Rohe Track Era All About Us!

Compiled by Tom Scott 07/28/2013


Bill Keesling, Assistant Coach, 1968-69

Most people do not know this story. I was a 27-year-old Air Force Captain instructing at the Officer Training School in San Antonio, TX. I had decided to leave the military in November 1967. My desire was to enroll in a master’s program and become a college track and cross country coach. In the late spring and summer of 67 I wrote four coaches asking about coming to their programs as a grad assistant coach. My college roommate wanted me to come to Kansas since he was already there as a grad assistant. I also wrote to Jimmy Carnes at Florida, Clyde Hart at Baylor and Chuck Rohe at Tennessee. My wife and I visited Kansas over July 4th weekend. My wife was against a move to Kansas even though Jim Ryun was there. Both Carnes and Hart offered me assistance ships. I had heard nothing from Coach Rohe and Tennessee. Shortly after our return from our trip to Kansas, I came home from work one day and my wife, Nancy, told me a man by the name of Chuck Rohe had called and wanted me to call him.

Since I was from Memphis I had a significant interest in making that call. Chuck offered me an assistantship and said it would be no problem getting Nancy a teaching job in Knoxville. Typically, he was so positive on the phone that I could not turn down the offer! We arrived in Knoxville between Christmas and New Years, and, true to his word;,Nancy had a teaching job at Farragut Elementary along with someone to take care of our 3 year old son, Kyle, and our 1-½ year old daughter, Kelli. A day or two before winter term began Coach told me to go to meet with the head of the PE dept. I did so, found out I was going to have to take 69 undergrad hours to get into the grad program, and so my UT coaching adventure began in January 1968. Coach immediately integrated me into the program, ably assisted by Jeff Clark, Russ Whitenack, and Carroll Thrift!

What an introduction to UT Track and Cross Country that was, and I loved every minute of it. As fate would have it, after getting my 69 hours out of the way, I took my first grad courses in the spring term of 1969! That was the year we hosted the NCAA meet and either had the first or second year of the UT All Sports Camp. Chuck gave me the responsibility of the NCAA Coaches Association Meetings and assistant director of the All Sports Camp. Later that summer I was working with Chalmers Bryan and Steve ?(pole-vaulter from Florida) putting furniture together for the new undergrad library. Sometime in August I got a call from John West, the coach at Furman and a friend from my high school days in Memphis. He was leaving Furman for the coaching position at South Carolina and wanted to know if I wanted to have my name added to a list he was preparing for the Athletic Director. Of course, I said yes. I was contacted a bit later by the AD at Furman, submitted a resume, went for a visit and got the job! Chuck was my main reference and, fortunately, he had been the coach at Furman under the same AD before taking the job at UT. It was my good fortune to have Coach on my side for my first head-coaching job!

I felt completely prepared for that first opportunity due to the many things Coach Rohe had me doing while I was a grad assistant for the Vols. It was a great experience, many great moments, opportunities to work with great athletes, under a great coach who instilled in me the desire to be the best that I could be and to model my coaching career and programs like he did with the Vols. Two somewhat humorous things come to mind as well. Chuck was always running late and pushing the envelope. One day he rushed out of the office, down the stairs and out the door to his car. He put his brief case on top of the car to get his keys out to unlock the car, got in, and drove off. The brief case flew off the top, burst open and papers were all over the road behind the building. Then, once he returned from a trip by plane, drove from the airport to a shopping area nearby and stopped to get a paper out of the rack. Once in the car he was trying to read the sports as he was leaving the parking lot and collided with a light pole in the lot. Not sure if anyone knows about these and maybe my memory is fuzzy, so Coach Rohe will have to confirm for sure.