Robinson started coaching at Oregon, his alma mater, in 1960 and moved to USC as an offensive coordinator from 1972-74. A year later, he joined the Oakland Raiders in 1975, but returned to the Trojans to assume the head coaching reins from legendary USC coach John McKay from 1976-82. Later he was named head coach for the Los Angeles Rams from 1983-91. Robinson returned to USC from 1993-97 and retired for several years before accepting the head coach role at UNLV in 1999 -- and later as the Rebels' athletic director in 2002.
Referring to the Rebels' mental preparation for Friday night‘s game, Crowton said, "I believe they'll be motivated for him. I think he motivates them because he's a good coach. That's why he's been in the business for forty-something or fifty … whatever years it is. He's been there for a long time," Crowton reflected.
Having coached longer than most college head coaches have been living, Robinson's most memorable college tenure was at USC where he posted a 104-35-4 winning record. During that period, he won the 1978 national championship with a 12-1 mark and took the Trojans to three Pac-10 titles and five postseason bowls.
"I remember watching Southern Cal teams when I was a kid before I even thought about coaching," Crowton noted. "He's always been able to motivate … I think there's going to be incentive for his team to play hard and I think they do anyways."
Robinson said the main reason for announcing his retirement early was to allow UNLV officials ample time to find his replacement and also because of family health issues. Robinson's wife, Linda Robinson, has battled breast cancer in the past.
"I knew that he wouldn't be up for much longer," said Crowton. "He's made mention to the coaches that there has been some health issues in his family. I'm not sure what they are, but anytime you have that kind of situation you're looking for the right time. I wasn't surprised. I knew he would only be there a year or two more based on how he was talking in our meetings. I don't know what his circumstance was. It doesn't really surprise me, I'm just thankful I got the opportunity to get to know the guy. He's just a really good guy."
"There are some ongoing health issues in my family that are not going away. And, obviously, there is a pressure building up on this team surrounding all of this," Robinson told the Associated Press several weeks ago.
Crowton reminisced on humorous experiences and lessons he learned from Robinson. "Three years ago when we beat them (UNLV) in a close game, he came into the locker room (after the game) and he was really good. He talked to me for a long time and said some things that, for myself being a young head coach, helped me to look at some things in perspective. After the loss, he came in and was very complimentary of our team, what we were doing and how we do things."
Crowton continued, "After we lost to them in 2002, he said, 'This old coach needed a win." Crowton laughed as he recalled the exchange, adding, "He was really nice about it and I was so mad. It made me kind of just think we all need a win some days. Last year when we got one back, I went back to him and said, 'This young coach needed a win.' He laughed at me," Crowton chuckled.
"You know, I got to know him (Robinson) a little bit and the thing is he keeps things in perspective as a person. That's what he kind of taught me and I appreciate that from him," Crowton said.
Robinson bows out this season as the most successful bowl-game coach in college football history with a winning percentage of .889 (8-1). He is currently the 18th-winningest active coach in Div. 1 at .641 and has coached two Heisman Trophy winners (running backs Charles White in 1979 and Marcus Allen in 1981). Robinson was named National Coach of the Year in 1979 following an 11-0-1 campaign.
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