There is no question about the profound impact coaches have on their athletes - some laudable, some unprintable, but all memorable. 

None stand out more than one of the most outstanding coaches in track history...John Jacobs.

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The Jake Files


A few years ago, Bill Jacobs,   Jake’s son, sent me on loan, a scrapbook of articles about his father.  Many of the articles were third generation photocopies, and the quality was somewhat lacking.   I scanned as much of the book as was doable and saved them on my computer.  I returned the book to Little Jake.   Recently in talking to Owen ‘Bully’ Hewett, he told me that much of the old archives at the athletic department were destroyed, and so the scrapbook and the scanned files are all that remain of an era.  Despite the poor quality of the files, I’m having them put onto our website, so they will be held indefinitely.  Anyone is free to copy them, and I hope someone from the department will also do that.  You will find articles going back to 1913 and up to the 1950’s in this collection.  To you amateur historians, enjoy these in this most brutal of winters.

Anyone associated with Oklahoma University Track and Field from 1913-1970 probably personally knew Coach John Jacobs.  They knew him as a fierce competitor who covered a track meet like a warm blanket on a cold day.   As an athlete he competed in the 120 and 220 yard hurdles, the high jump, and 4x110 and Mile Relays.  At one time he broke the world record in the highs, although I’m not certain the time was officially certified.   He went into high school coaching in Sherman, Texas after graduation and quickly became the head coach at OU.  He spent something like 37 years on the job, retired when Bill Carroll took over in 1959 and still came out everyday to assist Bill and then J.D. Martin until his health declined. 

We all knew Coach Jacobs as “Jake”.  When Bill Carroll took over the coaching job at OU, I don’t think Jake missed a beat as a coach.  Bill was an organizer and recruiter and a great pole vault coach.  Jake was the technician and imparter of wisdom.  That was it for a staff.  As I look at the current OU track website I see that there are   seven   coaches officially listed.  I’m sure today’s staff must wonder how anything got coached in those days.   The fact is, I think we coached ourselves to a great extent.  But despite this independence, there was still a need for guidance, encouragement, and discipline for forty young men, and the staff of two, provided that to us. 

Anyone who was a product of those times has a Jake story.   The things I remember were his expressions.  Bill put the workouts up on the board each day but they were written in the syntax of Jake.  If you were to run intervals hard and fast it was “c & a”.  My freshman year I remember asking Jake what that meant.  My name is  Brose  , pronounced like ‘rose’ ,  but he called me Bozay.  His reply about the terminology was,  “Bozay, it’s like you’re being thrown out of a bar, and the bouncer has you by the collar and the asshole (c & a)  , that means you’re flyin’ “.

If a runner got passed quickly or slowed in a race , it was ‘pulling calf rope’. 

The scientific study of athletics prior to the 1970 ‘s was quite limited.  Wise men would expound on what they thought were the limits of human performance.  These pronouncements appeared in the most auspicious of journals but  were made without any scientific reasoning behind them.  Coaches were more like philosophers in those days.  And Jake could philosophize with the best.  But I don’t recall him ever setting limits to our performance.   Sometimes his sense of humor got a bit twisted with his philosophy.  He had a way of deflating a swollen ego, if a kid started self aggrandizing over his performances.   He had me going one day telling me I reminded him of a great runner of the 1930’s.  Then he brought me back down to Earth.  “Bozay, the only  difference between  you and San Romani is, you ain’t worth a s- - t”.  Now that sounds a bit cruel, but from Jake it had us all laughing, and me realizing what a jerk I was. 

For the middle distance runner in those days, the long runs were almost a punishment.  No one knew exactly why they were necessary, and our shoes were horrible for such work.  But we did it anyway.  Jake would give us math problems to do in our heads to make the time pass more quickly.  Sometimes  he would send me out on a long run taking his bird dog with him for the exercise.

As a coach many years later, I think some of Jake got imparted into the young people I worked with.  And through many of us I’m sure, his spirit lingers on and continues to influence young people.  What better tribute can I give him?

George Brose, class of 1965    

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