Harold “Bud” Kenyon took a few steps into Dorato’s Restaurant & Pub Friday evening, and for the next half hour never budged, as one well-wisher after another greeted the most successful football coach in Guilderland High School history.
“I’m looking around this room, and I’m so grateful,” the 87-year-old Kenyon said. “This is very humbling.”
Dozens and dozens of former players, coaching colleagues and their families came out to pay homage to Kenyon and share stories and laughs. Four and a half miles away, Guilderland was playing its homecoming football game on a field that the school board had voted to name in his honor last month.
That all changed with a couple of emails and a pair of school board votes last week that rescinded the field honor. Kenyon’s greatest success had come at Guilderland in a 16-year span, from 1965 through 1980, when not one of his teams had a losing record.
The board reversed course after being recently alerted to a pair of disciplinary actions taken against Kenyon, one resulting in a reprimand, in 1975.
Kenyon would not be going to watch Guilderland play this night. But his former players and colleagues would still come to him to pay tribute.
“It’s been such a roller coaster,” said Betty Kenyon, the former coach’s wife of 63 years. “The field isn’t important tonight. This is what’s important.”
Kenyon, an ex-Marine who taught physical education and drove a bus in the summer to make ends meet, sandwiched coaching stints at Hoosick Falls (1959-64) and Greenwich (1990-94) around his stay with the Dutchmen.
“I remember his speeches,” said 1972 Guilderland graduate Brian Meyl, a former quarterback who flew in from South Carolina. “I was not an aggressive guy, but after hearing one of those, you’d run through a wall for him.”
That affection was evident Friday night. For some, a handshake just wasn’t enough.
“I’m considering moving from Colonie to Guilderland so I can vote in the school elections,” said 1974 Guilderland graduate Rick Steverson. “That’s how strongly I feel about this.”
Steverson was among the supporters on hand Tuesday night when Kenyon spoke before the Guilderland Board of Education to tell his side of the story about two incidents in the 1970s that involved male students. He pushed one back into his seat during a disciplinary meeting, and hauled another out of the gymnasium after he had been caught peeping into the girls’ locker room for a third time, according to Kenyon.
The school board listened, but did not re-vote, sticking with its previous decision to keep the field nameless. According to Superintendent Marie Wiles, the board decided it could not name a district facility after a person with a disciplinary record, even someone held in such high esteem as Kenyon.
School Board President Allan Simpson declined comment after the meeting.
“They want to hold him to today’s standards for what he did years ago,” said former University at Albany head football coach Bob Ford, who had been scheduled to introduce Kenyon at the field dedication. “Times have changed.”
“People are new to the area,” said 1975 Guilderland graduate Daryl Steverson, who coached football at LaSalle and Columbia and is currently an assistant at Union College. “They didn’t grow up in the area. They didn’t live in that era. It was a different era. They don’t know Bud.”
Kenyon said his meeting with the school board turned out like he expected.
“We’ve gotten so many letters of support. We’ve got so many angry people,” Kenyon said. “Let’s put that anger on the back burner tonight and enjoy each other’s company. You’ve got guys here who haven’t seen each other in years.”
Kenyon was the main attraction.
“He’s a father to everybody,” said 1960 Hoosick Falls graduate Morrie Wheeler, who played basketball when Kenyon coached that sport. “If you needed a ride home, you got it. Needed a buck, you got it. He deserves his name on that field.”
“Take the coaching piece out of it,” said 1994 Greenwich graduate Bob Fish. “He was a motivator and a teacher. I learned a lot not just about the game of football, but about myself.”
Kenyon served as the Section II football coordinator and started the area’s annual coaching clinic.
“He would bring in the who’s who of football coaches,” former Shaker and UAlbany assistant coach Don Mion said. “He taught all of the coaches my age  how to do it the right way. Treat kids right. Love what you do. His influence is huge. It goes beyond Guilderland.”
Kenyon preached the work ethic, and glows when he speaks of his former players who served with honor in the military and became doctors, lawyers, policemen and political leaders.
“Very few of them fell through the cracks,” Kenyon said. “I’m proud of that.”
“He was always about hard work a perseverance,” said Meyl, who led the Dutchmen to the 1971 Suburban Council title. “If you were having a hard time with the job or something wasn’t going right, he’s the guy who said, ‘You’re down. Get up.’ ”
“His legacy was to never give up,” said 1981 Guilderland graduate Mark Jones. “There can be a positive end to all of this, and we’re considering our options. We want coach to tell us what to do next.”