Get ready for cardinal on Fridays

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 10, 2015

When Andalusia High School’s new football coach, Trent Taylor, finished speaking to the Rotary Club on Tuesday, it felt a little bit like when Coach Saban scolds fans.

Remember when he admonished fans for leaving not-very-competitive (i.e., boring) games before the fourth quarter was over? Reminded us that we expect four quarters from our players and they deserve four from us? His reprimand was so convincing, I wouldn’t even let Honey channel surf this year before any ‘Bama game was completely over.

Coach Taylor wasn’t quite that stern, but he did say that fans need to do their part. As most area people know, Taylor played football at Andalusia High School during the Don Sharpe era, and on a championship team. He’s had a great run in 25 years as head coach at Straughn, and now he’s back at his alma mater, charged with making a difference.

Since he’s barely met with his players yet, he quickly set about sharing some expectations for the community, and what its role can be.

“It’s a pet peeve of mine – and I know I’m on slippery turf,” he said. “When I think about the amount of support local universities get.

“With the limitations on college athletes we have today, our high school players have a lot more time invested in their football, basketball, and baseball programs,” he said. “These are young men you know. You have a connection to them. You’ve watched them grow up at Johnson Park or seen them in church on Sundays.

“The students we watch on the field come Saturday, you have no connection with them, whatsoever,” he said.

“The University of Alabama and Auburn University both lost last week, but if there were a game at Bryant-Denny or Jordan-Hare Saturday, there’d be no problem selling it out,” he said.

We are exited and eager to support Alabama or Auburn or Troy or SMU, he reminded us, with a bow to Probate Judge Ben Bowden and his visiting daughter, SMU student Anna Beth Bowden. That’s all well and good on Saturdays. But he has another expectation.

“You need to be wearing cardinal on Friday.”

He talked about the emphasis Andalusia has put on improving its school campuses on the very day a brand, spanking new one opened.

“You can travel all over the state and not find as beautiful campuses as Andalusia Elementary School, Andalusia High School and Andalusia Junior High School,” he said. “I think about all that happened on the square during the Christmas holidays.

“Pride just oozes from this place.”

Taylor said he wants to work on building Andalusia’s brand.

“We’ve got to find that brand that fits us,” he said. “If you’re driving down the highway between Birmingham and Montgomery and you see a helmet on the side of the road that says ‘S Tigers,’ you know it’s Straughn. Same with T.R. Miller’s logo. Branding is very, very important. We want people to say, ‘That’s Andalusia.’ ”

And he also wants our support from the beginning of the season.

Late in the season, when a team is winning, it’s easy to draw a crowd, he said.

“But are you willing to be supportive at the beginning of the season? Because that’s when young men need it.”

He acknowledged Andalusia’s rich football traditions, but said it’s time for some new ones.

“What have we done lately,” he asked. “We’ve had six playoff wins in 36 years. Three of those came in one year.”

Not a single Rotarian seemed offended, and I’m betting more than a few will be wearing cardinal on Fridays. As a community, we’ve all got work to do.