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VTM Interviews Eddy Clinton | From the DT to Coach's Shows and Plano East vs. John Tyler

Former writer for the Daily Toreador, sports broadcaster in Lubbock and play-by-play for one of the most famous high school games in history, Eddy Clinton, stops by VTM to discuss Texas Tech and so much more.

Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Spo

VTM is pleased to have Eddy Clinton join us this morning. Eddy is a former writer for the Daily Toreador, former sports director for KCBD in Lubbock and called one of the greatest high school football games in history, Plano East and Tyler John Tyler. Eddy also had numerous coach's shows with former Texas Tech head football coaches, including Jim Carlen, Steve Sloan and Spike Dykes. I think you all will enjoy this.

SETH C: Tell us first a bit about your connection to Texas Tech.

EDDY CLINTON: In the 1950's I spent many an all night driving adventure to Lubbock where most of my relatives lived. All the Clintons were huge Texas Tech fans and I became one as well. When I was in junior high in Oak Cliff, a fella doing his student teach came to our baseball games and eventually asked my best friend and I if we would be interested in extra batting practice after our official school workouts. Turns out the student teacher was a fella named Kal Segrist. He told us that next year he would be at Texas Tech as the assistant baseball coach, and if he ever got to the the head coach he would like for us to join him in Lubbock.

Four years later, during my senior year at Sunset high school, Coach Segrist, now the head coach at Texas Tech, signed me to a scholarship. After my freshman year we could not decide how much I should play (chuckle) and I transferred to Pan American University in Edinburg to play under legendary coach Al Ogletree. Pan Am eventually made the College World Series in Omaha, but after four years of college ball I had something like sophomore hours in the classroom. So, my girlfriend, editor of the University Daily newspaper at Tech, suggested I return to Lubbock. She also helped me change my major to journalism and put me on the UD sports staff. That was the basis for an incredible life.

The paper sponsor was the legendary Dr. Bill Dean. He is now the grand poobah for the ex-students association. Our staff helped him lose most of his hair. We were the only staff that did most of our writing from the tee boxes at Meadowbrook golf course. That staff included Bob Brewster who went on to be the information director for the Houston Oilers and Miller Bonner who became the Tech beat writer for the AJ, became representative Kent Hance's press liason in Washington D.C., later founded his own PR firm in New York City and was awarded as an outstanding alumni award by Tech. Our staff became the first to travel to every home and away game with the Tech football and basketball teams.

I became the sports director at KCBD-TV, channel 11 in the Hub City. I thought they were crazy to pay me to cover sports. I was fortunate enough to produce and host the Steve Sloan Show and produce and host the Gerald Myers show. I also, being young and ignorant of how the world works, decided to cover all the Dallas teams weekly, because most of Lubbock thought they were a suburb of Dallas. I would leave the station on Monday evening after the 10 pm sportscast, drive all night, cover Coach Landry's Tuesday press conference, run to the practice field and get player interviews, and drive back to the Hub to put those interviews on for the 6 pm sportscast. Told you I was bullet proof! Along the way we collected two sportscaster of the year awards for the state of Texas from the AP and UPI! After 3 1/2 years I left Lubbock to become the sports director for Channel 4 in Dallas. The coolest story from Dallas was the day that Steve Sloan called to alert me that he had an offer from the Atlanta Falcons that would make him the head coach and 10% owner of the team. Broke that story from Dallas and there were some upset members of the media in Lubbock. But again, I told you I was fortunate to being paid to have fun.

In 1990 Coach Dykes and T Jones got in touch with me. We started a weekly vhs program called "The Video Season Ticket" that we produced for Red Raider fans worldwide. That program spread across the nation from USC to the Air Force Academy, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State, Naval Academy, West Point and many other colleges.

So this Oak Cliff idiot has been involved with Texas Tech as a young fan, a scholarship athlete, a Lubbock media type and as a businessman. I would rather be lucky than good!

