, Port Arthur, Texas


July 20, 2013

West column: Bum's on rebound after health issues led to acute care

PORT ARTHUR —     Barring any further setbacks, 89-year-old Bum Phillips is expected to return to his Goliad home sometime in the next few days after spending several weeks in a Long Term Acute Care facility in Victoria. There were some scary moments for the Southeast Texas coaching legend when complications followed what began as dehydration and an electrolyte imbalance. At one point last weekend, his condition worsened to the point that multiple units of blood were required. Recent signs, however, have all been positive, a fact his wife, Debbie, attributes to intense prayer from the many who love and admire the old coach. Through it all, the former Nederland, PN-G and Houston Oilers coach never lost his sense or humor. During a phone chat about his health, he reassured me by saying, “I’d much rather be seen than viewed.” . . . The Southeastern Conference media gathering last week should have produced a harsh reality for Texas A&M fans on where the Aggies stand in relation to Alabama. Only three Texas A&M players — QB Johnny Manziel and OL Jake Matthews (first team) and wide receiver Mike Evans (second team) were named to pre-season all-conference teams. Alabama, meanwhile, had seven players on the first team (4 offense, 3 defense), six on the second team (1 offense, 5 defense) and 2 on the third team (1 offense, 1 defense). That totals up to a 15-3 Crimson Tide advantage over A&M in all-conference caliber players. That’s not a gap or even a chasm in talent difference. It’s a Grand Canyon.

    Terrific piece Thursday night by Greg Kerr of Channel 6 on former Beaumont Hebert great Jerry LeVias, a guy who should be considered no less than the Jackie Robinson of football trailblazers in the state of Texas. Among other things, Kerr’s feature opens the door for my annual rant that somebody with influence in Beaumont needs to get the ball rolling to right a horrendous, politically-motivated BISD decision to name it’s beautiful athletic complex after a controversial, overpaid superintendent. Because of LeVias’ historical significance in relation to college football in the Southwest, because of the courage it took to do what he did and  because he’s led a life of class and dignity, it should have been a no-brainer for his name to be on that stadium. It’s never too late to do the right thing. Kerr’s piece, by the way, can be viewed on . . . With college football moving away from computers selecting teams for its national championship game after this season, schools in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) like Lamar are going to pay a price. Why? Because conference commissioners in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) are advising ADs that scheduling wins against lower-level foes will work against them for playoff consideration. Some FBS teams have already paid buyouts to get out of contracts with FCS schools and a rumor has been making the rounds that Texas A&M pulled the plug on its scheduled 2014 game with Lamar. Not so says LU coach Ray Woodward, of the trip to College Station that would be worth $375,000 to the Cardinal athletic program.

    The Old Coach’s Friday Night Football Texas, in its fourth year as a challenger to Dave Campbell’s Texas Football, produced an interesting feature that underscored once again how many great players have come out of Southeast Texas in general and Beaumont in particular. After doing considerable research, FNFT published its “All-Time Texas High School All-Defense Team.” Well, actually, there were three teams and 15 honorable mentions. Defensive lineman Bubba Smith (Beaumont’s Charlton-Pollard) made the first team, DL Louie Kelcher (Beaumont French)  was named to the second team and DL Tody Smith (Charlton-Pollard), LB Tony Guillory (Beaumont Hebert) and DB Miller Farr (Hebert) made the third team. Honorable mentions included DL Jerry Ball (West Brook), DB Earl Thomas (WO-Stark) and DB Kevin Smith (WO-Stark) . . . Former Lamar football coach Larry Kennan, in his second season as head coach of Southland Conference-bound Incarnate Word of San Antonio, has an interesting addition to his coaching staff. Ricky Williams, who won the 1998 Heisman Trophy while setting rushing records for the Texas Longhorns, is going to coach running backs for Kennan’s Cardinals. It’s a hire, given some of Williams’ antics during his NFL career, certain to raise eyebrows. But it’s a hire that should certainly help boost Immaculate Word’s profile and recruiting . . . Not one, not two, but three Southeast Texans — Lincoln’s Jonathan Babineaux, Bridge City’s Matt Bryant and Jasper’s Sean Weatherspoon — have been named Atlanta Falcons captains for 2013. It prompted the following recent tweet from Bryant. “Last night I was recognized, along with four others, at our captain’s dinner. I then realized an interesting fact. Three of the five grew up in the same area. What are the odds of them making it to the NFL, playing on the same team and being elected captains?”  The odds, Matt, are astronomical.

    So what are short-term ramifications for Johnny Manziel, following the negative publicity of his early exit from the Manning Family Football Camp? One columnist called him “Johnny Freefall” and suggested he’s college football’s version of Lindsay Lohan. National oddsmaker Danny Sheridan, citing the role PR plays in winning a Heisman Trophy, more than doubled the odds on Manziel repeating from 4:1 to 10:1. Tim Tebow called the A&M quarterback to offer counseling. Practice can’t start soon enough for A&M coach Kevin Sumlin ? ? ? Even given the Mack Brown factor, it’s hard to understand media who cover Big 12 football picking Texas to finish fourth behind Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and TCU. What a favor to Brown, who obviously needs all the help he can get. He’s got 19 returning starters, including an improving QB in David Ash who will be starting for the third year. He gets Oklahoma State in Austin and will be going up against an OU team that’s starting over at QB. His bogeyman — Kansas State’s Bill Snyder — is in rebuild mode. And now he’s been served a lack-of-respect card to flaunt on a daily basis. If Texas finishes fourth in this Big 12, Mack’s even more of a coaching lightweight than recent records suggest . . . More really interesting stuff from the Big Cigar at Inside Texas. He insists Deloss Dodds is playing out the string as AD but that early efforts to gauge the interest of possible replacements are being stymied by the uncertainty of Brown’s situation beyond the 2013 season. The Big Cigar, who is extremely well connected, likens Brown to an elephant in the room.

    Twyman Ash, who never left after moving to Southeast Texas in 1964 to manage Luby’s Cafeteria in Jefferson City, got to relive some of his schoolboy football exploits for Chuck Moser’s powerful Abilene Eagles of the 1950s this past week. Fox Sports Southwest, on its Legends of High School Football Series, zeroed in on Abilene’s then national record 49-game winning streak under Moser. Footage shown included the 1954 state championship game, with Ash, who was known by teammates as “Old Glue Fingers”, catching a 29-yard, game winning TD pass in the final minute against Houston Stephen F. Austin. It was the third-catch of the game-winning drive for Ash, and helped him land a scholarship to Rice . . . Speculation immediately following Dwight Howard landing with the Rockets last week was that his presence might help trigger a breakthrough on stalled negotiations between Comcast Sports Net Houston and providers like Time Warner, DirecTV and Dish Network on the Rockets and Astros. Based on a story in Saturday’s Houston Chronicle, that’s probably not going to happen. David Barron, quoting analysts in the industry, wrote that it could be months, even years, before distribution issues are resolved. The good news where the Rockets are concerned is that with Howard they are likely to get frequent national exposure . . . Here’s a poll Tiger Woods could have done without. In a survey conducted by the web site Victoria Milan, women who are thinking about having an affair consider Tiger to be the sexiest golfer participating in this week’s British Open and the one they would be most inclined to cheat with. Among the 3,225 who participated, under guarantees of anonymity, Woods got 27 percent of the vote to 25 percent of Adam Scott. Sergio Garcia was third at 14 percent.

     Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at

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