By Dr. Ken


There is “The U”, a school I didn’t like when one of their assistant coaches told me that I was too small to play for them. Though his evaluation was legitimate and accurate despite the fact that their early and mid-sixties football program was no powerhouse, the ill will remained and was given a considerable boost when brash displays of what I considered to be unsportsmanlike behavior became their norm. This of course would refer to the University Of Miami, a Florida based school of higher learning located in Coral Gables. Despite the seasonal records of the past twenty-three years the “real” Miami University is not in Florida, it is in Oxford, Ohio. When one considers the rich history of football, the number of collegiate and professional coaches that either played or coached there, and the game’s innovations that were initiated or refined on their practice fields, they are much more than their moniker as “The Cradle Of Coaches”; it is in fact The Cradle Of Football! Ohio does not have a city by the name of “Miami” nor is there a “Miami Of Ohio” and to true, die-hard football fans who know their history, there is but one Miami University or Miami in Oxford, Ohio. I learned this distinction by the third week I was in Cincinnati because Miami was our football rival in a feud that went back to 1888. It was new to me but especially in the sixties, Miami was the place to study, learn, and play football and they could compete with most of the Big Ten schools on a yearly basis. As a young football player seeking to identify with my new college and develop a sense of pride in my endeavor, I quickly learned to love Cincinnati and dislike Miami. As a fan of football history, even as a youngster, I was enamored with the entire concept of being close to and knowing I would be playing the college that could be said to have had the greatest influence on college and perhaps even high school football in the entire Midwest.  



Our opening game as freshmen was against the Redskins of Miami. While Greg Cook was a stud athlete from Chillicothe, Ohio and later the 1969 American Football League Rookie Of The Year with what Bill Walsh called the potential and tools to be the greatest quarterback of all time if he hadn’t suffered severe injury, our starting quarterback was Dick Giles out of South Carolina. He threw so hard he would hurt you when you caught his passes but against Miami, his UC career was sidetracked before it began as he fumbled or dropped the ball four or five times. When Cook took over, he just never left the starter’s spot until he graduated with all of his All American accolades. I had plenty of time to muse upon the deteriorating offensive play during the game from my perch at the far end of the bench and what I noticed most was that Miami was a beautiful school, a wonderful looking campus where their fans even clapped for us as we walked from the bus to the locker room and then onto the field. If one can instinctively know that they should have attended school elsewhere, this was it for me.   


There is a story I have told a few times while presenting professional seminars on strength training and injury prevention that I have not shared in print but it certainly personalized the Miami vs. Cincinnati blood-letting that I had heard stories of since my first day in the locker room. Those who are intimate with Ohio football, Midwest football, Big Ten football and understand the influence that Miami has had on the very fabric of the game and of course, with the individual involved in this specific incident, it enhances the outrageousness and humor, at least from my perspective. For a Point Lookout, N.Y. kid from the wrong side of the tracks, from a home where we heated water on the stove in order to take a bath, and with absolutely no worldliness nor rules of social comportment past a lot of street smarts, not only did this rivalry mean nothing, but in truth, I was not even sure where Cincinnati or Ohio for that matter, was located upon deciding to attend class and play football there. My father’s fifth grade education did not include very much geography thus between us, as we finished our first conversations about the possibility of actually going to college and specifically about attending Cincinnati, we concluded that it would be nice to go to school “near Kansas!” We were clueless and Ohio could have nestled between Montana and Missouri for all we knew. Once settled, my actual on-campus, "work/study", "earn-your-scholarship" job was to clean cages and feed the animals that were housed in the university vivarium. All of the mammals, reptiles, and birds that were used in biological and psychological experiments were kept in a facility on campus and I quickly rose to the position of responsibility that allowed me to be the “student-in-charge” of cleaning the copious amounts of waste from those cages, hosing them down, and then feeding the occupants. I was diligent and careful to do the best job possible in a job that few wanted, thus my “rise to the top” was rapid and unimpeded by competition. Believe me, they were begging people to take the job and when a mishap would occur, such as the time an alligator bit the thumb and pollicis (the “meaty” muscle at the base of the thumb that helps to form the palm) off of the hand of one of the supervising grad students, even those employed in the facility were hesitant to come to work.  Part of the “work-study job” for scholarship football players during the freshman year was to assist at home games. The thankless job of dragging huge boxes of miniature, rubber footballs across the field and tossing the advertising laden toys into the stands belonged to scrubs like me. The white footballs would be emblazoned with the name, address, and phone number of a local business as well as the name of the two opposing schools and the date of the game. In retrospect, these were nice collectibles and would have been wonderful to keep but at the time, especially on a rainy, cold Saturday afternoon, they were an impediment to relaxing and enjoying the game. Miami had stumbled through their first four games, losing three of them but had rallied to win the remainder of the schedule and now on a freezing pre-Thanksgiving final-game-of-the-season Saturday, faced us at our Nippert Stadium. They were beating us convincingly when half time demanded that those mini-footballs be tossed into the stands. As I hustled the large box toward the running track that surrounded the field, I realized that I would be standing directly in front of the Miami student section. My teammate and I were showered with profanities, spit, empty beer cans, and two full cans of soda. Footballs that were gently tossed to the crowd flew back like so many guided missiles to the delight of the rambunctious students! To inflame the situation, the Miami mascot, then a politically-incorrect but perfectly acceptable for the times mock Indian, began to dance around me, waving his tomahawk and threatening to strike me in the head with it. After politely requesting that he back off, I impolitely asked that he stop waving his hatchet at and around my head as I continued to maintain a stiff upper lip and tossed footballs into the crowd. With the encouragement of the Miami students, he pushed me and at least to my perception, appeared to be swinging his weapon in earnest. I one-punched him and turned to empty the box at and into the student section, now with enhanced velocity. The Indian, more embarrassed I’m sure than injured, got off the ground and moved towards me so I threw him down just as the Miami players entered the field for the second half. A heated verbal confrontation ensued with my teammate and me until their head coach loudly and profanely said something along the lines of “What the hell is this, now get the hell out of here” to which I responded with a two word expletive, but being polite, I phrased it as “XXXX you, Coach sir!” The head coach went ballistic, cursing me and moving towards me as others grabbed him and now, believing that everyone on the Miami sidelines and stands needed a basic general-principles ass whipping, I told the coach and anyone else in earshot to essentially “bring it.” The scuffle was averted, our coaches dressed me down, and I learned that I had gotten into it with the man who would become one of the all time coaching icons and legends and one I had enormous respect for. Yes, the coach of Miami, like the great coaches before him and the greats to follow, was truly a football expert who was nurtured as both a player and coach at this hallowed school and his name was Glen “Bo” Schembechler! To add to the irony, the current Athletic Director at Miami University is Brad Bates, one of Bo’s hardest working and favorite Michigan players. Perhaps ten years later I caught myself thinking as I raptly watched another classic Michigan vs. Ohio State game on television, “Oh my gosh, I said ‘XXXX you’ to Bo Schembechler and he tried to kick my butt!”