SETH C: So you started at the DT and then made it to being the sports director for KCBD? Talk about your weekly interaction with the three coaches you mentioned, Sloan Myers and Dykes? Maybe a good story about each of them (aside from Sloan giving you the scoop for the Falcons gig). Where did you film the shows, I assume the KCBD studios? Also talk about how they were during the ebb and flow of a season? Did the season get to them if things were bad?

Also maybe talk a bit about what it was like covering the team as a student way back in the day. Did you have access to the players and were certain things off limits?

EDDY CLINTON: It was a different time in the old Southwest conference. And it was especially true for Texas Tech when a brash new outsider, dressed not in good old boy clothes, but preppy slacks, sweaters and slippers, named Jim Carlen took over for JT King. Carlen was independently wealthy from the family Coca-Cola distributorship in Tennessee. He did not bend to the old boys club in West Texas. He told everyone he would out-recruit, outwork and win. He even radically changed the Tech uniforms going with a white helmet. For some reason he took a shine to me and I took many recruiting trips onboard a private plane with him. On one trip we visited the top two high school quarterbacks in the state that year including Jimmy Charmichael of Brownwood and Joe Barnes of Springlake Earth. Carlen signed them both.

Not being much older than many of his players I had total access to the entire team at all times. I remember after we returned from the Texas game in Austin, a game that Tech let slip away in the end, I sat with several players at the IHOP across from campus. One of the players was a friend from Oak Cliff, tight end Ronnie Sanford from Dallas Adamson. I proceeded to tell the entire table, and especially Ronnie, that they sucked and were a bunch of chokers just like all the other Tech football teams. Ronnie asked me what I would say if they didn't lose another game. Well, they won out and finished 10-1 and kicked butt in the Gator Bowl. I also became good friends with a sophomore tailback named Doug McCutcheon from Bronte, Texas. Doug was about 5'11" and played at 220. He gained over 1,000 yards his sophomore year and was an All-Southwest Conference selection. The day it was announced I walked up to him and said "With all my great press coverage of your exploits I made you what you are today!" He said "What's that?" I replied "Nothing". That became our standard greeting for the next four decades as he spent many years as a great high school football coach and one of my best friends. Sadly, he passed away a couple of years back in San Angelo.

Jim Carlen called me into his office one day and asked me to keep a secret. He said I could run it in the paper one week from the day he gave me the story. I agreed. The king of Lubbock and a pain in the butt to the rest of the conference and the good old boys that ran West Texas, Jim Carlen, told me that he had agreed to take over as the head football coach at the University of South Carolina. And I was lucky enough to break that story which went nationwide. Carlen also took his white helmets to South Carolina and if you will compare their helmets of today to the helmets of 1970's Texas Tech teams you will notice that the only difference is the "Fightin Chicken" and the double T.

Parcells wore a white shell necklace and had an afro and we spent many a morning at the athletic offices reading the baseball box scores. Bill told me that his entire life all he ever wanted to be was the third baseman for the Boston Red Sox. -Eddy Clinton on Bill Parcells
Steve Sloan was a major story in Lubbock. He was the Bear Bryant protege and was the hot young coach at Vanderbilt. Dirk West called him Kid Coach. He brought a young, energetic coaching staff to Lubbock including future NFL head coaches Romeo Crenell and Bill Parcells. Parcells wore a white shell necklace and had an afro and we spent many a morning at the athletic offices reading the baseball box scores. Bill told me that his entire life all he ever wanted to be was the third baseman for the Boston Red Sox. And if he could have hit, run and fielded he was sure he could have made it. When Sloan hit town everybody wanted a piece of him. I campaigned hard to do his show. Finally I told him that if his first team sucked we would just spend the show singing country music. He gave in and let me have the Steve Sloan Show. The guy was a sweetheart and never changed win or lose. We would fly back to Lubbock after away games and I would spend the flight marking the play sheet. When we got to Lubbock Sloan would head home for a couple hours sleep and I would head to the station to develop and edit the game film. I would call his house between 4 and 5 am and he would come to the station for the taping. The thing that always impressed me was after every show he would go around the studio, call every cameraman, soundman, engineer and director by their name and thank them for doing the show that week. Before the 1976 season I got the offer to come to Channel 4 in Dallas. We were only two weeks before the start of the season and I told Sloan that I was not going to take the job because of loyalty to the show. He closed the door and told me I must take the job. Nobody turned down a Top 10 market job. That year they were SWC co-champs. It was very sad to me that his wife, when he was offered the Tech head coach and athletic directors job, told him that if he did not leave for the University of Mississippi, that she and the boys were moving back to Tennessee.

