The "Wrecking Crew" Architect
Slocum among Aggie greats in College Football Hall of Fame
Published: Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 21:07
Few individuals in the history of Aggie football — or college football — ever garner the honor of being mentioned in the same breath as such legendary figures as former Texas A&M University coaches Dana X. Bible, Homer Norton, and perhaps most colossal of all, the famous Paul “Bear” Bryant. No one, however, stands taller in recent Aggie football history than the architect of the some of the greatest defensive teams in college football’s modern era, R.C. Slocum.
At 123 career wins from 1989 to 2002, Slocum continues to stand as the winningest head coach in A&M history, while his contributions as an assistant helped spark the Aggie football program into one of college football’s powerhouses. With his 2012 induction into the College Football Hall of Fame, he now joins the ranks of many of the sport’s all-time greats.
“To be included in that group of coaches is special and very meaningful. In an even greater sense for me, it’s meaningful because it validates the work of a bunch of the great players and great assistant coaches I had while at A&M,” Slocum said. “They put my name on the award but I certainly share it with a whole bunch of people. I’m keenly aware this all happened because of their efforts in making it work.”
One of the longest active Aggie football coaches ever, Slocum arrived at A&M as an assistant in 1972 under then-head coach Emory Bellard. Slocum would remain in Aggieland for the remainder of his coaching career with the exception of a one-year stint in 1981 as defensive coordinator at USC. When new head coach Jackie Sherrill and the Aggies came calling a second time, he made a swift return to Texas.
A native of Orange, Texas, near the Louisiana border, Slocum said he had always been infatuated with the idea of coaching at A&M.
“When I was a youngster, my first exposure to college was through an Aggie in my home town. He took me to Bonfire and the A&M-Texas game back when I was in junior high. I was carried away with the excitement, the Aggie band, it was very impressive,” Slocum said. “It made such an impression on me that later on in my career, when I got a chance to come coach at Texas A&M, there wasn’t a place in America that I would have rather gone to coach.”
A contributor to the resurrection of a down-trodden Aggie football program under Bellard, Slocum would aid as defensive coordinator in a second resurrection under the fiery Sherrill.
Under Sherrill, the Aggies had a rough go in his first three years, not winning more than six games in any of those seasons. In 1985, everything changed. The Aggies went 10-2, won the Southwest Conference and defeated Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson’s Auburn Tigers in the Cotton Bowl, 36-16. Slocum’s defenses shined and remained dominant for years to come.
The “Wrecking Crew” defenses developed by Slocum, nicknamed famously by defensive back Chet Brooks, evolved into an intimidating force in the late ‘80s and well into the ‘90s. Their relentless, attacking style paved the way for seven conference championships, four in Slocum’s head coaching tenure. A&M ranked first in the nation in 1991 in total defense and from 1991-1993 led the SWC in four defensive categories. From 1990-1994 the Aggies never lost a game at Kyle Field, and Slocum would lose only 12 home games in his 14 years as head coach.
Current Washington State and former Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach, who compiled an impressive 84-43 record with the Red Raiders, said Slocum was a figure he had admired while moving up the coaching ranks.
“He’s one of the greatest coaches that has coached college football. He’s one of those guys that made me want to be a college football coach,” Leach said. “I remember when I first got to Oklahoma as the offensive coordinator, [all the coaches] came out of the tunnel and wanted to see R.C. Slocum. ‘Is that R.C. Slocum? I think that’s R.C. Slocum right there.’ Me and several of the others just wanted the honor of shaking R.C. Slocum’s hand before the game; because, hey, that was R.C. Slocum.”
Always an innovator, Leach’s radical “air-raid” offense changed the landscape of college football. His offensive philosophy hinged on execution and attacking defenses rather than reacting to them, particularly with speed. Leach said Slocum’s defensive concept was similarly progressive.
“In offense, you’re trying to create space, in defense, you’re trying to restrict space and he was great at restricting space. The ‘Wrecking Crew’ defense understood space before a lot of other people,” Leach said. “Besides the fact they were doing some things other people weren’t doing, there was a time people would put big luggy guys out there. R.C. was the first to put a lot of speed on the field.”