When Fred Hubbs was hired at Baylor School in the late summer of 1970, he had to hurriedly change his original plans of moving to another city with his wife, Betty, and young family for a job.
In fact, he did not realize he had been given a job at Baylor until friend and faculty member/coach Bill Early called to make sure he was still coming. Not only that, but after he arrived, then-head football coach E.B. “Red” Etter did not apparently know coach Hubbs was supposed to be on his varsity football staff after the young coach introduced himself.
Despite the almost haphazard and uncertain start, the next 47 years would be pretty stable and content for him.
In fact, he never wanted to go anywhere else as a teacher and coach.
“All you have to do is get out and walk around the campus, with the setting and young people,” coach Hubbs said of why he spent his entire education career at Baylor.
“There are a lot of great young people and families that have really supported Baylor and a lot of great colleagues.”
This summer, coach Hubbs – who went on to serve two stints as head football coach and was a longtime seventh-grade geography teacher -- retired from Baylor after nearly a half century of service.
His career had uniquely spanned from being hired when Baylor still offered a military curriculum for boys, through the early days of coeducation, and deep into the years when Baylor’s student body started having a more international makeup.
A man who became one of the more familiar faces of Baylor over the last few decades, coach Hubbs’ early life actually began hundreds of miles from the scenic campus alongside the Tennessee River. As he reminisced during a recent interview at the Baylor Fieldhouse, he said he initially lived in such areas as Eastern North Carolina and coastal Virginia while his stepfather served in the Marines.
After attending high school in Virginia, where he played football and basketball, he played football at San Diego City College about the time his family moved to California.
He later transferred to the University of Miami, where he played on the offensive line and lettered in 1964 under first-year coach Charlie Tate. Among his Hurricane teammates were such future NFL players as George Mira, Pete Banaszak and Dan Conners.
After working several jobs in different cities, including Richmond, Va., where he had met coach and Chattanooga City High graduate Early, he was living in Huntsville, Ala., when he received the call about Baylor from his friend.
At the time, he and his wife, Betty, and their young son, Fred, had already pretty much moved to South Florida after coach Hubbs decided to take a job at what is now the Ransom Everglades School. He had previously done some coaching there, and decided to pursue a coaching/teaching career.
After his somewhat rocky start in his meeting with coach Etter, he would settle into being the varsity offensive line coach and grow to admire coach “Red” Etter greatly. Coach Etter was actually beginning his first year at Baylor after a successful stint at Central High.
With his tactician style that could dissect opposing teams by film study, coach Etter quickly built Baylor into the premier Chattanooga high school team through most of the 1970s. The team reached the state finals three times, including a state and mythical national championship in 1973, and had undefeated regular seasons two other years.
“It was a pretty good learning experience for me,” coach Hubbs remembered of working under coach Etter. “He was so detail oriented. He was a student of the game. He was constantly studying game film.”
Although coach Hubbs admired his cerebral boss, he had his own style and personality as a coach that focused as much on hard work and playing tough. He would get to use those traits when he was named head coach in 1988 after Mike Stewart, who had been named to replace coach Etter following his retirement, left.
By that time, Baylor had taken a backseat to several football teams in the area, including McCallie. But through a lot of hard work – and the arrival of heralded boarding student and player Frahn D’Anjou – Baylor came back.
The most memorable year was 1991, when Baylor snapped McCallie’s six-year winning streak, beat powerhouse Red Bank, and reached the third round of the playoffs before losing to future pro baseball star Todd Helton and Knoxville Central High.
“Our thing was to keep improving,” coach Hubbs recalled. “We worked hard in practice and the coaches worked hard and the players worked hard.”
After good seasons as well in 1992 and 1993, coach Hubbs decided to step aside and let Ralph Potter become the head coach. However, coach Potter left after the 1996 season to become coach of McCallie, his alma mater and where his father, Pete, had successfully coached.
Coach Hubbs was asked again to take the reins of Baylor before the 1997 season and he accepted. However, he found a challenge even more daunting than in 1988: the fact that Baylor was in the TSSAA’s new Division II league and had to face several very competitive fellow private schools in Nashville and Memphis.
“It was a challenge and I didn’t know it was going to be that big of a challenge,” he recalled.
Although Baylor beat McCallie in the regular season and the first round of the playoffs in 1997, it found the going tough in 1998 and 1999. As a result, coach Hubbs was replaced as head coach by David Bibee after a winless 1999 season.
However, coach Hubbs – who had enjoyed a 5-5 record as head coach against McCallie -- continued to put forth a selfless effort for Baylor, going back to being an assistant coach and later helping with the younger Red Raider teams.
He also continued to teach geography to younger students after starting out in civics and government. It is a subject that he has found increasingly important, especially as the world has become more global.
“You know what’s happening outside your door that you need to know about,” he said. “You’re not just connected to the neighbor down the street anymore.”
Particularly as a geography teacher, coach Hubbs’ Gen. George Patton-like glare made a young student never want to misbehave in his class. In the interview, coach Hubbs facetiously tried to dispel that tough-guy myth.
“I thought I was a nice guy. Somebody started that rumor,” he said with a smile, demonstrating another trait for which he was known at Baylor – a wry sense of humor.
But despite the serious masculine side he initially showed to young students, he was also known to cry like the most caring of mothers at a football banquet while talking about departing senior players on his team or the team in general.
Now that he is retired after a career that also included living in Trustee Hall and several other Baylor dorms, coach Hubbs said he has no major plans. That is, none other than trying to change his old habits of no longer having to get ready for school and realizing almost every day is now like Saturday.
“You still miss that routine, but I believe I’ll get over it,” he said with a laugh.
It is time for some rest and relaxation and enjoying being a grandparent after nearly a half century of service.
But he is admittedly grateful for his time at Baylor. He arrived at the school rather hurriedly way back in 1970, but was glad he decided to sit and stay a spell. In fact, it was so perfect for him that he never wanted to leave.
“The grass was pretty green right here,” he said with emotion.
To listen to Coach Hubbs discuss what he enjoyed about working at Baylor, click here.