There was a time that I suspected Tony Dungy’s straight-shooting nice-guy image was a calculated facade, primarily since football coaches have a reputation for prevarication.
But I’ve had the good fortune of spending time with the former Bucs and Colts coach on four different occasions since August, most recently at dinner on Friday night and then most of the day Saturday in and around the green room at the Football Night In America studio.
And while it would be a helluvalot more interesting if there were a Jekyll-and-Hyde story to tell, the man and the image are identical — Tony Dungy is the real deal.
So when he says he’s not coaching in 2010, he’s not coaching in 2010.
That notion is once again relevant because Dungy met with the USF athletic director on Sunday and with the USF team on Monday, telling the players that the year after he was fired by the local pro football team, the local pro football team won the Super Bowl.
Though some are interpreting the gesture as evidence that Dungy might be interested in the job, there are two important factors to keep in mind.
First, Eric Dungy is considering playing college football at USF. So his father has a strong interest in the status of the program, especially since Mrs. Dungy probably has a strong interest in keeping her son close to home.
Second, Tony Dungy has said that the lack of minority coaches in the NCAA is “disgraceful,” and he undoubtedly is hoping that the process of finding a replacement for Jim Leavitt moves sufficiently slowly to allow a broad scope of candidates to be considered. Typically, colleges with vacancies act rapidly, with wealthy boosters having a strong say in the outcome of the search — and coincidentally or otherwise the new coach having the same skin color as most of the wealthy boosters.
So we’d be shocked if Dungy were to abandon after only one year the life he left the NFL to pursue. That said, the pull to coach his son surely is strong.