By Dr. Ken


I have in a number of previous columns, addressed my personal dismay and disgust with what is an ever-increasing trend of college football player transfers [see http://www.helmethut.com/Features/Dr.Ken167.html ]. For most of my generation, there is strong agreement with my position while as expected many of the younger HELMET HUT readers see nothing wrong with skipping from school to school if a player is unhappy in his circumstance. Certainly there is enough blame to go around. The so-called student athletes have no sense of commitment to their academic responsibilities, the university’s football program or staff, their loyalty to teammates, nor an understanding of the honor they carry in representing their school, its traditions, and alumni. The coaches in many cases did not take the time and effort to know or understand the needs of the player to determine if he was a “good fit” for their athletic program and the academic demands of the school prior to or during the recruitment process. “Getting the best kid at the position” and achieving a higher rank than conference rivals in the recruiting standings seems to be of more importance than “getting the right kid” that will remain in school to contribute to the football program and attain a degree. Too many players are in college as a gateway to professional football with little intent to work towards a degree and many coaches recruit them with that understanding. There is a wink-wink/nod-nod arrangement with parents and high school coaches acknowledging that the campus community understands that the player, although an exceptionally “nice” and polite young man, has the intelligence of a radish with no chance in Hell of attaining a degree yet his 6’6”, 290 pound blinding fast stature has given him acceptable college admissions qualities. We all get it but this of course has led to the inescapable truth that the interested fan needs a literal scorecard to keep track of the transfer activities at the end of each spring ball season.  

Description: Football Star, And Alumnus, Visits Long Beach High School

James “Scottie” Graham was one of Long Beach (NY) High School’s greatest athletes, being named All American in wrestling, lacrosse, and football. After his 1987 graduation, he starred at Ohio State, one of the “regulars” who always had a recruiting advantage in our locale. He enjoyed a six season NFL career and then utilized his Masters degree to work in various executive positions with the NFL Players Association and as a university administrator


There was a better time, better in the sense that coaches expected their recruits to battle for a starting position instead of bailing out of the program when demoted, better in that they expected most if not all of their recruits to graduate within five years despite the presence of a few obvious chuckleheads, and better because loyalty was extended and expected. In our New York Metropolitan area, circa mid-1950s through the early 1980s, it was understood that Notre Dame, Syracuse, and Penn State would sign the majority of “best” high school players. They had connections and presence. However, there were a few Atlantic Coast Conference and Big Ten programs that always had a number of top players from Long Island and/or the boroughs of New York City any and every season. Maryland and North Carolina in the ACC and Ohio State were the interlopers although when assistant coach Bernie Wyatt was at Iowa or Wisconsin, they had an immediate pipeline. While thinking about the recruiting/transfer atrocity that now accurately reflects an immediate gratification culture and generation, I also thought about that “better time” as it applied to our locale. I also thought about some of the men who in fact, made it a better time. Behind every head coach, there were assistants who recruited specific areas and whenever a surface view made it appear that it was unusual for a university to pluck good players from a seemingly unrelated or distant part of the nation, there was always an assistant with a very personal connection to that region. 

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Inwood, New York’s Salvatore Ciampi was a unique player at Lawrence High School, the star of 1961’s Long Island football season. Despite his 5’10”, 200 pound stature, he became an All Big Ten star and Co-Captain at Purdue and an inspiration for two generations of players who strived to play Big Ten football


Purdue University was one of the “distant schools” that held my attention and fascination long before I was blessed by my marriage to a West Lafayette, Indiana athlete who starred at Purdue, whose siblings attended Purdue, and whose father was a professor and Director of Grain Research in the Agriculture Department for many decades. The Boilermakers were often on television facing off against Notre Dame or one of the major Big Ten powers, had terrific black and gold uniforms, an occasional player with name recognition, and always played in a physical, tough guy style reflecting the personality of their head coach, Kenneth “Jack The Ripper” Mollenkopf. They also recruited our area well throughout the 1960s and into the ‘70s and I wondered, “Why are they 775 miles from their home base looking for players?” Football in the New York Metropolitan area, sans northern New Jersey, like many areas of the country, is far from competitive with most of the south, Midwest, southwest, and California. The pattern of having an outstanding national level recruit among many middle-of-the-road players and teams has always been the norm as it is elsewhere and while Purdue did not get the absolute top-level players, they certainly found good ones who became multi-year starters and did well in the Big Ten. The “how” in that equation brought me back to the assistants who were the major cogs in the grinding recruiting process and how so many represented the more honorable qualities of their past era. In a short period of time, NFL players Carl Capria and Ralph Perretta followed Lou DeFilippo, Jr. and Sal Ciampi from Long Island to Purdue with the Feil brothers soon to follow [http://www.helmethut.com/Features/Dr.Ken145.html]. Lou like his father, very likely would have been in the NFL if not for injury and only Sal’s lack of height proved to be a stumbling block. More than fifty years after his graduation, Sal is still spoken of in the hallways of the Boilermaker Athletic Department for his academic prowess (Academic All American), toughness, leadership ability, and what one long time elderly secretary saw as “the most polite boy to ever play football here.”  The line coach that schooled Lou and Sal and played a key role as a Purdue recruiter, a man who represented a different era in the most obvious manner, was Dr. Don Fuoss. While the hard-boiled exterior of Mollenkopf was the face of the program, the bespectacled and more scholarly manner of Fuoss was a primary supporting strut. 

