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We all know how sportswriters will track airplane numbers to find out what coaches certain universities are interviewing and trying to hire, proving that one covert action can be trumped by another. Well, you'll get a kick out of Don "Fox" Bryant's undercover work on trying to track down Bob Devaney in Lincoln nearly 50 years ago, but first, we need to set the stage for the secrecy surrounding Devaney's private interview that led to his departure from Wyoming.
Four months earlier, the ever popular Devaney had signed a second five-year contract with Wyoming - strong reason for officials and fans not wanting to release him.
"The whole thing dragged on for a month-and-half," Devaney told those of writing a book 30 years ago in a private interview in his house. "The sportswriters were doing stories every day. The regents were mad. Everybody in Laramie was mad. They felt like guys should honor commitments, which I guess I can understand."
"Lifetime" Contract Lasted Just Four Months
To put Devaney's impending departure in perspective, Bowden Wyatt was a good coach that left Laramie. So were former Texas coach Freddie Akers and Auburn coach Pat Dye. Both used Wyoming as a stepping stone. "They got especially mad when I left," Devaney said, "because they had presented me one of those "lifetime" contracts that sounded pretty good. I hadn't had any interest in leaving before the Nebraska thing came up, and Wyoming people were reluctant to let me go to a neighboring state."
"The Fox", Nebraska's Sports Information Director Emeritus and eventual longtime Devaney confidante, was sports editor of the Lincoln Star when Nebraska decided it was going to hire an existing head coach instead of assistants like Pete Elliott and Bill Jennings, the Huskers' previous two head coaches.
"We all knew one was in town for an interview, but we had no idea who he was or where he was at," Fox said this week, remembering how Devaney's name wasn't even on the radar. "Well, Bob came into Lincoln on the train under an assumed name, Mr. Roberts. He stayed at the house of Joe Soshnik, who was the comptroller at the time under Clifford Hardin, our chancellor. I was a newspaper guy trying to find out who the next coach would be, where he's coming from and who he's bringing with him."
Three Days Later, He Found Out He Was Close
Clueless was the word that best described Fox's search for truth.
"Here I was looking all over Lincoln, and Bob Devaney was staying and sleeping three houses down the street from me as Mr. Roberts, and I never found him," Fox said with healthy laughter.
"I found out I wasn't much of a bird dog like reporters are today," Fox said. "Joe Soshnik always teased me how he hid Bob from me for three days from three houses down the street. The next time Devaney came, he brought Jim Ross with him on the train for the first official press conference. They both became longtime friends."
Maybe it was a blessing in disguise that Inspector Bryant didn't find his man. He could have screwed up an already delicate situation even more.
One Grad Assistant Became a Hall-of-Famer
John Melton followed Devaney and Ross to Lincoln. Then Carl Selmer. Mike Corgan stayed in Laramie to see if he or Lloyd Eaton would get the Wyoming job. Corgan finished second and joined Devaney shortly thereafter. Devaney retained Clete Fischer and George Kelly from the existing staff after Jennings was fired. Devaney's last two hires were two graduate assistants - Dallas Dyer and Tom Osborne.
You all know the rest of the story.
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