I first met Gerald Myers when he was an assistant for Bob Bass. When Bass left for the San Antonio Spurs Gerald got the job. I always found him funny with a biting sense of humor. And that sucker could coach some serious basketball. And he recruited some great players with the help of Corky Oglesby and Rob Evans. For the first time Tech brought in great African American basketball players like Gene Knoll and Rick Bullock.and kept the tremendous West Texas players like Richard Little of Abilene and Donny Moore of Lubbock Monterrey at home. The funniest thing about Gerald doing the show was that early in the season he could carry on a normal conversation. But as they year went along and the conference race came down to the wire, he had this nervous tick of coughing. By the end of the year it seems that our whole show was me asking questions and Gerald answering with cough, cough, cough, cough, cough! I found out one time that A&M was paying players and buying them cars. I had the paperwork for the cars and was ready to bust the story wide open. I went to coach Myers to tell him what I was about to do and he asked me not to run the story. I did not out of loyalty to him. Please feel free to draw your own conclusions about the wild, wild, Southwest Conference.
In all the years I covered Spike I never heard him badmouth a kid, official, opposing coach or officials call. When he faced adversity he would say that it was his responsibility to coach better, to help the kids or it was not the call that had turned a game against Texas Tech. -Eddy Clinton on Spike Dykes

That brings us to one of the best men ever placed on this earth-Coach Spike Dykes.He was the same guy whether he was driving the school bus for Ballinger High School or the head coach of Texas Tech University. When we started the weekly production of "The Video Season Ticket" I had access to him 6 days a week. I did segments at practice, in pregame, on the sidelines, at halftime and post game. In all the years I covered Spike I never heard him badmouth a kid, official, opposing coach or officials call. When he faced adversity he would say that it was his responsibility to coach better, to help the kids or it was not the call that had turned a game against Texas Tech. Spike was West Texas. That's all he ever wanted to be. He asked me many times if I could believe that he was in the wonderful position he was. I told him he deserved every bit of it. I think the greatest tribute to him was the universal love shown him from Darrell Royal ,Frank Broyles or the grounds keepers at Jones Stadium. They all loved him and I did and do.

SETH C: This is really fantastic stuff. It's good that you have/had such great relationships with the former coaches. I think your sentiment regarding Coach Dykes is no different than everyone else that comes into contact with him and that's a credit to Coach Dykes. Seeing him interact with people makes me realize he could have been good at just about anything he wanted to be because his people skills were so great.

So you left Lubbock for the DFW to be the sports director for Channel 4 (I assume this was before it was Fox, but when it was CBS) and you eventually made your way to call high school games. For those that don't know, you called the very famous Plano East vs. Tyler John Tyler game. How did you move into that role and tell us what you're doing now?

