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Time Running Out on Legend at Cal Lutheran

September 09, 1989|STEVE SPRINGER | Times Staff Writer

"Look," Bauer said, "we know we can't win. Forget this. Why don't we just pick one guy on the other team and kill him."

Just kidding.

Yet, the Kingsmen were so good for so long, defeat became almost unthinkable.

At this point in his life, at age 57, Bob Shoup figured to be in the twilight of his glory.

Instead, he finds himself in the twilight zone.

But on a recent afternoon, he seemed at peace with his circumstances. He sat in his office, surrounded by trophies and other accolades, and talked about both the glory days of the distant past and the gory days of the recent past.

"I was, I guess, the spearhead of the feeling that we ought to look at more options than just the SCIAC," he said. "I really felt we ought to look at the possibility of being an NAIA independent. That's where all of our success really came.

"I felt there were some other conferences we might take a look at. If we were giving scholarships just up to tuition, and if we were competing against schools that just gave scholarships only to tuition, we could be competitive. I felt it was premature for us to move."

But his protests fell on deaf ears.

"I was overruled. There were those who felt the changes could be handled and Cal Lutheran could make another transition. And, hey, I don't like to lose. But it hasn't destroyed me."

Would it have been better, in retrospect, not to have moved up to the WFC after so many successful years in the NAIA?

"I think it was a good thing for the institution," he said. "I think it gave us credibility with the media that the NAIA never had in California. California is an NCAA state.

"I would have preferred to have been successful. You coach with the idea of winning. But I think also you try to be competitive. I think it was good for Cal Lutheran to be able to play against some really good programs.

"There were certainly those that felt, because of our reputation, we could be a contending Cinderella story in the Western Football Conference. That was never realistic."

With his record and place in school history secure, and with a new course set that he doesn't really want to follow, why not just call it a career? Wasn't there a temptation not to come back?

"I'd say it was more than a temptation," he said. "It was a strong feeling. This is going to be an ugly period. It's going to be difficult. It's not going to be fun. Some of my best friends have wondered, why do I continue?

"My wife, Helen, and I took time and talked about it and decided it was better all around if I coached in 1989, better for the players, better for the program. The program could not suffer another major change at this time. I don't want the players to feel the apple cart has been upset here at Cal Lutheran and let's transfer.

"I'm really excited about 1989. I have tremendous respect for the players and coaches that stayed in the midst of all the controversy. It was easy to pack your bags and leave. To say, 'It isn't the Cal Lutheran I knew.'

"I feel very good about this season and I want to be a part of that. But I recognize that to play what is really a Division II schedule under Division III rules is maybe as big a challenge as we had in starting the program in 1962."

Perhaps no one knows better what Shoup is going through in this period of transition than his wife.

"Any time you end a career, it really hurts," said Helen, who saw all three of the couple's children go through CLU and now works in the business office at the school. "He saw this program as if it were a child developing and he wants to leave it strong. We love this place. My goodness, we have had so many blessings here. We never dreamed all this would have happened to us.

"He loves this sport, but where he feels God leads, he'll go. If this should be the end, we have so much to be thankful for. It'll be bittersweet. It'll be an adjustment and I'm sure we'll miss it. But I know we'll be able to handle it.

"I just always see Bob coaching. Being associated with a team is the most wonderful, exciting thing in the world. I wish everybody could have the experience. But I think Bob can be on the sidelines and cheer on the next coach."

But just when that will be remains unclear.

School officials, negotiating Shoup's future behind the scenes, have nothing but good things to say about him. At least publicly.

"Over the 28 years of association with Coach Shoup," said Dennis Gillette, vice president of institutional advancement at the school, "we have seen him as an inspiration to thousands of young people. He has given positive recognition to this institution and to his sport.

"Deeply religious, he has been an excellent role model for the young people who have had the opportunity to be with him. He is in the mold of a winner but brings an ethical sense to his sport and the university."

The night before he talked to a reporter, Shoup had watched a TV program on Landry, showing him in retirement relaxing in a back-yard pool with his grandchildren.

"I could relate to that," Shoup said. "He appeared to have made a good, positive adjustment. He's a born-again Christian. He said, 'doors close and doors open.'

"I've been blessed with a great family, a tremendous coaching career at Cal Lutheran and marvelous friends. I count those as tremendous blessings.

"I don't look forward to any emptiness. My life has been so full and I think it will continue to be full."

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