What’s in a name?

By Joy Carrico | Published Saturday, May 27, 2017

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Denton ISD named a building after my dad – the Bill Carrico Athletic Complex. It was built as part of the new high school in Denton.

They announced the naming of the building before he died, so he knew about it, but the completion did not occur until after he died and its dedication was planned for last Thursday.

Joy Carrico

The dedication was canceled. I don’t want to get into the reasons for the cancellation here. For our purposes today, it only matters that it was canceled, and I’m not upset about it.

I was supposed to make a quick speech at the dedication, but I don’t think the event will be rescheduled. So the building will remain undedicated and the speech (which I hadn’t actually written at the time of cancellation) will remain unspoken.

But I’m going to dedicate the building here.

The Kilgore News Herald has a recurring feature they call “What’s in a name?” In it, they take some building or park or whatever and explore the biography of the person for whom it is named. I would like to borrow their format.

Bill Carrico spent almost his entire career working for Denton ISD as a coach and later the athletic director. He was also a graduate of Denton High School.

In his youth, he was a football player, best known as an offensive lineman, although in his day it was common to play both offense and defense. He made All-American in 1959. He was drafted by the Edmondton Eskimos but was injured in his rookie year and did not return to professional football.

Instead, he did what he’d always wanted to do. He went home, raised a family and taught and worked with kids. He taught industrial arts and coached football. He became athletic director when I was a teenager and retired from the district in the late ’90s.

After retirement, he continued to be involved with working with children by volunteering at one of the elementary schools as a tutor and mentor.

By all accounts, my dad was a great football player. I have accumulated some amazing stories about this, and it’s very interesting, but not why Denton ISD decided to name this building in his honor. However great he may have been on the field, he was an even better coach and teacher.

He was a big part of the integration of the Denton school system and became best friends with the coach from Fred Moore High School (from which students were integrated), C.H. Collins, who also has a stadium/complex named after him in Denton. Incidentally, he also played on the North Texas team that was the first college team in Texas to integrate African-American players. This is another great story, but also not why I believe the complex was named after him.

My dad did not live and breathe football. For him, football was a means to an end, and that end was the teaching and mentoring of students. He was a teacher and a coach because he loved kids.

My mom told me recently that, in all the years of his career, and she was there for every minute of it, she never once heard him say a negative thing about any student. Not one student. Not one time. I don’t believe that level of dedication can be faked.

My whole life, I couldn’t go anywhere with my dad without running into at least one – and usually more than one – person who excitedly yelled, “Coach!!!” and came over to talk. Over and over men I didn’t know would tell me stories about my dad and how much they loved him. Often, and this always baffled me, they would tell me with great happiness about the time he gave them licks. They loved it! As I said at his memorial, apparently my dad was so full of love that he could inflict it.

My dad was a big guy. He was strong and powerful. And he was gentle and loving. He did not use his power to intimidate. He did use it as an enforcement of already understood rules. My dad never bluffed, and he did not throw his weight around. That wasn’t what he was about. He certainly maintained order and discipline, and he obviously gave licks, although everyone involved seemed to enjoy it.

What everybody can agree to is that my dad loved his students, and he showed them that he loved them through being a good teacher and a good coach.

And they loved him back.

When he died, I cannot count the number of times I heard men say to me “I LOVE your dad!” Over and over. The memorial was packed with the love of his past students. We had an open visitation for several days before the funeral, and I’m told it was always packed and a party atmosphere every night. He would have loved that.

So many people showed up for his memorial that I kept thinking, “God, I wish he were here. He would have loved seeing everyone!”

My dad was not the winningest football coach in Texas. He never took a team to state. And as far as I can tell, that didn’t bother him in the least. My dad did not care about praise, awards or honors. His success was shown in whether he impacted the lives of his students for the better. Nothing else mattered to him.

As an example, I found out he was named All-American by accident. I didn’t really know what that was but was told it was a big deal. I asked him, “Daddy, why didn’t you ever tell me you were named All-American?” He shrugged and said, “That’s just one man’s opinion.” He really didn’t care about that stuff. He cared about people.

And so I don’t believe he would have much minded missing out on a public ceremony dedicating the building in his honor. He wouldn’t have cared about the speeches talking about how great he was. He would probably have fussed at me for what he would regard as “bragging” about his All-American status or his prowess as a football player. But he would have loved seeing everyone.

So I dedicate the Bill Carrico Athletic Complex in the name of my father. It is an appropriate name for the place.

What’s in a name? Well, in this name is an unending love for kids; a lifetime’s purpose of helping kids learn about life through the vehicle of sports.

If this athletic complex houses that, then it will live up to its name. May it do so for decades after anyone there even knows who Bill Carrico was.

Joy Carrico is a Messenger graphic artist.

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