There’s a ‘Bear’ in the house!

Frank CagleFrank Talk

I saw a story recently about the Sequoyah Hills house once owned by the late UT football coach Bowden Wyatt being for sale and it prompted a memory. One of my best friends grew up in Sequoyah Hills on the same street.


In those days there was more collegiality between football coaches than today. When Alabama came to Knoxville to play the Vols, coach Paul “Bear” Bryant would stay with the Wyatts. In the days before social media and message boards it was possible for opposing coaches to be good friends and hang out.

Frank Cagle

Bryant and Wyatt had a propensity to drink to excess. At various times over the years, they both did a stint in a rehab facility.

My friend remembers one Friday night before a Vols-Tide match-up on Saturday when she and her family heard a tremendous crash. They leaped out of bed to see what happened.

The front door was open and had crashed against the interior wall. On the floor in front of the door the legendary Bear was hibernating and exhibiting a strong odor of alcohol, as cops say.

It seems their house looked like the Wyatt house and he had picked the wrong one. They closed the door, it was well after midnight, and rather than alarm the neighborhood to get it sorted out they put a cushion under his head and covered him with a quilt.

Her dad called the Wyatts and alerted them as to where their house guest would be spending the night. When they got up the next morning he was gone.

The next day Bear walked out onto the field at Neyland Stadium and leaned up against a goal post to watch his team warm up. Bear leaning against a goal post became a fixture of Tide games, because he was usually hungover and needed support.

Hey, let a committee run it: It’s a pity state Rep. Jason Zachary can’t be quarantined. He has a bill removing the authority of the Knox County Board of Health, turning emergency situations over to politicians instead. He is also House chair of a legislative committee studying whether to tie the governor’s hands during emergency situations. The committee suggests that the 33 Senators and 99 House members, which sometimes has trouble finding its ass with both hands, make decisions rather than the state’s chief executive who commands the National Guard and social service agencies.

One proposal is a rump group of legislators who could meet to review the governor’s plans. Another proposal is that after 60 days of an emergency declaration a special session would be required for it to continue.

In Knox County, Zachary wants the county mayor to be in charge in an emergency, while in Nashville he wants a committee of 132 legislators to command the governor.

Lost hospital: Last spring, to much fanfare, Gov. Bill Lee and Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs toured the city to locate a site for an emergency hospital in case the county’s hospitals were overrun with COVID-19 victims. Remember that? The situation is now more dire with 97% of Intensive Care Unit beds full and only eight ICU beds available among 16 East Tennessee counties. Last April the Knoxville Expo center was identified as a site for 350 hospital beds. We were prepared for a crisis, but we flattened the curve. Now the virus is running rampant and Lee and Jacobs are arguing over whether they should mandate masks.

Where’s my WBIR? DirecTV and the parent company of WBIR have been in a contract dispute that has led to Channel 10 disappearing from the satellite service for over a week. Subscribers had a message appear on screen from DirecTV: “We hoped to avoid any interruption of this channel. Unfortunately, we are still working with TEGNA … to secure an agreement. We share your frustration.” As of this writing (Monday) the two sides are still arguing.

Bad boys: The University of Tennessee has kicked three players off the football team this season. Two of them were charged with illegal gun and drug possession and one for beating a woman.

Fraternity boys around the SEC used to taunt visiting brothers in town for a game with “our thugs can beat your thugs.” The more things change the more they remain the same.

Frank Cagle is a veteran newspaper editor and columnist.

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