The Cradle of Coaches Plaza
by Randy Snow
Original to www.theworldoffootball.com, Thursday, August 20, 2015
Located at the entrance of Yager Stadium, on the campus of the University of Miami (Ohio) in Oxford, is a one-of-a-kind tribute to some of the greatest coaches in college and professional football. It is known as the Cradle of Coaches Plaza.
The phrase Cradle of Coaches was coined by Bob Kurz, the school’s sports information director from 1958-1965. Kurz graduated from the school in 1958 and later wrote a book titled, “Miami of Ohio, The Cradle of Coaches.” Bob and his wife, Marian, who is also a 1958 graduate of the school, donated money to create the plaza and preserve the school’s history. The plaza was constructed in 2004.
The statues were sculpted by artist Kristen Visbal of Lewes, Delaware. She also sculpted a statue of Alexander Hamilton, which is on display in downtown Hamilton, Ohio.
The plaza currently contains 10 life-size bronze statues of coaches who all have one thing in common; they all got their start at Miami of Ohio. The Mid-American Conference school is unique in that it has produced some of the greatest coaches in college and in the NFL.
The first statue is actually located just outside the gates of the plaza. It is of Thomas P. Van Voorhis, who was a teacher and a coach at the school from 1921-1956. Van Voorhis’ grandson, Daniel Van Voohris, also made a financial contribution towards the construction of the plaza.
Inside the gates of the plaza are nine more bronze statues of coaches who all graduated from the school and are well known to football fans across the country.
Earl “Red” Blaik graduated from Miami in 1918 and played end on the football team. He went on to be the head coach at Dartmouth from 1934-1940 but is most known as the head coach at Army from 1941-1958. While at West Point he coached three Heisman Trophy winners, had seven undefeated season and won two college football national championships.
Wilbur “Weeb” Ewbanks graduated from Miami in 1928 and was a three-sport star at the school. He won three pro titles as a head coach; two with the NFL Baltimore Colts in 1958 and 1959 and a third with the New York Jets in the American Football League in 1968. He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Paul Brown graduated from Miami in 1930 and played quarterback for the team for three years. Brown is a legendary NFL head coach and founder of the Cleveland Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals. He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Paul Dietzel graduated from Miami in 1948 and played center on the football team. He went on to be the head coach at LSU from 1955-1960 and won a college football national championship at the school in 1958. He also was the head coach at Army from 1961-1965 and South Carolina from 1966-1974.
Ara Parseghian graduated from Miami in 1949 and was a multi-sport athlete. He was the head coach at Miami from 1951-1955 who went on to be the head coach at Northwestern from 1956-1963 and Notre Dame from 1964-1974. While at Notre Dame, he led the team to two college football national championships in 1966 and 1973.
Glenn “Bo” Schembechler graduated from Miami in 1951 and was a tackle on the football team. He started out as an assistant coach at Miami under head coach Woody Hayes and followed Hayes to Ohio State, again as an assistant coach. He returned to Miami to be the head coach from 1963-1968 before taking the job as the head coach at Michigan from 1969-1989.
John Pont graduated from Miami in 1952 and played halfback on the football team. He was the first player in school history to have his number (42) retired. Pont was the head coach at Miami from 1956-1962 and also was the head coach at Yale from 1963-1964, Indiana from 1965-1972 and Northwestern from 1973-1977.
Carmen “Carm” Cozza graduated from Miami in 1952 and played football and baseball at the school. He started out as an assistant coach at Miami and succeeded John Pont as the head coach at Yale in 1965. Cozza coached at Yale for 32 years, through 1996, and led the team to 10 Ivy League championships.
John Harbaugh graduated from Miami in 1984. He played defensive back on the football team. Harbaugh went on to be the head coach of the NFL Baltimore Ravens, winning Super Bowl XLVII in 2013 over the San Francisco 49ers, whose head coach was his brother, Jim Harbaugh. This is the newest of the statues on the plaza. It was dedicated on April 19, 2014.
There is also one empty pedestal on the Cradle of Coaches Plaza that could contain the statue of another coach someday. Who might that be? My money is on Bill Arnsparger, who recently passed away on July 17 at the age of 88. Arnsparger graduated from Miami of Ohio in 1950. He was the defensive coordinator of the undefeated Miami Dolphins Super Bowl winning team in 1972. He also spent time as the head coach of the NFL New York Giants from 1974-1976 and the college football LSU Tigers from 1984-1986.
How can one school be responsible for so many iconic coaches? It boggles the mind when you think that all those coaches got their start in Oxford, Ohio at one time or another.
(Photo – Me by the statue of Bo Schembechler)