EDDY CLINTON: When I left broadcasting I opened up an athletic film processing lab. I signed up Ron Myer at SMU (I loved that guy. Lots of Eric Dickerson recruiting stories for another day.) , North Texas and sixty-five high schools. Eventually, we had labs in San Antonio, Dallas, Waco and Tyler. I also starting doing the Highland Park and Lewisville High school football shows on their respective cable systems. The next year I started Friday Night Heroes weekly high school football shows on cable systems state-wide. That show eventually crossed over to commercial television stations. I also went to the Plano cable system and created a district game of the week for Plano, Plano East, Lake Highlands, Richardson etc. I needed a color guy and selected Denny Garver, a great friend of mine that I had coached youth football and baseball with for many years. Denny is one of those guys we all know. He did not try to be funny but everything he said came out damn funny. He was a rather stumpy, Garth Brooks looking guy with a loud voice. But that sucker knew football inside out. We did the district 12-5A game of the week for 10 years for the fun of it. That's right! Never made a penny or even wanted to. Our reward was sitting around for three hours on Friday Nights, trying out all the different concession foods, talking about the world, giving parents of the players a hard time, talking about fashions in the stands and, oh yeah, describing what was going on the field. It was a blast.

In 1994 we were doing our 10th year of high school broadcasts. And now the kids from Plano and Plano East were either my own sons or kids that Denny and I had started coaching in T ball. When the quarterfinals of the playoffs rolled around we were scheduled to do a triple header including Plano, Lake Highlands and Plano East at Texas Stadium. That meant we started broadcasting our first game at noon. At the end of the historic day, we would walk out of Texas Stadium at 1:30 am Sunday morning. We were doing these games on the local origination channel for Plano Telecable. The games were recorded and played back three times during the following week. This week, because of the upcoming holidays we were only able to scratch out a skeleton crew. We ended up with a director, a sound engineer and two cameramen. Thats right! Four total crew members! Only two cameras to cover an entire football game. Denny and I were joined in the booth for the finale between Plano East-Tyler John Tyler by Lake Highlands coach Mike Zoffutto, whose team had won earlier in the day. Mike was a loud Yankee. He was also football brilliant and the only high school coach the Naval Academy interviewed for the head coaching position. I loved him from the minute I met him and invited him to several of our telecasts.

Because of natural time delays during the course of the first two games that day, the Plano East game did not begin until 9:00 pm. What a matchup! Both teams were 12-0. Plano East was a blue collar group of players with a roster sprinkled with outstanding players. Tyler John Tyler was a track team in football uniforms. Their team featured several players that would play division 1 football including TE David Warren, a 6-4 sophomore, who had won the 110 yard high hurdles at the state track meet!
I went to the cable company and told the general manager I wanted to buy the rights to the game. He ask why in the world would I pay for that and how much would I pay. I wrote him a check for $200 bucks and it was all mine! -Eddy Clinton on buying the Plano East vs. John Tyler broadcast rights

The game was an incredible ballgame for 2-1/2 quarters with the score going back and forth. But late in the third quarter JT took a couple of East turnovers in for touchdowns and broke the game wide open 41-17. There was 2 minutes and 48 seconds left and most of the 40,000 plus crowd had filed out of the stadium on their way home. At this point, if you ever listen to the telecast, you can hear us talking about what an incredible career these kids had put up for Plano East and how they would appreciate in in the days to come. Plano East threw a touchdown pass. I was so proud of the East quarterback, Jeff Whitley, that you can hear me say "That a boy Jeffie, you keep chunkin son." Then East got the first onside kick and there is hardly an acknowledgment from the three of us other than they got that onside kick. East scored and then another onside kick. Now we are a bit more interested but still filling the time talking about what an incredible year the players had had. East scores! Holy Crap! Now we are into it! Denny even chides the Plano East fans by saying "All you fans in your cars on the way back home, that didn't stay and sell out for your kids, You Sorry Dogs!" Third onside kick and East recovers and all hell breaks loose.

Twenty four seconds left, East is at the 24, 4th down, and a swing pass down the left sideline for a Plano East go ahead touchdown! East has done the impossible and now leads 44-41. All we need is a final kickoff to finish the most improbable comeback you have ever seen. East kicks it high and deep and calamity as Tyler takes it back 97 yards for the winning score 48-44. As it is unfolding my broadcast training tells me to shut the hell up after I state "Ohhhhh my." Then Zoffutto makes broadcast goal with "Oh garsh, God bless those kids, I'm sick, I want to throw up."

