Aug. 31, 2000
By TOM COYNE
SOUTH BEND, Ind.
Davie had coached with then-Texas A&M coach Jackie Sherrill at Pittsburgh, but it was Slocum, the Aggies' defensive coordinator, who would be hiring the linebackers coach back in 1985. Davie had never met him and figured being from outside Texas wouldn't help his chances. After he missed his flight to College Station, Davie was even more concerned.
He needn't have been.
"We hit it off from the time I arrived at A&M," Davie said.
It's a close friendship that's remained strong even though the Notre Dame coach is seven years removed from A&M. Davie talks weekly with Slocum and the two visit regularly.
"A lot of times in coaching you have acquaintances and you say all the right things when you're playing someone. In this case it goes beyond that," Slocum said. "Bob Davie is someone I am very close to."
The coaches get even closer Saturday, when Notre Dame plays hosts to the Aggies in their season-opener.
Davie said he and Slocum discovered quickly they had much in common. They both played at Division I-AA schools. They both played tight end. They both were former tuba players.
"We just had a lot of the same interests," Davie said.
Friends, though, say what that really brought them together was their love of defense.
"I know from my own experience running with those two," said Tim Cassidy, A&M's associate athletic director. "We'd be out 30 yards into a jog and they were off into how they were going to defend the run-and-shoot or how they were going to defend this team coming up this week."
Those defensive schemes were dreamed up as they jogged around an A&M pig farm, near where the George Bush Memorial Library now stands. But they were more than jogging partners and coaching colleagues.
"I can tell you from the day that those two met that there was a natural bond between them," Cassidy said. "I think Bob's looked at R.C. as a mentor, and R.C. has been able to draw on Bob's intelligence and his knowledge of football."
Slocum, who moved to Texas when he was 1-year-old, helped Davie, who grew up in the Pittsburgh area, adjust to life in the Lone Star State - although Davie tried to resist.
"He finally broke me down and I bought a pair of Tony Lama boots. He just wore me out. I've got a pair of boots that, to be honest, I was never really comfortable wearing," he said. "We would go to the Houston Livestock Show every year and he'd try to tell me about the rodeo and livestock. To be honest, I kind of paid attention, but I was never into that a whole lot."
They traveled to NFL camps together. Slocum drove Davie out in the country to show off the state's bluebonnet flowers. They roomed on the road. Davie remembers a game at Southern Mississippi when his wife, Joanne, called to say she was going into labor with their second child on the eve of the game. It was a long night and Davie stayed for the game.
"R.C. was with me all the way," Davie said.
Davie got back just in time to see his son born.
Friends say both are strong family men.
"Bob's commitment to his job is very demanding. But when it's time to walk away from the stadium and be with his family, he's as committed or more committed to his family," Cassidy said. "That's not the norm in this profession."
Slocum's children are grown now. His son Shawn is the Aggies' defensive backs coach and special teams coordinator, and his son John Harvey is a student at A&M. He has three granddaughters.
"I really admire both guys because as competitive as they are on the football field, and as hard as they work, when it's time to be with their family it's important time for them," Cassidy said.
As they prepare for the new season, Slocum and Davie have found another common thread. Both are under fire from unhappy fans.
Slocum has the fifth-best winning percentage among active coaches at .757, but the Aggies went 8-4 last season. Worse, they were beaten badly by Oklahoma and Nebraska, lost to rival Texas Tech 21-19 and lost 24-0 to Penn State in the Alamo Bowl.
The Irish went 5-7 last season, their first seven-loss season since 1963. Davie's three-year coaching record is an unimpressive 21-16.
"If he's under fire, I'm already ashes," Davie said. "I'm already burned and toasted."
Slocum said despite all he taught Davie, the only way to prepare for the coaching pressure is to experience it.
"There was no way I could tell him what he was getting into," he said. "I told him, `You are as prepared to be a head coach as anyone can be, but I can't tell you what it's going to be like.' We've talked a lot since then and he has told me, 'You know, you were right."'
The pair said they won't think much about each other during the game.
"Except maybe during a critical situation and I'm trying to figure out what he might do," Slocum said.
Davie said he will reflect before the game about all he and Slocum have been through.
"I'm going to enjoy the moment. And I promise, I'm only going to enjoy it
for a moment," Davie said.