Charles McClendon was occasionally questioned about his recruiting skills as head coach of the Tigers from 1962-79, but his ability to sell himself was proved with the wife he married on December 24, 1947 when he was 24 and she was 19. Dorothy Faye was exquisitely beautiful every day of her life and an elegant companion for her less polished husband, who logged more than a quarter century at LSU as an assistant to Gaynell Tinsley and Paul Dietzel and as the longest tenured leader of football fortunes at the Ole War Skule.
Dorothy Faye started the American Football Coaches Wives Association 25 years ago, and she was the perfect example for her peers of grace under pressure. The lawn at the modest McClendon home was dotted with "Help Mac Pack” signs more than once. Charlie Mac mused that when the time came to clean out at his office in Tiger Stadium, nobody was around to help him pack.
Through it all, Charles and Dorothy Faye never lost their love for LSU and returned home for their final years. Appropriately, the couple is buried near their childhood homes in southern Arkansas. Dorothy Faye lived more than 12 years after the death of her husband on Dec. 6, 2001 at 78.
During the 2012 season, Dorothy Faye was the star attraction at the Andonie Museum as former Tiger Brad Davis spoke about his years playing for Charlie Mac. The coach is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. His wife, who followed her husband from his playing days under Bear Bryant at the University of Kentucky to a one year stint as an assistant at Vanderbilt to 27 years at LSU, was a catalyst in the significant success of McClendon on the field and the vast impact of his players away from the lights of Tiger Stadium.
When SEC football mentors are measured by the number of medical doctors and other professionals produced, the McClendon’s set an exceptional standard. It is also notable how few of Mac’s players ran afoul of the law. The most infamous transgressor was Rusty Domingue, who nearly stabbed a man to death after a 6-6 tie with Nebraska on Sept. 11, 1976. McClendon kicked his star defender off the team the following day and was pleased that as an adult, Domingue turned his passions toward his faith and helping others find peace.
Five McClendon quarterbacks died tragically in Trey Prather, Butch Duhe,’ Mike Miley, Carl Otis Trimble and Pat Screen as their coach and his wife outlived enough of their former players to fill an entire roster. It is comforting to imagine a reunion of some kind as the proud and resilient grand matron of LSU rejoined her mate of nearly 54 years and many other Tigers on the other side of Death Valley.
Coaches lasting longer as compensation rises
Steve Spurrier signed a contract extension at South Carolina last week that will carry the 68-year-old ball coach through 2018 in Columbia when Spurrier will be 73 years old.
Spurrier made his SEC debut 50 years ago as a sophomore phenom at Florida where he beat LSU three times and won the Heisman in 1966. Last season, he directed his Gamecocks to a No. 4 final resting place in the last poll of the BCS era.
Spurrier will earn $4 million a year in what amounts to a bargain in today’s stratospheric salary structure for coaches. The increased level of pay has coaches striving to stay in the game as long as possible.
In 1976, Frank Broyles and Darrell Royal retired at Arkansas and Texas at ages 51 and 52, respectively. Two years earlier, Ara Parseghian called it a career at Notre Dame at 51 while Charlie McClendon was considered ancient by some when he retired at 56.
Spurrier, Gary Pinkel of Missouri, Nick Saban of Alabama and Les Miles of LSU have all crossed the 60-year barrier of life and show no signs of leaving. The compensation is just too good to pass up voluntarily and
Remembering the "highly paid” Johnny Orr
Johnny Orr was head basketball coach at the University of Michigan for a dozen seasons, and led the Wolverines to the NCAA Championship Game in 1976 where Michigan and Orr fell to fellow Big Ten member Indiana and 35-year-old Bob Knight.
Orr died in Des Moines on New Year’s Eve, and is a nearly forgotten figure of importance in the college game. He bolted Michigan for Iowa State in 1980 to become the highest compensated NCAA basketball coach in the land. His salary was boosted from $33,665 at Ann Arbor to $45,000 at Ames, Iowa.
Almost every head coach in the NCAA today earns a seven-figure annual salary and some women’s coaches are paid in the same range. It is hard for some to fathom that $45,000 was the pinnacle in 1980. Dale Brown notes that ten-time NCAA champion John Wooden never earned more than $32,500 per season coaching UCLA until 1975.