Bob Beatty leaves Trinity football with a record bordering on the ridiculous
Back when Bob Beatty had won only two state championships at Trinity High School, there was a day he dared to doubt himself.
This was in the fall of 2003. The Shamrocks had stumbled to an uncharacteristic 0-4 start, and their coach was uncharacteristically unsure. Over breakfast at a Waffle House Beatty told his father, “it might be time to think about doing something else.”
Warren Beatty — not the actor, and no fan of dramatics — handed his son a handkerchief.
“Do you want me to blow your nose, or do you want to do it?” he asked. “You need to get to work.”
Thus chastened, Bob Beatty went on to salvage that season by winning the rest of his games and his third Kentucky state title, and he would add a dozen more championships before he was done. When Beatty announced it was indeed time to think about doing something else Thursday afternoon, it was from behind a table bearing Trinity’s 2020 trophy.
He retires at age 65 with a record that borders the ridiculous — 15 state titles in 21 seasons at Trinity, another in his previous job in Missouri — and the confidence that accrues from decades of sustained dominance.
Trinity athletic director Rob Saxton compared Beatty’s record to those of the New England Patriots’ Bill Belichick and the University of Alabama’s Nick Saban and concluded, somewhat facetiously, “Bob has put a running clock on those guys.”
If Beatty saw the humor in that remark, he also saw no point in false modesty.
“If they want to get on the opposite sideline, I’ll come out of retirement, and I’ll hang 60 (points) on them,” he said. “I don’t care who it is.”
Whatever doubts Beatty may have harbored that morning at the Waffle House have long since been dispelled. Then and now, he is his father’s son, a farm boy shaped by hard work in harsh conditions who has applied the same core principles to coaching football: commitment, accountability, discipline and training.
“I grew up in a time when you were given chores and a job, and you never questioned it,” he said on the day of his 2018 induction into the Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame. “And a lot of times that was 4:30 in the morning. We had 150 head of Angus cattle. My dad would wake me up and say, ‘Come on, we’ve got to pull a calf. We’ve got a calf that’s breech.’ ... Some of them lived. Some of them didn’t.
“By 5:15, I learned the youngest guy was going to be in the back of the truck throwing hay when it’s zero degrees, and the older guys were going to be inside the truck where it was nice and warm. You didn’t question it. You got up every day, and you went to work.”
Granted, Trinity’s success has been to some extent self-perpetuating. In high school as in college, the best athletes tend to gravitate to those schools with the highest profiles and the most expansive trophy cases. You get the machine going, and it can be very tough to stop.
Still, you can’t replicate what Beatty has done on reputation alone. And it may be several centuries before someone else can match the staying power of his Kentucky football dynasty.
“I don’t remember we ever lost a game because someone was in better shape or someone was stronger,” Beatty said Thursday. “... Whether the other team is 10-0 or 0-10, we practice the same way — screaming, yelling, spitting, going fast, fast, fast.
“If you’re not exhausted when you come off the field, you’ve done something wrong.”
Beatty has not coddled his players but challenged them. He has not sought popularity but performance.
“Leadership is tough,” he said. “Leadership is lonely. I told (my wife) Jayne, ‘When I go, you have to have me cremated.’ Why? Cause I don’t have enough friends to carry my casket.”
Handkerchiefs will be optional.