Farewell to Fred Goldsmith

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?

When Being the Best Is Not Enough

“Black people are taught, ‘Your bar is higher. You have to answer harder questions. And you’re never really, satisfactorily accepted.’ That’s a good motivator as a kid, it makes you run fast. But at some point, it’s exhausting to carry such historical baggage in your daily life.”

Baratunde Thurston to AP’s Sonya Ross, “Some American blacks see race in ‘birther’ questions about Obama”

Three Years Later

My friend and colleague Garance Franke-Ruta turned in her ID badge today as she prepares to join the Atlantic. Her departure made me reflect back to her arrival at the Post, three years ago.

Garance’s arrival, in hindsight, marked a turning point for the Post newsroom. Until then, most Posties downtown had little interaction with the Web site. A small band of “continuous-news editors” served as the primary liaisons – updating newspaper stories in the morning and lobbying editors and reporters (often unsuccessfully) for short, early files in the afternoon.

The change started in July 2007 with the dawn of The Trail, a new blog that was to serve as the Post’s compendium of presidential campaign coverage. Until this point, Post blogs originated outside our newsroom – Dan Froomkin on White House Watch and Chris Cillizza on The Fix were based in Arlington; Sally Quinn and Jon Meacham with On Faith were in Georgetown and New York.

The Trail, however, differed in that it had no singular voice – postings were done by all of the Post’s political writers, who typically maintained a neutral tone – and that it originated on 15th Street.

It found an audience almost immediately, which created the nice problem of needing someone to oversee the blog’s care and feeding.

Enter Garance. She had good Washington cred (The American Prospect) and web cred (her own blog, thegarance.com). She also had plenty of drive and gumption, qualities that would serve her well in the new job, as she nudged, urged, begged, guilted reporters into filing dispatches.

The Trail was launched under the aegis of Susan Glasser, and her vision of the blog soon made it one of the most-visited pages of our web site. But it was up to Garance to keep the blog fed.

It’s hard to fully describe the resistance Garance faced when she entered the Post newsroom. She leaves a far different place today, especially in its regard for Web-oriented folks.