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Image 5 of The Cats' Pause, December 3, 1988

Part of The Cats' Pause

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Lexington wasn't big enough for both of em So it was Wynne, not Rupp, who left town Chct Wynne seemed too good to be true when he was signed to a three-year contract as athletics director and football coach at the University of Kentucky in 1934, but so had several other fine men who had failed to survive Russell Rice Cats' Pause Columnist what was becoming known as the "graveyard of football coaches." The first Notre Dame alumnus to coach a UK athletic team, the 35-year-old Wynne had a fine record as a player and coach. With George Gipp. Frank Thomas and Johnny Mahardt, he had helped form one of the most famous backfields ever produced by legendary Irish coach Knute Rockne. Wynne coached Missouri College to two football championships and then won two more at Creighton. In 1932. he led Auburn to an undefeated season and a conference co-championship. While at Creighton, he was admitted to the bar and served two years in the Nebraska state legislature. Wynne stepped into a rather turbulent situation at UK. where Harry Gamage, a good coach, had finally been released after compiling a record of 32-25-5 during a seven-year reign, which included break-even slates (5-5) his last two years. The university at the time had completed 43 seasons of football since playing its first full schedule in 1892, compiling a record of 201-131-23 under 22 different coaches. Gamage was in his fourth year (1930) in Lexington when the university hired Adolph Rupp, a Kansas graduate and successful basketball coach at Freeport (111.) High School, as head basketball and assistant football coach. Rupp assisted Gamage one year as a freshman coach and pressbox observer and then turned his attention strictly to basketball after leading the Wildcat cagers to a 15-3 record, losing to Maryland 29-27 in the final game of the Southern Tournament. THE WILDCATS WERE 15-2 the following year, losing to North Carolina 43-42 in the second round of the tournament. After winning 20 of 23 games and the inaugural Southeastern Conference tournament the following year. Rupp and his "boys" were the toast of the commonwealth. While Gamage and his football Wildcats continued to struggle in his final year at UK, the basketball team won all 17 of its regular-season games, but was upset by Florida in the SEC tournament. In his column welcoming Wynne to UK, **Danforth warned that "again it must be realized that football has been a minor sport at Kentucky. Basketball is tops! Even on campus they talk basketball during the football season. Into this unsettled realm, Chet Wynne is going." Describing Wynne as a "diplomat from here to yonder" and "one of the few coaches who could make a go of it," Danforth predicted that the Notre Dame grad would give UK a well-coached team and "bring order to chaos." Wynne faced a dissenting voice in Rupp; who thought Gamage did a good job at UK and would have fared much better with more support from what Rupp described as the "downtown element." While Wynne's teams fared no better than those of Gamage, winning 20 of 39 games during his four years at UK, Rupp's basketball teams were 64-18, with two SEC championships during that period. "My relationship with Chet was never too pleasant," Chet Wynne (far left) found out Adolph Rupp was telling the truth when he said that the fastest way to get fired was to be football coach and athletics director, combined. Pictured to Wynne's left are: Ted Twomey Porter Grant, Birkett Pribble, Frank Moseley and Bernie Shively, who will be featured next week. "Well, in that case, when you go home tonight, you ought to tell your wife to start packing because I don't plan to leave." —Adolph Rupp, upon being told by football coach and athletics director Chet Wynne that Lexington wasn't big enough for both of them. Rupp recalled many years later. "He told me in no uncertain terms that he thought basketball interfered with football and as long as we had the high interest on the campus in basketball we could not have a good football team. We were going to New York to play games. We were getting more publicity than Chet was in football." HERE IS HOW RUPP RECALLED one of his exchanges with Wynne: Wynne: "Now. coach, there isn't enough room here on the campus for both football and basketball. There isn't room for both you and me. One of us has got to go." Rupp: "Well, in that case, when you go home tonight, you ought to tell your wife to start packing because I don't plan to leave." "I was very frank with Chet," Rupp said. "He was the athletic director, but I don't think he could have fired me if he had wanted to. During his last year at Kentucky, we did not get along at all. I was glad when the board finally dismissed him." Rupp was in a Louisville hospital at the time recovering from a spinal operation that hospitalized him for more than a month. "After I returned home," he said, "they asked me to coach football and be athletic director. I told them it sounded like a nice arrangement, but I couldn't coach because chances were I'd be in a wheelchair for a while. They pointed out that Rockne coached in a wheelchair. They said they'd get me all the assistants I wanted. "I told them I was not Rockne and the arrangement would not work." Three board members returned the following day, insisting that he coach and take the directorship. He replied that the fastest way he knew to get fired was to be the football coach and athletic director combined. "I planned to go on winning basketball games," he said. "I didn't know if I could win football games. If the football team didn't win, they would say Rupp was putting all his emphasis on basketball and the thing to do was get rid of him. I turned them down." NEXT WEEK: ? Rupp recommends Bernie Shively, who came to UK with Gamage, but switched to teaching physical education after Wynne failed to renew his coaching contract.