Tommy Tuberville reflects on player's death, talks about the phone call

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Thursday September 26, 2013


It’s a call a coach never wants to get, but Tommy Tuberville was informed Saturday night that Cincinnati freshman offensive lineman Ben Flick was killed in a car accident, while two other players were seriously injured.

The Bearcats have a bye this week, allowing some more time for mourning and reflection.

Tuberville spoke with reporters following Wednesday’s practice and explained how he got the tragic news.

“I put my cell phone in the same place every night, next to my bed on a wooden table, and I put it on vibrate,” he said. “I tell people this at banquet and meetings: If my phone rings after 9 at night, it’s never any good. I’m dealing with a lot of kids. You hope it’s not the message that I got Saturday night. You just hope and pray. I got a call. I woke up a little late to answer it. But I looked at the message, and it was our trainer. I knew something had happened. I didn’t know how serious.

“He told me there had been an accident and some of our players had been injured. He didn’t know the extent. I said, ‘Let me know as soon as you can. I’m putting my clothes on. Where are they at?’ He told me UC. On the way to the hospital, he called me and told me we had lost one and two were in serious condition. That’s not a call you want to get.”

Flick was a true freshman, so he was still new to the program, but he was making an impact on Tuberville. The coach reflected on heir relationship.

“Ben was like a big clown, a teddy bear,” Tuberville said. “He was one of those kids I’ve had to kick in the butt a couple times about grades, academics and class. I have to do all of them that way, so you build a certain bond with every player. Ben was one of those that liked to come up to your office. A lot of them like to hide from you. He’d come up to the office knowing it would be a good conversation or one that wouldn’t be quite as positive.

“As a freshman, he was growing up. When they’re freshmen, they learn from experiences, they learn from their teammates. Unfortunately, he’s not going to be able to learn anymore. That’s the sad part of life.”

The Bearcats will put Flick’s number and name on their helmet.

This isn’t the first time Tuberville has had to deal with the loss of a player. When he was head coach at Ole Miss in 1998, a player drowned in the summer. He knows what his players are going through right now.

“These are kids. They’re not adults that have to look at this,” Tuberville said. "Some have probably never been to a funeral like yesterday. They got their eyes opened. A lot of the guys have never been in an intensive care unit like they’ve gone through this week, walked in and see what they see. But it’s reality. I tell them, this is life. This is reality. This is what you’ll deal with for the rest of your life. I dealt with it at Ole Miss. It was the same situation, just tough.”

Chris Vannini is in his third year with CoachingSearch.com and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for The Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News, MLive.com, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris lives in the Metro Detroit area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to chris@coachingsearch.com.