Big 12: Sam Harrell

Harrell battles MS his own inimitable way

July, 10, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Sam Harrell doesn't want any sympathy or pity.

In fact, after the Ennis, Texas, high school football coach was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, he was struck by the many blessings in his life.

J. Louise Larsen of the Waxahachie Daily Light has an uplifting story about Harrell, a two-time Texas Class 4A state championship coach who had the chance to coach all three of his sons during his career. One of them, Graham, went on to become the NCAA career leader in touchdown passes at Texas Tech.

Sam was diagnosed with MS in 2005. His own boys didn't learn about it until earlier this spring.

"We chose to keep it quiet for several years. We didn't even tell our boys because we didn't want them worrying about it," Harrell told the Light. "They had an idea something was wrong. I didn't ever go out and shoot baskets with them any more, I didn't play tennis with them, I can't mow the yard, I can't do anything you ought to be doing. They had an idea - we never told them exactly what Dad had.

"I wasn't in denial. I knew I had it, but it would kind of come and go. My hope was that it would go more often than it would come."

Harrell is on medication and eventually hopes to travel outside his beloved Texas for treatment with one of the experimental procedures he has learned about.

"Outside the U.S., some things are being done that people have had phenomenal results with, and that's been encouraging. I really think there's going to be a cure for it - that's what I'm hoping for. It's been encouraging to hear those stories and talk with people," Harrell said.

Through it all, he remains upbeat with the same tenacity that has marked his coaching career.

"People don't die from MS ... I don't want to make is sound like it's poor pitiful me ... a lot of people are facing tougher things than that," he said. "It takes away the things you do, but it doesn't take away your life."

I've known the Harrells for many years and have always been impressed with their family. The story about how Graham battled through nine separate breaks in two of his fingers to beat Baylor last season was one of the most inspirational ones in college football.

And after reading about his dad, it shows me where Graham got a lot of the moxie and toughness he always exhibited in leading the Red Raiders.

Big 12 lunch links: Kansas board could take oversight role

June, 25, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

More information keeps coming out of Manhattan in the news story that new Kansas State athletic director John Currie probably wishes would die.

Unfortunately for Currie in his new job, that's not the case. 

The Associated Press reports that the Kansas Board of Regents may consider taking a greater oversight role of athletics at all six state universities. That discussion comes after a recent audit found numerous questionable transactions at KSU.

The Manhattan Mercury's Carrie Miller reports that new KSU president Kirk Schulz and Currie will take questions from students, faculty and staff at a meeting Monday at the KSU student union. The story makes it a point to inform readers that the general public isn't invited to the meeting because of a fear of a lack of room for all those who would like to attend.

The NCAA already has told KSU officials it won't get involved because it didn't present an NCAA issue or the lack of institutional control at the institution.

But I still would imagine that the Wildcats' Sept. 5 opener against Massachusetts can't come soon enough for Currie.

Until then, here are a few lunchtime links to help familiarize him with his new conference.  

  • The Tulsa World's Dave Sittler writes that contract hikes to Bob Stoops and his staff were accompanied by a significant reminder of their value to the school -- a gift of $3 million back to the school's general academic fund. And Tulsa World sports editor Mike Strain explains why Stoops is worth every penny of his new contract.
  • Nebraska recruit Eric Martin, a linebacker from Moreno, Calif., tells the Lincoln Journal Star's Brian Christopherson he is confident he will make his grades this summer and report to the Cornhuskers next month. Martin was one of only two linebackers in Nebraska's 2009 recruiting class.
  • The Bryan Eagle's Robert Cessna analyzes which athletic department had a better year -- Texas or Texas A&M.
  • The Dallas Morning News' Brandon George reports that former Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell's father, Sam Harrell, is battling Multiple Sclerosis. Sam Harrell, a noted Texas high school football coach, was diagnosed with the illness four years ago but has decided to tell everybody about the condition over the last several weeks.
  • Paul Myerberg of the New York Times' college sports blog, The Quad, ranks Kansas State No. 70 in his countdown of teams heading into the season.
  • Linebacker Jared Parham of Coppell, Texas, is Missouri's seventh football commitment in the 2010 recruiting class, the Columbia Daily Tribune reported. Parham chose the Tigers over offers from Arkansas, North Carolina and Texas Tech.
  • Phil Steele ranks Oklahoma No. 4 in his national countdown.
  • Quarterback Nick Hirschman of Las Gatos, Calif., has committed to Colorado, the Boulder Daily Camera reports. Hirschman is the fourth commitment for the Buffaloes in the 2010 recruiting class and first commitment from out of state.

Harrell apparently shut out in NFL free-agent bids

May, 7, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Former Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell's hopes to earn a free-agent contract in the NFL have been put on hold after he failed to receive a contract offer from the Cleveland Browns.

Despite setting the NCAA FBS career record for touchdown passes and directing his team to bowl games in each year as a starter, the NFL apparently isn't an option right now for Harrell.

Harrell's father, Sam Harrell, a noted high school coach in Ennis, Texas, is disillusioned by the process.

"I guess it's kind of frustrating," Sam Harrell told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. "It's more bewildering as much as anything. There's not a single spot anywhere for a guy that not only threw for a lot of yards and led tremendous comebacks, but has a good, clean background and his character is good."

I'm a little surprised that nothing better has materialized for Harrell, either.

But I'm also guessing his chances with Browns coach Eric Mangini probably weren't helped by his old college coach popping off about Mangini's football acumen, either.