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Thin Thirty member knows coaching abuse


Sometimes a comment from a reader tells a huge story at vaughtsviews.com.

That’s what happened when Danville native — and former University of Kentucky football player — Claude Hoffmeyer left this response to the story about UK basketball coach John Calipari cursing at freshman Terrence Jones during UK’s loss at Alabama:

“Larry, I have watched the comments regarding Coach Calipari’s cursing of Terrence Jones. I think it affected me more than most as I was number 31 of the Thin Thirty (a nickname given to the 1962 football team at UK coached by Charlie Bradshaw). It’s a slippery slope for coaches to be emotional, emphatic or whatever you want to say it.

“After the coaches let it go too far and started to physically hit our players, 12 players quit after a particular practice. Coach Bradshaw did apologize and promise that no coach would hit a player again. But a couple of practices later a coach saw me miss a downfield block and ran toward me. When I saw that he appeared to be about to hit me, I hit him first. Not a proud moment for me but I think there is a point that players must protect themselves.

“If Calipari hasn’t read Thin Thirty, he should realize that he shouldn’t be in this situation. I made it through the South Carolina game all right but I had my ‘pregame’ jitters more than usual because I was affected by the whole affair.”

Bradshaw,  a Bear Bryant disciple, used his brutal methods in his first season as head coach to take a team of 88 players down to 30. While the team’s record was just 3-5-2, it did include a dramatic victory in the season finale against Tennessee in Knoxville, 12-10 — a rarity by today’s UK standards.

Players on the Kentucky team included Tom Hutchinson, Dale Lindsey, and Herschel Turner, who all played in the NFL. Two assistant coaches on the 1962 Kentucky staff, Leeman Bennett and Chuck Knox, later had success as NFL head coaches.

The 1962 Kentucky football team is the subject of a book, The Thin Thirty, by Shannon Ragland. I’ve never read the book, but just Hoffmeyer’s description of the brutality makes me cringe and makes it even to understand why he is a little skittish over any behavior he perceives as abusive toward a player.

If you’ve heard stories about that 1962 team, let me know. If you have read the book, let me know.

Permanent link to this article: http://vaughtsviews.com/thin-thirty-member-knows-coaching-abuse/


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  1. Linda S

    Found this brief synopsis about the book/
    http://news.lawreader.com/?p=1222 and also http://www.cappaa.com/the-thin-thirty. I vaguely remember hearing about this, never read the book. Bradshaw was still coach when I went to UK. Football players were always at the 2 Keys.

  2. I feel for Hoffmeyer. Clearly, Bradshaw and co.’s actions were deplorable and surely illegal. I fail to see the slippery slope here, however. To be “emotional, emphatic or whatever” is a far cry from physical assault. I do not defend Cal’s use of language – not because the language offended my otherwise virgin ears, but because it was used in a public place and in this case on national television. It’s unprofessional; that’s all. To react as Hoffmeyer does is understandable. It’s surely a traumatic event for a young person to go through what those young men were subjected to – both the abuse and the fallout. However, it would be unreasonable for those without Hoffmeyer’s personal experience to react in such a visceral way, to recoil, and to assume the worst is on the horizon. Cal has proven that he’s a player’s coach. I’ve no doubts that he cares for the young men he coaches. I also have no doubts that he is remorseful. I’d be surprised if we see or hear a public display of such colorful language from Cal again. If we do, then BBN is justified in demanding better of its coach.

  3. Katbluefan

    This subject of what Coach Cal said and was caught by the camera has been ridden enough. Just go to the Mall and listen to the kids talk to each other and it is as bad or worse than what Cal said or walk down the street in Atlanta and your ears will burn from what you hear. I have heard words like what Cal said used in public by the younger people in general conversation and they don’t care who hears it. If people don’t want to hear this type of language then quit using it and complain when you are in a place, ie: bar, fast food, store, and someone is using it loud enough to bother you. You have rights also.

