The Buddy System

by Zeke Turner | 5/21/07 1:54am

Professors expect them to keep up with their classes. Fellow students expect them to keep grade medians low. Alumni expect them to win.

But their coach, Buddy Teevens '79, expects everything and more from his players, his staff and, most importantly, himself. At age 50, in his third stint at Dartmouth, Teevens is obliterating all of the classic expectations about football players, and using his status as a Dartmouth legend to redefine the most basic stereotypes about athletes nationwide.

Today however -- day 15 of Teevens' cross-country bike trip -- he is redefining what it means to be middle-aged. For the moment, he is worried about headwinds and flat tires -- not his team's recent history of losing -- as he bicycles his way through a big Nike swoosh of states from Southern California to New England. Departing for San Diego two days after spring football practice ended, he has allowed himself 26 days to zoom back across America for Buddy Jr.'s prep school graduation on June 1 in Connecticut. It comes as no surprise that Coach Teevens is exactly on schedule.

Although Teevens' ride has received only a smidgen of media coverage, he is one of the most important movers-and-shakers in the Dartmouth community today. Rumors abound that his contract promises him the position of Athletic Director as soon as Josie Harper taps out. Whether or not those rumors hold water, Teevens seems to be an obvious choice for the job. Still, Coach Teevens is anything but predictable.

Buddy Teevens bleeds green. As an undergraduate, he found great success playing both hockey and football. In 1979, he helped Dartmouth hockey secure a third place finish at the NCAA tournament, after leading Dartmouth football to an Ivy League championship as the quarterback only months earlier.

He studied with a young, spry professor James Wright. His father went to Dartmouth, as did some of his brothers and sisters. He was even a member of a fraternity -- and not just any fraternity -- Beta Theta Pi, the notoriously raucous house, which was banished from campus in the 1990s (but is slowly creeping back). If Dartmouth has its own definition of virtue and cachet, Buddy Teevens is its living personification.

He seems to enjoy challenging himself and his body as much as he loves seeing his team play flawless football. Weeks before he got on his bike in California, he traveled to St. Louis to run a marathon alongside his daughter, Lindsay. And this is not even Teevens's first cross-country bike trip; in 2005, at the age of 49, Teevens biked nearly 1,000 miles from New Hampshire to Ludington, Mich., to meet his family for vacation.

"He is a goal-oriented person," says Hudson Smythe '09, a tailback recruited by Teevens. "One of his goals is for us to win an Ivy League title. Riding your bike across the country is just another goal that he has set for himself and that he's going to achieve."

But Buddy's goals extend far beyond the football field, and he laughs at win-at-all-costs thinking. Coach Teevens is clearly interested in challenging certain assumptions about athletes in the Dartmouth community and the American community as a whole. Since returning to Dartmouth again, he has used his visibility and influence to support our campus' sexual assault awareness movement.

I met Buddy Teevens for the first time last spring at a lecture by Jackson Katz, author of the book "The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help." Teevens required his players to attend the lecture, and for the most part they did not seem to mind.

Now, Teevens is using his bike ride to raise awareness about breast cancer. "He asks for money a lot in his job," says the executive director of Friends of Norris Cotton Cancer Center Jene Brown. "He didn't want to go around asking for money." Instead, in true Buddy Teevens fashion, he is talking with anyone he meets about cancer. "What he's encountering is an endless stream of people affected by cancer," says Brown. "He's talking about breast cancer -- he's talking about all cancer."

Earlier this year, Teevens was interviewed by "Dartmouth Life," Dartmouth's magazine for parents and alumni. When he was asked what parents and alumni can do to help the football team, Coach Teevens answered decisively.

"The best thing they can do," he said, "is to continue sending out the message that things are different at Dartmouth now." And at Dartmouth where tradition and progress are given equal esteem, we should put our faith in responsible, homegrown leaders like Buddy Teevens and remember they are the most powerful agents for change we have.

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