  We won the game with a late TD run by John Lovett. The postgame was about 150 warriors showing respect for each other and then after we did media I was walking to the tailgate (about where the new soccer stadium is located).  Halfway there, I heard someone shouting my name and I turned around and it was Buddy Teevins running towards me.  We talked about the game, the brilliance of the players on both sides, how lucky we are to have tremendous assistant coaches. It was just a very respectful conversation. And then Buddy said, if I was going to lose that game, I’m glad it was to you. I thanked him. We shook hands and I went to the tailgate while he went back on the bus.  As I kept walking, I knew he really didn’t mean that personally to me.  We were colleagues and friends, but I truly believe he would have said that to any head coach he was friends with. He was such an incredible man that after a devastating “one-play” loss he wanted the opposing coach to enjoy the moment. - Bob Surace

It doesn't matter what Ivy League school is your favorite. 

It doesn't matter which one is your least favorite. 

If you follow Ivy League sports, then you were crushed by the news Tuesday night that Dartmouth's Buddy Teevens had passed away. 

As big a part of Ivy League football as anyone who has ever lived, Teevens died several months after he was hit by a pickup truck while riding his bicycle in Florida. He was two weeks away from his 67th birthday at the time of his death.

In basically every story that TigerBlog read about Teevens' passing, there were words like "successful" and "winning" and "longtime." Those are really good words to have written about you.

There was more, though. There were words like "pioneering" and "advocate" and "trailblazer." When you add those two lists together, you're left with a picture of a man who made a real impact on a sport, on a college and, most importantly, on every athlete who ever wore his uniform.

Start with the first group of words.

Teevens quarterbacked Dartmouth to the 1978 Ivy League title as a senior, when he won the Bushnell Cup. He also played on the Big Green hockey team that reached the 1979 Frozen Four.

As a coach, he took over for Ron Rogerson as the head coach of the University of Maine in 1985, after Rogerson left to become the head coach at Princeton. He'd also have short tenures at both Tulane and Stanford, but it was at his alma mater that he had his biggest successes.

Teevens had a record of 117-101-2 as the Big Green head coach; no other Dartmouth football coach has ever had more wins. He also won five Ivy League championships, two in his first go-round (1990, 1991) and then three more since he's been back (2015, 2019, 2021).

He and Princeton's Bob Surace are the only two who have won Ivy League titles as players and head coaches. 

Then there's the second set of words.

Teevens was certainly not afraid to take chances that others were not, especially in the area of player safety, something that is often talked about but difficult to implement in an inherently violent sport. He was the first football coach, probably anywhere, to eliminate tackling in practices, something that is now commonplace. 

He also introduced the Mobile Virtual Player, a robot of sorts that was used in place of his players in teaching and practicing tackling. Again, it was an innovation all about player safety.

In addition, he also hired a woman on his coaching staff long before anyone else did. Talk about growing the game.

When TB talked to Surace yesterday, it was clear how shaken he was. In addition to what he said about the 2018 game, he also offered this:

Buddy was an exceptional coach. The success Dartmouth had on the field was visible.  However, he was an even better person outside of the weekly competition. This is just one of the many behind the scenes moments that show how rare a leader he was:

For his part, TigerBlog never actually met Buddy Teevens, though he went back with him to the 1989 season, Surace's senior year as the Tigers' All-Ivy center. At least that's the first time he covered a Princeton-Dartmouth game that Teevens coached.

It's interesting how people you don't know make an impression on you. Some you like. Some you don't. The reasons aren't always clear. 

TigerBlog always liked Teevens. Maybe it's because he's always loved Don Dobes, the former Princeton assistant coach who has been on Teevens' staff for 14 years. Or maybe it's because of his good friend Bruce Wood, who writes the Big Green Alert Blog and who was extraordinarily close to Teevens.

Or, maybe it's just as simple as the fact that Teevens' goodness was just obvious to miss. So was his class. 

The news is hard to comprehend. TigerBlog sends his deepest condolences to Dartmouth and to the Teevens family.

So does every other Ivy League fan. 

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