Bobo deserved better

 

Graham Williams - Managing Editor - Union Daily Times

Tommy Bobo wasn’t Mike Anthony — he didn’t try to be.

Unfortunately, some Union High School football fans couldn’t comprehend this and spent the last three years making Friday nights miserable for Bobo and his family.

Instead of supporting Bobo and the Yellow Jackets, they chose to criticize them, especially last season when the team struggled against Big 16 powers Spartanburg, Dorman and Gaffney, along with much improved competition within the region.

It didn’t occur to them that Bobo wasn’t coaching the same talent-laden Yellow Jacket teams that went to four straight state championships and won three of them. Union’s well began to run dry after the 2003 team lost to Greer on a last-second touchdown in the upperstate championship game.

Talent runs in cycles — Gaffney’s team was down for a few years and Union beat Gaffney 3 years in a row but has since come back to win a couple of Big 16 championships. Byrnes — which won four straight Division II 4-A titles — came up short this season and reportedly is expecting a leveling off of their talent supply. Their coach, Bobby Bentley, moved onto to greener pastures as Presbyterian College, where he doesn’t have to wait for the talent cycle to come around again — he can recruit talented players every year.

Shell Dula had a successful run at Union, winning two state championships in 10 years, but left for Greenwood after the Yellow Jackets were re-classified as 3-A and with the talent waning. Much of Dula’s success can be credited to his assistant coaches including defensive coordinator Bill Owens and offensive coordinator Tommy Bobo. Mike Anthony was hired to replace Dula.

Many of Bobo’s critics have short memories, or they’d recall that he was the one who installed Union’s high-powered no-huddle passing attack that ran roughshod over many of the Yellow Jackets’ opponents. But had Bobo not had such talented players to run that offense, many of those state championship trophies wouldn’t be resting in Union’s trophy case today.

Owens and Bobo left Union — Owens turned around a perennial doormat at Indian Land before moving to Broome, where he won a state championship.Bobo went to Wren after helping to win the 1999 State Championship at Union. At Wren he lacked the talent to make his offense click as it had in Union.

Mike Anthony, meanwhile, had other talented assistants — offensive coordinator Kevin Farmer and defensive coordinator Wayne Bell and Offensive Assistant Greg Lawson — who picked up where Owens and Bobo left off. During Anthony’s tenure the Yellow Jackets never failed to make the playoffs, winning three state titles in four years. Farmer and Bell have since moved on to head coaching jobs at Chapman and Saluda. Lawson was recently named Head Coach at Laurens after a stint as Offensive Coordinator at Gaffney.

When Anthony stepped down, Bobo returned to what he thought was his dream job, coaching at Union High School. The first year, he finished with a 6-6 record — beating Spartanburg and Dorman in his first two games — which only whetted the appetites of hungry Yellow Jacket fans.

The next season, Union began the season 0-5 and the honeymoon was over. The grumbling increased as the losses mounted. The Yellow Jackets rebounded to win five straight games, the region title and advanced to the upperstate championship game.

Last year, Union started out 0-3 and the dissatisfaction could be heard in the stands. More than once, Bobo’s wife, Janet, walked onto the field after a loss with tears in her eyes after listening to people around her criticizing her husband. Once, she mentioned that they had not sold their home in Anderson County and even suggested they could always move back.

Union ended the season at 5-7, its first losing record since 1988. In January, when the consolidation issue arose, all of the coaching positions in the district were opened, meaning Bobo had to apply for his job along with David Lipsey of Jonesville and Dennis Cooper of Lockhart. No one knows if Bobo would have continued as head coach, because he chose to resign and take the offensive coordinator’s job at Dorman.

Union High School has not only lost one of its best coaches, but one of the finest people you’d ever want to meet. Whoever is hired to be Union’s next football coach has some mighty big shoes to fill.

 

 

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