Pepper Rodgers has written a football book that will shortly be required reading in every coach's office in the land—also in the NCAA executive offices in Mission, Kans. This football book isn't about the T or the I or influence blocking or any other incidental nonsense about the game down on the field; in fact, there's hardly a mention of the game played on the field until page 266, and it isn't a lengthy one. As coach Buck Lee makes clear when he is chosen Coach of the Year by his fellow coaches, this book is about the most important thing in college football: recruiting. And it's a novel. That should, of course, mean that neither the characters—coaches named Joe and Vince and Macabe and a running back named Prune Juice Butler—nor the events in it are real, but don't be fooled. It's real, as all good fiction is.
Pepper Rodgers, now coach of the USFL's Memphis Showboats, has recruited (and coached) at Kansas, UCLA and Georgia Tech, and he has tapped all his experiences to recount the efforts of Buck Lee of the East Alabama University Rattlers to outrecruit his archrival, coach Buddy Shavers of the West Alabama State Hawks.
Pepper's Fourth and Long Gone (Peachtree Publishers, Ltd., $12.95) describes the shenanigans when these "two grown men...strangle each other over the pursuit, development and exploitation of teen-age boys." Especially the pursuit. The scene of Buck and Buddy flinging $100 bills into the collection plate at church to impress the mother of the prize recruit is classic; how Buck gets the same recruit to forget Notre Dame is a caution, if illegal; how he keeps other coaches from interrupting during a visit to another recruit is brilliant, if a bit simplistic. And when Buck, Buddy and the coaches from UCLA, USC, Michigan and Ohio State gather to hear the letter-of-intent decision of the No. 1 recruit, you'll be on the edge of your seat just as if the game were tied in the last seconds and a long pass were spiraling through the air. But you'll be laughing.