When former USC, LA Rams, and UNLV coach John Robinson took the stage before the Little Rock Touchdown Club, he was greeted with a standing ovation and many laughs followed as he joked about college football, John Madden, and recalled adventures of old times with different teams. His reception at Monday's luncheon was a far cry from that of his last visit to Little Rock. In 2001, he coached the UNLV Runnin' Rebels against Arkansas in a defensive slugfest that wouldn't be decided until the very last drive. Arkansas, coached by Houston Nutt, had amassed an abysmal 100 total yards of offense, and faced a 10-7 defecit as they forced a 4th down punting situation.
"I made one of the worst coaching errors I've ever made," Robinson explained, after benching the starting punter, he put in a freshman to punt from the 50. "We just punt the ball down, and we win the game!". Much to the dismay of Coach Robinson, the snap went through the young punter's hands and off his facemask on to the ground where the Arkansas defense recovered, and the offense would score to win the game 14-10. "If I'd had a gun, I'd have committed suicide."
The Hall of Fame coach received many laughs from the misfortunes he recalled, yet the crowd admired the legendary figure that stood before them. Robinson coached at USC from 1976-1982 and again from 1993-1997, where he won 4 Rose Bowls, shared a National Title and finished with a record of 104-35-4. He went on to coach the L.A. Rams, leading them to two NFC Championship appearances, both of which resulted in losses to eventual Super Bowl champions. After failing to recruit the highly touted Eric Dickerson to USC, apparenlty having not paid enough for his services, Robinson drafted him with the Ram's first pick in 1983
Coach Robinson also coached USC against the Hogs, going 1-1 in Little Rock as the Trojan's offensive coordinator under coach John McKay. Robinson expressed his admiration for former Arkansas coach and athletic director, Frank Broyles, referring to him as "legendary" and his slant defense "revolutionary". When discussing the Hogs, he said that he'd hoped to go to Miami and watch USC play Arkansas. "I'm already wearing red, so depending on the outcome, I can pretend to be one of you guys!" Joking aside, Robinson predicted that the SEC would once again be represented in the BCS National Title game, against USC or Oregon, his alma mater.
This week's guest was an absolute delight to hear, and next week's should be no different as Howard Schnellenberger, another Hall of Fame coach joins the club. Schnellenberger is responsible for establishing the system that ascended the University of Miami into the college football elite. He coached the Baltimore Colts, served as offensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins, as well as coaching Miami, Louisville, Oklahoma and FAU during a career that lasted over 50 years. Dont miss the opportunity to hear a legend speak next Tuesday at 11:00 for lunch at the Embassy Suites in Little Rock. Lunch is $15.00 for members and $25.00 for non-members, however a one time fee of $50.00 will earn you an annual membership. For more details, visit www.LRTouchdown.com.