Raymond coached an aspiring sportswriter, too

Harold R. “Tubby” Raymond died Friday at the age of 92. (Delaware State News file photo)

DOVER — Growing up, the West family made a lot of trips north to see the Fightin’ Blue Hens.

I couldn’t tell you how many games we watched or how many times I heard the graying alumni in Section J of Delaware Stadium hollering, “Come on, Tubby, throw the ball!”

My dad, Wendel, was a season-ticket holder for many years and it seemed every Saturday in the fall was another opportunity to learn about his alma mater, the Delaware Wing-T, and the tradition many of us know as Blue Hen football.

So, like a lot of Delaware alumni, the passing of UD football legend Harold R. “Tubby” Raymond brought back a lot of memories.

Somewhere in my early years, it came to me that I should be a sportswriter, and so that’s the path I started down once on the campus of the University of Delaware.

The Review — the student-run newspaper — offered me a chance to get some bylines and a taste of media life.

Coach Raymond was already a legend when I started covering the team in 1983.

To tell you the truth, he could be a little intimidating after a game, especially a loss.

But he treated the students pretty much the way he did everyone else who placed a recorder in front of him after a game.

Coach Raymond didn’t just coach football players. He taught us aspiring reporters, too.

When he had time, he would explain the Wing-T, and dazzle you with stories and quips,

And, he’d take the time to blast you when he was upset.

Back in 1983, the team went 4-7.

And it got off to a 2-3 start in 1984 and it appeared to be the start of another rough year.

More bad news in the Blue Hen sports world came around that time, too, when basketball coach Ron Rainey was fired.

But, what made Coach Raymond so mad at me was that I had written a column comparing the Hens’ football team to the basketball squad.

“Frustration,” I wrote, “wasn’t supposed to arrive at the Field House until December when basketball season started.”

The Hens were about to play Temple at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia in a game that could make or break a season.

The Hens won, with Rich Gannon starting at quarterback.

It was a huge win and a breakthrough game for the Gannon. I’ll never forget the celebration on the field that day.

Coach Raymond was fired up in the press conference.

His ire raised the eyebrows of the Philadelphia media when he got on a roll.

“The Hen is not dead! Neither is the tradition behind Delaware football,” Coach Raymond said. “There’s too much emotion involved.”

You can imagine how small I felt when he added, “There’s a lot of things going against us. Even our student newspaper questioned us and that’s ridiculous.”

The Hens went on to a 7-4 season and Gannon went on to a stellar career with the Hens and the NFL.

When it ended, I thought that might be the last of my experiences with Coach Raymond.

But, a few months later, he called me up and we had a nice talk.

He explained his pride in Blue Hen football, and I recriprocated with the appreciation the West family always had for it, too.

I’m still grateful, too, that he took the time to call my dad back in 1994 when he was battling cancer.

Thanks again, Coach Raymond, for the memories and the coaching.

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