Rohe Track Era All About Us!

Compiled by Tom Scott 07/28/2013

RECRUITMENT STORIES:

George Moschis, 1965-69

When the Greek national track team returned home from the 1960 Rome Olympic Games, about half a dozen of its athletes had been offered athletic scholarships by Olympic coaches they had met who were affiliated with U.S. universities. The Greek Athletic Federation managed to find ways to keep all these athletes from “defecting” to the U.S. Four years later, as a member of the Tokyo prep-Olympic Greek track team, I got to know some of these same athletes who encouraged me to look for an athletic scholarship in the U.S. I was given the names and addresses of several track coaches (e.g., Payton Jordan at Stanford), and they helped me write a letter in early 1964. This letter was also addressed to several coaches, including Coach Rohe at Furman. Although I cannot recall sending a letter to UT or UF, both Coach Rohe and Coach Jimmy Carnes who had already left Furman and were at Tenn. and Fla, respectively, somehow must have seen the same letter addressed to Coach Rohe.

Although I initially communicated with both coaches, apparently the red tape required for a foreign athlete to come to the States must have deterred Carnes’ interest in recruiting me to Florida. I cannot describe the hurdles the Coach and I faced and the number of letters we exchanged for more than a year. Knowing that the coach was also dealing with the recruitment of so many other athletes, besides coaching, I was impressed by his persistence and optimism that kept me from giving up on the idea of coming to U.S. What an optimist!! His positive attitude inspired me and I kept me trying. So, actually the Coach taught me a lesson before I met him—never to give up.

I arrived in Knoxville on 11 August 1965, right at the end of summer term, after several days of travel, including 2-3 days on a Greyhound bus. Andy Russell and John Nichols picked me up at the bus station. I had only $200 in my pocket, a small suitcase that contained only one of each clothing item, which made me compete with skunks for worst odor. I stayed in Section X of the stadium for a few weeks, till Gibbs Hall opened for fall quarter (the Coach managed to let me stay there and get my books, without having a full scholarship), and worked at the Neyland Stadium crew for $1/hour.

The 3-4 months that followed were very difficult—attending classes in the mornings, working out in the afternoons, working at Sam & Andy’s Tennessean till midnight hours (to pay for my meals), and lastly trying to study after midnight—often till 4-5a.m. I then realized that I could not do well in track or school under such conditions, and decided to look into an offer of a full athletic scholarship at East Tennessee State University. I must have spent less than 24 hours in Johnson City when Coach Rohe contacted me and asked me to come back to UT—I cannot remember being happier. I cried during the bus ride all the way back to Knoxville. I think I was the first non-US athlete on the track team, so I “attracted” a lot of attention. The guys used to kid me a lot, but I was also able to tell all kinds of fun stories about my country and how I learned to throw the javelin—(i.e., to keep lions away from my sheep) that even Marvin West believed and reported in the Knoxville paper.

While I was not aware of NCAA rules, the Coach initially did the right thing by treating me as a “transfer” student, and he had planned not to run me during my first year at UT, because I had already mentioned in my initial letter that I had been attending classes at the University of Athens. But, apparently, he was forced to justify his putting me on a full scholarship. I competed in 1966 as a freshman at SEC, USTAFF, and AAU Nationals. When my name started to appear in Track&Field News in early 1967, especially on the top of the 1966 collegiate freshmen javelin throwers, it must have caught the attention of some of the coaches who knew of my background and questioned my eligibility status. A week after the Penn Relays I was declared “ineligible” (to my surprise, as I did not know the reason till later). The Coach must have felt awful, and so did I, because I let him down and could not compete even one full year on his varsity team. Even these days, I hope he has forgiven me for any embarrassment I may have caused to him and UT’s Athletic Department.

Coach Rohe continued to support me in any way he could—i.e., through the Greek community, employment at his summer camps, etc., till I finished my studies at UT. I think that my greatest contributions to his track program were not just the few records I set but my role in recruiting and coaching Bill Skinner, whose mustache generated more media attention than his global reputation as an athlete—that was good too, because it helped change the backward mentality of the UT’s establishment, opening the door to more “liberal” recruiting in the years that followed.

I owe Coach Rohe a great deal for everything he has done for me. Without his determination, help, and inspiration, I could not have achieved what I eventually ended up doing after leaving UT. Some of the many things that I learned from him (and later confirmed with my academic research in studying the habits of successful people) include discipline (I still recall his long lists of “things to do” on yellow pads) and hard work. His secret to living longer was to sleep fewer hours—what a philosophy!! I had never imagined I could be so fortunate to have the life I have had; it was Coach Chuck Rohe that was the turning point in my life. Coach Rohe cared for everyone he worked with and looked at things from their point of view and well-being—he saw each and every member of his team and staff as a member of his own family. What a quality of leadership! Many of the principles and recipes for success (e.g., hard work, optimism, persistence, and determination) that we had the opportunity to learn from him as well as others he helped us come in contact with (e.g., Jesse Owens, Bob Richards) taught us life lessons that I hope all of us will pass on to new generations. This is how legends achieve immortality—and Coach Chuck Rohe is and always will be a legend! I am privileged to know him and be one of his trackmen of his era. My thanks and best wishes to Coach Rohe and all his UT trackmen and staff that have helped shape his legacy.


OUR TEAM’S GREAT PERFORMANCE—EXACTLY 50 YEARS AGO!

George Moschis, 1965-69

(It was Saturday, 25 March 1967) in the 24th Annual Florida Relay, our first major track meet of the 1967 outdoor season, where our team dominated a field of more than 2,000 athletes in 16 events, setting 4 new relay records (as reported in The Atlanta Journal, March 26, 1967). What a day!

Top Counterclockwise: Stan Barbato, Gary Wagner, Russ Whitenack, Unknown, Tom Fisher; Bottom: Larry Kelly, Coach Chuck Rohe, and George Moschis. Taken a few days before 1967 Florida Relays.