Cradle of Coaches

by Kevin October. 09, 2011 9052 views

Throughout the sports world, Miami has the unique reputation as the “Cradle of Coaches.” Legendary football coaches such as Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, Ara Parseghian, Weeb Ewbank, Paul Brown and Sid Gillman all had roots at Miami, and the impact they left on the college football landscape can still be felt today.

At last count, more than 100 Miami graduates were active in coaching or administrative work in the professional and collegiate levels. More than 30 of the men and women in the collegiate ranks are presently head coaches. Over the past 63 years, 19 collegiate and professional coaches with Miami roots have stood atop their respective professions as National Coaches of the Year.

Bob Kurz, a 1958 graduate of Miami and former Miami Sports Information Director, helped put the legacy in context with his book Miami of Ohio: The Cradle of Coaches, which lays out the program's proud coaching tradition from its humble beginnings through the 2002 season, when it was last revised. His inspiration for the biography came in 1959, when Miami graduates Paul Dietzel and Parseghian were coaching the No. 1 and No. 2 college programs in the land and Brown, Gillman and Ewbank were revolutionizing the professional game.

Prior to the 2004 season, Kurz and his wife, Marian, provided a gift to the University to construct a Cradle of Coaches Plaza beyond the South endzone of Yager Stadium. The beautifully architected plaza provides a grand entrance to the stadium and will be adorned in 2010 with life-sized statues of some of the program's greatest coaching legends.

Miami graduates have earned 19 National Coaches of the Year awards.

The Cradle of Coaches Plaza

When the life-like sculpture of Thomas P. Van Voorhis `21 was unveiled as the first of nine statues to grace Yager Stadium’s Cradle of Coaches Plaza earlier this month, Miami University paid tribute not to a man known as an accomplished field general but rather, as the accompanying plaque reads, as a “legendary teacher, sportsman and friend.”

During his 35-year career as an instructor, athletic administrator and coach at Miami, Van Voorhis shaped hundreds of the young minds that would go on to build Miami’s revered Cradle of Coaches tradition. His innovations in college athletics programming remain prominent on college campuses nationwide, yet, for more than two decades, the lone symbol of his achievements on Miami’s campus has been a simple plaque and boulder in the Roudebush Hall parking lot, marking the spot where the building that carried his name once stood.

At West Point, Earl “Red” Blaik coached for 18 seasons compiling a 121–32–10 record. Blaik's Army teams had a 32-game unbeaten streak from 1944 to 1947, won consecutive national titles in 1944 and 1945, and finished second in the nation in 1946 with their record blemished only by a scoreless tie with rival Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium. In 1946, Blaik was selected as the AFCA Coach of the Year. In 1948, he became one of the first college coaches to implement a two-platoon system, using players strictly for offense or defense. Blaik was also one of the first coaches to analyze the game play-by-play, charting a team’s tendencies on every down with the use of game film.

John Pont was the first coach to take Indiana University to a Rose Bowl.

During the Era of Ara Parseghian at Notre Dame, the Irish won two national championships in 1966 and 1973, and the 1964 team was also awarded the MacArthur Trophy. In 1969, the Notre Dame administration changed its policy that had forbidden the team from playing in bowl games. Parseghian led the team to its first bowl game since Rockne coached the team, the 1970 Cotton Bowl Classic, losing 21–17 to the eventual national champion Texas Longhorns. The Irish avenged that loss in the 1971 Cotton Bowl Classic, defeating the Longhorns, 24–11.

Carmen Cozza served as the head football coach at Yale University from 1965 to 1996, winning ten Ivy League championships and compiling a record of 179–119–5. Cozza was named UPI New England Coach of the Year four times and Eastern Coach of the Year. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 2002.

Weeb Ewbank is the only man ever to coach two different American pro football teams to victory in a championship game, and the only man to coach winners of NFL, AFL, and World Championships: (NFL championships in 1958 and 1959 with the Colts, an AFL championship in 1968 with the Jets, and a World Championship in Super Bowl III in 1969 with the Jets).

Bo Schembechler played college football as a tackle at Miami University, where in 1949 and 1950 he was coached by Woody Hayes, for whom he served as an assistant coach at Ohio State University in 1952 and from 1958 to 1962. In his first ten years at Michigan, Schembechler's teams squared off in a fierce rivalry against Hayes's Buckeyes squads. During that stretch in the Michigan – Ohio State football rivalry, dubbed the “Ten-Year War,” Hayes and Schembechler's teams won or shared the Big Ten Conference crown every season and usually each placed in the national rankings.

In 1958 at LSU, Paul Dietzel came up with a unique three-team platoon system. It consisted of three teams of 11 different players, and was designed to keep his players from being fatigued in an era when most players started on both offense and defense. Instead of replacing individual players during the game, Dietzel would bring in an entirely new set of players between plays and series. The three teams were called the White Team (the first-string offense and defense), the Gold (Go) Team (the second-string offense), and the Chinese Bandits (the second-string defense). The system worked, as the Tigers went undefeated and won the a national championship. The Chinese Bandits, the second-string defensive unit, which consisted of less-talented but ferocious players, became hugely popular with LSU fans and remains one of the most legendary pieces of LSU football history.

After 1958, Dietzel continued to have success at LSU. His teams finished with 9–1 regular seasons in 1959 and 1961, finishing #3 and #4 in the final AP Poll. The 1959 team was ranked first in the country in both wire-service polls until losing to the Tennessee Volunteers, 14–13, in the eighth game of the season. LSU concluded the season with a 21–0 loss to Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl, two months after the top-ranked Tigers beat the third-ranked Rebels 7–3 in Tiger Stadium on Billy Cannon's 89-yard punt return, a play that helped win Cannon the Heisman Trophy.

After the 1961 season, Dietzel accepted the head coaching job at Army. He was the first non-Army graduate to hold the position.

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