In so many previous HELMET HUT NEWS/REFLECTIONS articles I have noted that almost all of my high school and college coaches were military veterans. Many, like Coach Fuoss had their collegiate academic and athletic careers interrupted by World War II or the Korean War and were able to return after their service commitment to complete both. They had a true appreciation for the opportunity provided to attain a degree and have their education paid for by either the GI Bill or an athletic scholarship. Fuoss, an Altoona, Pennsylvania native and multi-sport All Star who shined at Catawba College from 1940 to ’42 and again in ’46 and ’47 after serving in the European Theater under General MacArthur, was later inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. As the team’s 1947 Co-Captain and All Conference performer at center, he led them to the Tangerine Bowl and was later named to Catawba’s All Time Team. He was offered a contract by the Detroit Lions but instead took his degree in Pre-Law and Economics and began his coaching career at West Virginia’s Bethany College (alma mater of John Riddell) and earned his PhD in education from Columbia University.   


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Dr. Donald Fuoss was serious about the PhD that provided his “Doctor” distinction. He authored many best-selling coaching books and became one of the nation’s most sought-after lecturers. He passed his wisdom on to players and coaches for six decades


At West Virginia’s Shepherd College Dr. Fuoss was named 1955’s WVIAC Coach of the Year and recipient of the Fufari Award as the entire state’s college coach of the year after leading the Rams to an undefeated season and first conference championship, and doubled-up as basketball coach and Athletic Director. He made the unusual decision to exit the collegiate ranks and take on the reins of high school teacher and coach at East Orange High School in New Jersey where he led the team to the 1958 and ’59 State Championships. His stint there later led to an enhanced network among other area high school coaches. In an interview provided decades later, the decision would be reflected in his statement that “I wasn’t your average coach. Even as a coach I talked to kids about the value of education. I talked of the value of getting your degree. In forty years I feel I’ve influenced a lot of players and coaches.” As is rarely seen now, Dr. Fuoss, like many full-time coaches at prominent athletic powers, was also a full-time professor. With coaching viewed as “teaching” this was not surprising and of course, this is no longer the norm and perhaps no longer the case at all. Although his specialty was Physical Education, he became a nationally recognized author, educator, and lecturer on educational methodology, finance, business, and gardening after taking on the position of Line Coach at Purdue for the 1960 season.


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Coach Dr. Don Fuoss, second row in photo of Purdue University’s singular Rose Bowl winning team of 1966

He remained at Purdue for nine seasons, including the Boilermakers 14 – 13 Rose Bowl win over USC following the ’66 season. Fuoss’ tenure at Purdue produced some of its greatest players and best teams. In addition to developing players known for their exacting technique, Fuoss’ style set a standard for the players and other coaches. He coached defensive line and linebackers and when interviewed in later years, almost to a man the former players noted that if nothing else, they were always confident that their techniques and knowledge of their on-field responsibilities were correct. Head Coach Mollenkopf was cited for his leadership abilities and his willingness to allow his assistants to coach and Fuoss for his ability to teach. After being considered for a number of head coaching positions in 1968, including Columbia where he had earned his graduate degrees, Fuoss accepted the Head Coaching position at Middle Tennessee State University in February of 1969. Charles “Bubber” Murphy had been the long-time head coach at MTSU and his twenty-two seasons at the helm brought a 155 – 63 – 8 record which has maintained his position as the Blue Raiders head man with the most victories. However, a 2 – 8 mark in 1968 resulted in his move to full-time AD, where he remained through 1980, and replacement by Fuoss. Often described as “a highly intelligent, hard-working coach whose character is above reproach, and who sets an excellent example for his athletes” Fuoss in turn, and as expected took the high road after accepting his new position, praising the accomplishments of Murphy despite the enmity of some boosters towards the former coach. Fuoss stated that he had taken the Middle Tennessee job for two reasons. “One is the fact that we wanted to live in the South again. The other reason is that there is a winning tradition here. Bubber Murphy was a tremendous coach and has one of the finest records anywhere in the country. I am glad to have Coach Murphy as a friend, ally, and patriot." This was not to say that there weren’t problems with the mid-level program that had seen Murphy guide it since 1947, with ’68 his first losing record and Fuoss’ introductory remarks indicated such. "We cannot move Purdue here, and I would not even attempt to do that, even if I could. We'll have to take first things first. We must check on the grades, recruiting, eligibility, and history of the players first. We will also have to coach the coaches so everyone will be fully orientated with the system.”


