Friday, October 26, 2007

Sentinmental Journey

What a beautiful place to find a football coach

A few hours before the Dartmouth game, I drove about 30 miles south of Hanover to eat breakfast at a little diner in Bellows Falls, Vermont.

The pancakes and hash browns were absolutely excellent, (I really, really recommend the buttermilk pancakes), but I wasn't there for the food. I was there to finally meet a man I'd wondered about for almost 20 years: Larry MacElreavy, former head coach of the Lions, and co-owner of the Miss Bellows Falls Diner.

MacElreavy took over the team in 1986, just as "the streak" was starting, but he saw it through to the end, finally registering two wins in 1988. The team actually looked like it was headed very much in the right direction after that season, but MacElreavy's personal problems led to his firing at the end of the season.

It's no secret that his personal problems could be summed up in one word: alcohol. A drinking problem led to his ouster at CU, and eventually forced him to hit rock bottom several years later.

But I'm happy to report that Coach MacElreavy is doing well now, and he was more than gracious during our interview, which you can hear during halftime of the Columbia-Cornell game on November 10th on WWDJ 970AM and

Coach Mac looks back at his years at CU with longing. He remembers all the players and still keeps in touch with many of them. Even in the worst of times, I never heard any player say a bad word about him. I specifically remember how he would sprint out on the field to be the first to administer to an injured player.

One thing that I thought was most interesting: Coach Mac wants to coach again, probably more than anything else. And after speaking with him Saturday, I think I'd hire him if I were a Head Coach.


At Fri Oct 26, 10:33:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nicely touching. I wish the guy well. But I still don't think I'd want him as a coach again. The type of emotional makeup required to be a good coach has changed as much as has the "simple" issue of how to approach the game. (Does anybody remember the name "Ray Handley?") Even someone more successful like Carmen Cozza, mentoned by a few posters the other day as someone not terribly well-cushioned in their memories, his day is long past in more ways than one. Yet I do look forward to hearing the interview.

There was a time, too, when many of the 'Flukies' from the nursing school that was once near the CU campus came themselves from the Bellows Falls area, interestingly. Is McElreavy himself a native Vermonter?


At Fri Oct 26, 10:37:00 PM GMT+7, Blogger Jake said...

Well, I would hire Mac as an assistant for sure. From the NFL on down, there seem to be more and more very young coaches out there and that bothers me a bit. I think older guys in their 50's and 60's have a lot to offer young players and a mix of older and younger in the coaching staff is a good idea.

Mac is actually from New Hampshire originally.

At Fri Oct 26, 11:12:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mac is a good guy. Someone should give him a shot as an assnt coach.
Yes, he's made some mistakes and i'm sure many of the guys from his 80's team harbor ill feelings for him but I think a school should give him a second chance.

At Sat Oct 27, 12:37:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know how far over backward one has to bend to be "fair" to a coach who was around during the "streak" (thankfully exceeded since by at least 2 schools). But in some fairness to McElreavy, okay, he coached at a time when athletics in general received very little support from Columbia's administrators. (Which is yet another reason to hail these days of Dianne Murphy and Lee Bollinger.)

There was seemingly a malaise that dripped daily onto the campus back in those days, most noticeably upon the athletic fields. And if the guy remains capable (and capable of quickly getting up to speed with the changes in the game and in today's breed of players), sure, I hope someone will hire him as an assistant coach.

Somewhere else, however, that never plays Columbia in football. Because I'm not sure his appearance at Columbia would bring anything again but rancor and billingsgate directed at both him and the University in general, and those dark days should be kept where they belong, long ago.


At Sat Oct 27, 02:50:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

RS brings up a good point. Columbia has made it perfectly clear that it would like to forget about the 80's....though they don't forget about the fball alums from that era when asking for checks to support their fundraising efforts.

At Sat Oct 27, 03:19:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't this it was Coach Mac's fault for the streak but I blame Sovern and the Ad for the struggles. They should honor the 88 team for their perseverance through the tough times.

At Sat Oct 27, 05:50:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sovern was a phony and Coles was worse. Mac recruited an udefeated freshman team. If he could have kept those guys together we would have won at least one title.

At Sat Oct 27, 06:15:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Correction..if he had the Garrett brothers-actually just Jason and Judd-as John was a nonfactor at WR--we would have won an Ivy title...

At Tue Oct 30, 02:10:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The bottom line was wins and losses. While the admin could be blamed for having a less than active roll in assisting the athletic departments in the 80's, the football coaches did in fact bring in competent players.

His predecessor, J. Garrett, brought in a very successful freshman class loaded with talented athletes in his lone year as coach, and then Mac had a very good first year class as well. That should have been the start of winning seasons but the team was always racked with questionable personnel moves/player position switches and a less than stellar offensive scheme for the athletes on those teams.

Mac's personal problems, of which there seemed to be more than one, could have been a result of the pressure to win and thats too bad but bottom line was not winning with a group that had talent (as evident from their freshman teams) and the streak just intensified the losses and the publicity to the University.


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