Jerry Glanville isn't exactly one of the "young creatives" progressive Portland is famous for attracting.
Instead, he's a 65-year-old, avowedly apolitical, cowboy-hat-wearing race car owner who's been an NFL coach in Atlanta and Houston—two cities that couldn't be more different from Portland.
Portland State University hired Glanville away from a defensive coordinator's job at the University of Hawaii, saying it wanted a championship-caliber program that sells lots of tickets. And they're banking that Glanville—after 21 years coaching in pro football and 10 as a national TV broadcaster—will bring them more attention.
Glanville heads into his first spring game with his new team on May 12. WW visited his office and found Glanville in the midst of a phone call with a coaching buddy, producing two pages of notes on short-yardage defensive alignments, all the way down to which foot the left defensive end should lead with—not exactly a wild-talking good ol' boy.
WW: What have you learned about our fair city since you got here?
I had no idea that this city was so cool. That's what sold my wife. I was off interviewing, and my wife said, "Jerry, this is a great city," and I said, "You're kidding!"
You must have noticed we have different politics than Houston and Atlanta.
Politics I don't know anything about. I did visit with the governor. I asked him to help me schedule Oregon and Oregon State...our first goal is to play Oregon and Oregon State at least once every year.
Why do you want to play the Ducks and Beavers?
To change the perception of who we are in the state. We're not just the kid sittin' on the curb. We want to play the big kid. We want our reputation to be as a first-class program that can line up and play against the other teams in the state.
Even if you get beat by 40 points?
Who says we have to do that? Look, you have to have a full [stadium] so when a visiting high-school player comes to see you, he gets the big-time feeling. A full house changes who you get to recruit and eventually changes who you are in the city. I don't look at us as the PSU football team, I see us as the city of Portland's Vikings.
Let's get back to the Portland lifestyle for a moment. Any plans to switch to a hybrid car?
No. I like horsepower. The more the better. I'd rather get less miles per gallon and take fewer trips but get there faster. I drive a BMW here, but back home in Atlanta I've got an '87 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, an '84 Ford Thunderbird and a '96 Impala.
How do you think that souped-up lifestyle will play in such an enviro-friendly town?
It's the same cars I see out here. Just today I was at a red light next to a '63 Ford Galaxy with a 427 in it. Man, it sounded sweet!
What's your favorite coffee drink?
I have never had a cup of coffee in my life. Never had a cigarette, either. Never had a beer. Kind of boring, huh? I am shocked when I see people drinking coffee in church. That's different.
Why do you always wear black?
Black is not a color, it's an attitude. It's the absence of color, and it allows your spirit to shine through, man. But the main reason is, if you wear nothing but black, you save hours every week not having to separate socks. There's nothing in my closet but attitude.
What would you do if one of your players came to you and said he was gay?
That's happened before. It's not a factor. If he's your best player, you play him. If he's not, he doesn't play.
Was it your name recognition that got you hired here?
I don't think it hurt. I think that was a factor.
So, is this job just a stepping stone back to the NFL?
No. Football's football. I've coached high school, Division 1-AA, Division 1-A and pro, and I love it all. My interest is to make this the best job in the country. If this program becomes important to the guy running the restaurant down in the Pearl District, we'll be successful.
PSU's spring game is at 6 pm May 12, at PGE Park. Admission is $5 for adults and free for PSU students as well as anyone under 18.
School officials say ticket sales have increased more than 50 percent since PSU hired Glanville.