A. Pat made sure we knew about Slippery Rock

Willis Webb

We’re all sad when someone we know dies but if they’re like A. Pat Daniels, we quickly move to the entertaining episodes of their lives that regularly provided light moments for all who knew them.

A. Pat, a retired newspaperman, public relations practitioner and author, helped everyone he knew puncture the balloons of those who took themselves much too seriously.

As a graduate of the University of Texas, Pat knew about taking something too seriously. He understood that he and his Longhorn cohorts, as well as alums of other prestigious universities, could break out so much of their school colors that it became overbearing.

Pat accomplished much in a long career that included long stints in the newspaper industry as well as service in the public relations-advertising agency field. He once served as executive secretary to the mayor of Houston. Pat loved history and involved himself in related areas that boosted Houston, Galveston and the Gulf Coast. Long before I knew him, in 1956 he and some of his Houston PR-ad agency friends started a luncheon group named for a thenobscure state teachers college in Pennsylvania — Slippery Rock State. The group was known as the Slippery Rock State Boosters and they did such uplifting things as march each year in the Houston St. Patrick’s Day parade. Mostly, the boosters were social and light-hearted and the marching was, well, uh, driven by a little socializing prior to the parade. They continue to socialize at a weekly luncheon, 54-plus years later.

Slippery Rock State first made the national scene in 1954 in a new magazine — Sports Illustrated.

The school’s mention offered some humor to offset those who are so deadly serious about college football. In the scores in your Sunday newspaper, Slippery Rock appears right along with Texas, Notre Dame, Southern Cal and the big boys.

My introduction to Daniels came through my college roommate, Don Alderman, who was also in advertising and public relations. Don became associated with A. Pat at an advertising-PR agency after his graduation from the University of Houston. I took another direction with my UH degree and went into the community newspaper business.

However, most of the time I published newspapers within quick driving distance of Houston and occasionally over the years, to my delight, made a few lunches with Don, A. Pat and the Slippery Rock fun bunch. And, I even got to see a St. Paddy’s Day march or three in Houston by the looseygooosey group.

Sports Illustrated eased Slippery Rock into the national limelight but such groups as A. Pat and Don’s booster bunch made sure the little Pennsylvania college got some pretty heavy exposure in major metro areas such as Houston.

Slippery Rock is not a football factory although they are successful. There are no football scholarships.

Football’s first season at the Pennsylvania school was 1898.

Their most successful run to date was a three-season climb, 1997- 98- 99. In ’97, Slipper y Rock was ranked #7 nationally in NCAA’s Division II. The next season they were #5 and in ’99 they just missed out on the top spot, finishing second.

USA Today’s Erik Brady calls them “college football’s cult team.” Other writers refer to them as “the Snoopy of college football.”

Stories such as the “discovery of Slippery Rock” have always cropped up regularly from ingenuous reporters who have a nose, an eye and an ear for those fun detours from the routine.

A. Pat regularly showed a tendency toward the whimsical, but an examination of his career underscores his commitment to excellence and to professionalism. He just knew that you could be a serious professional and still enjoy a good laugh.

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2011-09-29 digital edition

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