  4. LindaS

    Katbluefan, it’s not just the kids. I worked for the Fed. Gov in It. We had a guy who used the word in every sentence, including when we were in staff meetings. I complained about it but nothing was never done. I think today’s movies are worse then anything Cal said and I do hope we don’t hear anymore about it either.

  5. Sarah White

    This horse is dead. Everyone needs to dismount.

  6. gmoyers

    But isn’t it amazing that after 50 years a former football player who became a very, very successful businessman/doctor would still be haunted by memories of the abuse he saw and was part of at Kentucky.

  7. Larry, it is amazing; and it’s sad. I believe this story (1962 team) needs periodic play – even, or perhaps especially in this context when so many in BBN are paying attention – so that the mistakes of the past are not repeated. For the record, I do not believe Cal’s team is in any way heading down that slippery slope.

  8. David Decatur AL

    When I was @ UK Coach Rupp was thre thru my Jr year. I could here him yell GD as he slung his arms together. No one compained players or fans. I talk about Coach Rupp to older fans sveral times a month. Coach Rupp is still my hero. GET OVER COACH CAL AND HIS WILL TO WIN and be glad he is @ UK

  9. bryan mceuen

    As of this writing i was watching the Baylor-Kansas st game and guess what the Kansas st coach was bursting out the F— word to his team as espn was showing him. I betcha there will be no up roar about him cussing on national tv.

  10. bigbluefans4uk.com

    bryan, I am with you. In fact, the ESPN boys were having quite the time lavishing their praise on the guy during the time I watched that game. Coach Calipari, and UK Basketball live in the glare of bright lights under a powerful microscope.

  11. P BARKER

    It’s so laughable that S. I. com. is still carrying this story on it’s tote board. Bobby Knight, Coach K, and Rick P. never used this kind of language-yeah! While I don’t condone it, the Cal haters will use anything to get hits on the trash they write…sorry state of affairs. Incidentally, I witnessed one of Charlie’s football practices and it was brutal. You had to be one tough guy to hang in there with what they were asked to do. I felt the actual games were a relief from the pain of their practices.

  12. gmoyers

    PBarker thanks for that insight on Bradshaw. Must have been brutal beyond comprehension in those days

  13. s cockrell

    Perhaps you need to talk to Dr. Elmer Jackson in Danville. A member of the thin thirty.

  14. ClassyCatFan

    Did say a bad word? I must have missed it because I was on YouTube listening to Bob Knight heap praise and love on his players during a “motivational speech.”

    Be warned this not bleeped and in 78 seconds contains almost as many F bombs as the entire movie Scarface.

  15. Shannon Ragland

    I say read the book Larry! Ha! Claude’s very compelling story is in there as is Elmer Jackson’s. Elmer said of the year that he considered it crazy not that he stayed, but that he didn’t quit.

  16. Micheal B. Minix, Sr., M.D.

    Claude Hoffmyer, M.D. was my teammate during the 1962 UK Bradshaw Football Tragedy. Hoffmyer was an excellent target and receiver for our team. Could go up and get the ball shielding it with his body from secondary defenders. Great Danville Athlete and Brain. Our team during 2008 Reunion conducted a clinical study of the Physical, Psychological (Emotional) Abuse of our team. Claude, the gentleman that he is, was too kind to the Bradshaw thugs in this article.
    Everyone should read The Thin Thirty. See the horrendous study we conducted:

  17. gmoyers

    Thanks Michael. Everyone should look at that link. And do remember a few words from Elmer now Shannon and Shinny. Thanks for reminding me. Hope to get a copy of the book myself now

  18. King Ghidora

    Knight didn’t limit his tirades to yelling at his players in the heat of emotion of a game. He did it in press conferences all the time. He was a madman if I ever saw one. Yet ESPN now has him on the payroll. I wonder why SI never found fault with his language.

    I also saw Terry Bradshaw use the F bomb in a Super Bowl pregame show and everyone acted like it didn’t happen. I wonder where SI was that day. I wonder where the SEC was on that because that was broadcast tv.

