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George Welsh.-- From the Archives...
                                        Glare Not There As Old Sailor Fades Away: Perfect
                                          December 24, 2000|By DAVID TEEL Daily Press
Tonight's O'ahu Bowl between Virginia and Georgia is the postseason equivalent of Coaldale, Pa. - unpretentious, obscure and miles from the big time.

Sure, ESPN is broadcasting the game. But unless Santa has a satellite dish on his sleigh, and his elves are similarly wired on the North Pole, the audience will be limited. Due to early Christmas Eve deadlines, none of the state's four largest newspapers is staffing the event. Ditto the commonwealth's major TV markets.

George Welsh, favorite son of Coaldale and a Hall of Fame football coach to boot, couldn't ask for a more appropriate farewell.

Naturally, Welsh would prefer that his Virginia Cavaliers be undefeated and preparing for a national championship showdown against Oklahoma. But absent that, a little ol' football game contested near one of military history's most storied venues (Pearl Harbor) is just fine for a 67-year-old gentleman concluding a 28-year head coaching career, nine at Navy, the last 19 at Virginia.

Welsh, you see, never viewed football as an event. The pragmatist in him certainly understood the need for exposure, fan support and political allies. In fact, Welsh quietly assembled a power base unrivaled at the university. He got what he wanted, usually when he wanted it, even if it meant trampling others. Jim Copeland's departure as athletics director in late 1994 had Welsh's fingerprints all over it.

But the football coach in Welsh had little use for news conferences, teleconferences, radio call-in shows and alumni schmoozefests. And those insipid halftime interviews with some talking head? Well, don't get Welsh started. He would have preferred a bikini wax any day.

Don't misunderstand. Welsh is rarely rude. In fact, he is occasionally charming, often amusing - in a droll sort of way - and almost always interesting. Conversations with him invariably include awkward pauses, but only because Welsh thinks before he speaks and values precise language.ble click here to add text.