Peter Kerasotis


Getting to know … Peter Kerasotis by Ed Odeven

Journalist and professional colleague Ed Odeven asked to interview me for his website. We talked writing, journalism and other various topics. Here’s the link to the interview.

By Ed Odeven
Tokyo (Nov. 14, 2013) — Peter Kerasotis, veteran journalist, author and broadcaster, is one of the most gifted storytellers in America.

To the average John Smith or Jane Doe, he may not be as well known as Stephen King or Mitch Albom, but his ability to consistently produce quality work is beyond impressive. In the past four decades, Kerasotis has collected an astonishing number of awards for his journalism work, a reminder of his commitment to excellence, work ethic and talent. (For a rundown, take a look at this list:

Kerasotis, who’s in his eary 50s, resides in Florida and refuses to rest on his laurels. Instead, he’s always fired up about the next story and the next opportunity to conduct an interview.

Click Here To Read The Full Interview

Tiger Shows His Flaws, And The PGA’s

I’m not going to defend Tiger Woods. I’m not going to even say I trust him. After all, if you’d cheat on a human being – on your wife and the mother of your children, no less – then it isn’t a stretch to say you’d cheat in a game.

So I’m not necessarily buying Tiger’s naiveté regarding his illegal ball drop during the second round of The Masters, notwithstanding that he actually outed himself. I’m especially not buying it because this isn’t the first time that Tiger’s integrity on a golf course has been called into question. Earlier this year, in Abu Dhabi, he was cited for an illegal drop.

Now here it is, just a few months later, and he’s cited for another illegal ball drop. Only this time it isn’t along the off-Broadway fringes of Abu Dhabi. Instead it’s center stage at The Masters, the most prestigious of all golf tournaments.

Cited once again for an illegal drop.

Yes, Tiger dropped his ball farther away from the pin, and on the surface that might seem as if he was penalizing himself. Until you realize that Tiger’s drop actually gave him a better lie and better yardage for his subsequent wedge shot. Critics now charge that not only should he have been penalized, but also disqualified for turning in an incorrect scorecard.

Whatever the truth is, Tiger Woods is a 17-year PGA Tour veteran and guy who has played competitive golf almost his whole life. You would think that by now he’d know the rule on ball drops, and in all of its intricacies.

What I don’t get, though, is why the PGA Tour requires its players to know all the rules and also self-enforce them. Yes, I get that golf is supposed to be a gentleman’s game. But this is 2013 and this is a professional sport, a billion-dollar industry. Why doesn’t the PGA Tour have professional officials at each hole knowing and enforcing the rules? Think about it. What other pro sport requires its participants to both know and call their own infractions?

But this is what golfers are required to do. They’re required to know the entire rule book and self-enforce the rules. They’re also required to keep their own score. Accurately. If not, even if it’s an honest mistake, they’re disqualified.

Imagine that in another sport.

Imagine the NBA Finals without any officials, with players calling their own fouls, and having to do so with absolute accuracy. Imagine LeBron James in the NBA Finals shooting on Kobe Bryant, missing the shot, and then Kobe coming over to the scorer’s table and saying, “Hey, I fouled him.” Imagine that if Kobe didn’t call his own foul, and it showed later, on video, that he did foul and didn’t call it on himself, then retroactively the Los Angeles Lakers lose the game and are disqualified from the remainder of the Finals.

That’s how the PGA Tour operates.

The PGA Tour requires its athletes to keep their own score and also know every picayune rule in their sport.

Not so with other sports.

Every other sport has official scorekeepers and professionals who officiate the rules. Again, I get that golf is supposed to be a gentlemen’s game and that it’s quaint when participants penalize themselves. But really. Isn’t it time for the PGA Tour to move into the 21st century?

Put professional PGA Tour officials at every hole and have them enforce the rules. If that official misses an infraction, then it’s missed and not retroactively enforced, just like how it happens with every other sport.

And while we’re at it, have professional PGA Tour scorekeepers keeping score – not the golfers.

If you do that, you prevent a golfer from inadvertently turning in an incorrect scorecard and ruining a perfectly good round of golf, as what happened to Roberto Di Vicenzo in 1968, back when competitors kept each other’s scorecard. Remember? It might have cost him The Masters.

De Vicenzo made a birdie on the final-round 17th hole, but playing partner Tommy Aaron erroneously entered a 4 on the scorecard instead of 3, giving De Vicenzo a worse score – a 66 instead of a 65. At the end of their round, De Vicenzo signed the scorecard without closely checking it. According to the Rules of Golf the higher score stood. If not for that honest mistake, De Vicenzo would have tied Bob Goalby for first place, and the two would have then met the next day in an 18-hole playoff.

All of it spurred De Vicenzo, an Argentine, to bury his face in his hands and utter these heart-rending words in his broken English: “What a stupid I am!”

Imagine these types of rules regarding infractions and scoring in other sports.

