In Oxford, Mississippi on February 21, Vic Schaefer woke up early and started his day the same way he does every other game day: with two cups of coffee. From there, he got in his final preparations for the second of two games this season between the Mississippi State and Ole Miss women’s basketball teams.
Schaefer’s group won the first one, and they went on to win the second one, too, under the leadership of a coach who, his doctor tells him, nearly destroys his body every season as a side effect of doing the best and most he can for his program.
While sipping through coffee and eventually plenty of water, Schaefer did final reviews of notes and film, led the walkthrough with his young ladies and sent them off to eat, get taped up, dress and go over their own last-minute reviews for the big rivalry game. Meanwhile, Schaefer went to the nearest treadmill and just ran. Four miles, maybe a little more. It’s his daily routine during the season and he doesn’t change it for games. He needs that running time, needs an outlet for the stresses of such an intense job, needs those miles run in a row to expend energy and clear his mind, review whatever pops up in his head.
That run was the last thing he did before showering and putting on his suit, the jacket of which he eventually removed in a moment of passion during the game. Tipoff came at 4 p.m., and by 6:15 he was talking to reporters about the big win for the Bulldogs, a 60-51 victory.
The team made their way back to Starkville as Schaefer continued to review the performance of his ladies. Finally, long after that game had begun, far, far after those two cups of coffee he had in the morning, Schaefer did something he hadn’t done all day – he ate food.
At that point, well over 12 hours into a busy and stressful (and ultimately successful) day, Schaefer had his very first meal. And there was nothing at all strange about it. Not by his standards, anyway. That’s just what he does every day, whether there’s a game or not. He doesn’t eat until one big meal late at night. There just isn’t enough time, and really, he never really feels the need.
“It’s very weird,” said sophomore point guard Morgan William, who first noticed her coach’s eccentric eating habits when he would regularly have a fish fry for the team at his house and never sit down for the meal himself. “I don’t know how he does it, because he’ll go run four miles then not eat until 10 hours later. Like, after practice, I’m starving. He goes and runs and he just doesn’t eat.”
Said Schaefer, “It’s just kind of the way I’ve always been.”
So, how does he get through the day?
“Well, I don’t eat breakfast,” he said.
They say it’s the most important meal of the day, but lots of people skip breakfast. Understandable.
“I don’t eat lunch,” he continued. “I run four miles at lunch.”
Four miles off of two cups of joe and whatever he had for dinner 16 hours prior. Then he has practice or a game, depending on the day. Then review. Then, hours later, finally, a meal. By then, while he may be used to the feeling, he’s just about starving.
‘When I do sit down at dinner at night, I might be there a while, because I’m usually pretty hungry,” he said with an honest laugh. “That’s kind of my day. My stomach doctor, who’s been busier this year than ever before, by the way, he’s tried to encourage me to eat a thing of yogurt in the morning or an English muffin. I’ve been better. But you’ve got to realize, if I did that one time a week, that’s better than anything I’ve ever done in my life. Typically, it’s a two coffee morning and that’s it until dinner.”
The weird thing, or rather, one of the weird things, is that Schaefer actually loves to eat. He treasures good food, especially if he’s the one cooking. He trusts himself more than just about anyone else. And in fact, breakfast is one of his favorite things to eat, on the rare occasion he partakes. But he almost never does. Day by day, he just waits until dinner.
“There’s just never been time, I guess. There’s always more cramming I can do,” he said. “One more film study.”
His habits may not be the best when it comes to the matter of health, but just his athletes have trained their bodies to play basketball, he has trained his to coach it. To him, it’s all part of being a successful basketball coach.
Schaefer has a plan, though, in a certain way. His weight dips every year during the season when sandwiches and salads are replaced by film study and playcalling, but like a bear preparing for winter hibernation, he spends his summers indulging in life’s more leisurely activities. The offseason is his time for bulking up.
“It is,” he admitted. “The main reason is because I don’t run as much. When it gets hot, I’m playing golf or I’m fishing instead of running at lunch.”
And, of course, if he’s catching fish, he’s got to fry them, too. And according to those who have been on the receiving end, a Vic Schaefer fish fry is pretty hard to beat. Even he’ll stuff himself on nights such as those.
“I get enough trust me,” he confessed with a final laugh. “When there’s good food being cooked, especially if I’m cooking it, I’m testing it most of the time.”