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Thomas Wolfe Wasn’t Always Right, Ya Know

Posted by Ryne E. Hancock on July 24, 2007

Early this morning, I read a story in the Louisville Courier-Journal that came as a surprise to me.

No, it wasn’t the discovery of hidden liquor bottles that were tucked away in the inner sanctums of Rupp Arena during Eddie Sutton’s tenure at Kentucky that “Condo” and Matt found, but a different one that would have made Thomas Wolfe roll over in his grave.

John L. Smith, your favorite coach’s favorite cowboy coach, is back home in the Falls City after running Michigan State’s football program into the ground with mind-numbing late-game collapses against Michigan, Ohio State, and of course, Notre Dame, as well as slapping himself after the Spartans lost to Illinois during Homecoming weekend at Spartan Stadium last year.

Did I mention that before all of that he was the guy who led the Louisville football program from the shit that it was during Ron Cooper’s tenure and taught them to believe?

Believe that they could win with the likes of Florida State, Ohio State, and constantly participate in Bowls, which they did during all five of his years in the Falls City.

That is, until the 2002 GMAC Bowl in which TV cameras showed players receiving word that Smith was the new head coach at Michigan State, distracting what was an excellent Cardinal team from their game against Marshall, a game that they would eventually lose.

Smith went on to Michigan State and, despite having a fast start his first season, saw the last three years of his tenure in East Lansing earmarked with losing records, even going winless against Michigan, realizing that what he had going in Louisville at the time of departure was a complete 180 from East Lansing.  East Lansing,  where Michigan State became the poster child for giant collapses thanks to chuckles from College Gameday.

And now, after he ripped Louisville’s fan base for not filling up Papa John Stadium, he’s found himself back in the Falls City as a private citizen thanks to his wife.

Of course as a more reflective man nearing 60 years of age, he realized that humility is much more important than a big-name coaching job in a big-name conference.

And unlike the title of Thomas Wolfe’s book, he can go home again.


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