“There would be three fire alarms a day, cherry bombs going off in the toilets. Things would calm down for a while, and then some incident would occur to stir people up. Somebody got beaten up, and there would be a retaliation.
“I still remember the day I heard Martin Luther King had been assassinated [April 4, 1968]. I was a sophomore integrating Bates. You can’t imagine how that was, but the one thing that pulled people together was sports. That was the one place where it didn’t make any difference what color your skin was. Pretty soon, the guys on the football team were just people, and eventually there was a progression.
“You got to know each other, and then you’d try and convince your friends not to do something, because the other guy was all right. Sports bonded us together. When I moved back to Annapolis High for my junior year, we had a great coach who didn’t see color. All he saw was per form ance. If you did it his way, you were OK. If you didn’t, you were in trouble. From my experience there, I took something with me. I don’t see color; I see football players. What links us is the game.”
That link has run throughout Belichick’s life, from the naval academy to Annapolis High to the year he spent as a postgraduate student at Andover, the elite Massachusetts boarding school where he chose to go despite having scored over 1,400 on his SATs. One of the things Belichick remembers about entering Andover in the fall of 1970 was meeting a student named Ernie Adams, who was working on his tutorial in Latin. To Belichick, this was astounding.
“Andover was a shock to me because of guys like Ernie,” Belichick says of the student who became a lifelong friend and recently his director of football research for the Patriots. “I thought I was a pretty good student until I got there. Everyone was brilliant in something. You could see why they all were there. It was one of the best years of my life.
“I had come from this conservative naval background to a place that was pretty liberal in the ‘70s. I didn’t get into Yale or Dartmouth originally. If I had, my decision might have been different, but the fact is I probably wasn’t ready for college, because when I went to Andover it was definitely a culture shock.
“I had a broad range of experiences because I’d gone to public school, but Andover was a far different point on that triangle. I knew there were things going on in the world that weren’t going on at Annapolis. I just didn’t know how much was going on.”
Belichick says that Andover was harder academically than his first year of college: “I had taken four years of French, so I sign up for French 4 when I get there, and they said, `Maybe you better try French 3.’ I figured: All right, easy. The first assignment was to read Les Miserables . . . in French! I’m looking up every [expletive] word! Math was the same way. I needed extra help every day. I’d turn in a paper I would have gotten an A on in high school, and it would come back with red marks all over it. I’d never worked that hard before.”
From Andover, Belichick went to Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, where he won varsity letters in football and lacrosse as well as squash, a most un-NFL-like sport. He also served as president of Chi Psi, a fraternity his friends claim was the “animal house” on campus. He did all this while majoring in economics.
His position coach in 1974, the fall of Belichick’s senior year, was John Biddiscombe, who is now Wesleyan’s athletic director. His recollections are not of a guy he thought was going to spend his life in locker rooms. “He was in a curriculum at Wesleyan that emphasized a scientific, analytical approach to come to conclusions,” Biddiscombe says. “He’s never lost that kind of thinking. Back then, I didn’t think he’d become a coach. He was talking about graduate school. I thought he’d get an MBA.
“There was no question he was as interested in the technical aspects of football as the physical ones, which is very unusual for a college player. I just thought he had too many other interests to spend his life in sports. Then I ran into him and his father at the football coaches’ convention his senior year. I was shocked. He never said a thing about coaching. I’m sure he was the only undergraduate there. It surprised me, but I think it whet his appetite.”
Belichick had indeed been planning on getting an MBA and had written to more than 100 colleges seeking part-time work as a graduate assistant in coaching. “I kept a number of the rejection letters,” he says. He ultimately was accepted into North Carolina State’s MBA program, with an opportunity to serve as a graduate assistant under football coach Lou Holtz.Continued...