    You know I played high school football in the early 70’s. I had a coach that had played at UK who was way over the top when it came to the way he treated players. He grabbed me by the facemask and shook my head in the middle of a game once and I nearly took my helmet off and whacked him with it. That “coach” went on to start a private school that became a phenomenal basketball program with some huge names playing there. They were every bit on par with Oak Hill Academy. It fell apart because none of the local schools would even play the team being the giant cowards that they were. Many of you probably know this school and you might even know the man. He played football at UK sometime in the 60’s and it very well could have been in 1962. It would explain a lot of things to be honest.

    I saw that guy not long ago. I still wanted to pound him in the dirt but I don’t do things that way. I’m just saying he didn’t do me any favors treating me the way he did especially since they treated the head coach’s nephew like he was superman. Those people treated me very, very badly in fact. My senior year 3 area schools consolidated forming a “County” school. We had a very successful year when I was a junior. Plus our JV team lost only 2 games in 2 years. But the coaching staff managed to make everyone except me and one other guy quit that played on those teams. Everything was done for the benefit of coach’s nephew and a very talented bunch of athletes quit because of it.

    I’m going through all this to point out that being a lunatic coach doesn’t help you at all especially when winning isn’t your primary goal. I don’t believe Cal has that problem of not putting winning first. But not all coaches who act like loons are doing it because they want to win. Some are just loons even if they do go on to become successful elsewhere. Abuse is not part of coaching IMO. And believe me I saw plenty of it. We still managed to have a good season my senior year but it was not because of the coach. My stolen senior year was spent being a blocking fullback for the coach’s nephew when I should have been a wide receiver catching passes from a qb that could know you down with a pass at 50 yards. He quit before the season even started because the coach didn’t want him playing qb and stealing the thunder from his nephew. That should be “knock” you down in that previous sentence btw.

    Sorry to bend your ear about this stuff but the more I think about it the more it sounds like my coach played on that ’62 team. That’s just the kind of attitude he had. I never liked it then, it didn’t help me at all, and in spite of his later success I still think it was dead wrong. I posted this in response to the request for info about that team. If I could find a roster I’d know quickly if my coach was part of that team but at the very least he managed to acquire that same attitude somewhere.

  19. King Ghidora

    Arrrghh! That should have been, “I wonder the FCC was on that because that was broadcast tv.” I should be proofreading these posts before I push the send button. :)

  20. Micheal B. Minix, Sr., M.D.

    ADVICE TO ALL: Never Chastise, scold, punish or cast guilt and shame on a child or youth athlete who “pulls out” of a corrupt program or “pulls out” from a Yelling, Screaming Verbally and Emotionally or Physically Abusive Coach. That is not Quitting. It is “Pulling Out” to move in a safer, healthier more constructive direction. “Pulling Out” might save the Athlete from Catastrophic Injury, Sickness and/or Death.

  21. Micheal B. Minix, Sr., M.D.

    Had Max Gilpin, Louisville PRP Football Athlete, who died June 2008, when the Heat Index was 95 and the Air Quality Index was near 106 and alerted in the media in Louisville, “pulled out” when the Coach said the team would run gassers until someone quits, Max might still be alive today. Very Sad tragedy.

  22. LindaS

    When my oldest son was young he played in a little league football league. Nothing was ever directed towards my son but the coach would constantly yell at two or three young men. This was the first year they ever played with equipment. When they would come off the field on more then on occasion he would pull one boy by his helmet towards him. No one said a thing, but I didn’t think it was right. I called the commissioner of the league and told him about it. An investigation was done and the coach was asked not to come back. There were never any curse words, there was a lot of yelling, but these kids were learning to play the game they weren’t playing for the Super Bowl. No one should take any kind of abuse from any coach. I am not saying coach was abusing Jones, it was the heat of the moment and we have never seen him do anything like this before, here or elsewhere. What Bryant and Bradshaw did to win had to leave some kind of psychological damage on some of those young men. Winning is good, but living a healthy life is better.