Miami Head Coach Schembechler was one in a long and continuing line of the most influential coaches of the game. Stu Holcomb (later at Purdue) was followed by the legendary Sid Gillman. Gillman’s players included Parseghian, Pont, Dietzel, and others. George Blackburn came next but he bolted to Cincinnati to join Gillman at UC with a good part of the Miami team that had followed Sid there. Woody Hayes came next, left for Ohio State and Ara Parseghian took over before leaving for Northwestern and then Notre Dame. After Ara it was John Pont, the first Miami player to have his number retired and he later left for Yale and then Indiana, and Northwestern. Bo took the head job in 1963 and departed for Michigan in 1969, leaving Bill Mallory in charge. Mallory left for Colorado and then gave Indiana its best run of bowl game appearances and wins. Dick Crum then was the boss until leaving for North Carolina in 1978. Tom Reed, Tim Rose, and then Randy Walker, all head coaches elsewhere, all winners, came next until Terry Hoeppner came in, did great, developed Ben Rothelisberger, and jumped to Indiana. It just doesn’t stop and this doesn’t include the college and even numerous NFL coaches like Weeb Ewbank, John McVay and Ed Biles who played at and/or were assistants at Miami. The list of successful coaches runs into the hundreds of names and its incredible. Bo’s teams were solid right from the start and the 7-3 1965 team started slowly but finished like a house on fire. Tom Matte was better known as the running back who could fill in at quarterback for the Baltimore Colts and of course, as a star at Ohio State but younger brother Bruce was the Miami QB and a stud runner and passer. They had big, strong backs in FB Joe Kozar, a 210-pound tank and a fast All Conference HB in Al Moore who also returned their kicks. Ed Philpott, later a solid five year player with the Patriots, was a 240 pound DE and also All MAC. Two future coaches, HB Tom Reed (Miami 1978-82) and DE Joe Novak (Northern Illinois 1996 to the present) were also standout players. The following year, future Chargers and Browns LB Bob Babich was added to the mix, making the Redskins even more formidable as their conference championship 9-1 record indicated.



The Miami uniforms were very cool and simple and included a unique helmet design that had the silhouette of a running Indian on each side of the front of the helmet, something rarely seen then or now, very noticeable red figures on their white shell. I thought “Now there is something very different” and the Indian figure stood out well when highlighted by the red player numerals placed on each side of the helmet, and their red jersey with white numbers. The Redskins had made a simple uniform rather unique and innovative with the placement of their school logo on the helmet. Needless to say, the Cincinnati and Miami games were always spirited and hard-nosed affairs with almost all of the Miami athletes in that time period coming from Ohio high schools, many from the nearby Cincinnati area so that there was great familiarity among the players. Although I was a “foreigner” among them, I quickly embraced the rivalry tradition and although we suffered three consecutive defeats to them, came to respect and like the way they played, and influenced the college game.