The first legitimately big-time sports figure I ever covered was Harold R. (Tubby) Raymond, the University of Delaware football coach who led the Blue Hens to a 300-119-3 record from 1966 to 2001.
I write the formal Harold R. (Tubby) Raymond because that’s how we at the student newspaper, The Review, forever identified the coach in print. It was a quirky stylebook decision that made no sense. To the state of Delaware, Raymond was never, ever, ever, ever Harold and never, ever, ever, ever Harold R.
He was, simply, Tubby.
Today, at age 91, he died.
Raymond leaves this earth a legend, an innovator, a larger-than-life football deity. His name is synonymous with the Wing-T offense, which drove opposing defenses batty for decades.
He was also a pretty ornery dude. Not always the easiest interview. A bit of a snarler and, to a student reporter, somewhat intimidating. He was fiercely stubborn and fiercely conservative. He had his ways, and he stuck to them. And yet, he could also be surprisingly funny and lovingly tender. Hell, find me another coach who spent his free time painting portraits of his seniors, then presenting the players with the artwork at season’s end.
My favorite Tubby story dates back to 1992, when I was the college newspaper’s sports editor. One day, out of the blue, I received a note from the coach that read, simply, JEFF: MAYBE SOONER THAN LATER. TUBBY RAYMOND.
I had no idea what the words meant, but (being a can’t-touch-this, holier-than-thou college scribe) I took it as a threat. How dare Raymond write something like that to me? Who did he think he was? Jesus Christ. Holy shit. What the fuck?
Anyhow, one day I had to call him for something, and Tubby asked, with a chuckle, “Did you get the note?”
I said I did, but admitted (sheepishly) I didn’t understand.
“You wrote a column a while ago,” he replied. “You said that sooner or later I’d probably kill you.” With that, a long, deep-bellied laugh.
“Take care, Jeff.”
Take care, Coach.