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 Fuoss worked diligently in his usual style and saw the progress he expected in all areas except the won-loss record, with the Blue Raiders regressing to 1 – 9 from the 2 – 8 of the previous season. However, he knew he had altered the attitude and talent level but found that there was a strong undercurrent of “win them all now however it has to be done” and that wasn’t his way. Clashing behind the scenes with over-zealous boosters through the entire off-season, he noted that the team would be vastly improved for 1970 but growing tired of the discord, stepped down as demanded from the head coaching position in May of ’70. Again, he took the measured and considerate path, noting he had “resigned” but maintained his tenured professor’s position. Ever the teacher, he made the acquaintance of Cliff Ellis and forced the graduate student and newly appointed high school basketball coach to give true thought to his future. Fuoss asked, “Young man, what do you want to do with your life in coaching? What do you want to do with your life ten to fifteen years from now?” Ellis’ many lengthy conversations with Fuoss have been credited with putting him onto the path that led him to a forty year successful head coaching career of the basketball programs at Clemson, Auburn, and Coastal Carolina and this was “standard operating procedure” for Fuoss. With assistant coach Bill Peck moving to the head coaching position, all of Fuoss’ predictions for the 1970 Blue Raiders were true as they went 6 – 3 – 1 in 1970, 7 – 4 in 1971, and 7 – 3 - 1 in ’72 with the core group brought in by Fuoss for ’69 and ’70.  


During his time at Middle Tennessee State, Dr. Fuoss had numerous coaching related books in circulation and his Championship Football Drills For Teaching Offensive And Defensive Fundamentals And Techniques was the nation’s highest volume seller among all coaching books. He decided to focus upon athletic administration, believing he could have a more widespread positive effect on a greater number of coaches and student athletes. In 1971 he became the Athletic Director and a professor of Physical Education at California State University At Sacramento. During his lengthy tenure there he noted the developing and problematic trend of the lack of qualified coaches at the high school and youth league levels. By the mid-1980s many school districts had hired non-faculty, “walk-on” coaches to alleviate the coaching shortage. Unfortunately, while perhaps familiar with the sport(s) they were coaching, many if not most had very limited experience or training in the fundamentals of coaching. At that time, some states, with Maine a typical example, estimated that seventy percent of their school coaches were walk-ons and non-faculty members. While incompetence was not implied, Fuoss correctly surmised that most of these individuals while sincere and well-meaning, simply lacked the appropriate training and experience to coach effectively. The result was the dropping of specific sports at many school districts. Fuoss established one of the first Walk-On Coach Training Workshops at Cal State Sacramento. It was first intended for teachers of other disciplines to learn coaching principles but quickly expanded to accommodate non-faculty coaches who needed further training under California’s Title V restrictions. In 1988 Fuoss stated, “I went back and revised the course so that a minimum of 30 hours was necessary. We had two separate courses of 15 hours each. One dealt with adolescent psychology as it relates to sports participation and with coaching methods and techniques, while the other dealt with first aid, CPR and taping.” While these courses in both student safety, health care, and coaching fundamentals is now standard in most states, it was Dr. Fuoss who was on the ground floor building awareness as well as the actual programs necessary to insure safe and proper coaching. He was quick to point out that he “was not a lawyer” but was frequently called upon to lecture and testify in matters related to athletic law and finance.


When Coach Fuoss passed away in June of 2014, he left a lengthy and significant legacy, unknown by most even in the coaching profession and there are many men like him. He was, during his coaching days through the 1960s, hailed as maintaining “the ideals of sportsmanship, ethics, and the subjugation of winning at all costs to winning fair and square.” Head coaches at all levels are in the public eye, receive significant salaries and media coverage, and while also receiving the blame when things turn south, they certainly receive the glory and perks when they go well. To insure that their football programs do in fact “go well,” men like Dr. Donald Fuoss are necessary, indispensable, and unsung.