One of the guys, one of the greats

spikepicI’m thankful and I know I’m fortunate to have had the chance to interview Spike Dykes and build the Midland chapter of The Republic of Football around that conversation. Spike graciously welcomed me into his home and I had as much fun seeing the memorabilia in his man cave as anything else on my visit.

Few men in the history of football in Texas have contributed as much as Spike did as an assistant coach to both Emory Bellard and Darrell Royal, a head coach at Midland Lee, Belton, Big Spring, Coahoma and other high schools in Texas, and as the head coach who led Texas Tech into the Big 12 and succeeded in getting a foothold in the new conference.

The most revealing thing I learned about Spike in our last visit was that he got into coaching simply for the camaraderie.

“Somebody said, ‘Why did you coach?’” Dykes recalled. “It’s simple. My high school coaches and my junior high coaches had more fun and they were the greatest guys I’ve ever seen in my life. After being around them, ‘I said, ‘Golly, it’s like stealing if I could ever be a coach and have as much fun as they had.’”

To me, that’s Spike describing Spike as succinctly as anyone ever could.



enjoying the ride

rofblogpicIt’s kind of amazing to think it’s been four months since we introduced “The Republic of Football: Legends of the Texas High School Game” to the world at the Texas High School Coaches Association’s annual Coaching School in San Antonio. I’ve had so much fun speaking with people about this book and I’ve been humbled by how well it’s done so far and the things people have said about it so far.

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke to the journalism classes at Midway, where I attended high school in the mid-1990s. One of the classes was the Panther Post staff, which meant that I got to speak to the students who were sitting in the seats where I sat for three years of high school. To talk with those students and see the interest and enthusiasm in them was possibly the most rewarding thing I’ve been able to experience since I began promoting “The Republic of Football.” I read them the first part of the introduction, which describes how I felt when I went on my first assignment as sports editor of the Panther Post to introduce myself to Coach Kent Bachtel. I told the Panther Post staff “Look, I’m not trying to be profound here. I didn’t write this because I knew I would be speaking with you here today. This is an honest expression of how much being a high school journalist taught me and how much I’ve carried those lessons I learned with me.”

I also told them that I first wanted to write a book after I read “Friday Night Lights” when I was in middle school and that’s the sincere truth.

And now, the productive part of the rest of my week will be spent in high school stadium press boxes covering the opening round of the high school football playoffs for the Waco Trib. This season has stoked my excitement for high school football, obviously because I’ve been promoting my book. But also because I have renewed appreciation for the place that high school football holds in the sports spectrum.

High school football is the team in town that we can all pull for.

High school football keeps our expectations in check.

High school football is where we start to see great players emerge. But, more importantly, we see them in the context of a great team (or we probably won’t be seeing them much longer as the playoffs are a survive-and-advance business).

So here’s my pitch: the high school football playoffs offer the most fun-per-dollar of any sport out there. If you have a team, I hope they keep playing right up until Christmas. If you don’t have a team, I strongly advise adopting one.

And if you’ll pick up “The Republic of Football” and read it as the playoffs progress the next six weeks, I believe it will be a good primer.

Here’s the best place to order it:

origin story

crawford2altI was driving to see a movie with a friend one afternoon in April of 2014. We were talking about the fantastic book “Home Field” (University of Texas Press, 2010) in which photographer Jeff Wilson published dozens of beautiful photos of high school football stadiums across Texas. I told my friend that I would love to read the stories from inside those stadiums on Friday nights. That’s when the idea for The Republic of Football ignited. Through emails to friends and colleagues in the media relations and sportswriting businesses, I was able to establish the initial interviews that set this project on its way. During a whirlwind sixteen months, I was able to interview about 150 people who had been connected to some of the great teams and stories from more than sixty years of Texas high school football. Please take a look at the book’s UT Press page here and consider pre-ordering it. Thanks. Chad S. Conine