Last week I visited Emory University, in my own backyard.

Some folks have suggested that I would favor Emory in my UAA research because I have lived in Atlanta and near the campus since 1983.

Not so.

And to prove it, I got lost, as I have done at Rochester, Carnegie Mellon and Case Western Reserve. My Atlanta friends may marvel at my idiocy, but it comes down to whether Springdale intersects with Oxford. It doesn’t. You have to take a two block jog on Emory to get to Oxford. Thankfully I wasn’t driving Honey so I didn’t run up my mileage needlessly.

At Emory, Doc lives

Hanging in the office of Tim Downes, the athletics director at Emory, is a slightly moth-eaten glaringly yellow letter sweater that belonged to Doc Partin, the “patron saint” of Emory athletics and physical education.

He came to Emory as a student after the war, which is how my parents and their generation always refer to World War II, and didn’t retire until 2002. His full name, William Clyde Partin Sr., was replaced by “Doc” after he earned his PhD from Vanderbilt.

He was Emory’s AD from 1966 to 1986, but his involvement in Emory athletics lasted from 1950 to 2002.  He died in June 2009.

When you read the tributes to Doc written at the time of his death, it’s easy to wish that you had known him.

“His love for Emory, our athletes, and our community was something you felt the moment you met Doc. And from that moment, you knew you had a new best friend!” wrote Jenny McDowell, who has led the Eagles volleyball program into national prominence and won the D3 championship in 2008.

“Clyde Partin was the best of us.  He was a mentor to many, a great story teller, the best ambassador Emory University ever had, a lunch buddy and a dead pull hitter,” wrote John Curtin, the cross country and track coach.

Today, Tim Downes is carrying on Doc’s legacy as the Clyde Partin Sr. Director of Athletics, a position endowed by alumna Deb Jackson. (Downes was born in 1966, when Partin had already served Emory for 16 years.)

After Doc’s death, a family member found his letter sweater from the ’40s and wanted Tim to have it.

In Doc’s day, there were no endowed chairs for athletics, and in our world there are lots of  PhDs. But very few Docs.

A coaches’ work is never done

While visiting Emory last week, I interviewed Jenny McDowell and Jason Zimmerman.

Jenny has a national championship trophy in her office from volleyball in 2008. Jason’s goal is to win one in men’s basketball.

Emory volleyball is so good that, along with Washington University, they form a nearly impenetrable top tier within the University Athletic Association. Any UAA team that wants to contend nationally first has to get by those two.

This year is no different, with Emory ranked No. 2 and Wash U. No. 1 in the latest D3 poll.

As I was wandering around the Woodruff Athletics facility last week, though, I saw the fullness of coaching a national championship team. Hours before their Friday night matches, there was Jenny down on the empty court clearing loose volleyballs from the court and making sure everything was set up properly. Later, I came across her lugging folding tables into a meeting room for the team’s post-game event.

It’s a UAA thing: Attention to detail and doing what it takes to get things done. By the way, Tim Downes the AD also helped with the tables.

Last year, at the UAA volleyball championships, I saw Tom Weingartner, the University of Chicago AD and former Stanford linebacker, moving trash cans between matches to help out the facilities staff.

Later that day I ran into Jason again, this time with his wife, Traci, and children, Trevor and Taylor. They were back on campus for the Emory soccer matches against Rochester.

It’s not unusual to run into coaches attending games or matches to support their colleagues and athletes.

Because it was close to Halloween, Jason’s kids were in costume, appropriately dressed as an Emory cheerleader and basketball player. They were intrigued by Honey, my 1984 RV, so Jason had them pose for a picture by her side.

Farewell, Terry

Terry Gurnett has coached women’s soccer at the University of Rochester for 34 years, and this season is his last. He is the all-time wins leader among D3 women’s soccer coaches, and third among all NCAA divisions. His teams have won two national championships.

Before the match Friday night, Emory honored him by announcing his accomplishments over the loudspeaker system and with a short presentation.

After the match, the Rochester alumni group in Atlanta further honored him under a bright tent and catered meal at the end of the stands.

Terry has wide-ranging interests, say his friends and colleagues, so the alumni group presented him with one of the huge volumes of the Oxford University series the History of the United States to keep him occupied. He will also continue working at Rochester as an associate AD.

On the pitch

After this weekend’s matches, the Emory men are 3-1-2 in conference play and 1 point behind NYU for the conference championship and automatic NCAA D3 tournament bid. They were ranked 14th nationally in the Oct. 26 poll and play at Carnegie Mellon Nov. 7 in the last regular season match. (my friend Keith Graham, who along with his wife, Chrys, always picks the Dutch in our World Cup pools, attended with me).

The Emory women are 3-1-2 and tied with Wash U. for second place. (The University of Chicago women clinched the conference championship Sunday against Brandeis.) The Emory women, ranked 6th in the latest poll, also finish the regular season against Carnegie Mellon Nov. 7 in Pittsburgh.

National tournament selections are announced Monday, Nov. 8.

Coming Up

Honey and I made it from Atlanta to Chicago on Saturday and early Sunday, the longest and shortest leg of my trip. I can see the top of the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower from where I am parked.

Read about backfires, windmill farms and the nastiest stretch of road ever coming soon on this blog.

New national polls are out Tuesday, the UAA cross country championship was Saturday and the volleyball tournament is this weekend.

How many …

Joke texted to me this weekend by my son the art student:

How many performance artists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

— I don’t know, I left before it was over.

Skype me up, Scottie

Wednesday at 2:45 Central Time I am scheduled to appear on a live webcast. The victims are, a social TV network.
“It’s What’s Next, Now.”

That’s why they scheduled me.

Kevin Austin

Kevin Austin

Kevin S. Austin is from Poncey Highland -- and proud of it, Atlanta, GA, United States. Reporter, writer, newsman, clown. Hail fellow well met.  He recently embarked on a 45-day road trip to visit each of the eight universities in the University Athletic Association and attend soccer matches at the schools for a book he is writing.