This was a while back, seven years ago at least, the exact time being hopelessly piled beneath more immediate clutter in the mind's closet. Neither is the location especially important, although it probably was just outside the visitors' clubhouse at RFK Stadium.

What Bill Curry said remains burned in memory. He was a Green Bay Packers assistant at the time, and all the waves of anger that had been gathering could be blocked no longer.

"I will never stay in this profession," he vowed.

Curry recalled that the other day.

"I meant pro coaching," he said.

As head coach at Georgia Tech, Curry has supervised one of those up-from-the-ashes rejuvenations that happen a few times each decade in college football. From 2-19-1 his first two seasons, Tech is 5-2-1 at the moment, in contention both for the Atlantic Coast Conference championship and a decent postseason bowl.

Lots of coaches see it differently from Curry. Tired of slogging in what seems the ever-expanding swampland of college sports, they gravitate to the pros, where the pressure is no less intese but at least more obvious.

"Some of my dearest friends are NFL coaches," he says, then reflects: "My orientation always was toward players. What I found difficult about the NFL was: As a player my decisions only affected me. If I played with Novocain in my knee, that was my business. But (as a Packer aide under Bart Starr) I was sending players on the field" -- here he paused in damning silence, then went on -- "I was required to cut people I felt had earned the right to be on the team yet weren't athletically gifted enough."

He sighed, the experience purged again.

"Now," he said, "I really am involved in the education of young people, who also play football. We intend to win; we have to win. But we don't have to win at those costs."

Curry talks with a preacher's passion. On this day, news of the Tito Horford mess had broken. Revelations about payoffs to Kentucky basketball players and TCU football players were fresh. A school convicted of shameful violations, Florida, was about to be elevated to No. 1 in the Associated Press football poll.

"I'm just as cynical as you," he said in his office. "What surprised me the most (about college coaches) was the utter ruthlessness where kids are involved, what some people will do to a young person, with no compunction.

"Look you right in the eye. Lie. That surprised me. Even as callous as I had become. I thought I'd seen it all. I hadn't. Absolute lack of conscience in pushing steroids into 17-year- old bodies, after having induced the guys to come there with clothes and $100 bills slipped under motel room doors while they're on visits to the school.

"Trinkets. Nothin' really. But big to a poverty-stricken 17-year-old. Without a blink of conscience. 'It's okay; everybody does it. It's business.' The shuttling, from one rinky-dink course to the next, so that a kid may go to four bowls but have not one shred of advancement toward a degree."

Curry admits to being "as sick as everyone in our society over that winning thing" and that "we've probably broken some rules, but not on purpose." The hope he sees for college sports is that it pulled its head out of the ground last year.

"The tide started changing," he said, "when the college presidents sat down and said (to their big-time sports people), in effect: 'We're tired of foolin' with you. Don't screw around, or we're gonna cut your throat. We're gonna take your scholarships, drop your sport, close your stadium.'

"That makes sense."

It made sense for SMU to be allowed no football scholarships next year and just 15 the next, he said, adding: "And I'm a Methodist. I give money to the church. I want to see where it's going."

Just last week, the man most responsible for the resurgence at Georgia Tech, Athletic Director Homer Rice, gathered his coaches and, according to Curry, told them: " 'Folks, don't break a rule.' Period. No threat in his voice. Just very matter of fact. He said he'd back us to the hilt -- and he's stuck with me through some real brutal times -- but if (cheating) would ever cross your mind, let it pass right on through.

"The three of us (Rice, Curry and basketball Coach Bobby Cremins) signed a letter two or three weeks ago (with a copy of the NCAA rules) and sent it to all Georgia Tech boosters. 'These are the rules,' we said. 'Don't break one, or you will not be associated with Georgia Tech anymore.' "

Curry assumes, for the most part, that ACC football is clean. He mentioned Maryland's Bobby Ross, Virginia's George Welsh, North Carolina's Dick Crum and Duke's Steve Sloan as coaches he admires.

"Not everyone cheats on his income tax. Not everyone in college sports cheats," he said. "There's lots of shakeout yet to come, but I do believe the college presidents are genuinely embarrassed. And rightly so."

Curry's goals are the obvious ones. His satisfaction "is the assurance that any one of us (Tech coaches) could leave today -- certainly I could -- and this program would continue, based on the quality of life of our graduates and winning, championship teams, within the rules.

"We have a program now that really does gear itself to the growth of human beings. That's indisputable. It's no longer theory. It's not a Homer Rice pie-in-the-sky idea. It's not a joke anymore. It's not an excuse for losing, because we don't lose.

"We have a product and we have a graduation rate (75 percent in football, a percentage he wants to climb higher) in meaningful majors. We have employment for our graduates in excellent jobs. All of our graduates. The satisfaction is that all the sweat and all these tears have been invested into young lives -- and it's working. That's what makes me feel good every morning when I get up."