Following the game my crew headed in one car back to Plano. We had a six pack for six of us. Not one word was spoken the entire trip. We were tired, hoarse, drained and heart broken for our kids. Sunday the Dallas Morning News had no coverage of the game because it ended so late. The local stations had no video because of the lateness. The NBC station, channel 5, had gone to the cable company and gotten footage. Denny called me at 10:20 pm Sunday night and said we were about to be on the sports. Sports director Scott Murray introduced the 3:30 segment this way. "It was an incredible game, but wait til you hear the idiots broadcasting this game." Murray then sent the footage up the network lines and the game went worldwide. Monday morning at 8 am I got a call from David Letterman who requested a tape of the game. Then ESPN, The Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, San Francisco Chronicle, Atlanta Journal Constitution etc. were calling. I went to the cable company and told the general manager I wanted to buy the rights to the game. He ask why in the world would I pay for that and how much would I pay. I wrote him a check for $200 bucks and it was all mine! Later that afternoon Jay Leno called and booked us for the Tonight Show. I told him if he would send a yellow cab and a six pack of Lone Star Beer we would be there. When we got to LA, he had flown in two cases of Lone Star from San Antonio. It cost him $86.00 bucks a case! The whirlwind continued with us being on the front page of the Morning News, being honored by the Dallas All Sports Association, winning the ESPY award for ShowStopper of the Year beating out Reggie Miller's 52 points against the Knicks and Wayne Gretzky's all time scoring record. A couple of years later Paramount Pictures signed us to do "Varsity Blues" with Paul Walker, Ali Larter, Amy Smart, James Van Der Beek and Jon Voight. I am amazed that fifteen years later it always runs several times a month on TV. And nine years after the game I brought the players, coaches, officials, broadcasters and Texas Stadium folks back together to do all the back stories of the game. I edited those stories throughout the game and produced "The Greatest High School Football Game of All Time" dvd that sold and continues to sell worldwide! Pure luck, a little preparation and lighting in a bottle continues to make for a helluva ride. At this years Texas State Fair, NFL just paid for the rights to the game and is placing it in their GMC exhibit!

These days I'm back in front of the camera. I have made about 75 print and television commercials for everybody from Methodist Hospitals, Callaway Golf, Dicks Sporting Goods and Southwest airlines. My wife and I have also invented, and are starting to market a one of its kind graduation shot glass called "GradShot and GreekShot" which incorporates the cap and tassel and shot glass. I am proud to announce that we will be placing it in stores in Lubbock, College Station, Austin, Dallas, Ft. Worth and Houston. I will be working to place it online with the alumni associations as well. This first year we can only place it in 5 schools in Texas but we plan to go nationwide starting next year. I tell my bride that all this work is really getting in the way of my golf game.

Not that anybody asked but when the Leach fiasco broke, I called Kent Hance, who used to be my attorney when I worked for Channel 11 in Lubbock, and owned the bar "Fat Dawgs" where we hung out at 4th and University when I was a helmet haired sportswriter and sportscaster, and told him not another t-shirt, not another hat and certainly not another ticket from me because of the embarrassment to Tech. I am very happy to say that three weeks ago, behind his closed office doors we aired out our Dimmitt-Oak Cliff feelings toward each other for about 10 minutes. Then we spent the next 20 minutes back as friends and I am so excited to be back on board with Kliff and the boys. Yeah, my wife thinks he's hot. Big Deal!

Moving toward 70 years I cannot believe how connected I have been with Texas Tech in just about every facet of my life. My friends, when I stayed in Lubbock for many years in tv, would always ask my why I continued to do so. My response to them was "If I have to explain it to you, you will never understand anyway." I still feel way deep within my soul. West Texas! Its down home folks, big skies and Texas Tech just kind of grab you and hold on for a lifetime.

Thanks again to Eddy for joining us this morning and we appreciate his time.