The title of a movie comes to mind when I think of Tommy Spangler.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The Presbyterian College head football coach has seen more changes in the span of his two stints as head coach and further time as defensive coordinator than a player for Knute Rockne who coached under Ara Parseghian.
The Blue Hose have gone from Division II to Division I, from scholarships to more scholarships to none, and now to a league of schools whose football teams have evolved similarly. There aren’t many, and that’s why the Pioneer Football League is so far-flung. This will be most obvious when the University of San Diego visits Bailey Memorial Stadium on March 27.
“It’s a result-oriented business, but at the same time, a lot of things can happen,” Spangler said.
So far, things are looking up. In the first game, Presbyterian took Gardner-Webb and its scholarships into double overtime. The first PFL game was a success, 31-16 over Morehead State, and it’s PFL the rest of the way in this, the year of the first football victories of spring ever at most smaller colleges that play it.
Spangler takes nothing for granted. He’s in uncharted territory, nose to grindstone as always. As Robert Duvall once said in a movie, “I don’t trust success. Never did. Never will.”
The Twilight Zone isn’t bad, so far. It’s football season in the spring. The folks who have sense are wearing masks when they can. “How’s the weather?” has been replaced by “you got your shot yet?”
“I feel real good, based on we haven’t played since last November, and we took a team into overtime that had taken the No. 24 team in the country (Elon) by ,” Spangler said. “Now, we had our chances to win that game.
“In a lot of ways, I’m pleased with where we are, considering we hadn’t played football in so long. We didn’t get to go out in pads in the fall. We came back from Christmas break, and we get in all this weather, and this and that. I didn’t know what to expect, to be honest with you. I knew our kids would compete, and they’ve done that.”
Spangler was talking about the Morehead State game, when a fluke mistake briefly gave the Eagles flickering hope.
“It’s easier to come back and fix things when you win than it is when you lose. I was proud of our effort. I was proud of the way we prepared. I was proud of the way the kids reacted when it got a little tight,” he said.
He said he told the team something in the locker room that was about the game but could have been a 1-sentence football history of what Presbyterian College often refers to as the Division I era.
“We don’t do anything easy around here, you know?”