BLUFFTON — When Carlin Carpenter retired as Bluffton University’s football coach 10 years ago, he described himself this way: “I take my job very seriously, but not myself.”
When he decided to write his recently published book, “Coaching Football Ain’t Easy,” he worked from the same script.
He was serious about the research for the 186-page book, looking through all the letters he received in 24 years at Bluffton after locating them in a plastic storage container in his daughter’s basement.
He was serious about the writing process, calling in former colleagues at Bluffton and other teachers and editors to critique his work. He read the book 17 times himself before it went to press — 16 times from beginning to end and one time backward.
“It was work,” Carpenter said. “I had a writing class in college but it met at 8 a.m., so I didn’t make it to all of those classes.”
But Carpenter’s internal clock can never be set to serious for too long.
Asked why he decided to write a book, he said, “I retired and things were really good. I didn’t have to worry about kids going to class or getting in trouble or parents calling. Then, all of a sudden after about a year, I got bored.
“So I started a landscaping, painting and escort service with (former assistant coach) Louie Stokes. We had all the painting and landscaping we could handle, but the escort service wasn’t getting any business. I tried voice lessons but nobody wanted to hear me sing. I tried piano lessons. So, one day I decided I was going to write a book,” Carpenter said.
After a rocky start, when Bluffton won only 10 games in his first six seasons, he retired with 103 wins, more than any Beavers football coach before or after him.
But those 103 wins and the Beavers’ successes on the field aren’t what he wanted to write about. That was never the plan.
“It’s not a book about football. It’s a book about people and football,” Carpenter says.
And a lot of those people are very funny. Or, at least, they did some very funny things.
One player tried to tell Carpenter the reason he missed practice was that he had to take his 2-month old child to the dentist.
Another time when a veteran player did not return to school in the fall, Carpenter tracked him down at an address the player’s mother had reluctantly given him. When the player came to the door, he was wearing a short skirt and high heels.
But the fall guy in many of the humorous stories is Carpenter himself.
Like the time he was conned into believing the president wanted him to speak at graduation and didn’t discover the truth until the faculty was lining up for the procession to the ceremony.
Or the time he went to a prospect’s home to try to recruit him and found the player’s mother chewing tobacco. Figuring that joining her in her vile habit might help him recruit the son, Carpenter asked the mother if he could chew with her.
Predictably, it didn’t end well.
The book has its serious moments, too. And it throws open the windows to his football program in a way most coaches wouldn’t. It is available by contacting Carpenter by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is there a sequel in the works? Can just one book be enough to contain all of Carpenter’s stories?
“The players are calling me with stories they thought I should have put in the book,” Carpenter said. “But I don’t know if I’m up to it. And normally the sequel isn’t as good as the original.”
And as anyone who has met him knows, Carpenter is an original kind of guy.