Happy Birthday, Coach Hardin

 

Very classy tribute from Temple football video guys.

As an undergrad at Temple, Wayne Hardin was the only head football coach I ever knew at my school. As a result, winning was the only thing I ever knew. From the time I entered Temple to the time I graduated, Temple had four-straight winning seasons.
The Owls have not accomplished that feat since.

hardin

Joe Mesko (left), Hardin’s first TU captain, shakes hands with Roger Staubach, Hardin’s last Navy captain, last night  with coach and Steve Conjar in between.

Now that coach Hardin turned 90 yesterday, a group of his former players both at Temple and Navy honored him with a dinner last night in Florida, and it was a fitting tribute because they got to tell him again how much he meant to them and that was important.

I got to know coach Hardin as a reporter for the Temple News. Al Shrier, the then Sports Information Director, arranged for me an interview when I was a junior who was given the football beat.

To me, it was like getting to interview The Wizard of Oz.

One of the questions I asked him was about fun and football.

“The only fun in football is winning,” Hardin said.

That’s pretty much the way I felt then and my entire life and pretty much why I take losing so hard.

People talk about Bill Belichick’s coaching tree but, in reality, Belichick is one of the small branches on Hardin’s tree. Belichick’s dad, Steve Belichick, was a longtime scout and assistant for Hardin at Navy. When Hardin was head coach there, Belichick was just a kid. Yet Belichick tagged along at Navy practices and soaked up as much as he could.

Hardin was noted for outsmarting other coaches not only with everyday schemes but with trick plays and a keen eye on exploiting opponents’ weaknesses.

Patriots quick kicks, unique punt and field-goal rushes, certain trick plays — Belichick credits Hardin for many of them.

This from Comcast New England on Temple’s Garden State Bowl win:
“In 1979, when the Owls took on heavily-favored Cal in the Garden State Bowl at Giants Stadium, Belichick was in attendance. The Giants special-teams coach at the time, Belichick sat with then Giants assistant Ernie Adams, who now works alongside Belichick as the football research director for the Patriots. The pair of young and talented football minds were completely baffled as they watched Hardin toy with Cal’s linebackers, who were taught to read the guards in front of them.

“Ernie and I were sitting up there watching the game, and on the first series of plays, one guard pulled deep, the other guard pulled short,” Belichick said. “And they just folded around to get the linebacker, but they pulled. And the two inside linebackers ran into each other. I looked at Ernie, and he looked at me . . .”

Did Temple just screw that up, they wondered?

“Four or five plays later, same thing. The two linebackers,” Belichick clapped his hands together loudly, imitating the collision, “because they’re standing right next to each other. They went right into each other. [Temple ran] straight down to the safety for, like, 20 yards. They must’ve run that play six or seven times and it was 20 yards every time . . . At the time, I’d never seen that before.”

The result was the first bowl win in Temple history and a wide-eyed and impressed New York Giants’ assistant coach named Belichick.

Later, after graduating from Temple, I covered Hardin’s teams for Calkins Newspapers. While in the press box in State College, Hardin was driving Penn State head coach Joe Paterno crazy with similar schemes and play calls and Temple took a lead late into the third quarter against the heavily favored Nittany Lions. The Owls had several close calls before that game and it was only because Hardin was able to close the talent gap against the Nits with his brilliant mind. John Kunda, the long-time sports editor of the Allentown Morning Call, broke the silence in the press box.

tree

Bill Belichick is from the Hardin tree, but coach Hardin is from the Amos Alonzo Stagg tree. Must be a Redwood.

“Hardin’s outcoaching Joe again,” Kunda said.

The press box erupted into laughter, but it was a laugh of respect. I just sat there beaming with pride in the knowledge that the smartest guy on the field every Saturday was coaching my team and everybody in the room acknowledged something I already knew.

Fortunately, coach Hardin was there last year to see the Owls finally get that monkey off their back. Happy birthday, coach Hardin, and many more healthy and happy ones.

One thing I’m sure both the Navy and Temple guys agreed on last night were two words:

Beat Army.

Saturday: We’re Talkin’ Practice

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, Coach Hardin

  1. An important footnote to that Bill Belichick at the Temple-Cal game story is that you can learn from what your opponents’ do. Too often, I heard Temple say things like “We only worry about us” or “it’s on us” or “if we execute what we do we will win” … Football is a game of exploiting others’ weaknesses and Temple needs to find those and do a better job in that department next season. Scouting and game-planning in particular. Only US Grant had the resources to throw bodies at people and win. Sometimes, you have to entrap and encircle.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s