Imagine another sport telling an athlete that he committed an infraction an hour earlier in the contest, that he should have known fully about the infraction, and that he should have self-reported it. And, by the way, because you didn’t know and didn’t do so, you also turned in an incorrect score that you are also required to accurately keep yourself. Therefore, you automatically lose. And if you happen to be playing in a tournament, or a postseason playoff format, you and your team are done for that, too.

It would be ridiculous.

It would be considered archaic.

But it’s the way the PGA Tour operates.

A Strong Showing for Charlie

Today’s the day when Florida Gator fans from Pahokee to Portland to all points in between ask the question: what if?

What if, last October 17, Florida had played well enough to score more than a measly 17 points, which would have been enough to beat the Georgia Bulldogs that Saturday, helping propel the Gators to an undefeated regular season and a date with Alabama for the SEC title?

What if, riding that wave of emotion and momentum, Florida rolled over Alabama to win the SEC championship while simultaneously holding a 13-0 record?

What if, given all that, Florida was then one of the two teams playing tonight in the BCS National Championship Game?

Yeah, what if?

Well, allow me to add one more what if to this mix.

What if Charlie Strong, and not Will Muschamp, was UF’s head coach today?

If that were the case, perhaps Gator fans wouldn’t be playing the what if game today. If that were the case, perhaps Gator fans would be settling in to watch their team play for a national championship tonight.

Maybe you were like me, watching the Sugar Bowl last Wednesday night, and practically scratching a bald spot on your scalp wondering how the Florida Gators let Charlie Strong get away.

I know that the Sugar Bowl was just one game, but what a lopsided one game Charlie Strong’s Louisville Cardinals made it over Will Muschamp’s Florida Gators. The final score was 33-23, but if you didn’t see the game then don’t let the 10-point spread deceive you into thinking it was close. Florida was outplayed offensively, defensively, on special teams and, most notably, they were thoroughly and decisively outcoached.

If you didn’t know better, you’d have thought Louisville was the SEC power, and Florida was the Big East wannabe. Charlie Strong had Louisville playing that well, and Will Muschamp had Florida playing that poorly.

So how did he get away?

How did Charlie Strong, a guy whose first coaching job was as a graduate assistant for the Florida Gators back in 1983, back in the Charley Pell era, get away?

I’ll tell you how he got away. I’ll tell you how he got away from Florida, from Tennessee, from Mississippi State and from so many other schools who saw this masterful defensive mind, this elite recruiter, this skilled and confident leader … and yet didn’t hire him as a head coach.

Charlie Strong got away from all of them, and more, because he came as a packaged deal. He came as a black man with a white wife.

Charlie and I have talked about this, more than once.

A few years ago, when he was Florida’s defensive coordinator, he came to Cocoa Beach to speak to the Gator boosters here. Afterward, he and I went off to a quiet place and talked. And talked and talked and talked.

For the first time, Charlie really opened up about how he believed – knew, in fact – that being in an interracial marriage was what was holding him back. Charlie had only intimated this in the past, offering but a few concrete thoughts. But now he was going on the record, and true to his name, he was going strong.

Or so I thought.

About a half hour after I left him, just as I was hovering over my laptop, my cell phone rang. It was Charlie, asking me not to write the things he had shared with me.

“It’s not going to do any good, Peter,” he said. “It’s not going to change things. Please take it all off the record.”

So I did.

Instead, I wrote it from my perspective – that Charlie Strong wasn’t getting a fair shot to be a head coach at a big-time program because he was a black man married to a white woman. And what made it worse is that Charlie was often the guy colleges would bring in, just to show that they interviewed a minority candidate, when they had no intention to hire him.

Often, though, he got no phone calls.

I’ll never forget the look on Charlie Strong’s face when he heard that Dan Mullen got the Mississippi State head coaching job back in December of 2008. Mullen was Florida’s offensive coordinator at the time and Strong was the defensive coordinator. Strong was happy for Mullen. But Mullen was 12 years his junior without nearly the résumé.

Again, Charlie had started at Florida as a GA in 1983, where he also earned a Master’s degree. Later in the ’80s, he was Florida’s outside linebackers coach. After a one-year stint at Ole Miss, he joined Steve Spurrier in the early ’90s, coaching the defensive tackles. He also coached for Lou Holtz at Notre Dame in the mid-’90s. In 1999, he became the first black man to hold a coordinators job in the SEC, when he was named defensive coordinator at South Carolina. He came back to Florida in 2002, this time as defensive coordinator, a position he held through the 2009 season, becoming the only coach Urban Meyer retained from Ron Zook’s staff when Meyer became the head coach in 2005. In fact, Strong was UF’s interim head coach for the 2004 Peach Bowl game, which Florida lost to Miami.

People who knew football knew how good Charlie Strong was, and that he was destined to be an outstanding head coach. Way back in 2000, Lou Holtz was raving about him, telling anybody who’d listen, “Charlie Strong should be a head coach.”

About a month after Dan Mullen got the Mississippi State job, Charlie and I talked down in Miami, several days before he helped Urban Meyer and the Gators win a national championship. I asked him how many college football programs had contacted him about openings? Charlie raised his right hand and pressed his index finger to his thumb, making the sign of a zero.