  23. gmoyers

    Linda you said it: Living a healthier life is better.
    But I truly could never see Cal physically abusing a player or losing his cool. I think he knows just what buttons to push mentally and emotionally to challenge players — and it works

  24. King Ghidora

    That’s what separates the good ones from the bad ones Larry. From the little coaching I’ve done I realized real quick it took different things to motivate different kids and sometimes you never figure out how to get across to a kid what is best. Maybe I just wasn’t willing to go there. And sometimes I would connect with some kid and another coach would come along and completely destroy what I had just established. Coaching is a tough job.

  25. Micheal B. Minix, Sr., M.D.

    • RESPECT THE ATHLETES Coaches should dutifully respect the human life and dignity of athletes and Athletes RIGHTS.
    “Do unto others as you would want others to do unto you.
    ”Primum non nocere[Latin] – “First do no harm” to human life.
    • RESPONSABILILTY FOR ATHLETE SAFETY AND WELFARE. Coaches must protect the physical and psychological well being of their athletes during the administration of their coaching duties. Sexual harassment and abuse are also unlawful. Coaches are accountable for their behavior. They hold an important position and duty of trust by athletes and the entire Athletic Community
    • POSITIVE RELATIONSHIP WITH ATHLETES. Coaches should develop a positive relationship with their athletes. They must develop a good level of mutual understanding and trust with good interpersonal communication.Devoting time for each athlete, the Coach will develop a positive relationship learning about each athlete’s abilities and skills. Coaches develop a positive relationship by taking a personal interest with coaching plans and techniques for their athletes’ improvement and goal oriented play.
    • RECOGNITION OF ATHLETES ACCOMPLISHMENTS Coaches should acknowledge and recognize their athletes’ when they accomplish their goals and execute their assignments properly and performance plans well. Special one-on-one notice and complementary attention to the athlete will enhance the trust for the Coach and motivate athlete. A pat on the back or the butt goes a long way;

    Rather than cursing, screaming-out verbal and emtional abuse

    Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)runs deeper than a Physical Injury. Believe me.

  26. gmoyers

    Michael, thanks for that post. We should all pay attention to it.
    And King, could not agree more

  27. bigbluefans4uk.com

    The thin 30 predates my UK football experiences, and all I have known of this situation over the years is the lore I have read. It is now nearly 50 years removed, and it seems that the truth of that situation may be emerging, at least at a location where I am becoming aware.

    If I am shocked, I really shouldn’t be I suppose, but I am surprised at the disparity between the lore and the statements I am reading here from those who not only lived it, but have obviously been harmed by that situation.

    I apologize for anything I may have believed based on the lore that acted to perpetuate it in the minds and the BBN because it is now clear to me that the “thin 30″ should never have been romanticized, but criticized.

  28. Micheal B. Minix, Sr., M.D.

    According to Bear Bryant and reported by Frank Deford, Sports Illustrated, “Bull Cyclone” Sullivan, my offensive line Coach in the 1961 High School All American Game, was the meanest, toughest Coach ever. He and others in the 1930’s and 40’s were the beginnings of the ERA of Abusive Football Coaching in the South.He was big and mean as a Bull and verbally abusive as a Cyclone.

    “Bull” said Athletes play for only 2 reasons.
    1. out of fear of the Coach or
    2. for the love of the game.

    Mentor, credible, trustworthy Coaches stand above and different from coercive abusive coaches, because the credible coach earns the Respect and Trust of their athletes. See the 4 R';s of Coaching above.

    Conversely, a “field coach”, does not know as much about the x’s and o’s of the game they play, is a coercive coach who is abusive to the Athletes. His or her Athletes play out of fear. The fears that “Bull” “Cyclone”, Bradshaw, Bryant and his kind threatened were the fear of the Coach, fear of God, fear of being called a quitter, fear of returning to poverty (mechanism works today), fear of returning to the cotton fields and plowing with the mules (Bear Bryant an his peers were tenant farmers and used mules to plow cotton fields; they hated it), fear of returning to chopping up “pup wood” (“Bull” and others work in Miss.), fear of disappointing father, family, and community, fear of disappointing the high school coach and school, and the fear of becoming shunned and ostracized by their hometown community, and fear of the unknown. Southern Coaches were particularly notorious for Coaching out of those fears.

