Cradle of Coaches

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Miami University is the Cradle of Coaches.

Miami is a public research university located in Oxford, Ohio, 35 miles north of Cincinnati.  Founded in 1809, it is the tenth-oldest public university in the United States.  Miami University offers more than 120 undergraduate programs to its 17,000 students and is highly regarded for its Liberal Arts programs.  One of the original eight “Public Ivy” schools [a list that includes Cal, Virginia, Michigan and North Carolina, among others], Miami is renowned for its beautiful 2,138-acre campus.  In 2016, Forbes ranked Oxford the best college town in the United States.

With eight men’s and ten women’s teams, Miami University – also known as Miami of Ohio – has a proud athletic tradition.  The Redhawks compete in the NCAA Division I Mid-America Conference [MAC], the National Collegiate Hockey Conference and the U.S. Figure Skating Association.  The men’s hockey team played in the 2009 Frozen Four, the synchronized skating team won national championships in 1999, 2006 and 2009, and the school has sent several players to the NFL, MLB, NHL and NBA, including Ron Harper, who won five NBA championships.  The great Walter Alston was a three-year letterman in basketball and baseball for Miami before managing the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers from 1954 to 1976.

Miami is one of four schools that have graduated a U.S. President and Super Bowl-winning quarterback.  Benjamin Harrison [1852] was the 23rd President of the United States and Ben Roethlisberger [2012] led the Pittsburgh Steelers to NFL titles in 2006 and 2009.  MU began playing football in 1888.  Each fall, they square off with the University of Cincinnati to play for the coveted Victory Bell.  The pairing is the longest continuous football rivalry west of the Allegheny Mountains.  The schools have met 121 times, with the Redhawks holding a 59-57-7 series edge.

Ohio has long been a football hotbed, and Miami has produced several of the greatest coaches the game has ever known.  C.K. Fauver was the first paid football coach in school history, leading the Redskins [the university caved to political pressure in 1997 and changed the nickname to Redhawks] to a 3-0 record in his only season in Oxford.  In 1924, Wilbur Charles “Weeb” Ewbank arrived at Miami, where he quarterbacked the football team while also starring in basketball and baseball.  Ewbank would go on to coach in the NFL, leading the New York Jets to the biggest upset in pro football history in Super Bowl III.  Paul Brown replaced Ewbank as MU’s quarterback in the late 1920s.  He was 14-3 in two varsity seasons before taking over at Ohio State in 1941.  Brown moved to the pro game in 1946 and guided the Cleveland Browns to seven league titles in ten years.  An innovator, Mr. Brown is one of the most influential men ever to coach football.  While at Miami, Brown and Ewbank were coached by Earl “Red” Blaik, who later led Army to three consecutive national championships from 1944 to 1946.

Sid Gillman is the only man in history to be inducted as a coach into both the college and pro football halls of fame.  One of the most innovative minds in football history, Coach Gillman revolutionized the downfield passing game, saved the upstart AFL in the early 1960s and hatched the idea for the Super Bowl.  Following Gillman’s departure, MU hired Woody Hayes, who guided the Redskins to a 14-5 record in two seasons before leaving for Ohio State in 1951.  Hayes was succeeded by Ara Parseghian, who guided Miami to two undefeated seasons and a 39-6-1 record in his four seasons in Oxford.  Parseghian later led Notre Dame to two national championships.

Bo Schembechler played for Woody Hayes at Miami, then served as his assistant at Ohio State before landing the head job at MU in 1963.  In six seasons in O-Town, Schembechler guided the ‘Skins to a 40-17-3 record and two MAC titles.  He went on to win 13 Big Ten championships at Michigan.  Schembechler’s tenure at the Cradle of Coaches was sandwiched between two men with ties to Indiana University.  John Pont preceded Bo, going 43-22-2 before taking the Hoosiers to their only Rose Bowl appearance.  Bo’s successor, Bill Mallory, went 39-12 , including a perfect season in 1973, before becoming head man at IU.  Mallory is the most successful football coach Indiana has ever had, and is the only man in Big Ten history to earn Coach of the Year honors in consecutive seasons.

A dozen collegiate and professional coaches with Miami roots have been named national coaches of the year.  Weeb Ewbank, Paul Brown and John Harbaugh have taken their teams to NFL titles.  Eight MU coaches are in the College Football Hall of Fame, and Brown and Ewbank have been inducted into Canton.  After getting his first Division I head job at Miami, Woody Hayes won 13 Big Ten and five national titles at Ohio State.  Paul Dietzel played center for Sid Gillman at Miami before coaching LSU to the 1958 national championship.  Carmen Cozza played quarterback for both Hayes and Parseghian at Miami, then landed the head job at Yale, where he directed the Elis to ten Ivy League titles.  After serving as an assistant at MU for two seasons, Jim Tressel took Youngstown State to four national championships.  Coach Tressel then moved to Ohio State, where he guided the Buckeyes to six Big Ten titles and the 2002 BCS crown.

Cradle of Coaches Plaza sits in front of Yager Stadium, a 24,286-seat venue nestled on the northern edge of campus.  In 2009, a project was launched to honor coaches who matriculated at Miami University and had earned “Coach of the Year” distinction.  Delaware-based artist Kristen Visbal was commissioned to sculpt bronze statues of these legends, which are on display in the Plaza.  Likenesses of Cozza, Eubank and Dietzel were unveiled in October 2010.  The following autumn, statues of Pont, Schembechler, Parseghian, Brown and Blaik were added.  In 2014, former MU defensive back and current Baltimore Ravens head coach, John Harbaugh, was honored with a statue in Cradle of Coaches Plaza.  “This cradle is the greatest honor in coaching,” said Harbaugh upon joining the group.

Before leading the New Orleans Saints to a Super Bowl victory in 2009, Sean Payton served as offensive coordinator at Miami in the mid-1990s.  Bill Arnsparger’s first coaching job was at Miami, where he served as Hayes’ defensive line coach in 1950.  Two decades later, he landed in the “other” Miami, where he served as defensive coordinator for Don Shula and the Miami Dolphins.  One of the brightest minds in football history, Arnsparger was the architect of two famed Dolphin defenses – the “No Name” bunch that won Super Bowls VII and VIII, and the “Killer B’s” of the 1980s.

Miami of Ohio has produced well over 30 star football coaches.  In addition to the greats mentioned above, George Little, Ron Zook, Larry Smith, Dick Tomey, Randy Walker, Terry Hoeppner and Gary Moeller all have Miami ties.  The Cradle still rocks, as Miami continues to produce football coaches.  In 2017, the Los Angeles Rams hired former Redhawks wide receiver, Sean McVay, as their head football coach.  Just 30, McVay is the youngest head coach in modern NFL history.