“Nobody?” I asked, incredulous. “Nobody’s contacted you?”

Charlie just kept his index finger pressed against his thumb, shaking the gesture a couple of times for emphasis.


I didn’t know what to say. I stumbled out a stupid comment that maybe he needed to promote himself more. Charlie was kind with me, but firm.

“I am at the University of Florida,” he said. “Everybody knows who I am. I don’t need anyone to market me. I’ve coached for Lou Holtz, Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer. Who else do I need to coach for?”

Is it the way he interviews, I suggested, again stupidly.

“Before I ever went to an interview,” he told me, “I sat down with Lou Holtz for like six hours, and we just grinded out the interview process. ‘This is what they’re going to ask you. No need to answer that way.’ So I’ve done four or five interviews with Lou Holtz. I would think he’d know how to get a coaching job.”

I could see the hurt in his eyes, and it hurt me.

He was 48 at the time, old enough to have remembered seeing the KKK marching down the street when he was a boy growing up in Arkansas. Yet, this was also on Jan. 6, 2009, when the president-elect was a biracial man – Barack Obama.

He told me that day that I’d been writing as long as he’d been coaching

“You know the issue,” he said. “You know what’s going on. Just write about it instead of asking me.”

Later that week in the national championship game, Charlie Strong’s Gator defense held Oklahoma, which at the time had the highest-scoring offense in college football history, to 14 points, which was a staggering 40 points below what the Sooners had averaged that season.

Later that year was when Charlie opened up to me in Cocoa Beach, and then called my cell phone a half hour later to go off the record.

I felt for him. I had met his wife, Vicki, a couple of times, and found her to be just a lovely, sweet woman, and a wonderful mother. We sat at the same table once at Ron Zook’s house, when Zook was Florida’s head coach and he had some of us from the media over for a barbecue. When you saw Charlie and Vicki together you didn’t see color, you saw a happy couple committed to their children; a hard-working husband and father and a devoted wife and mother.

There’s a great video snippet on the Internet from last Wednesday night’s Sugar Bowl, during all the postgame celebrating, when you see Charlie with his two daughters, who’d gotten to him first on the field. Then Charlie sees Vicki, and the way his face lights up, and how he rushes to embrace her, is just priceless.

That a human being could have a problem with that, just because he’s black and she’s white is beyond me. And that there were universities who wouldn’t hire him as their head football coach simply because of that is even further beyond me.

I’m not saying Florida was definitely one of those schools. Maybe the timing to hire Charlie Strong as the Gators head coach never was right. But I am saying that Charlie Strong is a better defensive coordinator, a better head coach and a better recruiter than Will Muschamp. And somehow, some way, a guy who first started coaching at UF 30 years ago got away.

I’m also saying that there are more than a handful of other universities who interviewed him and could’ve hired him, and didn’t.

So Florida and other schools watch now as Charlie Strong builds a great program at Louisville. By the way, he’s done so with 34 players on the current roster from the state of Florida – the most notable being the Cardinals’ sensational quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater. Two days after beating Florida in New Orleans, Strong got a commitment from another elite Florida prep player, defensive end De’Asian Richardson, a 6-foot-3, 285-pound, four-star recruit, according to Richardson will head to Louisville straight from Gator country – i.e. Jacksonville.

Two of Strong’s assistant coaches are former Gator assistants – Vance Bedford and Kenny Carter. Another assistant, Clint Hurtt, is a former University of Miami assistant.

He’s got it going on, which doesn’t surprise a whole lot of folks. It reminds me of what former NFL coach Tony Dungy told Pat Forde, who was then at, when Louisville hired Charlie Strong on December 9, 2009.

“When they see what he can do,” Dungy predicted, “you’re probably going to have a lot of people disappointed they didn’t hire him sooner.”

Or that they didn’t hire him at all.

Now, though, they’d like to have him.

Tennessee came calling a few weeks ago, and Charlie Strong said thanks, but no thanks. He’s staying at Louisville, the school that gave him a chance. He then signed a 7-year contract extension. Later, he told his team that there was no way he could leave them.

“I told our players I love them so much and I respect them so much, and the reason why I did not go take that job, because I know I have a football team that is behind me 100 percent,” he said. “I’m in the position I’m in right now because of what they did, and I told them that. I said, ‘Guys, people are calling me just because of what you’ve done — nothing I’ve done.’ “

His players, of course, love him for that. That was apparent in the way they played for him in the Sugar Bowl.

What was interesting, though, was how many Florida Gator players sought out Charlie Strong after that loss to congratulate him. Let’s not forget that those players were recruited to UF by Strong. One by one, during the postgame celebration, they sought him and fought through a crowd of people to give him a hug, oblivious to the color difference – their orange and blue to Strong’s red and black.

As they hugged the victorious coach after perhaps the biggest upset of any of these bowl games, you have to wonder how many of those players, like a lot of Gator fans, were wondering: what if?