Rohe Track Era All About Us!

Compiled by Tom Scott 07/28/2013

RECRUITMENT STORIES:

Audry Hardy, 1967-71

Growing up in the housing projects on the streets of Memphis, Tennessee, in 1967, I had never set foot on a college campus until coming to The University of Tennessee. Track was easy compared to academics. Emotionally in my new university environment I had a mental meltdown trying to excel at both. Simply, it was imperative that I succeed as returning to my life in Memphis was a fairly bleak option. I went to Coach Rohe’s office one day and bared my soul behind closed doors. Coach listened and the next day I had tutors and every resource available pertinent to my success. Coach and I never spoke of this meeting again but as I remember it, I am deeply appreciative for a coach who never betrayed my confidential sharing. Long story short, I graduated with a degree in Business Administration on my birthday in 1971. I marched hand in hand with my wife who also obtained her degree in Business Administration (another success story). Thank you Coach. What a Day!


Audry Hardy, 1967-71

In 1967 at the State High School Championships, I anchored the mile relay for Booker T Washington High School [in Memphis], the 1967 State Champions. I received the baton in last place with no hope of winning the race, so I had nothing to lose. I moved out to lane 2 and just started running. Pretty soon I was passing people like a car passes telephone poles. At the end of the race, I surprisingly found myself in first place. The kid from a Knoxville team nipped me at the tape as I did not see him and probably could have leaned him out. What happened next forever changed my life. Coach Rohe walked right by that kid (I believe from Knoxville), put his arms around my shoulders, and asked me this question: “How would you like to come to the University of Tennessee?”

Considering that my high school had an unlined cider track, and only one pair of school issued size 12 spikes that I sometimes shared with our leadoff man on the mile relays….I looked around and said, “What do I have to do, Coach?” Rohe said: “You take a test called the ACT, and if you make a score, we can get you into UT! I took the test, “made a score,” and the rest is history. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity Coach Rohe provided for me. You see, he did not recruit me, James Craig, and Lester McClain (football) to make UT and SEC history with bringing the first black athletes to UT and the SEC. He simply wanted competitors and winners. For me…”What A Day!” From a high school state champion to becoming an All SEC College All American…thank you Coach.


Audry Hardy, 1967-71

Coach certainly impressed me. Pragmatically, Chuck was also a genius. He parceled out his limited track scholarships, supplementing his team with two-sport athletes where football monies were more plentiful. Because Craig James and I were poor, we received 1/2 scholarships matched equally with Basic Educational Opportunity (BEOG) grants [later called Pell grants] to equal full scholarships. So we were a two for one scholarship...so to speak. Chuck also had a close alliance with Dick Waters in the Financial Aids Office. My wife, then my girlfriend, worked a year out of high school in Chattanooga and made just enough money for one year of college. Through her association with me, she met Mr. Waters and became a babysitter for his two kids. He later hired her to work in the Financial Aids Office as a clerk, which helped her to financially stay in college. The sequence of these life events can all be traced back to Coach. Again...thankful. What A Day!


COLD WEATHER STORIES:

Audry Hardy

Athletic gear now-a-day is light and wicks away sweat while holding heat to the body. Because I wear suits and coats, I now wear this stuff underneath to stay cool with no under arm sweat stains. Back in 1967-71 this kind of under gear did not exist.

In prepping for the January Sugar Bowl meet, sometimes in 10 degree or less weather, we wore long johns and hooded tops. We had great incentive to always keep moving because the sweat would freeze on your body as your heat dissipated if you stopped. As a prototype to the wick away fabric, Abe "Road Dog" Henderson donned women's panty hose underneath his long johns. By the way, seeing Road Dog in panty hose was an ugly sight. While his idea had sound basis, he wore his panty hose alone with no apparent shame. Little did we realize that Abe was the possible pioneer forefather of UnderArmour sports gear.

For Coach Rohe any day that hell was not freezing over was a practice day regardless of temperature or "panty hose under gear."



Wayne Whigham (1969-72)

Audry Hardy

Here is another Rohe Era story shared with me by the late Wayne Whigham shortly before he passed in 2013. After one of the SEC Meets in Alabama, a couple of ‘good ole boys’ drove by the motel where the team was staying. They yelled out some 'ugly epitaphs' as they rode by. El Wayne threw a rock at the truck and yelled …come back and say “your peace.” The truck turned around, came back and one of the good ole boys got out of the truck to confront Wayne. Wayne thought “Oh Crap!” However, as the good ole boy was making a racial point with Wayne, one of our shot putters, Tom Stock I believe, walked up and hit this good ole boy between the shoulder blades. Wayne said, "That boy dropped like a sack of potatoes.” There are other stories where Wayne Whigham's, aka El Wayne’s, mouth has gotten him in trouble.

Here is another El Wayne story. I was sitting in El Wayne’s Gibbs Hall room one morning when a couple of huge football coaches came to Wayne’s Room. It seems that Wayne had addressed a member of the dorm mother’s staff (Mrs. Bacon was the dorm mother) with an unflattering word that rhymes with “witch”. The coaches were there to instruct the El Wayne on how Southern ladies should be addressed. As I sat there between Wayne and the coaches, it dawned on me that this was not my battle as it was not a racial issue. I got up and left Wayne sitting on his bed as the Coaches towered over him. Never spoke to Wayne about the outcome of this meeting. However, there is no instance where a lady should be addressed with any word that rhymes with “witch”. As for language, Wayne remained in a learning mode during his Vol experience. As for me I never felt bad for abandoning my teammate. I am sure if the shoe had been on the other foot, he may have done the same....perhaps! What A Day.