PE: I would always take the wives of the staff of the visiting team to dinner or on some outing. One year Pitt came in two days early so I took the wives to Park City and had a wonderful day. Jackie Harbaugh (her husband, Jack, was on the Pitt staff at the time; she’s also the mother of John and Jim Harbaugh of the NFL) and I were walking along the street and she said we really need to have more fellowship like this and I agreed. That’s the conversation that got the ball rolling. At the next men’s coaches’ convention in Atlanta — LaVell was president that year (1988) — four of the women and I were having breakfast together. I said we need an association of our own, they all agreed, so we found a hotel room and had a meeting, 40 women showed up, and that’s how it started. It’s grown from there. Every year we have our own convention, we give a $1,000 scholarship to a coach’s wife who’s wanting to get an education, and $1,000 to the children’s hospital that’s in the town where we have our convention. We celebrated our 25th anniversary last year.
DN: The bottom line is football wives need to support each other?
PE: It’s just so important to have that camaraderie and fellowship. And it’s so much fun. One time Baylor’s staff came in and my wives and I took them up to Sundance for dinner and Robert Redford came in. After that they couldn’t care if they won the football game or not, they were so excited to see Robert Redford.
DN: What about players’ wives and their need for fellowship?
PE: One of the things I feel best about is every fall (when LaVell was coaching) I would have a get-together for the players’ wives and I would tell them it’s a lot different being married to a football player than it is dating one. I said your big responsibility to your husband is to see that he graduates. I’d encourage them to form their own friendships with each other. Two of their husbands may be vying for the same position; well, let them vie on the football field but you keep your friendship alive. And you know, so many of those women are still really good friends with each other, and they’re my friends. So I would do that every year and that’s probably the best thing that I ever did.
DN: One of your outlets was writing a newspaper column. How did that come about?
PE: When I was at Utah State my major was journalism, so writing appealed to me. One year we were over at Colorado State for a game and at breakfast Marion Dunn, who was the sports editor at the (Provo) Daily Herald, was there with some Colorado writers. I said I should give you guys some competition. He said: “Really? Well write me an article, if I like it I’ll print it.” So I did, and he liked it and it was well received. I know I got the job because of LaVell, but I think I kept it because of me. I did that once a week for 10 years.
DN: It was also important to you to get your college degree?
PE: I had to finish. I was the only one in my family who hadn’t. One Sunday I remember the kids were all here and everyone was talking and they thought they were so smart. Monday morning I went down to BYU and registered. I graduated when I was 63 in American Studies.
DN: Ann is a writer, John is an orthopedic doctor and Jim is a lawyer. How were you able to raise such a well-rounded, well-adjusted family?
PE: I don’t know. I guess just lucky. The one thing that I think was a big help is LaVell was never completely football oriented in his family life. The foundation of a well-adjusted family really comes from him. He didn’t bring football home. Other things mattered. Museums were important, concerts, schoolwork, books, other interests. If you look around our home you don’t see any football mementos. They’re pretty well hidden. He never thought he was famous, and we never thought he was famous. So it was easy. The kids knew they were more important to LaVell than football, and I know I did. Because he was able to let us know that we were No. 1, we wanted him to know that he was No. 1 and we’d do everything we could to help him, and I think we did a pretty good job.
DN: Your most cherished memories (so far)?
PE: The relationships. And they’re not just memories, they’re ongoing. They weren’t relationships that were established because you thought they would be beneficial; they were established because it was a genuine situation. Those kind of relationships survive. I grieve with Sue Paterno, for example, and we keep in touch and I stay in contact with so many others I’ve made friends with through the years. You need to make good friends, that’s so important, and that’s what I most cherish.
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