    The Coercive Coach motivates the players like a mule driver would motivate his mules in a field of cotton. They try to beat the athletes into a great performance, hitched symbolically to the plowline, or the rein of submission, rather than the halter-less freedom of superior, dedicated, sacrificing, self-disciplined Athletes who play for the love of the game.

    “Bradshaw’s assistant, Bob Ford, had two pictures on his bedroom wall, when at UK. One of Robert E. Lee and the other of Stonewall Jackson.Pointing to Lee, the intensely serious Ford said to a visitor reporter,” You see this man here? He was a real Christian gentleman. He taught a Sunday School, But he went out and killed, didn’t he ? ” [Sports Illustrated Article about UK 1962 Football Abuse.] No need to argue with that mentality.

    Its not so much the football careers buried in a mass grave by Bradshaw,Ford and tyrants, the PTSD, Disabling physical injuries many of us hobble with, today.We moved on with successful careers, great families and hobbies. Its: how can we Prevent Educate, Enlighten, so that your and my children, grandchildren and other youth won’t have to suffer the detrimental effects of Abnormal Coaching Behaviors. That’s our dwelling. That horse is still alive and growing.

    “Sport Builds Good Character……When Good Characters Coach the Sport.” from Plowline Coaches, Mules and 100 Yards of Cotton by Micheal B. Minix, Sr., M.D.

  29. gmoyers

    Michael, thanks for all this inside information and history. Has told me a lot

  30. Jay Boyle

    On one hand, Coach Charlie Bradshaw did things that would have made Bear Bryant and Bobby Knight look like Sunday School teachers. It’s rather sad that the UK football program had a great coach in Bear Bryant and he left for Texas A&M when he got a cigarette lighter for a successful season while Coach Adolph Rupp got a new Cadillac. The UK football program had such men (at one time or another as head coaches or assistants) as Bryant, Blanton Collier, Leeman Bennett, Chuck Knox,
    Don Shula, Howard Schnellenberger, Bill Arnsparger, Ermal Allen, John North and Ed Rutledge. However, at UK, hoops took a higher priority over action on the gridiron although in recent years, UK had Jerry Claiborne (retired in 1989), Bill Curry (couldn’t replicate the success at Alabama), Hal Mumme (helped the Cats go to some bowl games and lead UK to its first victory over Alabama since 1922 but violations forced him to resign-although he did apologize and said it was his fault), Guy Morriss (started to get good but left for Baylor), and Rich Brooks (Oregon coach did a decent job at UK). I hope Joker Phillips can continue the success.
    Back to Coach Bradshaw. He did recruit excellent players in Sam Ball, Rick Norton, Larry Seiple, Dicky Lyons, and Jeff Van Note. However, Coach Bradshaw will also go down in history as the first football coach in the SEC to sign African-American football players in Nat Northington (first African-American to play in a SEC game vs. Ole Miss in 1967) and Greg Page, although Page died from complications due to paralysis after a practice (this later caused Northington to leave UK and in my opinion may have caused Bradshaw to resign after the 1968 season) as well as Houston Hogg and Wilbur Hackett, who played on Bradshaw’s last team in ’68 (he would later become UK’s first African-American team captain under Coach John Ray [UK coach from 1969-72] and later became a SEC referee who retired after the Rose Bowl on January 1, 20110. These signings were of consideration especially during the Civil Rights movement and racism in the South during the 1960s.
    I feel the motivation for Coach Bradshaw to sign Page, Northington, and Hackett happened during his first season in 1962 when UK played Ole Miss in Jackson. This was when James Meredith tried to enroll at and integrate Ole Miss. In a halftime speech, Mississippi Governor (then a staunch racist who later changed his ways) made his famous “I Love Mississippi, I Love Its Way of Life” speech to let his opinion known that he was against integrating Ole Miss.
    I had seen the HBO documentary “Breaking the Huddle” about African-American football players desegregating college football teams in the South. In 1968, Ole Miss and its star quarterback Archie Manning played UK in Jackson. Some Ole Miss fans referred to Hackett as “Leroy” as in “Look at the Leroy run”. When Hackett sacked Archie Manning, someone on the UK side (either a fan, a Kentucky State Policeman, or Hackett’s father) said “That Leroy just sacked your star quarterback”.
    Although many claim the Southern California-Alabama football game in 1970 when USC, led by runnning back Sam Cunningham trashed ‘Bama, after which ‘Bama assistant (and later UK head football coach Jerry Claiborne said “Sam Cunningham did more to integrate Alabama in 60 minutes than Martin Luther King did in 20 years”) helped open the door for more African-Americans to play football in the SEC. (Bryant had signed Wilbur Jackson, the first African-American to play football for ‘Bama, but Jackson sat in the stands because he was a freshman and freshmen were ineligible to play in the varsity until 1972), Coach Charlie Bradshaw opened the door for African-Americans and changed College Football in the South like Charley Pride changed country music.
    Be it the Thin 30 or the signing of African-Americans to play football in the SEC, for better or worse, please let Charlie Bradshaw rest in peace.

