Saw today in the agate type that Fred Goldsmith has retired from football coaching. Goldsmith’s career took him from a path as a career college assistant to a head-coaching spot at Rice that, in hindsight, he never should have left.
In five years at Rice, he led to the Owls to one second-place finish in the Southwest Conference (for which he won national Coach of the Year honors) and back-to-back winning seasons. He was the winningest coach the school had had since in nearly 30 years, and that made him beloved at Rice. He seemed to be laying the groundwork to stay in Houston for many more years.
Instead, he jumped in 1993 to Duke, where he started fast but then got mauled in the much tougher ACC. He was fired in 1998 after four straight woeful seasons.
That pushed him out of college football for nearly a decade. A high school in Hickory, N.C., hired him after a couple of years in the stands, and that led eventually to a head-coaching job at Division II Lenoir-Rhyne. The Bears went 7-4 last year, Goldsmith’s first winning collegiate season in 16 years, and apparently he decided to go out on that high note. (The Houston Chronicle notes that Goldsmith hinted last month at his decision.)
I covered Goldsmith a little bit at the UH student paper and the Waco paper. This was during a period when heavyweights like Jack Pardee, John Mackovic, Grant Teaff and R.C. Slocum were coaching teams in the SWC, and temperamentally Goldsmith seemed to fit right in with that bunch.
When he had a great player, in Bert Emanuel, he made the most of him, but generally, Rice had respectable but not fearsome teams under Goldsmith. After his departure, Ken Hatfield picked right up where Goldsmith had left off, and he coached the Owls for another decade before retiring.
I’ve thought a lot about whether Goldsmith regrets quitting Rice. It’s easy for me to second-guess him, but then again, would I have accepted a successful career in a second-rate position?