WACO, Texas -- Jim and Holly Grobe had a few trips lined up for this summer. He could’ve kept playing golf every day. He did not need to leave the dream home they’d built on gorgeous Lake Oconee in Georgia.
As her husband put it, Holly has enjoyed being “out of the fire” for these past two years since leaving Wake Forest. So you can imagine how she reacted when Jim got the call.
They were shopping at a Publix grocery store on a Thursday night. Art Briles had just been forced out at Baylor earlier that day. Grobe’s phone rang. His friend, Grant Teaff, the legendary former Baylor coach and American Football Coaches Association executive director emeritus, was on the other line.
“Coach basically was heartbroken,” Grobe said, “and he asked me if I could come and help.”
How did Holly feel about that? Teaff chuckles when he thinks back on their chat.
“He said Holly was listening on speakerphone,” Teaff said, “and he said she went into the fetal position. Which is understandable.”
Added Grobe: “It took her about a day to recover from that phone call.”
Everything moved fast from there. Grobe would meet with Baylor officials that Saturday in Dallas and became the interim head coach of the Bears two days later. There are several reasons he said yes to coaching a talented team through unbelievably challenging circumstances for the next seven months.
A key justification: because Teaff was the one asking.
“He's just a hard man to say no to,” Grobe said. “There's nobody in college football I respect more than Grant Teaff.”
Teaff ended up acting as the unofficial one-man search committee to find Briles' replacement. The original rebuilder of Baylor football said he spoke with Grobe and one other candidate -- a coach who “had not been a head college coach.” Teaff wouldn’t say whether that was Mike Singletary, but he did laugh and concede: “That’s not hard to figure out.”
Teaff called Ian McCaw, Baylor's now-former athletic director, after gauging Grobe’s interest and offered his recommendation. McCaw hadn’t asked the 82-year-old Teaff to find the school’s next head coach. He just wanted to help.
“I care about this university deeply,” Teaff said. “Got a lot of time and effort and energy and finances invested. It’s a great, great program, a great institution.”
Teaff knew he could trust Grobe to help pick up the pieces. Grobe was chairman of the AFCA’s ethics committee for eight years. He thought he’d serve that role for only three years. Teaff kept asking him for one more year. He has served on a number of committees within the AFCA -- which is headquartered in Waco, thanks to Teaff -- because, yep, the old coach just kept asking.
“The only reason he’s come here is that’s the kind of man he is, honestly,” Teaff said.
And Grobe wanted another shot at a head-coaching job. The right situation just hadn’t presented itself over the past two years. He never saw this gig coming, that’s for sure, but something did feel right about it. Grobe says he wants to be part of the solution to Baylor’s issues.
“I just felt led to be here, to be honest with you,” he said.
Does he know what he’s getting himself into here? Grobe spent a week inside the program before holding his first news conference last Friday. He introduced himself with a 300-word prepared statement that said all the right things. His longtime friend looks at the challenge from a different perspective.
Where everyone else might see chaos, Teaff sees opportunity.
“There are a lot of great coaches that never get the chance where all the good players and all the good facilities are,” Teaff said. “And he’s got that chance now, and I think he’ll do extremely well.”
He’s taking over in the middle of an unthinkable mess, and yet Grobe sounds downright grateful to even be involved.
“I really missed it,” he said. “I missed football and I missed being around the kids. I still feel like I have a lot to give. I'm blessed that Coach Teaff thought enough of me to give me a call and asked me if I could coach and come help."