Franklin "Pepper" Rogers

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Franklin "Pepper" Rogers, head coach of Tech football for six seasons

Franklin "Pepper" Rogers was the head coach of Georgia Tech football from 1974-1979. He also coached at the University of Kansas and UCLA.


Contents

Before Tech

From 1951-1953, Rogers was the second string quarterback for Tech and, despite being a backup, earned quite a bit of playing time. Rogers was also a placekicker for the Jackets.[citation needed] He returned to football as a coach, bringing Kansas a Big 8 championship in 1968.[citation needed] He then moved to Los Angeles to coach the UCLA Bruins from 1971-1973, having a losing record in 1971 and winning records the other two years. After the 1973 season, he returned to his Alma Mater and became head coach.[citation needed]

While at Tech

Seasons and Records

Rogers began coaching at Tech in 1974 and started with a winning record of 6-5, something that was not expected by many students [1]. In the years prior to his leadership, the team had performed dismally, with only two winning seasons in the previous seven years.[2]. The arrival of a new coach who made immediate improvements to the team seemed to signal a turn around in spirit for the Yellow Jackets. During his second season, Rogers improved this record to 7-4, bringing the students of Tech hope that the 1976 season would bring them to a bowl game. The 1976 season was not as successful as the student body had hoped and after a poor start to the season, students were already angry with the way it had turned out. The season ended 4-6-1, one of only two losing seasons Rogers would bring Tech. Part of the reason for the poor record was that the starting quarterback, Bucky Shamburgher wanted to return to his spot as a halfback, and Rogers was left without a quarterback. The season was spent training and preparing two freshmen quarterbacks, Michael Jolly and Gary Lanier. [3].The next season mimicked his first season bringing a 6-5 record. This was largely due to the improvement of his two now-sophomore quarterbacks. He followed this season with a 7-4 season and a Peach Bowl appearance. At the Peach Bowl, the Jackets were handed a 41-21 loss by the Purdue Boilermakers. The Jackets followed the winning season that had finally brought them to a bowl game, their first in six years, by yet another poor performance of 4-6-1.

Recruitment and Notable Players

Rogers recruited mercilessly in a time when a lack of experienced incoming recruited freshmen was Tech's major weakness. He was good with people and was able to relate with the students of the time period. Rogers seemed to know what motivated incoming freshmen and used this knowledge to his advantage when recruiting. It was because of this ability and knowledge that he was able to recruit both Lanier and Jolly, who lead the team to the Peach Bowl in 1978. He "coached five all-America players, including first-team selections Randy Rhino, Lucius Sanford, Don Bessilieu and second-team honorees Eddie Lee Ivery and Leo Tierney". [2] Before Rogers came to Georgia Tech, he coached Steve Spurrier (Florida) and Gary Beban (UCLA), who both won the Heisman Trophy later in their careers.

Notable Games

In the 1976 season, Tech pulled off a 23-14 upset over Notre Dame without gaining a single passing yard. Running back David Sims led the Yellow Jackets with 122 rushing yards on 15 attempts, which is quite a high average with nearly eight yards per carry. Sims also had two touchdowns and left it to the defense to keep the game close. [4] In the 1978 season, they played well enough to gain entrance to the Peach Bowl to play Purdue. Tech lost 41-21, and although the game was close during the first half, Purdue pulled away to get the easy win during the second half. In the game against Air Force in 1978, Eddie Lee Ivery set the NCAA record for most rushing yards, with 356 in a single game.

Personality and Style

Rogers was known as a calm and knowledgeable man who could relate with both his players and those he was recruiting. Despite the challenges he faced in recruiting, like the difficult curriculum at Georgia Tech (which tends to drive away a lot of prospects), Rogers was able to bring in quality players who helped revitalize the football program. The program had begun to suffer after the absence of Bobby Dodd. Rogers considered a great coach who happily took the heat when the team was playing poorly. [5] Rogers' demeanor and relative success is part of what made him so successful as a head coach and what helped him to coach as many winning seasons. These qualities helped him relate to his team and helped them to improve themselves, both on the field and off.

After Tech

After coaching at Tech, Rogers went on to coach the newly formed professional team, the Memphis Showboats. He soon moved to the Memphis Mad Dogs, who were in a different league. He was the Vice President for Memphis Operations of the Tennessee Oilers from 1997 to 1998. He also served as the Washington Redskins Vice President of Football Operations from 2001-2004.[2]

References

  1. "Fickle fans desert Pepper" Technique [Volume 62, Issue 06], Print
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Georgia Tech Football Year-by-Year" http://ramblinwreck.cstv.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/yrbyyr.html, Online
  3. "A tale of two quarterbacks" Technique [Volume 62, Issue 10], Print
  4. "Inside the mind of a coach" Technique [Volume 62, Issue 12], Print
  5. "Inside the mind of a coach" Technique [Volume 62, Issue 5], Print

[Pepper Rodgers]

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