Bill Kellar – Coach Rohe Tribute

October 12, 2023 by Bill Kellar

It is with great sadness that I share some thoughts on my dear friend, Chuck Rohe.  I first met Chuck Rohe over 30 years ago.  At the time, I was the Director of NIKE Football Sports Marketing and Chuck was the Executive Director of the Citrus Bowl.  In addition, Chuck had been brought in by Johnny Majors to manage the NIKE Coach of the Year Football Clinics.  NIKE was the title sponsor of the clinics and most importantly, we provided access to our head college football coaches to speak at the clinics.  Beyond that, Chuck ran the entire operation.  It was a big job and Chuck was just the man to do it.  It was right in his wheelhouse.  It required boundless energy and tireless hours. Check.  Great organizational skills.  Check.  A strong personality with an aggressive edge when necessary. Check.  A good sense of humor and a big smile to go with it.  Check.  A natural ability to comfortably communicate with the top college football coaches in the country.  Check.  A fearless leader who commanded the respect of his teammates and peers.  Check.  Yes, Chuck Rohe was the right man for this job.

I knew from the very start that Chuck and I were going to get along just fine because of our mutual love for track and field.  My father was a Hall of Fame track coach and Chuck was a legendary track and cross-country coach at the University of Tennessee where he won 21 consecutive outdoor and indoor SEC championships.  I always enjoyed talking track and field with Chuck.  That being said, most of our conversations centered around the NIKE Coach of the Year Clinics.  To that end, Chuck wore many different hats.  First, Chuck was responsible for securing the head college coaches as speakers at each respective clinic.  This was no easy task.  Many coaches would push back or complain about having to speak at two different clinics on back-to-back nights that were hundreds, if not thousands of miles apart.  Chuck would talk them through it and, in almost all cases, get their commitment.  Others would be non-responsive so Chuck would have to bulldog them until he secured their commitment.  Some of the coaches would complain to me about how aggressive Chuck was.  So, I would call Chuck and remind him that there is a fine line between being persistent and being a pain in the ass.  Please try not to cross it.  He would laugh and say OK, got it. 

 Once the head coaches were confirmed, Chuck was responsible for growing the business.  I think Chuck particularly enjoyed this part of the job because it allowed him to utilize his marketing skills and be creative.  He brought in more exhibitors, sold various sponsorships, introduced college course credits for attending the clinic, made all clinic lectures available on videotape, and expanded lecture topics to training, injury prevention, and latest equipment developments.  Chuck had big ideas and was truly a visionary.  Not only did he grow the business and increase attendance across the board, but he did so without charging the attending coaches a dollar more.  Chuck was an educator who knew how tight budgets were for high school coaches and athletic departments.  He was there to give back and to serve the high school coaches.  He wanted to enhance their clinic experience and do so, at no added expense to them.  Chuck had gotten his start at the high school level, and he never forgot his roots.  If ever there was a champion for high school coaches, it was Chuck Rohe. 

 In life, if you are fortunate enough, you occasionally cross paths with someone who touches your life in a profound way.  Chuck Rohe was that person to me.  He had, what I call a wonderful likability.  So enjoyable to be around.  He was a gentleman who always had a kind word.  He had a warm, engaging personality that immediately set you at ease.  He was the eternal optimist who always saw the good in everyone and everything.  It was always abundantly clear that he enjoyed life to the fullest.  I will miss him, yes, but will thank God every day of my life that I got to know him. Rest in peace, Chuck.

Bill Kellar

Former Director of NIKE Football Sports & Marketing