I’m really proud to have been part of the special alumni magazine that Eastern did on Coach Roy Kidd. Covering his career was definitely a highlight of my career. I even brought my pencil out of retirement and wrote a story about chasing his 300th victory at the end of the 2000 season and the beginning of the 2001 season. With over 300 wins and two national championships, Roy Kidd was undoubtedly one of the greatest to ever coach the game!
By Tim Webb
At the beginning of the 2000 football season, as Coach Roy Kidd was inching closer to his 300th victory, I knew that moment would be the one photo that would define my career as Eastern’s university photographer. I could sense that it would be the one image that would still matter a hundred years from now. I just had to make sure I was there when it happened.
Leading up to 300, I did several photos with coach because I knew the university and media outlets would be needing images. One of my all-time favorite photos of him came from a portrait shoot that I was doing with coach and the four consecutive trophies that came from Eastern’s appearance in the national championship game, from 1979-1982. We were casually talking about him being a quarterback during his playing days at Corbin High School and Eastern, when out of the blue, he picked up a football and donned a left-handed quarterback pose with a big smile on his face. For a coach so meticulous in his planning, it was such an impromptu moment.
Counting my days as photo editor of The Eastern Progress, I had been covering Coach Kidd and the Colonels since 1991. During my time as a student at Eastern, players like Lorenzo Fields, Elroy Harris, and Tim Lester were lighting up the record books. I photographed the Colonels last great playoff run in the fall of 1991, that included a 14-3 win over Appalachian State in the rain and mud during Thanksgiving weekend in Richmond, and then a heartbreaking 14-7 loss in the semifinals to Marshall in Huntington.
I was too young to remember the national championship years. But in a lot of ways, as time marched on and I went from a student photographer to the university photographer, I recognized that I was photographing the end of the golden age of the Kidd era. But I also saw it as an opportunity to document the end of Coach Kidd’s illustrious career, and it was an opportunity that I took seriously.
With the 2000 season drawing to a close and coach sitting on number 299, I gave up the opening morning of deer season with my family, to make the long trip to Charleston, Illinois, as the Colonels took on Eastern Illinois and future NFL quarterback and broadcaster Tony Romo. Eastern’s season came to an end that Saturday afternoon, and with it, the quest for 300 would have to wait another year. As I drove back to Richmond, I couldn’t help but be envious of all the deer hunters who were clad in orange, scattered across those Illinois corn fields. But another thought was also weighing on my mind, “Surely they will schedule a home game to open up the 2001 season so that Coach can get his milestone win at home.”
Nope. Chasing 300 wouldn’t be that easy. For me, the 2001 season kicked off with an even longer drive to Mount Pleasant, Michigan, to photograph the Colonels against the D1 Chippewas of Central Michigan University. While the Colonels took a lead into halftime, we left Mount Pleasant while still sitting on number 299. On a positive note, before leaving town, I ran into Walmart and bought a copy of ESPN the Magazine that had ran one of my sideline photos of Coach Kidd, previewing his march toward 300.
I knew that Coach Roy Kidd’s 300th win was a big deal to Eastern Kentucky University, but I was beginning to see the scope of just how big it was on a national level, as Coach Kidd was in the same conversation with coaches like Bobby Bowden of Florida State and Joe Paterno of Penn State, the only other active coaches at the time with more than 300 wins.
I knew that coach’s chances were going to be good the following Saturday when we were set to take on Liberty University back home in Richmond in the stadium that bore his name. What I didn’t realize on that long drive home in early September 2001, was that the long-awaited number 300 would happen less than 72 hours before the events of September 11th changed our world forever.
As expected, on a beautiful Saturday evening, September 8, 2001, the Colonels beat Liberty 30-7 to give Coach Roy Kidd his 300th career victory, solidifying him as one of the greatest college football coaches in the history of the game. As the sun fell and with the clock winding down, his players doused him with Gatorade, and then they hoisted him on their shoulders and carried him out onto the field.
For a few seconds I froze and didn’t know what to do because the clock was still running with about 30 seconds, and the game was still going on. I thought, “You can’t do that…you can’t do that…the game is still going on!” All I could think about was how I had driven so many miles and spent so many hours chasing 300. And now, here it was unfolding in my back yard, and I was about to miss it because I didn’t want to be a rule breaker.
Finally, I ran out onto the field and cut into the middle of the huddle as it was still moving. I popped up in front of Coach Kidd and was able to fire off two frames before stumbling backwards out of the huddle. I still didn’t know if I got the shot or not because although I had just converted from film to digital a few months earlier, I played it safe that night and took the money shot on color film. When I got the film back from a local lab on Monday morning, my heart sank when I looked at the first frame because one of the players who was holding coach’s leg was looking directly at me with his tongue stuck out. But thankfully, he had looked away and put his tongue back in mouth for the second frame. And that was the frame of film that will go down in Eastern Kentucky University history.
The celebration on the field that night was unlike anything I had ever experienced. You could tell there was a sense relief with Coach Kidd because the weight of number 299 had been resting on his shoulders for several months. You could see the sense of accomplishment on his face, along with a big smile, as he and Sue embraced on the field. It was as if everything they had worked for all those years culminated that night. And while Coach was celebrating with his family, the students were busy tearing down the goal posts. It warmed my heart to watch as they carried one of posts off of the field like an army of ants, down Kit Carsen Avenue to its final resting place in downtown Richmond at Madison Garden.
I realized that night as I was packing up my gear to go home, that Coach Kidd was never meant to win number 300 on the road. The opposing fans wouldn’t have appreciated it the way we did, and they certainly wouldn’t have torn the goal posts down. It was only fitting that number 300 was won at Roy Kidd Stadium in Richmond, making “Cabin on the Hill” that was sung that night extra special.
Chasing 300 and covering the last half of Roy Kidd’s storied career was an experience that I’ll cherish forever.