  31. Jay Boyle

    In my previous post, I had said that Bear Bryant had gotten a cigarette lighter while Adolph Rupp got a Cadillac. A story I had read causes me to stand corrected.

    This is what I saw on the website http://www.bigbluenation.net :

    With two highly successful coaches at the same school, as there was with Adolph Rupp and Paul Bryant, it’s not unexpected that the situation would get testy from time to time. There was speculation at the time about how the two got along, and concerns about Rupp’s tendency to overshadow the football program, as had happened in the past with previous football coaches. The gambling scandal and it’s aftermath no doubt did cause a strain in relations, and it is known that Bryant had expected that Rupp would resign as coach in the scandal’s aftermath.

    Despite the potential for clashes, there was actually relatively little confrontation between the two. In fact, they were known to often support each other and their respective teams, sometimes travelling with the squads to away games. Beyond that, after Bryant left Kentucky and speculation centered on Rupp and the basketball program, UK President Herman Donovan noted that he could not recall when the athletic association ever had refused any of Bryant’s football requests. (“Enraged Wildcat Fans Take Squawk to NCAA,” Atlanta Journal Constitution, February 6, 1954.)

    As far the specific claim made by Bryant in the December 9, 1950 article concerning a Cadillac and a lighter, this simply did not happen. Looking back through the Lexington Herald the week prior to December 9, there was no joint football-basketball banquet as claimed. Instead there was a football banquet hosted by the UK Athletic Association which was scheduled for a later date, December 13. There was also a ceremony scheduled for December 9th to reveal a plaque commemorating the accomplishments made by prior basketball teams in Alumni Gymnasium, a few hours prior to the game against Purdue dedicating the newly-built Memorial Coliseum. But there was no ceremony (joint or otherwise) as Bryant described and no gift of a car.

    It wound up being a joke about how frustrated Coach Bryant was playing second fiddle to the Baron of the Bluegrass.

  32. gmoyers

    Jay, Thanks for these great updates. Stories from that era are very, very revealing

  33. Don Chacos

    Shannon Ragland & Dr.Mike Minix,
    Thank you for your work. Shannon for the book which I read and first learned about last month and Dr Minix for your public reponse to the horrible situation that played out at UK with Bradshaw ( your view on how human beings should be treated.)
    After two years I “pulled out” 65-66 and moved on with my life, ending up at Maryland and trying again. Shannon you answered a lot of questions that have stayed with me through today and I am grateful for your exposure of the situation.
    I wish you both the best and to all that experienced the Bradshaw years at UK .

    1. larryvaught

      Great post Don. Thanks for taking the time to share

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