It’s funny how life works sometimes. This month’s “C” word is CARE. In the “C” You In The Major Leagues definition, CARE includes: puts others first; evaluates everyone honestly; understands everyone’s impact. Although I have a few people in mind who embody CARE on and off the field, I wasn’t completely sure who’d be featured this week. But then I came across an article that life-long Kansas Citian and longtime sports anchor, Dave Stewart, wrote for kstatesports.com. And it was one of those “a-ha” moments.
The article was about former K-State football coach, Jim Dickey, who died on February 17 at the age of 83. Stewart, who graduated from K-State in 1979, was a wide receiver on Dickey’s second team in Manhattan.
Dickey took over a program that had some issues (you can research those), and coached the Wildcats for eight years, going 25-53-2 before being replaced three games into the 1985 season. However, he did lead the Wildcats to a winning record and a bowl berth in 1982. More on that momentarily. What Dickey did off the field was more important. As with so many coaches that fit the characteristics of CARE, Dickey isn’t impressive because of the wins and losses, or even the bowl appearance.
Reading Stewart’s article, one thing is apparent quickly: Dickey had a genuine care about his players, assistant coaches…really, anyone around him.
“He was sincere, he was interested in you as a person,” former quarterback Dan Manucci told Stewart. “Coach wanted to know, ‘What’s your major? What do you like to do?’ It was a whole different level of communication.”
“Coach’s greatest strength was his people skills,” former assistant Dennis Franchione said. “He had charisma and really made you feel special. He could draw you to him. Number one, he taught me how to handle people.”
Franchione was one of five Dickey assistants that went on to become a head coach. Five former Dickey players would do the same, including Gary Patterson at TCU.
As Stewart pointed out in the article: “Being ready for that kind of a jump had something to do with witnessing [Dickey’s] CEO strategy: hire good people then let them do their jobs, even if Dickey always had final say on the big decisions.
“He would ask your opinion. You always had the capability to bring up ideas, which I did,” recalls longtime equipment manager Jim “Shorty” Kleinau. “I worked with Coach, instead of for Coach.””
Stewart added this anecdote that speaks volumes about Dickey’s character: “Dickey accepted out-of-the-box ideas like bringing motivational speaker Zig Ziglar to Manhattan in the Spring of 1982 when Ziglar was near his peak of popularity. (Assistant coach Gary) Darnell proposed the plan since he’d seen it work when he was at SMU. What Ziglar preached wasn’t chalkboard talk, but it represented a balance that Dickey wanted for all his student-athletes.
“Offensive lineman Doug Hoppock says, “Zig didn’t even talk football. He stressed that each part of our life has to be equal, whether it’s church, family, friends or school. It helped change my life in football and in my career.”
“”Guys who went through it still talk about it today,” Darnell says. “It was about finding that inner-peace, what it takes to be a champion. It was one of the pieces of the puzzle that made it work.””
A few months later, Dickey’s Wildcats put together a season that’s still talked about today. K-State went 6-5-1 en route to the school’s first-ever bowl bid, as the team appeared in the Independence Bowl. That also marked the school’s first winning season since 1970. Dickey was selected as the Big Eight Coach of the Year. Making the 1982 season more remarkable is the fact that Dickey redshirted eight senior starters in 1981.
“People talk about the resurrection of K-State football under Vince Gibson and Bill Snyder,” former Wildcat Paul Coffman, who graduated shortly before K-State hired Dickey, told me several years ago. “I think lost in all of that is that Jim Dickey went out and recruited a lot of kids from Kansas, got interest back in the program, took a bold step of redshirting, basically, his whole senior class, and then taking them to the Independence Bowl. He did a fantastic job of creating toughness and a great work ethic, and bringing back interest in K-State football.”
As Stewart ends his article: “Jim Bob Morris sums up Coach’s impact like this: “I can’t remember ever having a bad day on the football field, working for him, playing for him. He’d say, ‘Boys, I don’t have enough time to have a bad time. Let’s go!'””
To read Stewart’s article in its entirety, visit: http://www.kstatesports.com/news/2018/2/27/se-dickey-remembered-for-serving-others-as-much-as-changing-k-state-football.aspx.